Ammar, a Syrian writer, has just posted a good article on his blog entitled "The Struggle for Syria’s Body & Soul!" In it, he asks if liberals can impose their secular and democratic values on the rest of the population. Here is an extract from my comment.
Philip I said..
Democracy is only a mechanism for people to participate in decisions that affect their lives. If the mechanism is sound and fair, Islamic extremism will be at the fringe rather than heart of society. The fringe should enjoy its freedom but cannot be allowed impose its will on the majority nor should the majority be allowed to choke off minority interests. All of this must be inshrined in the laws of the land and backed up by the full power of the state. Turkey is a case in point and I agree there were special factors that allowed it to preseve the integrity of its political system more easily than otherwise would have been the case.
Secularism is not anti religion per se. It ensures that no one ethnic or religeous group dominates, provokes or undermines the rights of other groups. In a multi-ethnic, multi-religeous country like Syria, it is an absolute must. However, you have to believe in diversity (as a philosophical, economic and moral issue) in the first place, otherwise you will be inclined to drive the minorities underground or out of the country. A Syria devoid of its rich cultutral diversity would not be the kind of Syria that I would wish to belong to.