The Right Coast

February 14, 2006
Why Hamas Won
By Mike Rappaport

Fareed Zakaria has an interesting explanation in his Time Magazine column:

Let's stop for a moment and understand how this happened, so that at least we can stop being surprised. The story of the rise of Hamas mirrors the rise of almost all such Islamic political parties in the Middle East.

For decades, the dictators who ruled (and rule) the Middle East destroyed all political opposition groups. They were particularly aggressive in co-opting or exterminating liberal, secular, forward-looking groups because those were seen as most threatening. They were often less harsh toward Muslim groups, partly because the Islamists were seen as less political. And, of course, you cannot ban the mosque in an Islamic country.

Rulers like Anwar Sadat and Jordan's King Hussein often used Islamic groups to discredit the secular opposition. Decades of repression, incompetence and stagnation ensured that citizens got increasingly unhappy with their regimes. And the only organized, untainted alternative was the Islamic movement.
While I am discussing Zakaria, let me recommend his book "The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad," which did not receive the attention it deserves, especially among libertarians. It is not a strict libertarian book, even of the moderate variety, as it seems to embrace rule by elites a bit too much. That said, it is filled with powerful and well documented explanations and arguments. Well worth the read.