I saw today on the news that Iran relish the idea of an Islamic Middle East as a result of revolutions in many of the countries with secular governments. Jordan is for example coming down with demonstrations today and the king has fired the Prime Minister presumably as an early response that he hopes will quell the problem.
Is Iran's idea good or bad? Charles Krauthammer, an American conservative, does not think anything good will come out of this in the short run. The experience in Iraq would indicate that so called "real" democracy is quite far off, although it might be better with an endogenous development. Another problem is that the more countries involved the less chance for the West to help. The Swedish Radio correspondent Cecilia Uddén mentioned also that people on the street are irritated over the reluctance of the West to back them. Erdogan of Turkey entered the fray today, perhaps to take that point, and suggested to Mubarak to listen to the people. A development along the lines of Turkey, rather than Iran would be of course be preferable.
What about more theocracies like Iran then? Perhaps a hint from history might give an indication apart from the general viciousness of the Iranian regime and its apparent lack of potential compared to Turkey. Timur Kuran, a Turkish-American academic from Duke University in the US has published a book called The Long Divergence where he claims that the reason for the non participation in the European revolution of ideas and economy after the 16th century was the presence of sharia according to a column in The Economist. This despite the fact that The Prophet actually was a merchant.
If Dr. Kuran is correct, and the effect of sharia would be the same despite what we know today, this might also be important for a country like Sweden where we today have 5% Muslims, a figure that will double to 2030. It would be an argument for integration without sharia.