Pandemics, Democracies & Dictatorships
Today, fear stalks the globe. The grim reaper is taking a heavy toll. The coronavirus pandemic has led to many thousands of deaths and tremendous economic dislocation. In this climate of fear, authoritarian regimes from Saudi Arabia to Hungary, from Russia to Turkey, from Iran to the Philippines use the crisis as a pretext to curtail civil liberties, expand police power and surveillance, silence their opponents, settle old scores, muzzle the press and jail dissidents. The pattern repeats in different shapes and forms among tyrants and would-be tyrants. Indian prime minister Modi has thrown journalists critical of his rule in jail. Kashmir remains under military control. In Washington, the U.S. president has declared “ultimate authority. I call the shots.” How can people in democratic societies effectively respond to the current crisis?
Nader Hashemi is the Director of the Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. He obtained his doctorate from the University of Toronto. He was previously the founding Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver. He has been interviewed on PBS, NPR, BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and The Nation. He is the author of Islam, Secularism and Liberal Democracy and co-editor of The People Reloaded: The Green Movement and the Struggle for Iran’s Future, The Syria Dilemma, Sectarianization: Mapping the New Politics of the Middle East and a four-volume study on Islam and Human Rights. He is a contributor to Retargeting Iran edited by David Barsamian.