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Islam and Democracy

from the April 18, 2006 eNews issue



"There's no way you can impose western culture and democracy and Judeo-Christian ethics on a Muslim community to start with. The best that you can hope for is that they've got somebody in there that's not a radical nut like the president of Iran, or Saddam Hussein, or something like that." - Bruce Tefft, Former CIA official and Middle East expert

What's going on with the government of Iraq? Will the effort toward democracy work, or is it doomed by the religion of the majority of Iraq's people?

Iraqi parliament members believe it may take another month to form a unity government so that the new and improved government of Iraq can get going. The delay in forming a stable government means a lack of leadership, of popular confidence. It means the insurgency has the psychological advantage of political instablility. In other words, the terrorists can rejoice while the government of Iraq is still uncertain. Parliament members have been discussing and debating since elections in December, and there are still internal disagreements about leadership. Ultimately, the specific form that Islam will take in the government of Iraq is still to be seen.

Parliament member Iyad Jamal Al-Din made clear last week he believes that Iraq should remain a secular democracy. He believes that with much Islam in the mix, democracy just won't work. This has been a great concern to Middle East policy analysts - whether an Islamic nation can also be a truly democratic nation.

The people of Iraq have certainly demonstrated an interest in democracy. They have risked their lives to pile up in lines and vote, to go to the polls and proudly brandish their purple-inked fingers afterwards. They have shown what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calls the "desire for the human dignity that comes with liberty, with democracy, with the ability to say what you think and worship as you please and to educate your boys and your girls." Despite - and even because of - years of fear and abuse under Saddam Hussein, the Iraqis retain that basic human love for freedom and the ability to have some control over their government.

Yet, Iraq remains a predominantly Muslim nation. Its people are a Muslim people. Al-Din, who supports the US military presence in Iraq, has problems with the new Iraqi Constitution because it relies on Islamic principles. He believes the only way for Iraq to truly be a free democratic nation is for the government of Iraq to form a secular democracy. Mixing Islam and democracy, he said, "is like mixing Marxists and capitalists."

The reason, he says, is because Islamic sharia law has "nothing to do with democracy or human rights." There is little religious freedom and Muslims are not permitted to change from Islam to another religion. There are strict dictates by which all citizens must abide, and the control is taken from the hands of the people and placed in the arms of the religious leaders. Religious leaders determine how sharia law applies to specific issues, and the people are required to abide by those interpretations or face severe penalties.

An Islamic people may be able to exist in a democracy, as long as the government stays out of religious affairs. There's a problem, though. It's difficult for a secular government to be created in a nation of Islamic people. The government cannot risk being considered godless, nor can it risk being seen as a Western creation - any government seen as being a puppet of the West will face fierce opposition.

What do you think? Can Islam and Democracy co-exist? Sign up for the Berean Online Fellowship and join the debate! Our online discussion boards give you the opportunity to read and post messages on various topics - everything from Bible Study topics and Christian living to current events. See the links below for more information.

Related Links

- Democracy, Islamic Law Don't Mix, Iraqi Official Says - CNS
- World Factbook - Iraq - CIA
- Democracy in Iraq - National Review
- Berean Online Fellowship - Koinonia House

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