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First of all, there are democratic countries in the Middle East that have flourishing civil society, specifically Israel and Cyprus. However, the majority of Middle Eastern countries do have these issues, so it is worth discussing them. There are a number of societal requisites that make democracy viable and many countries, including most Middle Eastern countries, lack these particular societal requisites.

Now, it must be noted that this is a question of current culture; it is not a racial claim. If Middle Easterners are taught how to function in such a way that liberal norms prevailed, then democracy could work in Middle Eastern countries just as democracy works perfectly well in South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, all of which are Non-European countries.

1) Nationalism over Tribalism: There has to be a sense in the country that every group in the country is better off with everyone else in the country succeeding than failing. The benefits that accrue to one group of people should not be at the expense of all other populations in a debilitating way. Middle Easterners tend to advocate for their particular ethnic, tribal, or religious grouping as opposed for the benefit of all people under the same flag.

2) Cross-Ethnic Civil Society: There has to be civil society organizations such as clubs, artist networks, political rights groups, and other similar organizations. But they must be united by cultural, philosophical, or humanitarian underpinnings as opposed to being a mechanism to foster tribalism. Middle Easterners tend to only have civil society organizations that promote the divisions in their society such as political parties and religious groups.

3) Literate Population and Freedom of Speech/Press: Most people are only exposed verbally to positions that they already agree with and caricatures of positions that they do not agree with. As a result, being able to read and write exposes a person to opinions that completely disagree with their own opinion. This allows people to have different political beliefs than their families. Additionally, freedom must be granted to both express and actualize views contrary to those of the ruling coalition or the majority ethnic and religious groups. In Middle Eastern societies, there is a high degree of illiteracy and minimal education, especially among women. Additionally, individuals who disagree with the dominant popular vein are often jailed or tortured for their "seditious" views of wanting to discuss why they don't want a theocracy.

4) Laws Evenly Applied / Rule of Law: No person, by dint of their power or connections, can be treated in a better manner than others and no person, on account of their differing religion, ethnicity, or tribe, should be treated worse. All people must have the expectation that a wrongdoer will be punished regardless of whether he is a male or a female or Muslim or a Non-Muslim and that the police will actively jail individuals intending to perform recriminations. In the Middle East, connected people and male Muslims tend to have a superior position and are given a degree of free reign to bully other minorities into compliance.

5) Virtue of Compromise: This is probably most important. The goal of the political process must not be for one party to get everything it wants, but for every party to get enough of what it wants to be satisfied and to accept that as a valid resolution. Compromising and accepting less than what you wanted initially, is virtually non-existent in Middle Eastern circles.

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Q: What are the challenges to growing civil society and democratic practices in the Middle east?
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