Charles Kupchan, a Georgetown U. international affairs expert, urges patience for the West's democratically eager:
Absent the Western tradition of separating the sacred from the secular--which came about only after the bloody wars of the Protestant Reformation--pitched battles over the role of Islam in politics will bedevil aspiring Middle East democracies for generations to come.
Kupchan's dashed clause is a frustrating but critical point, one which Vali Nasr also subtextually stresses in The Shia Revival. On page after page Nasr likens some modern Islamic peculiarity with some ancient Christian oddity: perhaps Sunni theology and liturgy match Catholicism's here, while the Shia faith matches Protestantism there, or vice versa. And though Islam's internal conflicts persist, Christians have little room to crow, since their history too is replete with bloody monstrosities such as the Thirty Years' War--merely one of brotherly love's greatest hits.
Religious fanaticism dies hard, and rarely from within. As historians of Christianity have noted, it has traditionally been not institutional reformers but outsiders and "free-thinkers" before whom the devout have modified their ways, and lessened their doctrinal tyrannies. Today, Christianity in the West is little more than a comforting relic; its fundamentals of love are shared universally by atheists, while its fundamentalism is both besieged and vanishing.
A similar metamorphosis is occurring in Islam's Middle East, but God knows these things take time. The secular pull is irresistible, especially to the region's West-envying young and feministically fed up. This sentiment will seep, generation after generation, into the Middle East's politics--and there's not a whole lot we in the West can do but wait.