Religion and politics are two great rival factions that have been the cause of most of the world's greatest tragedies. Neither subject belongs in their counterpart's sphere but quite often the lines of separation become blurred, causing friction.
In recent weeks we have seen, once again, our Asian brethren reject democracy in a way that is abhorrent to all right-minded people the world over. When things have not gone to plan there is uproar, riots in the streets, innocent people dead, but when society seems to be running smoothly they haven't really liked that either. Former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated; she was shot in the head and neck just before a huge explosion, via a suicide bomber, that killed her and at least 15 others. This, however, was just the latest attempt to take her life. One hundred and fifty people died in a suicide bomb attack as she returned from exile in October last year. Her election into government was supposed to be a new beginning for the volatile country but it seems democracy just won't be accepted in this part of the Indian sub-continent.
But the reason behind such senseless killings just boggles the mind. Bhutto wasn't particularly religious and was seen as a great friend to the West — a fatal error. But to kill on that basis is just ludicrous. I don't like the people living in the house next door to me, but I haven't bought a tank have I? I don't greet them in the mornings will a volley of rifle fire just because I don't like the way they think and the company that they keep. As things stand, elections in Pakistan are still set to take place this month, although trying to persuade the two main opposition party leaders to stand could prove to be somewhat problematic.
President Pervez Musharraf has ordered the police to take a firm hand against protesters, but given the fact that they have already shot dead rioters, that's a totalitarian viewpoint if ever I've heard one. Presumably he means a shoot-on-sight approach, which does not bode well for the majority of the peace-loving populous. And the police are supposed to be protectors of the people.
Then we look over to Africa, again another place of historic political and social turmoil. In Kenya thousands of protesters have rioted in Nairobi, burning houses and kiosks, almost from the minute President Mwai Kibaki was declared winner of the 2007 election two weeks ago. The trouble is between security forces and opposition supporters who say the 'rigged' election has been stolen from them. The violence has left as many as 300 dead with thousands more fleeing their homes for fear of a backlash from opposing factions. The fact is that some nations are so steeped in Darwinist tradition that people believe that power should come from physical superiority rather than mental reasoning.
It is difficult for a democracy to survive when it is forced upon any one particular country, particularly if the people of that nation have no previous experience of it. Religion also plays its own part in this mess. Indeed, American President George Bush, commenting on his war on terror and Iraq said: "God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East."
This illustrates exactly what I'm talking about as Bhutto was killed because she wasn't seen by extremists as a Muslim — there is trouble in Kenya because the tribal leaders can't live in harmony together and us, the West, are just as bad because we apparently believe that democracy is ordained by God.
The Middle East views democracy as a Western phenomenon, a Christian creation that will make globalisation complete, thus forcing a new way of life on their people and sacrificing their own sense of national identity. But are their fears justified? The bitter irony is that we, the West, in our lovers of democracy guise have done and are continuing to commit the very crimes we are trying to prevent — in other nations. How can we try and spread democracy as the form of government that promotes fairness for all and can save lives when throughout history, right up to the present day, democracies are just as corrupt as any other form of administration.
During the 1970s America funded the Irish Republican Army, an underground cell of Irish terrorists that ran riot throughout the UK killing thousands of people with bombs and bullets. The British themselves amassed an empire that covered a quarter of the globe, so they can hardly be exempt from blame on the imperialistic front. Moreover, the Brits stormed into Iran twice and installed a new ruler or Shah in 1941 and 1953 because 'we' thought, through a democratic decision-making process, it was the right thing to do.
Middle Eastern countries are therefore justified in their fear and hatred of Western democracy. Our present day British government is not even transparent and is up to its neck in sleaze and corruption that would make even Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe blush. In the past two years we have seen everything from rent boys to cash for peerages political scandals. No wonder Britain has one of the lowest electoral turnouts in Europe. So, if we don't believe in our democracy why should anybody else?