Democracy in the Maghreb

  • George Joffé


The concept of democracy has one meaning — I believe the true and original meaning — for which I hold a high value well worth fighting for. Democracy has not proved to be a certain protection against tyranny and oppression, as once it was hoped. Nevertheless, as a convention which enables any majority to rid itself of government it does not like, democracy is of inestimable value.1

I accord institutions only secondary influence over the destiny of men. I am thoroughly convinced that political societies are not what their laws make them but what they are prepared in advance to be by the feelings, the beliefs, the ideas, the habits of heart and mind of the men who compose them.2

At the height of their civilization, the Arabs translated all Greek philosophical and scientific books. They translated Aristotle and Plato, yet neglected the concept of democracy, that is to say, the concept of democratic organization. They had no need for it because it is alien to the Arab/Muslim mentality. The citizen himself does not feel the need for choice, whereas he has a keen sense of justice. He needs justice with regard to the police, judges and rulers. These are elements of Arab/Muslim mentality, from God’s word to Ibn Khaldun, who never spoke about freedom, but laid the stress on justice, which he considered one of the pillars of a thriving society.3


Political Party Political System Middle East Political Culture Arab World 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1997

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  • George Joffé

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