Possibilities for Accommodation
The potential for conflict in the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean does not stem from colliding systems of belief but from the inability to create a stable but flexible political system that can accommodate fragmented social identities, notably in periods of social transformations. Millennia-old regional complexes, based on shared social practices and popular beliefs, nourished a modus vivendi, yet the system of territorial nation states, with its penchant for homogenisation, hampered the construction of democratic regimes in plural societies. This part of the world faces a dilemma: how to reinforce démocratisation without allowing structurally complex communal conflicts to spread out. Democracy cannot be conceived just as a system of taking decisions on the basis of a majority vote. The identity, rights and interests of minorities should be respected for the sake of survival of society as a whole. Mere secularisation cannot solve the problem either. In some Arab states secularisation led to institutionalisation of communalism in an extreme form: the authoritarian rule of a single community. The authors of the Taif accords preferred reviving the power-sharing principle of “political confessionalism” to accepting such a “secularisation” (Picard, 1996, p. 163).