The West must build genuine ties with the Arab Islamists

The recommendations forwarded by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) organisation in its recently published report that the West respect the "Islamists" rise to power and deal with them amicably is much needed.


The "Islamist dilemma" has paralysed the United States policy towards the Middle East.


The question that has plagued them is how they can promote democracy in the region without risking bringing Islamists to power?


That question no longer matters – their worst nightmare has come true.


The only sensible, responsible and mature thing to do now is for them and the West in general to negotiate and come to common grounds.


The irony of course is that the popular ‘Arab Spring’ revolutions that have swept the region has only occurred because of the inequality felt by the people that arose because of the U.S.-backed authoritarian regimes not giving their people their proper rights


Whether the US likes it or not, they will now have to learn to live with what has colloquially come to be phrased: political Islam, or Islamism.


There is nothing unnatural about Islam the religion being either incorporated or being the basis for body politics.


Given that Islam is considered a "complete way of life", politics is, thus, a natural corollary contrary to what some apolitical and politically-gagged Muslim voices might suggest.


Washington tends to question whether Islamists’ religious commitments can coexist with respect to democracy, pluralism, and women’s rights.


Of course, the question that invariably arises is what exactly is meant by the understanding and implementation of democracy.


There is a phrase known as Forced Democracy where western powers have been accused of forcing democracy by ignoring the socio-cultural sensibilities and norms of a particular people.


The reality, however, is that the United States and the West fears those kinds of foreign policies which some so-called Islamist groups might pursue.


But given that all Western governments have a policy that is known as Empire Building, where their foreign policy projects its influence beyond its borders, why then should objections be raised for Islamically-oriented governments who also pursue such endeavours?


The whole thing smacks of double standards.


The Islamist governments in the region will have a distinctive, albeit vague, conception of an Arab world that is confident and independent and will have visions of empire expansionism.


There is no question that democracy will make the region more unpredictable and some governments there less amenable to US security interests.


At their core, however, mainstream Islamist organisations, such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jordan and al Nahda in Tunisia, have strong pragmatic tendencies.


When their survival has required it, they have proved willing to compromise their ideology and make difficult choices often in the best interest of the people; something that is in strong contrast to the dictatorial regimes they have replaced.


To guide the new, rapidly evolving Middle East in a favourable direction, the United States should play to these instincts by entering into a strategic dialogue with the region’s Islamist groups and parties.


The United States can, through engagement, encourage these Islamists to respect key Western interests, including advancing the Arab-Israeli peace process and combating terrorism.


It will be better to develop such ties with opposition groups now, while the United States still has leverage, rather than later when other powers jostle into position.