Two things I shall not attempt to do: one is to predict the future and the other is to offer advice. What I shall try to do is what I think may be more legitimately expected of a professional historian - that is to say to try to identify the factors, the elements in the situation which will define and delimit the choices that we have; to try to look at these as far as they are visible, ascertainable and describable, and to see what these factors are and where they may lead; what the possibilities are. What actually happens of course is another matter and I leave that to a higher authority.
Let me begin by reviewing the outside factors, that is to say factors not actually in the Middle East-factors outside the Middle East which will in a sense, as I said before, define and delimit the choices. One turns naturally, in the first instance, to Europe, to Europe which has played a prominent, sometimes a dominant role in Middle Eastern affairs for almost two hundred years. But that phase has ended. I see little possibility of Europe playing any sort of role in Middle Eastern affairs in the immediate future; the more interesting, the more relevant question is what role will the Middle East play in European affairs.
I turn now to the second external factor, and that is America. There is a great deal of talk nowadays, especially in Middle Eastern countries but by no means exclusively in Middle Eastern countries -about America as a factor. As perceived by some, America is the successor of the West European empires and more particularly the British Empire in the long sequence of infidel powers that have sought to dominate the heartland of Islam.
One hears a great deal in the Middle East, and to some extent elsewhere, of American imperialism. This is a term which is both inaccurate and misleading; it reveals I think a lack of understanding both of what America is about and of what the word 'imperialism' means. For a better understanding I can go back to the history classes in my primary school where I began history education. When the Romans came to Britain some two thousand years ago, and when the British went to India a few hundred years ago, an exit strategy was not uppermost in their minds. They had quite a different purpose, a different intention, and they stayed for a long time. If one looks at the more detailed criticism that is leveled against America and American policies in the Middle East, the particular charge is not so much that America is engaging in imperialism as that America is failing to meet its imperial responsibilities. In other words the assumption is that there has to be an imperial power, a successor to the British and French empires: that is the role in which history has cast America and the Americans are failing to fulfill it. In considering the possible role of America, I am inevitably reminded of a remark made by a Turkish general at a dinner party in Ankara very shortly after Turkey joined NATO in 1952 I believe. He was asked how he felt about this new alliance and he said, "The problem with having the Americans as your allies is you never know when they'll turn round and stab themselves in the back." I have often been reminded of that wise saying, particularly in recent years and months and days.
The future role of America in the Middle East is probably the most difficult to predict of all the things that I am discussing today. I would say that, on the whole, America is probably more likely not to play, than to play a major, still less a dominant, role in the region. I see a growing reluctance to become involved in this troublesome region, a growing anxiety -considering all the different matters in which the United States is involved - to look first and foremost at how do we get out of here. And it seems to me therefore that the United States role in the Middle East role will be limited to certain interest groups, to certain specific interests and to one or two other factors. Let me just enumerate these as a reminder: specific interest groups -Obviously the Jews. But the famous, or infamous Jewish lobby is by no means the only lobby; there are other lobbies that have been much more active though much less talked about.
Another group with an interest in this area is the Christian Evangelicals, and to these we may now increasingly add a third: the growing Muslim population in the United States who will have their own interests, their own concerns about what is happening in this part of the world.
What specific interests does America have in the region? Well, what immediately comes to mind is Oil. Trade? Trade is not vastly important; there are other regions of much greater commercial importance. Strategy? That was very important during the Cold War but since then, the Middle East has lost most of its strategic importance except of course for Middle Easterners.
There is another element of American influence, just happening rather than because of any wish or effort by the United States, and that is what those who dislike it call 'cultural imperialism': the enormous impact of American popular culture in the region, which grows day by day, affecting people in even the most unlikely settings. I am told for example that in Iran, where satellites are forbidden, the basij, the young revolutionary guards who go around with orders to destroy any satellites are bribed to tolerate satellites, the price being a free seat to watch their favorite program, and the most popular program, is Baywatch. American cultural imperialism, as its critics call it, is an important and rapidly growing - one might almost say overwhelming factor in much of the region, and that will probably be the most important single American involvement in these choices.
What about Russia? It's difficult to say; at the moment Russia doesn't count so much but I can't believe that a country of the size, the numbers, the resources of Russia will be content to remain on the sidelines of history. They will be back; they are already trying, so far not very effectively, in various ways to assert themselves in the region. They will certainly continue those efforts and they have a number of things on which they can draw, including something which they did not have before, and that is Russian populations within Middle Eastern countries. How Russia will return, when Russia will return, what role Russia will play and perhaps most important of all - what kind of Russia will it be? All these are still very uncertain.
So far I have spoken only of Europe, America, and Russia. But there is another outside factor, hitherto in the main disregarded but growing in importance, and that is the wider Muslim world. The Middle East is no longer the center of the Muslim world demographically, economically and increasingly even intellectually. There are now vast populations elsewhere and particularly in two regions - in South Asia and South-East Asia, of growing importance in numbers. Indonesia alone has twice the population of the entire Arab world, and they are becoming increasingly conscious of their own role. Here again I am reminded of a conversation which I had many years ago in Pakistan; I was attending an Islamic conference in Lahore and most were people from Islamic countries but with a sprinkling of Orientalists - a profession which had not yet fallen into disrepute. One evening we were very surprised to (we being myself and four of my colleagues from Western countries) receive an invitation from the great Mawlana AbuÂ¬Alam Mawdudi, one of the leading Muslim intellectuals of the time, the founder of the Jama'a Islamiyya with enormous influence all over the Muslim world, and he talked to us about various matters (mostly polite formalities) and then he said, "You Orientalists, you all make the same mistake", and I thought to myself 'Oh here it comes, the usual'. I was quite wrong. He said: "All of you learn Arabic, many of you learn Persian, a few of you learn Turkish and you think that with that you can understand Islam. This was true; it is no longer true." He said, "Today the center of the Islamic world is here and if you want to know of the important developments that are happening in Islam, you must learn Urdu." That was a rather remarkable statement coming from him, and much that has happened since then has confirmed the impression that I received from the conversation - a growing impatience in South Asia, and still more in South East Asian Islam, with the nonsense from the Middle East. I found this particularly in Indonesia but it is manifest also in Pakistan, in Bangladesh and more particularly among the huge Muslim minority population in India.
There are certain new elements which we have to add to those that I've already mentioned and two in particular: India and China, two major Asian powers becoming super powers and if, as is not impossible, Islam and Christendom destroy each other, then these will be the dominant powers of the second half of the twenty-first century, and world domination will be either shared or disputed between them. Both of them have Muslim minorities - in China rather a small one on the central Asian frontiers; in India the second largest Muslim community in the world. Both of them have frontiers with the Islamic world; both with increasingly direct concerns with what goes on in the Muslim world. China and India are already beginning to show much more interest in what happens in the Middle East and I have no doubt that in the years to come, they will become more directly involved particularly if, as I believe is most likely, they become the dominant powers in the world in the late 21st century.
Apart from these two new super-powers, I would add a third new external factor, and that is the new Muslim minorities in the non-Muslim world, and I am speaking in particular of the Muslim minorities in Europe and in America. These are a new phenomenon, something which has not happened before. When the Ottomans retreated from Europe, they did leave small minorities behind, but nothing of any great consequence. When Muslim armies were driven out of Spain and Portugal and Sicily, they left nothing behind: the Inquisition saw to that. But now there are Muslim minorities growing up, and growing very rapidly by a powerful combination of migration and demography. They are becoming keenly aware of the opportunities that they have as citizens of the European and American democracies, increasingly aware that it is possible for them and, as many of them see it, it is a duty on their part to play an increasing role in the affairs of their Middle Eastern homelands. This is a new factor; it is too early to evaluate or measure it, but one can see the beginnings of it and I have no doubt that it will grow.
Let me turn now to the internal regional factors and begin with the economic one, and here of course by far the most immediate question is oil. The impact of oil has been in many ways devastating in both ways - it has been devastating in the outside world in ways which I don't need to tell you; it has also been devastating inside the oil-producing countries by strengthening autocratic governments and by making it far more difficult to develop any kind of democratic institutions. Everybody is familiar with the old American formula - No taxation without representation. What we sometimes forget is that the converse is also true: no representation without taxation. Governments that dispose of enormous oil revenues don't need to levy taxes on their people; they don't need to impose income tax and therefore they don't need parliaments to help them in that process - so that oil has been an enormous strengthening of autocracy in the oil-producing countries giving them independence in their own countries and an increasingly powerful voice in world affairs. We may consider two aspects of this right - one the direct influence which the supply of oil gives them in world affairs; the other the enormous wealth which it brings them - wealth beyond the dreams of avarice, hundreds of billions of dollars a year, and all the things that can be done, and are being done with that wealth; the very different things - institutions, individuals and so on that can be bought in one way or another and controlled. It is also devastating internally in a more directly economic respect in that it has inhibited economic development in other areas: with this enormous source of unlimited wealth, why bother to develop anything else; you don't need it. Now oil is not eternal: sooner or later, oil will be either exhausted or superseded. This is a mineral resource; it is not unlimited. I am no expert on the amounts or the years, but sooner or later there will be none left. But I don't think we will have to wait that long: there is already a very considerable movement to make oil obsolete: the development of alternative sources of energy - solar energy, wind energy, wave energy, the waves of the sea; and of more immediate relevance - ethanol and methanol, liquid alcohol which you can use in the gas-tank of a car. This has already made tremendous progress; there are now many ways, very effective, cheap and efficient ways of producing usable fuels from various vegetable products or even, in the case of methanol, from organic waste. There are enormous oil resources in garbage; think for example of the great masses of leaves that are thrown away and destroyed every autumn. It is perfectly possible to extract methanol which can be used in a fuel tank. A lot of work is being done on that in America and elsewhere; the problems are being tackled one by one. The first problem of course was to produce a usable fuel; this has now been done in several different ways. The second one was to produce it in a form that it can be used in a car or other machine which uses petrol, and this again has been done successfully. The main problem at the present moment is the problem of refills; you can buy a car which will run on either petrol or methanol or ethanol; the problem is getting refills when you travel and since the filling stations all over the world are controlled by the oil companies, there is obviously therefore, shall we say, a built-in obstacle on that particular point. But I have no doubt that sooner or later the world will tire of the tyranny of oil. These other fuels which are already, as I said, scientifically possible and in some areas already in use - there are cars running on ethanol and methanol for example - will triumph and oil will become obsolete. And then of course the countries of the Middle East that have relied so heavily on oil as a source of revenue, as a source of power, will face a really acute crisis. Which way will they go? I am not offering any prediction of when this will happen but as I say, the progress that is being made on oil replacements is already quite significant. In some places - notably for example in the Gulf States - the countries of the Middle East are preparing for that.
They are trying to build up alternative forms of economic activity leading to alternative sources of income in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the like. In Saudi Arabia or Iran, one does not see very much along those lines and therefore one is left wondering - what will be the pattern of Middle Eastern economic life after the ending of the oil era? Two models come to mind: one is the Korean model - Korea which was sunk in medieval torpor under Japanese colonial rule and which emerged and very rapidly developed into a major world economic power. The other model is that of the more devastated parts of Africa; will the Middle East in the post-oil era follow the Korean model or will it follow the African model?
Apart from the economic, there are other elements too: the strategic one. As I said before, with the ending of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, what you might call the classical East-West confrontation has ended, at least for the time being. But there are other possibilities and one already sees signs of a Chinese-Indian rivalry affecting the border-lands that immediately concern them in Central Asia, on the North-West frontier of India and possibly extending beyond that. A new strategic situation will require new strategic evaluations and policies; I wouldn't attempt to define them at this stage, merely to draw attention to this question which will certainly arise.
There will also be enormous cultural and social challenges - influences from outside bringing change and the most important of these is the communications revolution which has already had an enormous impact in the Middle East. With the spread of the Internet and various other modern forms of communication, I think this is again going to be a major factor.
Perhaps the most important factor, which has largely been avoided - is that of women: slightly more than half the population. A very large proportion of the women of the Middle East seem to be content (I stress the word 'seem') with the role assigned to them in traditional society but there are murmurs of change, murmurs of resentment, of rebellion against this. It is I think significant that, in the Arab world, Iraq is the country where women have probably fared best: I am not talking about rights, a word which has no meaning at all in that society. I am talking about opportunity and access: in Iraq, more than in any other Arab country, women have had the opportunity to go to college, to enter the professions, to play a role in public life, and it seems to me that that is one of the most hopeful features in the Iraqi situation at the present time. One finds a similar, though lesser development in Tunisia, another country where female emancipation has gone very far. Add this to the communications revolution and you will see the possibilities for the future in this, and remember, women are, as NamikKema l pointed out 150 years ago - are not only slightly more than half the population; they are also the mothers of the other half.
Then there is another totally new element in the region which I hardly know how to describe, let alone how to assess. That is the new immigrant populations which we find especially in the oil-producing countries, in the Gulf States and so on: a very large immigrant population, sometimes from other parts of the Middle East but also, to a quite considerable extent, from South Asia and from South-East Asia. If you go in the Gulf States, you will find a lot of things being done by Indians or by people from Malaysia or Indonesia and so on. These are increasingly numerous, increasingly active, increasingly vital to the functioning of these societies. At the moment they are completely disenfranchised but that does not mean very much in a society where nobody has any political rights. But that too is changing and will change and one may expect, I think, interesting developments among the new -I was going to say minorities but in some places they are already majorities -in these new non-Arab, or non-Muslim and sometimes both, populations from outside in some of the crucial areas to the Middle East. Which path will they take? Will it be assimilation or rebellion which they will choose, depending on the choices made by their masters and rulers?
Which brings me to the larger question of internal choices - the choices which the peoples of the Middle East, even in the majority of countries which have no democratic institutions worthy of the name, will nevertheless have to make:
I have divided these choices into three main groups; group one - Islamic militancy of one sort or another; this comes in several versions: the one most in evidence at the present time is the Wahhabi version - the dominant school of Saudi Arabia and therefore enjoying immense resources, the power and prestige of the Saudi state and dynasty and the wealth of Saudi oil being used all over the Muslim world and, even more effectively, outside the Muslim world to promote this particular version of Islam. I say more effectively because, inside the Muslim world, they have learned how to deal with this kind of thing. Outside, they have not. As they used to say in Moscow - it is no accident, comrades, that of twelve Turks who have been arrested as members of al-Qaida, all twelve were born and educated in Germany, not one in Turkey. In Turkey they know how to deal with things, in Germany they don't. Germans of course are also inhibited by their own record from any kind of serious repression.
The Saudi-Wahhabi version comes in several sub-variants, the most notorious of which of course is the Osama Bin-Laden version, which is an outgrowth from the Saudi Wahhabi version. I was assured by an Arab head of state that Al-Qaida is a branch of Saudi intelligence and Osama Bin-Laden is a high Saudi official. I don't think I would go that far, but there is obviously an affinity between them: they are different branches from the same tree.
The second brand of Islamic militancy in the world today is of course the Iranian revolutionary version, particularly in recent years since Ahmadinejad became president and since they have adopted what I think can be best described as this apocalyptic perception of the world situation in which we find ourselves now. This again has enormous following: some years ago I was invited to a lecture tour of Islamic universities of Indonesia and, visiting the students' quarters, I was disagreeably surprised to find Khomeini's portrait on the walls all over the place. Indonesia is a solidly Sunni country but nevertheless, this idea of the Great Islamic Revolution had its appeal for many students. I think the subsequent evolution of the Islamic revolution which, like the Russian and French revolutions, has gone through various phases, is now in the Stalin phase. This has had a somewhat dampening effect on enthusiasm elsewhere, but it still remains an important factor.
The third version of Islam currently being offered is Reform - the idea of what you might call a moderate modern Islam compatible with free institutions, with democratic societies and so on. This has its followers and they have certain arguments which I will come to in a moment; it is not a powerful movement, its extent of support is very difficult to estimate, since it is ruthlessly repressed. But it is there - there is no doubt about that and from time to time there are encouraging signs that a reformed Islam, a new interpretation of Islam, is a possibility.
Now, talking of the internal choices, I have spoken only of the religious one. There is of course the -I was going to say secular but I hesitate to use that word in an Islamic context, it is an extremely Christian term which does not apply. Let us say the national and patriotic one: in the Western world for many centuries now, it has been customary to define identity by nationality, by country or nation. In American usage, the two words are synonymous; in British usage, they are not. Nation is people, country is place. I remember when I first went to the United States, how shocked I was when a colleague at the university told me that during the summer, he was planning to drive across the nation which, in my language, suggested the massive ill-treatment of large numbers of people.
The notions of country and nation were both new to the Islamic world; the notion of country was so new that a very large proportion of the countries do not even have a name in Arabic. If you look at the extremely rich historical literature, as I remarked last time, you do not find histories of countries or of nations; this is a new idea, it came from Europe and it brought with it the idea of identity and loyalty by the nation, - that is nationalism; and identity and loyalty by the country, - that is patriotism. Both of these ideas - country and nation - both of these loyalties - nationalism and patriotism - are comparatively new to the region. Nationalism was able to adjust much more readily because it fitted better with the religious and Islamic background; the adjustment from Islamic identity to national identity is comparatively easy. If you do it by country, that means you share an identity with all those awful people who live next door and in the various ghettos and so on. This created problems. I would say that Iran is probably the country where the sense of patriotism is most strongly developed but that is, as they used to say, no accident. Iran is the only real country in that vast area; most of the other countries of the Middle East were artificial creations drawn on maps with rulers, by mostly British and French statesmen and bureaucrats. Iran is a real country; it has been there for thousands of years and it has a strong corporate sense of identity. And therefore I think that in Iran, what we face is not so much nationalism as patriotism, a very different thing; I think that, in dealing with Iran, it would be wise to bear this in mind. However, the new national or patriotic identity will again raise certain new questions; for example frontier questions. In the past, frontier questions were not terribly important: frontiers were mostly desert areas; not well-defined frontiers. The idea of a frontier drawn on a map is a recent importation from Europe. But now it has become an issue and there are frontier disputes all over the Middle East and North Africa between various States, and these sometimes also raise questions of ethnicity as well as of strategy. Ethnicity also raises regional questions: observe the example of Iran, Iran is one country, but it is composed of many different ethnic groups who go round the country - Kurds; Azaris, Turkomans, the Baluchis and so many other groups, each with its own language, its own ethnic identity. What is remarkable I think about the Iranian case is that so far, they seem to be genuinely bound together by a common Iranian loyalty and patriotism, though if the present regime continues, it may well undermine that.
There are regional problems, or potential problems of the same sort elsewhere, two in particular. In the modern period, with the general acceptance of nationality and ethnicity as defining identity and loyalty, a whole series of new states and nations have come into being, but there are two important ethnic groups, or should I say two important national groups that never achieved statehood. The Kurds and the Berbers - the Berbers are in North Africa. The Kurds are to be found in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey and some of the Trans-Caucasian Republics. Kurdish is a distinct language; it is of the Iranian family, related to Persian but different, and very different from either Arabic or Turkish. The Kurds came within distance of achieving a national state but, for a variety of reasons, that possibility was not accomplished. Today you have an increasingly resentful Kurdish population, divided between a number of states, who feel that they alone have been discriminated against, they alone have not been given what everybody else in the region has had - that is to say a sovereign national state of their own. One may expect that this question of the Kurds will become more and more acute in the years to come.
The other group that I mentioned is the Berbers: these are in North Africa, starting in Libya and all the way across to Morocco. These are a group of closely-related peoples, speaking closely-related languages of the Berber family; these were the indigenous inhabitants of North Africa before the Arabs came in the seventh century and they have preserved their languages; Berber is still widely spoken, it is very different from Arabic and, like the Kurds, they have never had a state of their own since the advent of Islam and since the early Islamic empires. In North Africa too, there is a growing Berber consciousness which expresses itself in various ways; they still have a long way to go before they reach even the Kurdish level but it's there and it's happening. And this again will be a factor of some importance in the future for that region, with impact inevitably on other regions too.
Well, I spoke about religion, I spoke about nationality. What about regimes? There are arguments and there are pieces of historical evidence for and against: one line is to say - looking at the corrupt tyrannies that rule most of the region - that's how it has always been, that's how it will always be; there's nothing we can do about it and we just have to achieve the best relationship possible with these people. This curiously is known as the 'pro-Arab attitude'. In fact of course it's nothing of the kind; it shows ignorance of the Arab past, contempt for the Arab present and unconcern for the Arab future. This kind of tyranny, this kind of dictatorship is not indigenous to the Middle East; it was introduced from Europe in stages by the nineteenth century reformers with the best of intentions, trying to modernize; and by doing so they introduced harmful things; they increased the power of the state and they limited or eliminated those elements in society which had previously served as limits, as constraints on the power of the state.
The second stage we can date precisely to 1940: the Vichy surrender; the Germans turned up in force in the Middle East and established themselves in Syria, moved from Syria to Iraq where Rashid Ali set up a Nazi-type regime. Those were crushed - their leaders fled to Berlin but, after the war, when the western powers withdrew, the Soviets moved in and adjusting from the Nazi model to the Soviet model did not require any great changes. That is the political history of the region; that is the history of the kind of dictatorship, the police state, the one-party state with the Party as an instrument of indoctrination and repression. So you say - Very well then but, without that, what was it like? Now certainly, the history of the Middle East is not democratic. They did not develop democratic institutions of the kind that we find in Europe even in the Middle Ages but there are certain other things which give hope. One of them is the notion of limited authority. The Islamic tradition insists very strongly on rejecting despotism: the Arabic term is Istibdad - despotism and it is always used, even in early classical texts, in a very negative sense. Government is to be consultative and limited; the Quran says 'Consult them', meaning consult people in matters. The stress on consultation is very strong, right through the classical Islamic tradition. So too is the stress on the limitation of authority. In the old Ottoman Empire, when a new Sultan was enthroned, he was greeted by the people with cries of 'Padishah' - 'Don't be proud; God is greater than you are'. If you'd like it in Turkish -"Magruro lmasendenbÃ¼yÃ¼k Allahvar".
This tradition was not by any means a purely theoretical one; from descriptions from outside we know that a traditional Muslim ruler did in fact have to consult - not with an elected consultative assembly but rather with certain established interests: the merchant guilds in the bazaar; the craft guilds, the country gentry, the military, the religious establishment and so on. Each of these was an organization; each of these - and this is a very important point - each of these produced its own leadership from within, not nominated from above. And the system of consultation did function effectively in the pre-modern societies of the Middle East.
It didn't always; sometimes things went wrong and a tyranny was established. We have two alternative traditions in Muslim political thought: one of which insists on limited authority and consultation, and their dictum is a saying attributed to the Prophet: "there is no obedience in sin". In other words, if the ruler orders something which is contrary to the law of God, the duty of obedience lapses and is replaced, not by a right of disobedience, as in Western thought, but a duty of disobedience. As against that, there is the fact that quite frequently, rulers did establish themselves as tyrants and there is an alternative which again is well documented in Islamic political writings and thoughts, of the principle that tyranny is better than anarchy. Put up with any tyrant, however awful, if the alternative is a relapse into complete chaos. What I am trying to point is that the Islamic tradition of government, of authority, is much more varied than would appear from the current general discussion and it does contain a number of different possibilities with which of course learned Muslims, and even some less learned Muslims, are acquainted.
Finally I turn to the one part of the Middle East that has not figured at all in my discussions hitherto, and that is a little country called Israel. Here, as my time has run out, I shall limit myself to what I see as the two dangers that confront Israel at the present time, and both of them are very serious. One, of which I think everyone is aware and acutely conscious, is the external danger, more particularly the danger from a nuclear-armed Iran which is more than a possibility - a probability - in the not too distant future. And the other, to which I would wish to draw your attention more particularly, is the internal danger, and here I would like to draw attention to what seems to be the two most dangerous trends in Israel at the present time. One of them is in the field of education - I am speaking not so much of university education as of primary and secondary education, the decline in respect and standards for school teachers; the decline of that profession is having devastating consequences and this can only get worse unless something is done about it. The other, which is not new but it continues, is the electoral system. Israel did succeed in establishing, what is probably the worst electoral system in the free world; one which is carefully designed to give special influence to very minor troublesome factions. In a constituency system, on the British or American model, you would not have a multiplicity of parties, you would have two, or at the most three parties, which are able to command support all over the party and you would have a possibility of genuine functioning democracy. But that hasn't happened and I remember some time ago, an attempt was made to modify the system by the direct election of the prime minister. I was asked my opinion at the time and I said, "Well you already have the worst electoral system in the free world and now, with true Jewish ingenuity, you have succeeded in doing something which I wouldn't have thought possible; you have found a way to make it even worse. Fortunately that particular change has been remedied but I would urge you to think carefully about the needs of the future, especially these two - education and election.
The SunniÂ¬Shia question is obviously an important question, but I have the feeling that it is becoming less important now. Remember that is only an issue in countries where both exist. If you travel for example in Muslim Africa, from Egypt all the way across to Morocco and southwards into Sudan, it is not an issue at all. There are no Shia there; they don't know what it is. I remember being asked by one person - an educated Egyptian - "Am I a Sunni or a Shi'ite?" He didn't know what it was about. It is an issue where you have both, as in Iraq and in Pakistan. It was particularly an issue in Iraq because you had a Shi'ite majority and a Sunni ascendancy (I borrow the word from Irish history): Sunni domination of a Shi'ite majority which has gone on for centuries and that has obviously been a major, very sensitive issue in Iraq. But I have the impression that elsewhere in the Muslim world, except in those areas where they exist side by side - - Iraq is one, Pakistan another - it is not a major issue. In Indonesia, a solidly Sunni country, they were celebrating the Iranian revolution.
People in most Muslim countries know that if they express an opinion about democratization publicly, they will be in deep trouble and this does have a certain deterrent effect.
Nevertheless, I have been astonished and delighted at the extent to which such opinions are being expressed, even openly, during the last few years. You now have people in Egypt even, and in other countries, who come out openly and talk about the need for democratization and, even more outrageous from their point of view - the need for good relations with Israel. You now have people in Iraq and Egypt and elsewhere who will tell you that the advent of Israel has been an unexpected boon and blessing to the Arab world, giving them a working democracy at the very heart of the region, a model to follow, an example, and that the Arab population of Israel can serve as an example of a successful experiment. This is not a view which is widely expressed for obvious reason but it is expressed; one meets people who talk like that and I find this encouraging. The fact that they dare to say so publicly means that they also feel that there is a change.
Is organized religion compatible with democracy in Islam or anywhere else? Yes I think that is a crucial question. And if you look at it historically, not theoretically but historically - take the question say, Is Christianity compatible with democracy? Well than you have to divide - Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox. If you look at the record for Orthodox Christianity, you would have to say 'Probably not'. If you look at the record for Catholic Christianity, you would have to say 'Very Mixed'. If you look at the record for Protestant Christianity, you would have to say 'Yes pretty good', if you forget about Nazi Germany and one or two other things like that. Hitler was not brought up as a Protestant. I think we should phrase the question differently: Is democracy compatible with empowered religion and I think the answer there is No. That is why secularism was developed and the notion of the Separation of Church and State, which serves the double purpose of preventing the Church from using the power of the state to enforce its doctrines and preventing the state from interfering in the affairs of the church. The separation of Church and State is really the result of the shattering religious wars in Europe and the long and bitter wars between Protestants and Catholics and which went on for centuries and which finally led to shall we say the acceptance of the idea of separation between them. In Islam, except in Turkey where Islam was formally disestablished, and where there is no established religion - at least I haven't seen this morning's papers yet, there wasn't last time I looked - constitution normally meant some reference to Islam or Sharite or both. In the Jewish state it's not at all clear.