Muslims Have Pushed for Democracy


Richard W. Bulliet, a professor of history at Columbia University, is the author of “The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization”
The New York Times
October 4, 2012

If democracy is to be born in the Muslim world, religious political parties will be the midwives.

Elections do not necessarily mean democracy, of course. Most majority-Muslim countries, including monarchies like Kuwait, Jordan and Morocco, hold elections. Usually nationalist regimes instituted them, and nationalist leaders transformed them into instruments of dictatorship, partly by banning religious parties.

Muslim political parties have been the strongest and most consistent force urging genuinely free elections in majority-Muslim nations.

The question is whether a Muslim party, once elected, would inevitably make a mockery of that process by creating a religious dictatorship.The question in both the Western and the Muslim world, however, is whether a Muslim party, once elected, would inevitably make a mockery of that process by creating a religious dictatorship.

After all, the Iranian Revolution of 1979 brought into being an Islamic Republic that seemed only a veil for Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s religious autocracy. Elections were held, but only candidates wedded to a religious government could run.

Iran is a failed model, however. Not only was it a product of Shi’ite political thought, which Sunni thinkers are loath to follow, but also no one knows who’s in charge – the elected president or the unelected “supreme leader.” Today even Shi’ite leaders outside Iran shun the phrase.

Muslim thinkers have long argued that fundamental Islamic texts dealing with consultation and representation support both constitutional government and elections. These arguments have gained wide acceptance, along with commitment to pluralist systems in which anyone can run for office and losers peacefully turn over power to their successors.

Is Islam compatible with democracy? Decidedly so. Does Islam encourage democratic government? No more than does any other religious tradition. But individual Muslim leaders do find in their faith the resources to sustain a commitment to elections and pluralism.

In and of itself, Islam does not prescribe a governing form. What is crucial is that more and more Muslims believe in both their religion and democracy.

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  1. #1 by monsterball on Monday, 8 October 2012 - 1:27 am

    All religions are democratic as all teaches to do good and love thy neighbors.
    Leave it to Umno B stealing hundreds of billions…doing good by helping the chosen poor Muslims…their party..making their children multi millionaires..and cronies as their interpretation of doing good.
    This is a sick subject to discuss in Malaysia.
    Malaysians want 13th GE..to show the power of the votes over all matters.

  2. #2 by limkamput on Monday, 8 October 2012 - 10:23 am

    Muslims believe in both their religion and democracy – I don’t think so. You see, Islamic governments are always based on “divine principles” that are unchallengeable. Have we not heard enough each time an issue is challenged or debated on, Muslim politicians or political parties will rely ultimately on their god law and divinity which can never be compromised? Have we not heard non-Muslims have no rights to comment on Muslim governance?

  3. #3 by Jeffrey on Monday, 8 October 2012 - 11:54 am

    Richard Bulliet’s assertions –“Is Islam compatible with democracy? Decidedly so. Does Islam encourage democratic government? No more than does any other religious tradition – are drawn from his own western intellectual paradigm. Just writers featured in preceding and subsequent threads Omid Safi and Reza Aslan – both professors of US Universities. People can get away from such assertions because they don’t define precisely features of Islam or Democracy and prove that they reconcile and match! Democracy envisages secular govt based on sovereignty of men regulated by men made laws in parliament. It believe in not one way of life but diversity of lifestyles according to individual’s freedom to choose – in a milieu where private and public spheres are separated and government’s intrusion in private lives is minimal except where laws are broken. Are these compatible? Will PAS say it is so? Decidedly not. I would dare say that even Anwar Ibrahim dares not say it is so. I am curious whether these series of articles posted in DAP’s blog are intended to influence who – those in PAS or us to believe that PAS could be persuaded to think such.

  4. #4 by Jeffrey on Monday, 8 October 2012 - 11:55 am

    Ooops correction in preceding post currently moderated – “Just Like writers featured in preceding…”

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