The Economist: Arab spring no failure, Malaysia shows Islamists can have democratic leanings

Arab Spring gone wrong? 

(The Malay Mail) – Malaysia has been singled out by the Economist as a country which shows Islamic parties can accept democracy and reforms, with the influential international news magazine suggesting that the stuttering Arab Spring has not failed despite recent setbacks.

“Many secular Arabs and their friends in the West now argue that because Islamists tend to regard their rule as God-given, they will never accept that a proper democracy must include checks, including independent courts, a free press, devolved powers and a pluralistic constitution to protect minorities.

“This too, though, is wrong. Outside the Arab world, Islamists — in Malaysia and Indonesia, say — have shown that they can learn the habit of democracy,” the magazine said in an editorial this week entitled ‘The Arab spring. Has it failed?’”

The recent military overthrow of the democratically elected Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood has also been used in Malaysia by right-wing elements in Barisan Nasional (BN) to suggest the failure of the Arab Spring.

During Election 2013 many BN leaders as well as security forces in Malaysia had worried about the effect the Arab Spring would have on Malaysia.

A grassroots movement to plant paper flowers at traffic roundabouts and in neighbourhoods during the election campaign had also been viewed suspiciously by the police and other authorities because it was labelled as the “Malaysian spring.”

Pakatan Rakyat (PR) party PAS had also been the target of an MCA campaign during the elections in an attempt to label the Islamist party as extremists ready to take away the rights of non-Muslims, in particular that of the Chinese.

But the advertising campaign failed miserably with voters from the Chinese community voting overwhelmingly to support PR parties.

PAS has frequently been hampered by its image of being a party dominated by ultra conservatives with views on sex and women that are seen as outdated by many Malaysians.

But the party has moved in recent years to the political centre, and has managed to attract many moderates as well as professionals and corporate figure into its fold.

With its strong ties with the DAP in particular in the PR coalition it has also grown to be accepted by many non-Muslim voters who had previously turned away from the Islamist party.

Arguing that democratic reforms are often a lengthy — and even violent — process, the Economist said in its editorial “those who say that the Arab spring has failed ignore the long winter before, and its impact on people’s lives.

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