Saturday, July 14, 2012

Islamic principles work with democracy

MUSLIM nations are warming up to an era of religious tolerance and good governance. From Tunisia to Pakistan, the Muslim world is in turmoil, as each country struggles to find its own path to an Arab Spring. Pessimists say that, in the end, all of these countries will end up with some form of authoritarian regime either because Islamic parties cannot accept democracy or out of fear that these regimes will keep a nation out of the modern world.

But I am an optimist. I believe the democratic ferment in the Arab world will eventually bring an era of relative democracy, religious tolerance and good governance. And I believe guiding Islamic principles will lead the way. Without a doubt, revolutions are messy. When revolutions occur after decades of authoritarian rule, the next stage is often chaotic and sometimes violent.

In this region, there are many examples of long-simmering distrust between ethnic and sectarian groups that go back centuries that had been held in check by despotic rule. Now, suddenly, the grip that had stifled these competing groups has been released. But I believe after an initial flailing about, conflicts between sectarian groups will slowly abate. Most Muslims want to join the modern world. They want to be part of the international community, not held in suspicion. They want governments that serve them. They do not want to serve the government. They want the freedom to develop their own ideas and live their own lives in harmony with their neighbours. In short, they want a government that is as responsive to their needs as a Western democracy.

Many people, both in the West and the Middle East, believe that a Western-style democratic government would preclude Islamic principles. That’s because, in the past 40 years, throughout the Muslim world, Islamic law has become dominated by narrow and literalist interpretation that has many Westerners and Muslims believing it is all about regulations on what people can wear and archaic ways that people are punished. I view this transition as a native Egyptian knowing Egypt as a centre of Islamic learning with universities dating back 1,200 years. I have a hard time with how Islam is being used by political groups and governments.

But to think a democratically elected government in a Muslim-majority country will not have some kind of Islamic influence is naïve. The question is what form of Islamic law will have the most influence. Islamic law is based on six objectives. The law must protect and promote life, human dignity, property, religion, family and intellect. The law is about enhancing the human experience, not restricting it.
BY: Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf —Courtesy - Daily Star.

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Islamic democracy refers to two kinds of democratic states that can be recognized in the Islamic countries. The basis of this distinction has to do with how comprehensively Islam is incorporated into the affairs of the state.