Learning from German democracy [Archives:2004/748/Opinion]

June 21 2004

Ali Saeed
[email protected]
For Yemen Times

I am very much amazed at the great level of democracy that is taking place in Germany, which has proven over and over again that it is indeed a true and real democracy. Some may have heard about the incident when the German Chancellor Schroeder was slapped by a 55-year- old man whose only problem was being jobless.
He was arrested for three hours then released after his problem was resolved. The great leader of the great country was slapped, but again he proved his leadership in accepting the reasons and respecting his citizen's right of expression, even though it was in a violent way.
Can our Arab and Muslim leaders accept or even believe this? Arabs and Muslims, especially the leaders, will probably see it as a joke or see that Schroeder was wrong for not retaliating and killing the old man. Personally, I think Arabs and Muslims need centuries to reach this level of democracy.
If such an incident took place in any Arab country, the man would have been cut into small pieces, and his family, tribe, village would be leveled to the ground. Even the party he belongs to would be shut down. I am not exaggerating to say anyone whose name is similar to the man's name may also be punished for sharing his name.
Frankly speaking, when I came to know about that incident, I immediately remembered the companions of the Prophet Mohammad -peace be upon him- especially the first Caliph who addressed his people by saying “I was appointed as your leader, if you find me just and fair, you have to support me, but if you find the contrary, you have the right to strip me from power.” Then one of his people said “if we find you unjust, we will remove you using our weapons.” The Caliph agreed and did not object. That kind of democracy is what Arabs and Muslims are lacking.
Some may think that I want Arabs and Muslims to slap their leaders. No, that is not my point and that is not what Arabs and Muslims want. In fact, Arabs and Muslims want to be free and have fair democracy. We want peaceful transfer of power, freedom of the press and expression. Besides, we want to see all the people including their leaders equal in front of the law, to see the practice of the law in all walks of life, to see the right person, whoever he or she is, given the position he deserves. We want to see and feel security, stability, and live a decent life with dignity and respect. Will the leaders of today bring this to us and be humble enough to apply the laws to themselves, like they do to regular citizens? I doubt it. We'll have to wait for some time.