The growing unrest in the Arabic world among Islamic states is leading to concern that the demonstrations are being driven more by a desire for stricter Islamic rule than for democratic reforms. Many of the protesters are being organized by hardline Islamic organizations. Although some of the Arab leaders being challenged are brutal dictators like Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, many are considered secular rulers and allies of the U.S. These uprisings have troubling similarities to the Iranian revolution of 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini came to power by hiding his intentions of creating despotic rule by clerics behind the false promise of democratic reforms.
There is an unwritten social contract in Persian Gulf countries which says that autocratic monarchies are accepted as long as they provide free housing, health care, education, food subsidies, and a government job for life. The demonstrators appear more concerned about obtaining additional government benefits than achieving real democratic reforms like enacting a democratic form of government. Although some are hoping the uprisings are similar to the 1989 democratic revolutions that swept Eastern Europe, those anti-communist uprisings clearly called for replacing totalitarianism with democracy.
Hard-line Islamic clerics in the Arabic world are encouraging the uprisings, and recently released statements of support that harshly warned against changes leading to democratic and secular governments. Al Qaeda is also inciting the protests and calling for Islamic rule. On Saturday, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula posted an audio recording across websites urging Muslims to revolt against Arab rulers and to establish governments based on Islamic religious law, or Shariah.