Monday, March 28, 2011

Islam and Democracy

In Islam, Allah is the ultimate authority. In democracy, authority ultimately lies with the people. But does this mean that Islam is incompatible with democracy?

Are the differences between Islam (especially when given political form) and the liberal democracies of the West so great as to represent a 'clash of civilizations'?

Muslim world is not ideologically monolithic but a theocratic system.

It would be difficult to create a democratic system within the Islam world since Islam is government and religion together as a way of life. It is a theocratic system with Allah alone at its head. Allah's law is interpreted by a ruling body of clerics. There is no room for a secular political system in which all people are treated as equals.

Syria, Libya, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia are the least democratic nations in the Arab world.

Turkey, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Mali, and Senegal as democracies. (Indonesia, with 196 million people, is the world's largest Muslim nation). Other countries, such as Malaysia, Nigeria, and Iran, are nominally democratic, but to a greater or lesser extent lack many of the attributes of fully functioning democracies, such as protections for civil liberties and legitimate opposition parties.

Other Arab nations fall somewhere between autocracy and democracy: they may have legislatures, labor unions, and political parties, but their ruling party, president, or king exercises final control.

On a spectrum from most to least democratic, these countries are: Morocco, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, Algeria, Qatar, and Yemen. Lebanon was a fully functioning democracy in the early 1970's, but years of civil war and conflict have transformed it into a more repressive nation.

At core is the fact that in Islam, God is the giver of laws, and men have only limited autonomy to implement and enforce God's laws. These laws, known as sharia, apply to all aspects of religious, political, social, and private life. Interpreted literally, they can clash with Western democratic ideals.

Islam = terrorism, backwardness, tyranny, oppression, and ugly.

Democracy = peaceful, progress, freedom, equality, and beautiful.

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