Islam and Democracy: The Crucial Questions
Many Muslims insist that Islam
must have a political dimension. This insistence is nothing new. In
Europe and later in the
church leaders insisted similarly, and unsuccessfully.
Why is it an issue whether
religions should have political dimension? Isn't it a fact that, between
the two, there is inherent incompatibility: reason tends to guide most
decisions of modern governments whereas at many levels, faith drives
applicative justification of religions?
Do Muslims understand the
reasons why Western societies evolved to separate Christianity from
politics? Do they assign merit to that separation or do they feel that
modern western, secular countries would have been better off had they
retained a 'religious dimension' in politics? According to some faithful
Christians of both past and present, it was a blunder to separate
religion from state. Yet, what do historical facts reveal, if we compare
pre-secular western societies to their post-secular makeover?
was founded on secular principles. The majority of its inhabitants have
accepted that, even though a handful of puritanical citizens still hope
for a 'Christ-based' political posturing of priests and pastors, as
'cure-all' for all of its alleged secular evils. As Muslim gain more
political foothold, might they propose a modification to its secular
principles to include Islamic religious influence, in the manner it was
(illegally) done to the Constitution of Bangladesh after Sheikh Mujibur
Rahmanís assassination? Examples of Christian failure at it
In this regard I wish to refer
to the 1990 Cairo Convention of Human Rights in Islam. What was the
Islamic issue with UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights that many
attendants refused to endorse, drafting and signing an ISLAMIC Human
Rights Declaration instead? Muslim apologists contend Islam is
compatible with universal human rights. Then why did they need an
Islamic twist on that declaration?
To establish Islam's lust for
political dimension, how likely is it that Muslim apologists will
re-engage in interpretive rehash to neutralize some pungent Quranic
verses, while upholding select other verses that support their
Interpretive differences in
Islam have been a sore issue that birthed endless essays from Islamic
scholars. Present Islamic traditions in countries that starkly contrast
our current, rational notions of equal rights for minorities and women
have been interpreted as unIslamic. How do Muslims propose to validate
the accuracy of any such interpretation for use in politics, when it
seems unlikely typically-absentee Allah will be at hand to confirm it?
My main reservation against
arguments for political dimension of Islam is that, just like other
Abrahamic religions, it divisive approach to humanity is based upon
little else but faith. Unlike many global Muslims, the majority of
modern Christians, Hindus, Jews or Buddhists do not seem as collectively
agitated over separation of religion from politics.
Many moral guidelines based on
religion contradict each other--it is a fact. Some Muslims contend
religion ought to inform and guide political discourse and debate. It is
a fact that the primary basis for moral guidelines in religion is faith.
How do Muslims propose to resolve those contradictions if Islam were
made part of political discourse, when its main basis is faith and NOT
reason and rationality that mark modern political discourses? More
pressing seems the question whether Muslims would admit there can be
universal guidelines for morality and human rights--women's and minority
rights, that global population can agree upon through rational discourse
of fairness without invoking fear of hellfire, etc. in afterlife---a
mainstay of most religions.
What moral codes are so
exclusive and useful according to Islam that their exclusion from
political discourse would undermine fair representation of Muslims? I
would like their enumeration from Muslim apologists, for starters.
While religions may have a
'right' to inform and guide politics, we must also acknowledge their
history of creating false social reality by dividing people on the
arbitrary basis of faith. In context I'm distinguishing scriptures from
the way any religion has been practiced throughout history. In India,
for example, there is history of Muslim rulers practicing secularism,
allowing each religion to practice its rituals and morality.
Nonetheless, one can cite verses
from both the Bible and the Quran, divisive pungency of which scholarly
believers may not interpret away. Before insisting on inclusion of
religious morality in politics, apologists must acknowledge the falsity
of their morality claims based upon unprovable faith.
Modern politics is an evolving
phenomenon that has its own set of complexities, but use of logic and
reason in matters common to us all seems to help not only to contain
their scope, but also to approach their resolution via rational
discourse. What might be the
gain to devolve to pre-secular days, instead, to include religions to
inform and guide politics, birthing futile debates over intra and
inter-religious differences in moral guidelines? Let's ask those Muslims
that contend inclusion of religion in politics, to explain their vision
how such debates might benefit humans in general, and Muslims in
The argument to let Islam
influence politics--not only in Muslim-majority countries but also in
secular countries where transplanted Muslims are gaining political
foothold--seems to have missed/ignored all political developments beyond
Dismal failure of
religion-based/influenced governments to manage their citizenry, as it
is evident in most Islamic countries today, Muslim apologists tend to
interpret away as contra-Islamic. All of it, and no less. Other Muslim
scholars tag such failure singly to activities of non-Islamic countries,
and no less. All based on interpretations when facts that may reveal the
opposite are systematically ignored. This however is no surprise and in
line with their insistence to alter objective social reality with false
reality based on nothing but faith.
My question to Muslim
apologists: What defensible, rational basis beyond the purity of faith
will retain a 'political dimension' for Islam, offering not just-as-good
an alternative to, but possibly much more 'moral' an outcome than
secular alternatives preferred in Western countries? In this regard they
may offer reasonable analyses about the net outcome from variants of
Islamic theocracies that we have seen in today's world.
Thinking forward, what might be
the timeline for such Islamic alternative to curdle into a first born? I
ask because arguments in its support seem pervasive. What are the
practical aspects of such alternative? As a secular citizen of the
United States, I ask because I'd be happy to lend support to any
potential exodus of its Muslims to countries offering such informed and
guided alternative--AWAY from the western secular countries where many
Islamic apologists in search of a better life now live.
Global humanity will then have
two alternatives for political system: Islamic understanding of
modernity, with religion offering information and guidance to
government--more moral, at least by faith according to Muslims and also
in line with Allah's wishes, versus Western politics that is not good
enough for Muslims to endorse AS IS--secular, where faith-based religion
does not meddle into reason-based political debates and discourses.
Quite possibly, such competing
alternatives will be more peaceful for Muslims at large and the West
will also be able to continue with its secular governments, with a
lowered cacophonic boom from Muslim minority groups to revert politics
to pre-Enlightenment times, by arguing inclusion of religion. Muslims
can thus help usher in global peace that has been hitherto elusive.