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Islamic Democracy

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By Qaisar Sultan

A white horse is not a horse, an old Chinese logic. Since horse is a shape and white is a color; something that denotes color cannot designate a shape.  On the similar lines, Islamic democracy is neither Islamic nor democracy. The enlightenment period changed the autocratic rules in Europe which lead to the political secularism, radically separating the realm of faith and that of the reason. We cannot call liberal democracy a “Christian democracy” or “Islamic democracy”. Democracy is simply empowering people that brings them freedom of thought, speech and practice of their faith. The maxim “Islamic democracy” helps religious fervor to grow; and claimants are not majority of people but those who intemperate the religion. The idea of democracy to religious zealots is to grab the power and convert the country into a theocratic state. In order to have a civil polity is to strive for a culture based on justice, compassion, equitable division of wealth, fairness, honesty and dignity of all the citizens. The value system should include reason accessible to, irrespective of the religious belief is part of that political secularism. The political secularism is not Christian, Hindu or Muslim polity.  It is helpful to find that sense of reason; we have all those reasons in our religion. The only danger is that the orthodoxy plays a crucial role in taking a fair political system to narrow interpretation of fundamentalist religious school of thoughts. A secular way of governance cannot be read as Islamic; if we only talk about a faithless culture. The liberal democracy that we are after is based on certain secular and liberal principles. First of all, if it is not in Quran or Sunnah, it cannot be an Islamic tradition or an Islamic law.  Quran talks about consultation among people, justice and equal rights. The Islamic governance and the attributes of Muslim leaders and principles of governance are described in Quran. The form of the government is not the essence of Muslim polity. The Islamic government should be based on justice and free from the corruption and evil. The problem lies in the mind set of those who represent and interpret our religious values. The orthodoxy and going back in time of old Muslim rules negate all of the secular and liberal principles. The debate should not be limited to atheist style hard core secularism where the religion has to be marginalized. The focus should be on the liberal views of justice, human rights, pluralism and rationalism. The modern corrupt rulers of Muslim states have taken the advantage of this mind set. The Islamic states have created a false elitism of corrupt, religious and feudal, rich and powerful, forces. What we call an Islamic state that has changed into an autocratic rule, refusing to include the very principles of Islamic values of justice and fairness. The freedom of speech is being denied in those theocratic governments. The dilemma for the extreme religious posture is if a state promotes their faith and curbs and opposes other faiths they feel very proud. But if in another country they ban their religious culture and values; and declares them minorities and treated them as such then we have difficulty with that. There is a refusal of robust debate that includes the sectarian, ethnic, financial responsibility, international sensitivities and tribal concerns. The rich, feudal and corrupt politicians, autocrats, military rulers take advantage of the prevailing confusion.

The division of Muslims prompted due to two different opinions of who should have the right to form the government. The consultation was mostly accepted by the majority. The opposing view was that the ruler of Muslim state was not only a political leader but also a spiritual leader, an Imam. The idea behind it was that Allah is “All Knower”; He only decides who should rule the Islamic state- That there were indications in Holy Quran, describing the future Imam of the Islamic state.  But they all agreed on how to govern the Islamic state. One of the great principles of Islamic polity is based on respecting and providing the dignity to each citizen that should be inviolable. The acceptance of inherent dignity of all human beings provided the moral obligation of an Islamic government to vouch for that uninfringeable right of each person. In that sense of Islamic polity, the government must do everything in its power to protect those rights and may not infringe upon the human rights of any person.

There are ways to tailor a system of government that may have advantages for a particular time, culture and conditions; the Islamic states, including the first four Khilafat, found one man rule in consultation; a system of governance having one person as the final arbiter of the common will. That was done on the basis of what was more prudent and the requisite to hold Islamic state intact; and that system of governance worked as well as one could expect. The idea was to keep the governance in conformity with the spirit of Islam, meaning to dispense justice to all the citizens and provide them security, food, health and descent life- That sounds more like what the governments are supposed to do in modern times. There was a message of fraternity among people and an idea of compassionate ruler who cared.  If we look at classical Islamic rules, there was never a modern style liberal democracy. The liberal democracy is very much in tuned with the secular social values and political order, not necessarily hostile to religion. We have seen in the communist regimes which were explicitly opposed the religion and tried to curb it. The forced idea of atheism failed and the social values remained on the basis of religions, no matter how they taught Marxism as the most revered ideology.  Turkey and France have tried to curb the religious political order and did not succeed.

An important fact is that we have no choice but to deal with the concept of metropolitanism and the process of globalization. The farsightedness demands that people should come to grip with the idea that this world has been shriveled to a point that what happened in Egypt may affect us. The global trade and human rights issues have become concern for all of us. To a large extent the world has been going in the direction of a single community and we appreciate the shared sense of equality, sense of justice and morality. With the progress and modernization, the secular governments tend to be more liberal and democratic. The fact is that the modernization and scientific development reduce the extreme fervor of religion. In modern and democratic countries, faith is a personal matter. The atheist and religious states go in total opposite direction either promoting or opposing religion. The state cannot support or oppose the religion; it is the right of an individual to adhere to any religion as his/her heart desires. This freedom of religion to follow any faith is usually restricted and religious minorities are treated as second class citizens in the theocratic states. Being a national of a country, one cannot be excluded from inclusive citizenship rights regardless of person’s faith and ethnicity. Before a country embarks on democracy or Islamic democracy, it has to change the outlook of its people.

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