In an article in the NYTimes, Nicholas D. Kristof discusses the changing experience of Oman over the past few decades. Once fundamentalist, the country has modernized at a breathtaking pace, and today is one of the most open and tolerant societies in the Arab world. Two years ago, I wrote a paper on this very topic for a class at Stanford (the paper also happens to be the first research paper I wrote in college, so apologies in advanced for some less-than-lucid writing).
The theory of deliberative democracy remains very controversial, since the Western tradition generally focuses on rule of law as a critical element of any democratic society. While it remains to be seen if Oman will continue to modernize under future sultans, its gains today should be lauded and encouraged throughout the Middle East.