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09 February 2011

Islam and Democracy

وَاَمۡرُهُمۡ شُوۡرٰى بَيۡنَهُمۡ ﴿42:38﴾


(Qur'an;42:38)  who conduct their affairs by consultation;
وَشَاوِرۡهُمۡ فِى الۡاَمۡرِ‌ۚ
(Qur'an;3:159)take counsel from them in matters of importance.
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The debate about the compatibility of Islam and democracy is much older. An overwhelming majority of Muslims everywhere would like to have democracy. Today, many Muslim countries are in various stages of democratization, for example, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan. Nearly 800 million out of 1.4 billion Muslims live in democracies, and unlike the U.S., four Muslim nations have or had women heads of government. Turkey, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Pakistan have elected women to power, and Iran has a woman vice president. It is just a matter of time before the entire Muslim world democratizes.[Dr. Muqtedar Khan]
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A recent book by John Esposito and John Voll, Islam and Democracy (London: Oxford University Press, 1996), argued that Islam and Democracy were indeed compatible and the reasons for the perpetuation of authoritarianism in the Muslim World in general and the Arab World in particular, lay elsewhere.
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Islamic democracy & Western democracy - Differences 



Islamic democracy refers to two kinds of democratic states that can be recognized in the Islamic countries. The basis of this distinction has to do with how comprehensively Islam is incorporated into the affairs of the state.
  1. A democratic state which recognizes Islam as state religion, such as MalaysiaPakistan,Algeria, or Maldives are examples of Islamic Democracy. Some religious values are incorporated into public life, but Islam is not the only source of law.
  2. A democratic state which endeavours to institute Sharia. It is also called as Islamist democracy. Islamist democracy offers more comprehensive inclusion of Islam into the affairs of the state.
On democracies with religious law, Religious democracy.
The concepts of liberalism and democratic participation were already present in the medieval Islamic world. Azizah Y. al-Hibri, for example, argues that Medina during Muhammad's time was an early example of a democratic state but that the development of democracy in the Islamic world eventually came to a halt following to the Sunni–Shia split.
Legal scholar L. Ali Khan argues that Islam is fully compatible with democracy. In his book, A Theory of Universal Democracy, Khan provides a critique of liberal democracy and secularism. He presents the concept of "fusion state" in which religion and state are fused. There are no contradictions in God's universe, says Khan. Contradictions represent the limited knowledge that human beings have. According to the Qur'an and the Sunnah, Muslims are fully capable of preserving spirituality and self-rule.
Furthermore, counter arguments to these points assert that this attitude presuppose democracy as a static system which only embraces a particular type of social and cultural system, namely that of the post-Christian WestSee: constitutional theocracy.
Muslim democrats, including Ahmad Moussalli (professor of political science at the American University of Beirut), argue that concepts in the Qur'an point towards some form of democracy, or at least away from despotism. These concepts include shura (consultation), ijma (consensus), al-hurriyya(freedom), al-huqquq al-shar'iyya (legitimate rights). For example shura (Aal `Imran 3:159, Ash-Shura 42:38) may include electing leaders to represent and govern on the community’s behalf. Government by the people is not therefore necessarily incompatible with the rule of Islam, whilst it has also been argued that rule by a religious authority is not the same as rule by a representative of Allah. This viewpoint, however, is disputed by more traditional Muslims. Moussalli argues that despotic Islamic governments have abused the Qur'anic concepts for their own ends: "For instance, shura, a doctrine that demands the participation of society in running the affairs of its government, became in reality a doctrine that was manipulated by political and religious elites to secure their economic, social and political interests at the expense of other segments of society," (In Progressive Muslims 2003).
A further argument against Islamic democracy in practice, is that some democratic governments in Islamic states are not homegrown, but imposed by the West, such as the one in Afghanistan and the nascent post-Baathist regime in Iraq. As of 2009, U.S.-based organization Freedom House considers Indonesia and Mali as the only Muslim-majority countries that are fully-fledged free electoral democracies.
Pakistan: Pakistan started off as the first category but has moved increasingly with the 1973 constitution to the second category, though frequent military coups have halted its democratic evolution.
Read More at Wikipedia >>>>








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Emerging Democracies in the Middle East?
The Muslim world has produced some of the world’s most ossified dictators. 
[The Christian/ Western world has produced matchless dictators like Hitler, Mussolini, Joseph Stalin in recent past, but now they are following democracy as best system of rule.] The patriarch of Tunisia, Ben Ali, now in terrified refuge in that last refuge of departing dictators, Saudi Arabia, in power for 23 years. Makes you think, doesn’t it? And supported throughout his rule by the supreme protector of Muslim despotisms, the godfather of Arab and Muslim stagnation, the United States
And if Ben Ali sounded like a tribute to longevity, there is the latter-day Phar aoh of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, in power – can you believe it? – for 30 years. Don’t they get tired of their own images? And until Tunisia set an example and Cairo’s Tahrir Square became the focus of resistance, he wanted to pass on the mantle to his son, Gamal, now wisely having decamped to Britain.

It’s the same all over the Middle East and much of the world of Islam. We are not very happy with democracy and the idea of representative rule is only a fig-leaf to cover a whole line of monarchies and emirates sustained by police rule as in the case of Morocco, Algeria and Jordan, and by oil and US protection as in the case of the Gulf Emirates and the mightiest monarchy of all, Saudi Arabia. Oil and US protection, the common theme running through them all.

So America is right to be worried about the popular uprising in Egypt – although we still don’t know how it will end. Its Middle East world is falling apart. Egypt was the centrepiece of the design the US had woven for this region since the Camp David Accords...which led to Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel and cemented Egypt’s status as leading US client in the region. Israel does things in its national interest. Arab and Muslim brothers have made a cult of dancing to American wishes.

Colonialism died its formal death long ago. But the servitude of mind it engendered lives on in the world of Islam. Formally free but informally tied to habits of mind which make a most amusing mockery of independence. The American arms industry, the so-called military-industrial complex, would have a hard time surviving without the Arab arms bazaar. The fanciest and most expensive weapons our Arab brothers buy. But what are they afraid of?

Perhaps their own shadows and the fear within their hearts. As the Emir of Qatar, who has a sharp sense of humour, put it most aptly, if he threw the Americans off their vast airbase in Doha, “his Arab brothers would invade Qatar”.

And the Arab brothers are afraid of Iran, the Wikileak cables revealing this fear in all its naked glory: the Saudi monarch urging the US to attack Iran and crush the head of the snake and a prince of the UAE urging much the same. When people in the Arab street, or the larger Muslim community, read this, when Palestinians are told – again by Wikileaks – what a shameful path of compromise with Israel their leadership has pursued, should we be surprised at the frustration and anger seething in the world of Islam?

Some of this anger has exploded in Tunisia. In most spectacular fashion it has broken out in Egypt. Its tremors are being felt in Jordan and distant Yemen. This is not about prices or economic hardships although such factors are always catalysts when great movements take place.

This is a revolt against the humiliation and despair brought on by the never-ending rule of such satraps as the Pharaoh of Egypt. The world has moved on, the world of Islam, much of it, remains trapped in the past. The Arab revolt we are witnessing is an attempt to resolve this contradiction.

We should not be taken in by all the talk out of Washington about change and transition. For the Americans, Mubarak once their convenient tool is now a dangerous embarrassment. They want him out not for love of the Egyptian people or the sake of democracy but to contain the unrest and see that it doesn’t get out of hand.

A participant in a Fox News talk-show I heard put it best: Israeli security depends upon Arab tyranny. In other words, Israel’s best guarantee of security are the Mubaraks of the Arab world. So one would have to be mad to think that real democracy leading to free elections – who could predict their outcome? – is what the US is interested in. No, the US is not as naïve as all that.

Already the Muslim Brotherhood threat is being played up by western news channels. Do you want them with their Sharia law – the whipping of women, etc – to come in? The fear bogey is being fanned and behind the scenes, we should have no doubt, the army is being encouraged to step in and restore order. Mubarak may become the sacrificial goat but in the end it’s all about preserving the status quo and containing the winds of change.

We saw the same happening in Pakistan. When Musharraf became an embarrassment the Americans wanted him out, to be replaced by a ‘democratic’ face to mollify public opinion but ensure that Pakistan’s vital role in America’s continuing war in Afghanistan remained unchanged. The Americans got what they wanted, their Pakistani transition turning out to be a slick operation. From their point of view nothing could be safer than Zardari and Gilani.

Or indeed, Gen Kayani for that matter. Despite differences on some matters of detail – not, heaven forbid, anything of far-reaching substance – he has done little to alarm the Americans.

The unrest against Musharraf in the shape of the lawyers’ movement was peanuts compared to the upheaval in Egypt. But America’s aim would be the same: to choreograph, as rapidly as possible, a safe transition, with a suitably conservative figure replacing Mubarak and promising free elections. Mubarak’s departure thus – and it is hard to figure out how, short of bloodshed, he could remain in power any longer – would lead not to a Jacobin solution but to something well short of a true revolution. Iran is where the Americans faltered but otherwise they are very good at managing this sort of a thing.

Divisions in the army, a split in the military, are necessary preconditions for the success of a revolutionary movement. The Egyptian military, regardless of some of the bonhomie between protesters and soldiers in Tahrir Square, is very much united. The clashes between pro and anti-Mubarak protesters throughout Wednesday and much of the subsequent night were ominous because they showed that there was still fight left in the Mubarak camp, which brings the army that much closer to stepping in on the plea of restoring order.

But the larger question remains. Why must most of the world of Islam still be swathed in the clothes of autocracy and despotism. Why aren’t we all that good with democracy? Why are we still so confused about the nature and requirements of a modern state?

Turkey is the only complete democracy across the Islamic firmament but then Turkey with its Kemalist revolution and overt secularism is a thing apart, not really fitting into the Islamic module as we understand it. Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia, for various reasons and it would take too long to go into them here, are imperfect democracies. Iranian democracy with its monitoring ayatollahs is an example mercifully incapable of emulation anywhere else. Other Muslim countries, most of them, are variations on the theme of repression and the absence of democracy.

This is the real challenge before the world of Islam...trying to catch up with the times. But scan the skies for any sign of rising to this challenge and we are likely to be disappointed. So why blame anyone if we remain a doormat of history?
By Ayaz AmirEmail: winlust@yahoo.com
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