Democracy Promotion & Islam


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The Rejectionist Islamic View.

The Carnegie Endowment has put out a number of interesting publications on democratization in the Muslim world. It also publishes the monthly Arab Reform Bulletin , which covers many issues dealing with democratization.

Islam and ordinary Maldivians

Held, David, ed. Offers an overview of the current debate on the nature of democracy and where it is heading. Special attention is given to the links and tensions between democracy, liberalism, and the free market. Hinnebusch, Raymond. DOI: Keane, John. The Life and Death of Democracy. New York: W. Norton, A historical overview of the rise and evolution of democracy from a leading authority on the subject, with an incisive analysis and critique of recent developments. Democracy without Democrats?

The Renewal of Politics in the Muslim World. Explores the lag of democratization in Muslim regions. Taji-Farouki, Suha, and Basheer M. Nafi, eds.

Islam and Democracy in the Middle East

Islamic Thought in the Twentieth Century. Offers a broad overview of the intellectual ferment within Islam during the last century. Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login. Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.

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The notion has increasingly been heard that Islam is essentially incompatible with democracy because it emphasises God's sovereignty rather than that of human beings; because it values men over women; and because it discourages dialogue and pluralism. Many Muslims contest such views by arguing that God has granted sovereignty to humans to govern themselves; and that Islamic justice disallows discrimination based on class, race or gender because the noblest humans are the most pious. The shared frame of these opposing views tends to draw them into an often sterile philosophical-theological terrain.

In general, little effort has been made to understand the politics of religious affiliation, and how in practice Muslims perceive their religion in relation to democratic ideals.

Missing the Third Wave: Islam, Institutions, and Democracy in the Middle East

This perspective makes the persistently raised question of whether Islam is or is not compatible with democracy appear misconceived - and the key issue become how and under what conditions Muslims can make their religion embrace a democratic ethos. There is nothing intrinsic to Islam nor indeed any other religion that means it is inherently either democratic or undemocratic see Fred Halliday, " The Left and the Jihad ", 7 September In this approach, the important factor is how the living faithful perceive and live through their faiths; and whether in broad terms they "deploy" their religions in exclusive and authoritarian terms or read in them justice, representation and pluralism.

This article is a contribution to an international debate on democracy support co-hosted by International IDEA and openDemocracy Also published: Vidar Helgesen, " Democracy support: where now? Many individuals and groups continue to perceive and present the same scriptures differently - itself an intriguing phenomenon, given their different biographies, interests and social positions.

In fact many theocratic Islamists like their Christian counterparts self-consciously declare that Islam and democracy are incompatible on the grounds that any Islamic polity worth the name - by basing itself on "divine sovereignty" - is opposed to man-made democratic governance. These include the older generation of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt; factions within the conservative Islamist camp in Iran; and groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir which aim at establishing a global Islamic khalafat.

In privileging the rule of sharia , the political schemas of these currents emphasise Muslims' religious obligations rather than civic rights. In contrast, a growing trend within Muslim societies - what I have called "post-Islamism" - has opened up a productive space where pious sensibilities are able to incorporate a democratic ethos.

The growth of such "post-Islamism" out of the anomalies of Islamist politics represents an attempted fusion of elements hitherto often seen as mutually exclusive: religiosity and rights, faith and freedom, Islam and liberty. The daring logic is to turn the underlying principles of Islamism on their head by emphasising rights instead of duties, plurality in place of a singular authoritative voice, ambiguity instead of certainty, historicity rather than fixed scripture, and the future instead of the past.

In this light, the issue of Islam's relationship to democratic ideas can be explored through the efforts of public advocates of Islamism and post-Islamism to increase their influence in society and the state.

How the Maldives de-democratised

The history of socio-religious movements in two Muslim-majority countries - Iran and Egypt - since the s offer interesting case-studies here see Making Islam Dem o cratic: Social Movements and the Post-Islamist Turn [Stanford University Press, ]. In Iran, the revolution and the establishment of an Islamic state also established conditions for the rise of post-Islamist ideas and movements that aimed to transcend Islamism in society and governance.

In their daily struggles, many forces - Muslim women , youth, students, religious intellectuals, and other social groups - incorporated into their faith notions of individual rights, tolerance, gender equality, and the separation of religion from the state. By their persistent presence in society, they compelled religious and political leaders to undertake a paradigmatic "post-Islamist" shift. Many Iranian women participated massively in the Islamic revolution, and continued to insist on asserting their public role under the new regime - even in the face of much opposition from the puritanical ruling elite.

The post-revolution years saw an efflorescence of activity in public life as women pursued education and employment opportunities, entered the professions and created voluntary groups, practiced sports and cultural activities, and ran for public office. The making of such public roles took place in a context of negotiation with Iran's new social and legal imperatives.

In many cases, restrictive laws and customs had to be altered to accommodate the requisites of "public women" within the patriarchal religious system. Women's public activity in itself raised a host of issues: their hijab and its compatibility with the nature of women's work , their relationships with men, their rights and the limits of their ambitions if they could be high officials, would they still need to obtain their husbands' permission to attend a foreign conference?

It was precisely such questions, now debated widely in public, that compelled political and religious leaders to undertake new interpretations of the scriptures so that the powerful quest for gender equality could be rendered compatible with the Islamic polity. Muslim feminists were only too prepared to contribute to the process by embarking on "women-centred" interpretations that emphasised gender equality.

Instead of pointing to individual verses of the Qur'an, they referred to the "general spirit" of Islam, which, they argued, was in favour of equality between men and women. Alongside women activists, other groups - of students and young people, of democracy advocates, of intellectuals - became active in post-revolutionary Iran. Many focused on citizenship rights, the rule of law, and the circulation of power, deploying similar strategies to establish the idea that democratic demands and human rights were not foreign to the spirit of Islam but integral to it.

They argued that freedom rather than compulsion, is intrinsic to faith. It was partially these social and discursive mobilisations in society that set the ground for the victory of the reformist president, Mohammad Khatami , in Indeed, the "reform government" of in Iran represented only one that is, the political aspect of this influential post-Islamist trend. In Egypt, by contrast, there was no "regime change" as in Iran.

But the search for an Islamic revolution was since the s fired by a pervasive Islamist movement possessed of a conservative moral vision, a patriarchal disposition, and a strict adherence to scripture - though also using a strikingly populist language. The major actors in Egyptian society - the intelligentsia, the new rich, Muslim women activists, the al-Azhar university and religious institutions, the ruling elites, and the state - were engulfed by the "Islamist mode"; all converged around the language of nativism and a conservative moral ethos to configure a religious "passive revolution" in the country.

This "passive revolution" a concept drawn from Antonio Gramsci can be understood as a managed Islamic restoration whereby the state - the original target of change - succeeded in remaining fully in charge by co-opting, repressing, but also marginalising critical voices, innovative religious thought, and democratic demands.

The bitterness and polarisation that ensued, and the relative lack of social mobilisation, helped ensure that religious thought in Egypt remained rigid; there was not the social pressure which would otherwise have compelled both religious thinkers and political leaders to rethink their orthodoxies in favor of an inclusive interpretation of religion and governance. The militant Gama'a al-Islamiyya had already abandoned its violent insurrectionary strategy in favour of a peaceful and legalist turn, though it retained its Islamist ideology.

The "young generation" of Muslim Brothers spoke the language of citizenship, pluralism, women's and minority rights, even as it upheld the supremacy of sharia and the dictum "Islam is the solution". A nascent "democracy movement" centred around the Kifaya movement sought to transcend what many saw as the old-fashioned pan-Arab nationalist and Islamist politics. The efforts to place democracy on the nation's political agenda remained fragile and confined to a narrow section of society.

Democracy and the Muslim world: the “post-Islamist” turn | openDemocracy

Only the Hizb-ul-Wasat, a small splinter group from the Muslim Brothers that accommodated both Muslim and Christian activists, heralded a new "post-Islamist" trajectory. The diverse experiences of Iran and Egypt have their more recent counterparts elsewhere in the Muslim world.

Indeed, a comparable field of changes or attempted changes has been visible since the s in a number of Islamist movements in the middle east, central Asia and southeast Asia. Many of these attempt to accommodate aspects of democratic discourse, pluralism, women's rights and youth concerns within an overall Islamic project. Hizbollah, for example, has transcended its exclusivist Islamist platform by adapting to the pluralistic political reality of Lebanon.

Secularism, Islam and Democracy

Saudi Arabia has witnessed the emergence whose fate is uncertain of a "post-Wahhabi" trend that seeks some form of compromise between Islam and democracy.

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