World Watches As Islam Meets Democracy
Algeria's example is being watched by Egypt and Turkey, secular states under fire from Islamists who want to create Islamic states.Skip to next paragraph
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Egypt has forcefully contained its militant Muslim Brotherhood, while Turkey's fiercely secular military is now locked in battle with the country's first Islamist prime minister.
The conflict has been a dilemma for the United States, torn between its professed support for democracy and its fear of a fundamentalist Islamic state in Algeria that might not relinquish power if it were voted in.
There may be a political contradiction between radical Islam, which draws its support from people disillusioned by disparities of wealth, and democracy. Algeria's Islamists openly declared the incompatibity: In 1991, some Islamic Salvation Front leaders called democracy a Western "evil."
The main US interest is stability. Algeria provides Italy, Spain, and Portugal with 20 percent of their natural gas, and militants have proved that they can export terrorism.