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Islamic principles can work in harmony with democracy

PETALING JAYA -- Muslim nations warming up to an era of religious tolerance and good governance.

From Tunisia to Pakistan, the Muslim world is in turmoil, as each country struggles to find its own path to an Arab Spring.

Pessimists say that, in the end, all of these countries will end up with some form of authoritarian regime either because Islamic parties cannot accept democracy or out of fear that these regimes will keep a nation out of the modern world.

But I am an optimist. I believe the democratic ferment in the Arab world will eventually bring an era of relative democracy, religious tolerance and good governance. And I believe guiding Islamic principles will lead the way.

Without a doubt, revolutions are messy. When revolutions occur after decades of authoritarian rule, the next stage is often chaotic and sometimes violent.

In this region, there are many examples of long-simmering distrust between ethnic and sectarian groups that go back centuries that had been held in check by despotic rule. Now, suddenly, the grip that had stifled these competing groups has been released.

But I believe after an initial flailing about, conflicts between sectarian groups will slowly abate. Most Muslims want to join the modern world. They want to be part of the international community, not held in suspicion.

They want governments that serve them. They do not want to serve the government. They want the freedom to develop their own ideas and live their own lives in harmony with their neighbors.

In short, they want a government that is as responsive to their needs as a Western democracy.

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