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A much better course, he says, would be to encourage the gradual development of local, self-governing institutions, in accordance with the Islamic tradition of “consultation.” Lewis also believes that it was no coincidence that the current unrest erupted first in Tunisia, the one Arab country, he notes, where women play a significant part in public life.
The role of women in determining the future of the Arab world, he says, will be crucial. But when you say do they want democracy, that’s a more difficult question to answer. It’s a word that’s used with very different meanings, even in different parts of the Western world.
Mohammed plays a critical part in running the company that looks after the property portfolio owned by the government’s Dubai Real Estate Corporation (effectively the emirate’s biggest landlord).
She and her team oversee several of wasl’s most important divisions.
“The pre-modern regimes were much more open, much more tolerant.”But Lewis regards a dash toward Western-style elections, far from representing a solution to the region’s difficulties, as constituting “a dangerous aggravation” of the problem, and fears that radical Islamic movements would be best placed to exploit so misguided a move.Once described as the most influential post-war historian of Islam and the Middle East, Lewis, 94, set out his thinking on the current Middle East ferment in a conversation with me before an invited audience at the home of the US Ambassador to Israel, James Cunningham, a few days ago. And it’s a political concept that has no history, no record whatever in the Arab, Islamic world.In the West, we tend to get excessively concerned with elections, regarding the holding of elections as the purest expression of democracy, as the climax of the process of democratization.Well, the second may be true – the climax of the process. Consider, for example, that democracy was fairly new in Germany in the inter-war period and Hitler came to power in a free and fair election.We, in the Western world particularly, tend to think of democracy in our own terms – that’s natural and normal – to mean periodic elections in our style.