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US Aid and Democracy

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi’s letter in today’s Times.

Sir, Bill Emmott is right that military aid to Egypt soon needs to be abolished and that sending Israel billions of dollars every year makes no sense at all (“Obama’s riddle: withdraw or keep military aid?”, Opinion, Jan 31), but it would be folly to adopt his suggested policy of “so be it” if Islamist movements like Hamas are elected and provide them with financial aid.

One need only look at the example of Hamas (an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood) to see how, once elected to power, Islamists do away with the democratic system and constitutional rights to hold on to their rule. Hamas’s term in power expired at the start of last year and the group has since blocked all attempts by the Palestinian Authority to hold elections in both Gaza and the West Bank. Maintaining economic ties to Islamist governments would not be standing “clearly and indubitably on the side of freedom and reform”, but would rather leave us open to accusations of not caring about respect for human rights in the Muslim world.

We should not simply advocate holding elections now, but rather encourage the ruling governments to adopt educational curricula that teach secular, liberal democratic values, promote truth and reconciliation committees that address the human rights abuses of past regimes, and allow for the formation of local human rights groups that can act as a check against the excesses of security services. Such measures would allow for a stable transition to a fully liberal democratic system. Gradual democratisation has been adopted in Morocco, where there has been a conspicuous absence of mass protests in the recent series of uprisings in the Arab world.

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