Islam and Democracy – Incompatable?

The following news article has surfaced …

The Taliban on Sunday announced plans to disrupt Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections, scheduled for September 18.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, told reporters that the balloting is just for the benefit of the foreigners who he says are occupying the country. And he urged the Afghan people to boycott the election.

Some 2,500 candidates are competing for 249 seats in Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament.

Voice of America – News : Click here

So, this then begs the question, is this just a Taliban thing, or is Islam itself inherently un-democratic? As you look around the Islamic world, you do indeed spot a lot of dictatorships and monarchies, and not many proper democracies. Now, while factual, that’s not proof, just an interesting observation that adds some weight to the case. So lets start by asking a Muslim. Well, we did, and this is the answer we received …

The Qur’an lays emphasis on what it calls shura’ (consultation) (3:159, 42:38). Even the messenger of Allah is required to consult his people in worldly matters and Muslims are required to consult each other in their secular affairs.

There are a couple of problems with this reply, so lets consider them.

  • The first problem here is that the final word on what to do is to refer to an old text. Note that if this so called holy book did not permit, or give permission to consult people, then it would not be done … period.
  • What is being described here by this so-called holy book is not representative democracy (by the way, what is a holy book, or for that matter what does the word holy mean? … nothing if we are truly honest … ah but lets save that debate for another blog posting)
  • Democracy is not about delegating some matters … its about all the people electing a representative to take full responsibility for all decisions.
  • The decisions taken are the final collective decision. Muslims, and for that matter other faith-driven believers, would not view democracy as the ideal form of government, but would rather see a Theocracy. This is  where God’s representatives (the clerics) rule would be the ideal … Democracy would be something to be tolerated, a step along they way towards this ideal. This manifests itself within Islamic culture where you find that its typically the un-elected clerics who strive to be the manipulators of statecraft and have the final say on what is and is not permitted.

The bottom line is this … either there is a supernatural entity that rules over us and directs things for us, giving us guidance, or we are alone in the universe and need to take responsibility for our own destiny and make our own decisions. Democracy is about getting all the facts, debating and understanding them, then taking a vote for what is in the best interests of all. Belief is not the same, its about an archaic rigid set of rules dictated supposedly by a supernatural entity and must be obeyed. If we are truly honest, then we will appreciate that this is incompatible, and in complete conflict with, democracy.  How can you truly vote when you have a rigid set of rules telling you how to vote

Real life is of course never that black and white, we all make compromises. Believers of all shades do successfully participate in democracy, but they play a dangerous game by doing so, because they risk electing a “True” believe to office who will (if permitted) quickly turn it into a Faith-Driven dictatorship. The reason that so many believers do successfully participate in democracy is that within our modern world, for many belief is simply the glue the binds the tribe together, its not about the fanatical devotion to a supernatural being at all, so we end up with some very odd setup’s. For example …

  • In the UK we have the unelected Queen as head of the Church of England and also head of state. We also have Bishops sitting in the house of Lords … yet even with all these religious rulers, the UK has the most secular population on the planet (where else would there be serious debate about arresting the pope in a few weeks when he gets here).
  • In complete contrast to this, we have the US, which was established as the first completely secular republic (total and complete separation of church and state) … yet has one of the most diverse set of religious nutters on the planet. For example a serious percentage of the US population truly believes that the world is only 6000 years old and don’t allow little things like reality to impinge on that delusion.

So you get mixtures like this, no idealistic black and white, just a dull shade of gray compromise. As for Islam, its the fanatics who truly worry me … no gray compromise for them, many do indeed take a very black and white view and so would nurture a mindset that might pay lip service to democracy, but only as something to tolerate, as a temporary step towards the ideal beyond that … a true Islamic theocracy.

So to answer the question … is Islam compatible with democracy? … No, and neither is any other faith-system in its raw pure form. Many cultures have learned (the hard way) that your simply cannot take a black-and-white rigid fath-based view. The choice is simple, you ether learn to compromise the raw-belief, tone it down and embrace all, or you carry on ripping out each others throats, all in the name of a non-existent supernatural being.

Right now we are faced with a wave of fanatical Islam that is not prepared to back down, thats why its not currently compatible.

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