Are Islam and democracy compatible? A large literature has developed arguing that Islam has all the ingredients of modern state and society. Ny Muslim intellectuals. is america a democracy or a republic essay
An Important Distinction: Democracy versus Republic. Is important to keep in mind the difference between a Democracy and a Republic, as dissimilar forms of. is america a democracy or a republic essay
In the end, Islam is not just another religion. It is an account of the way the world ought to be and a program to make it pursue that goal. Religion, politics, culture, and family all belong together in an interlocking web. Its chances of succeeding are better than they have been for centuries. Its equipment to do so seems to many to be wholly inadequate. But it has learned that inflexible determination is a power few have the courage or desire to cope with. The London killings are but one more step to convince the many that pure Islam, with the Qur’an as its guide, is on the right track. These same killings convince others who do not take Islam at its word that we deal only with some unnamed terrorist fanatics. With a little exposure to secular civilization, the wishful thinking goes, they will eventually calm down and go away by themselves. The bridges in London have many surprising things to teach us, but only if we want to be taught.
When Islam spread outside the Arabian Peninsula and came into contact with other cultures, Islam adapted itself to these regions in the sense that various local habits and traditions where not only being accepted as not contradicting those of Islam, but were later on also sometimes interpreted by the local populations as being in line with Islam, if not Islamic itself. Many people who as new Muslims continued part of their former traditions, gradually came to argue that these traditions were in fact part of Islam. In the traditional West Sumatra Minangkabau society, for instance, Minang culture is said to be based on Islam: “culture based on religion, which in turn is being based on the Qur’an”. One might, however, also say that Islam has merged here to a large extent with local culture, because Islamic religion and Adat are in this region perceived to be almost identical. A remarkable aspect of Minang society is that, different from Arab Islamic custom, it has a matriarchal system. There is nothing which prevents the Minang from being both devote Muslims and having a matriarchal system.
When turning to the elections in Indonesia, one can note that the religious parties do not dominate the political scene, even if they theoretically could. During the legislative elections of April 2014 the Islamic-based parties had an impressive 32 percent of the total votes, enough to put forward their own presidential candidate. This prompted a number of prominent clerics from a wide range of Muslim organizations, including Professor Din Syamsuddin, the chairman of the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), to call for a coalition in an effort to indeed put forward their own presidential candidate for the presidential elections next July. Nothing came of it, however, because Islamic-based parties prefer to pragmatically cooperate with secular nationalist parties in order to obtain positions of political power, preferably in government, that offer more benefits than being in the formal parliamentary opposition. Political pragmatism prevails among the Islamic-based parties, as has been the case during earlier elections.
We have seen various examples where Western countries have called upon the Palestinians to have free and democratic elections. When the result was a victory of the Islamic Resistance Organization Hamas, however, Western countries boycotted the results and generally refused contacts with the new Hamas local government, because of its position towards Israel. Something similar happened with the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) in Algeria when it won the elections there. Their victory was rejected by the Algerian military, and this rejection was generally supported in the West.
To put it differently: there are various Islamic countries with a democratic political system, just as there are various predominantly Muslim countries that have a dictatorship. The same applies to non-Muslim countries: some are democracies; others are dictatorships, irrespective of the religions prevalent amongst its rulers or people. To me this just indicates that Islam and democracy, or being simultaneously a Muslim and democrat, can go very well together, just as the opposite may be the case. The same applies to countries with people having another religion, such as Christianity. Therefore one might draw as a main conclusion that in practice there is no specific link here between religion and either democracy or dictatorship.
Following the same logic, we do not have to study the Qur’an or other Islamic texts to convince us of the fact that Islam and democracy go well together, as is illustrated by countries with a Muslim majority which have democracies, like for instance Indonesia (with more than 205 million Muslims), Pakistan (178 million), Bangladesh (148 million) and Turkey (75 million), or a democracy with a very sizable Muslim population like India (which with its 177 million Muslim inhabitants almost equals Pakistan in this respect, and actually is the third largest country in the world as to the number of Muslim inhabitants after Indonesia and Pakistan). Indonesia also happens to be the third largest democracy in the world, after the United States and India.
My first impression, of course, on hearing this recent in a never-ending series of incidents was a sober one. Seeing this as part of a long sequence of calculated acts of civic terror in non-Muslim polities again caused me to marvel. How little it takes today, in mostly unarmed societies used to the freedom of their own streets, to shut everything down! Atrocities in London, Brussels, Berlin, Fort Hood, San Bernardino, or Paris are immediately communicated via the media to and throughout an uncomprehending world. The enemies, if one dare name them—something often against a certain kind of civil laws—only need commercial aircraft, rented trucks, knives, or small explosives to carry out their purpose. We talk of Iran and nuclear weapons; but, in the long run, urban chaos caused by such seemingly small incidents probably makes the Iranian nuclear effort unnecessary, if not counter-productive. It can be dealt with by general deterrence theory in a way that small scale aggression cannot.
From previous experiences the conclusion can be drawn that politicians in the West generally do indeed want to see democracy and democratic elections in the Islamic world, albeit that when the victorious parties happen to be predominantly Islamic oriented, they are not only not enthusiastic about the outcome but they sometimes even tend to reject the results, because that is not something they generally expected or wanted. One of the reasons for this rejection is the expectation that the Islamic forces that come to power through a democratic system, may turn out to misuse the same system so as to later impose their rule undemocratically. This, in turn, is based on the presumption that Islam and democracy are not really compatible. In some cases the expectations of misusing the democratic system may be quite justified, like recently in Egypt, but in other cases, like Indonesia, they are unfounded.
If I would say on basis of these experiences that Christianity and democracy are actually incompatible, I would almost certainly be ridiculed, because it will, rightly, be considered as nonsense. After all, most of Europe is now democratic, and the big majority is still Christian. That should be proof enough in itself, wouldn’t it? We would not need to study the Bible or other Christian texts to convince us of the thesis that democracy and Christianity (or being a Christian) are compatible.