Daily Wisdom

April 04, 2006

Can Islamic Democracy Work?

The short answer, in my opinion, is... probably not. Now don't get me wrong. I agree wholeheartedly with President Bush's vision of democracies throughout the Middle East. Unfortunately, the President's understanding of "democracy" is no doubt a rather Judeo-Christian concept. And that is one model that may not work very well in the Islamic world.

Consider for a moment that democracy has flourished primarily in countries rich in Judeo-Christian values, or in those countries that have been colonized by or touched deeply by other countries with a Judeo-Christian heritage. A brief (and over-simplified) list would include most European nations, the North American nations, most South American nations, many Caribbean islands, Australia, New Zealand, Pacific island nations liberated by the Americans during WWII, India, African nations that were former colonies, and Japan.

Japan is somewhat unique in that it was not heavily influenced by Judeo-Christian culture prior to WWII. But there can be no argument that it was most certainly influenced by Judeo-Christian culture following the war. During the war, the Japanese were told to fight to the death because the American invaders would show no mercy and slaughter them in great numbers. Just the opposite happened. The Americans, under the direction of General Douglas MacArthur, assisted the Japanese to establish a democracy (technically a constitutional monarchy with a representative parliament) which is probably closer to Britain's model than America's. They helped the Japanese rebuild the country. They were kind and supportive. As a result, the Japanese view of Americans was radically altered from dread to appreciation to perhaps even fascination.

And there was no great rush of Japanese to convert to Christianity. Even today, only 1.4 million Japanese are Christians out of a total population of perhaps 128 million. The vast majority of Japanese believe in either Shintoism or Buddhism. But this is an important element in our discussion. They were NOT Moslems. Shintoism and Buddhism are tolerant, peaceful religions. Therefore, democracy could flourish.

Wherever Christianity or Judeo-Christians values have been repressed, democracy has not flourished. For example... consider Communist China, Cuba, Venezuela, and Arabic countries. Russia, which has only known democracy for a short time, is struggling... and may be losing. After nearly 80 years of repression against Christianity, democracy finds itself losing ground to the totalinarianism which has pervaded Russia for centuries.

In order for democracy to flourish, there are certain cultural and religious pre-requisites which must be in place. Namely, a capacity for tolerance and peaceful coexistence. Democracy is based on "liberty" and "freedom". In order for some people to be free, then other people must be tolerant of them and allow them to coexist peacefully. In order for all people to be free, then all people must be tolerant of each other and coexist peacefully. Freedom of Religion is meaningless if some religions cannot be tolerated. Freedom of Speech is meaningless if some speech cannot be tolerated. Freedom of Inquiry is meaningless if some inquiry cannot be tolerated.

And "democracy", in Mr. Bush's understanding of the term, encompasses such values. For him, and for me, it is not a democracy if there is no Freedom of Religion, or Freedom of Speech, or Freedom of Inquiry. Democracy is more than merely the right vote for your next dictator or fundamentalist mullah. I repeat, democracy demands a capacity for tolerance and peaceful coexistence.

Islam, unfortunately, is a violent and intolerant religion. Its teachings do not include the "Golden Rule"; that is, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Its teachings do not include things like, "Love thy neighbor as thyself." Its teachings do not include things like, "If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all." And certainly, its teachings do not include things like, "Turn the other cheek", or "Pray for your enemies". Islam was never a religion of love.

No instead, Islam teaches us to "Kill the infidels". Islam teaches us to "Convert, subjugate or kill the unbelievers". Islam teaches us that "There is no god but Allah, and no prophet but Mohammed". Allah, by the way, is not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Allah is not the God of the Jews and Christians. Allah is a different god. He is the moon god, the war god and the sword god of the ancient Meccans. He is the god of death and murder. Islam was never a religion of peace.

Islam does not teach equality. Under Islam, women are mere chattel... property to be used and disposed of. Under Islam, Blacks, Hispanics, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Jews, and Atheists are all slated for destruction. That is why I find it so odd that in Western countries, the Nation of Islam has attracted so many Black people. In my opinion, Blacks in the West turned to the Nation of Islam because they saw it as a counter-culture statement. For example, the vast majority of whites in America are either Christian or Jews. And it is well-known that many Black slaves in the South turned to Christianity as a means of solace and hope. So, why should angry young Blacks want to turn to Christianity? They are neither white, nor are they slaves. They cannot identify. And Islam is a "macho" religion, so they turn to Islam. Little do they know however, that Muslim Arabs consider them second class citizens and will kill them too... but only after they kill all the Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and Christians first.

We have only to look at recent examples of Islamic "democracy". In Afghanistan, a man is sentenced to death for converting to Christianity. Afghanistan is supposedly a democracy. Under their new constitution, Freedom of Religion is a prominent right. But in an "Islamic democracy", there can be no true Freedom of Religion, because there is no tolerance or peaceful coexistence. In an "Islamic democracy", Sharia Law still rules. So... Death to the infidel!

We have only to look at Palestine. In their last "democratic" election, Palestinians voted overwhelmingly for Hamas, an organization committed to the overthrow of Israel... for Hamas, an organization committed to terrorism... for Hamas, an organization which will not tolerate any religion besides Islam.

I must say then that, by definition, Afghanistan and Palestine are NOT "democracies". Although they may claim such status, I repeat... the right to vote does not by itself qualify a nation to declare itself a democracy. The right to vote for your next dictator or fundamentalist mullah does not qualify your nation as a democracy. The enactment of a constitution does not make a country democratic. The existence of a parliament or congress does not make a country democratic. Democracy comes ONLY with tolerance and peaceful coexistence of its "diverse" inhabitants.

Islam is like a five-year old boy in kindergarten. He whines and moans and disrupts the class. He wants total attention. He wants everything to be "his way". He demands respect but gives none. He makes fun of the other students, but gets angry when someone makes fun of him. He has nothing positive to offer, but claims superiority to all. He wants what education has to offer, but refuses to be educated. He has invented nothing good and created nothing useful. He has no ability to think freely. He only believes what his childish mind has envisioned. He despises the arts and crafts projects of all the other students and rips them to shreds. If he doesn't get his way, he throws a tantrum. He starts hurting the other students around him. He threatens to kill the teacher and all the other students in class who are not "just like" him (which ultimately means everybody). He becomes so obnoxious that the authorities must be called in control him. He must be removed from the class by force. He must be detained and confined... perhaps sedated. He must not be allowed to re-enter society until he becomes mature enough to do so. What he really needed all along was a damn good spanking!

I am sorry to say that, in my opinion, "Islamic democracies" will not work. That is, not until they become mature enough and tolerant enough to permit REAL Freeedom of Religion, REAL Freedom of Speech, and REAL Freedom of Inquiry. Until then... they just a need a damn good spanking!

UPDATE: I have been remided by one of my readers that Turkey is a Moslem country and is also a parliamentary democracy. Therefore, I am foced to admit that perhaps I have over-generalized in suggesting that Islam and democracy cannot coexist peacefully. In the case of Turkey however, Sharia Law was superceded by secular law.

There is a good article Here, near the end of which outlines the secularization of Turkey by Mustafa Kemal who was later called "Ataturk" or "Father of the Turks". The following statement from Wikipedia is right on topic...

In 1998 the Turkish Constitutional Court banned and dissolved Turkey's Refah Party on the grounds that the "rules of sharia", which Refah sought to introduce, "were incompatible with the democratic regime", pointing up that "Democracy is the antithesis of sharia". On appeal by Refah the European Court of Human Rights determined that "sharia is incompatible with the fundamental principles of democracy". (emphasis added)
--From Wikipedia... Here

Perhaps I should say then that Islamic democracies can ONLY work if and when Sharia Law is abandoned and superceded by secular democratic law.


At 4/04/2006 5:54 PM , Blogger onlineanalyst said...

How can one add to your insightful summary? The Islamic faith seems to rely on bullying, lashing out, destroying and terrorizing to demonstrate its power. These are all characteristics of those who deeply fear their own powerlessness and who hope nobody else recognizes that weakness. Their arrested psycho-sexual development says quite a bit about their fear of women, and thus their need to repress or dominate them. Altogether, their ideology is one of hopeless destruction.

At 4/04/2006 5:57 PM , Blogger Hawkeye® said...

Thanks. Time to get out the strap, eh?

At 4/04/2006 5:58 PM , Anonymous Hankmeister said...

True democracy cannot work unless there are truly free institutions, respect for the unalienable rights of man and a free press to undergird civil society.

Take the Palestinians. When they elected militant Hamas leaders to represent their hatred for Israel, the process itself undermined their legitimacy since there is little hope for democratic reforms driven by social institutions which respect the free rights of not only the citizenry but also their neighbors. What the Palestinians accomplished was little more than organized crime families electing a crime boss.

Like Hawkeye suggests, the attempt to "democratize" Iraq and start it down the road toward a national identity which respects the rights of man is a noble cause, but it is wholly dependent upon the Iraqi people themselves if they want those freedoms for their posterity as opposed to a 12th century straitjacket resembling a radical Islamic caliphate as exists in Iran.

At 4/04/2006 6:03 PM , Blogger Hawkeye® said...

We can only hope that these fledgling "democracies" will mature into rational, intelligent, adults.

At 4/04/2006 6:16 PM , Blogger boberin said...

My fisrt visit here, very thoughtfully said Hawkeye, nothing meaningful to add to that, it seems you nailed it

At 4/04/2006 6:20 PM , Blogger Hawkeye® said...

Thanks! Glad you could stop by. Come by more often. You know, "the more the merrier"? Scrapplers always welcome.

At 4/04/2006 6:24 PM , Blogger boberin said...

You are a brave man, few at Scrappleface really want me around!

At 4/04/2006 6:28 PM , Blogger Hawkeye® said...

Ahhhh! We all love you! If nothing else, you help us to refine our viewpoints.

At 4/04/2006 8:43 PM , Blogger SGT USMC 1ea said...

"What he really needed all along was a damn good spanking!"
I do believe they got that. Did you also revel in the fallen faces and disbelief after the war when the Jordanian and Syrian interviewees were suddenly disillusioned by our total defeat of the largest Arabic army ever? Larger even than the Persian emporer Darius II who flaunted his million men and war elephants (from India). They were actually believing Baghdad Bob up until the end! But..but..how can this happen?

I have to digress on a few points. Iraq was primarily a secularists government with tribal religous groupings. Large numbers are actually coming to Christ where viable. Democracy and communication [INTERNET] can and will advance their culture past the stone age given time. If our whithdrawal plans from Japan and Germany have anything in common they have 60 years to accomplish it.

Just a note: Russia was heavily Catholic until the Bolshoveki realignment in 1917. Also I really would not call what they have now as "Democracy" but instead refurbished communism with capatilistic elements where convenient.

You have a dead on hawk eye for characterizing & coalating the current arguments for "us vs them" and logic prevails in any rational court of the mind saying that Judeo-Christianity truly holds the moral compass when judged upon actions. (The Crusades were a reaction a thousand years ago not an autonomous action)
I do babble on!

Deus est Semper Fidelis

At 4/04/2006 9:48 PM , Blogger Barb said...

You guys hold 'em ,I'll spank 'em . I always was good at that,it worls best if you start when they are small ,though. It might be a good idea to call in 'Super Nanny' ,too.Those Moslims need a whole bunch of "and we REALLY mean it."

At 4/04/2006 11:45 PM , Blogger radar said...

"Have you seen the little piggies..."

Ah, memories! Anyway, Iraq has a good many secularized muslims which helps in the possibility of a democratic society of sorts. Turkey is primarily muslim and yet it exists as a free country. So a democratic and muslim state can exist. It is also true that it will not be another USA.

Your contentions concerning Islam and democracy are completely spot-on! I may be a bit more optimistic than you about the possibilities, but I cannot but agree with you concerning the inherent problems.

Such a terrific post indicates that you are completely alive and well. Glad to have you back in the saddle!

At 4/05/2006 3:57 AM , Blogger camojack said...

"Islamic Democracy" is an oxymoron. Theocracy is all that works with Islam, unfortunately. For them to have a democracy, it needs to be of a secular variety.

At 4/05/2006 6:38 AM , Blogger Beerme said...


Very interesting article! Good points about the religion's innate antagonism to the pre-requisites for democracy.

While it is true that sharia law and democratic ideals will never mesh, I think the possibility of a true political "conversion" is more rooted in the development of these countries and their societies, rather than their religious beliefs.

Governments must be secular. Societies can be religious, but their governments must not govern under religious precepts (except when the two agree in democratic principles as is the case in the west-somtimes). Your main case in point is that there is no freedom of religion in a sharia "democracy". That is because these governments are not secular. The government, in order to be democratic, must be above the religious beliefs of it's people.

I liked your analogy of the five year old boy. I think in terms of the Middle Eastern societies as being infantile. They have not developed or matured, yet. This societal maturation requires education and modernization.

The followers of the Nation of Islam are also driven by an emotional and immature culture. This culture is based upon their rejection of the dominant culture which, they believe, enslaved their ancestors and continues, ala insane conspiracy theories, to enslave their people today. These folks cling to Islam as the only religion in history to challenge the religion of their slavemasters.

I hold more hope in the possibility of democracy in these countries because I believe the desire for freedom to be universal, once a society sees the benefits and begins to mature and modernize.Thanks for the article, it really got me to thinking!

At 4/05/2006 8:28 AM , Blogger MargeinMI said...

Great article Hawk! I too liked the analogy of the kindergarten bully. Dr. Sanity agrees, though she puts their maturity level even younger.

I've got a big wooden spoon, can I help?

My belief is that it will take completely changing how they view their women before things truly get better for Muslims. It's a tall order, but hopefully the spread of information will help.

To paraphrase Golda Meir: There won't be peace until their mothers love their children more than they hate the Jews, AND the children love their mothers more than they love death.

At 4/05/2006 12:03 PM , Blogger Hawkeye® said...

I hope we don't have to wait too long. How many Christians will have to be sentenced to death or perhaps even killed before they wake up? Sharia is not what our soldiers fought and died for.

At 4/05/2006 12:05 PM , Blogger Hawkeye® said...

OK, I got him... Go for it! We'll teach that brat!

At 4/05/2006 12:16 PM , Blogger Hawkeye® said...

True, Turkey is a Muslim country, because 99.8% of the population are Moslem, but it is not an "Islamic" country. An "Islamic" country, in my opinion, is one that governed by Sharia law. That is why democracy could take hold in Turkey.

At 4/05/2006 12:17 PM , Blogger Hawkeye® said...

Spot-on my good man.

At 4/05/2006 12:29 PM , Blogger Hawkeye® said...

My point exactly... an Islamic (or Sharia) "democracy" will never work. The government must be secular.

The desire for freedom is universal, but some people are used to lording it over others (women for example) and will not give up such power readily. When culture and institutions give weak men a sense of power and superiority over every one else in the world, you will have a tough time prying that culture and those institutions away from them.

BTW, thanks for the compliment. Glad to be of service.

At 4/05/2006 12:34 PM , Blogger Hawkeye® said...

Sounds great! Let's see if we can get that wooden spoon warmed up! (FYI, my mom BROKE a wooden spoon on my tail once.)

Yes, the spread of information is critical. Unfortunately, that is why Sharia Islam is so reluctant to allow the spread of information. Why do you think they refuse to let women be educated?

At 4/05/2006 7:27 PM , Blogger Marc with a "c" said...

I agree with your amended assesment. I think Iraq will eventually look more like Turkey than Afghanistan, mostly because it seems that there are few people there that seem interested in Shariah law. And though he wasn't a good example of it, Hussein's regime was also a secular goverment. Islam's best hope is that it begins to follow that example.

At 4/06/2006 9:10 AM , Blogger Maggie said...

How do you do it? Your thought processes must work overtime.....so much knowledge to impart.Good job.

At 4/06/2006 10:53 AM , Blogger Hawkeye® said...

Marc with a "c",
Well, I certainly hope so. I know the Kurds don't favor Sharia Law, but I'm not so sure about the Shiites, and perhaps even the Sunnis. Yes, they were secularized under Hussein, but by force. I believe the natural instincts of the Shiites in particular, might be to revert to Sharia.

At 4/06/2006 10:55 AM , Blogger Hawkeye® said...

Thanks! As you can see from my update however, I probably don't spend enough time doing research. I can be prone to over-generalizations.


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