Islam and Democracy: Contention 1

Most Maggi five minute fundamentalists reject out of hand any idea that a legitimate Islamic government can have the features of a democratic polity. They automatically equate an Islamic state with their own authoritarian and proto-fascist tendencies. Thus the more “Islamic” a state is, the more it is controlled by a small “purified” cabal of elite figures who do so via a mix of disproportionate police action, government control of markets and of trade, banning everything and turning out the street lights after Isha (evening prayer), because everyone should be in bed anyway.

The profound irony is, of course, these same people are generally the first and loudest refugees fleeing from such a society to set up camp in a much more congenial open democratic one. Often this same civic society pays for their food, accommodation, telephone and medical expenses whilst they perform the worthwhile and utterly commendable public service of advocating the violent overthrow of the same said society, so that they can turn it into the authoritarian hell hole from which they escaped.

My thoughts turn to an episode in my youth where a friend of mine in Sydney picked up a prominent Islamic personality at the international airport. Fresh from Egypt, the “sheikh” said, in a thick Egyptian accent, “take me to the beach!”. Upon his arrival there, he studied closely, the debauchery and tanning oil of the infidels first hand.

There are many features of a democracy that are essential to good governance and a healthy civic society. These principles have firm roots in the practice of first four Khalifahs or are at the very least compatible with the intents and purposes of Sharia. They are also features of a democracy.

  1. A constitution that clearly states the principles and system of governance;
  2. Legislation within this framework that can be tested at a constitutional court;
  3. Accountability of the executive to the population (shura) at all levels of government;
  4. Absolute transparency in the workings of the executive;
  5. The rule of law;
  6. The testing of that law before a judiciary independent of the executive and legislative branch of the state (another Islamic concept);
  7. A media free of influence from the executive;
  8. An independent investigative coroner into deaths. This would seem an odd choice to put into the mix , but it is often a public tragedy and the subsequent forced open enquiry, that forces governments’ to be more open and accountable to public demands that are a catalyst for better governance. This mechanism is especially lacking in the muslim world where we place no value at all on Muslim life.

Imagine for a moment the outcome, if after another Hajj stampede, a public enquiry put a government official in the criminal dock for negligent homicide.

I believe that these principles of governance are central to the practice of Islam, rather than its antagonist. The longer our Muslim societies lack these, the less “Islamic” they will be. Those “Islamic fundamentalists” who implicitly favor authoritarian government controlled by a small elite, should realize that their concepts are rooted in radicalization of Islam by Marxism. And as a consequence, that their own politics are those of Marxists with cosmetic Islamic embroidery.

I raise this topic, because as believing orthodox Muslims we should think deeply about what alternate model of governance which we would like to live by. The only “muslims” who seem to ponder these issues are those who seek to dismantle Islam in order to create a liberal open society. I see no such need, but believe the exact opposite proposition: that the only true civic muslim society is one that is authentically based on Islamic principles.

So I would like the other brothers to post contentions 2,3 etc.., to refute, refine and reinvigorate this conversation. In time it may prove useful, Inshallah.