Relationship Between Islam and Democracy

Topics: Islam, Sharia, Muslim world Pages: 8 (2456 words) Published: May 4, 2008
The end of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet communist empire have shown the dominance of liberal democracy and capitalism over all other possible alternatives. The emerging ``New World Order`` has been characterized by the collapse of communism and the global demand for democracy. Fukuyama even went as far as declaring the ``end of history``: `what we may be witnessing is not the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalisation of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.` (Fukuyama, 1989: 50) However, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and indeed before that, the attention of many scholars and government officials has been directed towards the lack of democracy in the Islamic states and the reasons for it. Many scholars while trying to explain the rationale why the Muslim world is not successful in the development of pluralism, liberalism and other democratic values `have concluded that it must have something to do with culture, and more particularly with Islam.` (Kramer, 1993: 2) The results of the Freedom House report in 2005 identified three Muslim countries as free, 20 states as partly free and 23 as not free at all. (Freedom in the world 2006) The table on Islam and democracy shows that democracy has not found a home in the region and the authoritarianism continues to be a strong force in Muslim domains. Here states with an Islamic majority comprise one in two of the world's authoritarian regimes.

Is the government Countries with an Non-Islamic elected by Islamic majority countries democratic means?

Yes 11 110 No 36 35 Total 47 145 (Adapted from Hague and Harrop, 2004: 62)

The increasing level of interest towards democracy within the Muslim world is growing dramatically. People are no longer willing to support dictatorships. `... Muslims have recognized that democratic revolution may be the only way to deliver them from the hands of the dictators and despots that rule their states.` (Milton-Edwards, 2004: 116) Nevertheless the incompatibility of Islam with the notions of liberal democracy has been stressed by many scholars, although it is strongly argued by the majority that Islam and democracy can co-exist and allow the societies to prosper. This essay will try to analyze the complex relationship between Islam and democracy. The essay will identify trends within Islam that can be related towards democratic governance, as well as trends that underline Islam's irreconcilability with the liberal values of democracy. Also, some of the views of the Islamic intellectuals within the Muslim community and their relationship to the processes and experiences of democratization will be analyzed.

Islam and Democracy.

`In Islamic history, there are a number of very important concepts and images that shape the contemporary visions of what a just human society should be.` (Esposito and Voll, 1996: 23) However, the interpretations of such concepts and images vary and there are some considerable discrepancies about the definition of a just society in the Muslim countries. Just like in Christianity, the various elucidations of Islamic customs can lead to the support for authoritarianism as well as liberal democracy. This essay will try to analyse the relationship from both perspectives. First some concepts that clearly challenge democracy will be identified. In this context Abu al-Ala al-Mawdudi stated that the `political system of Islam has been based in three principles, viz: Tawheed (Unity of God), Risalat (Prophethood) and Khilafat (Caliphate).` (Mawdudi, 1967: 40) While Risalat is not particularly important to...
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