Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Islam and Democracy

One of Andrew Sullivan's readers (an Hindu), writes:
"I am so tired of Muslims of blaming 'culture' not the 'religion' for any trouble inside Muslim countries. If you need an example of the falsehood of that statement - look at India and Pakistan. The people are ethnically identical, speak the same languages and eat the same foods. (In fact they were the same country until Muslims demanded they get their own country).

Today Pakistan is a military dictatorship and has been for most of its 50 plus year life. Its only claims to fame are killing journalists, operating jihadi camps, beating up women who try to run marathons, possessing nuclear weapons and blowing up the local KFC to prove that Islam is not violent. India on the other hand is a striving (albeit Third World) democracy that is home to Gandhi, yoga, computer programmers, hugging saints, doctors and spelling bee enthusiasts. Thus once again demonstrating that it isn't the 'culture' but the 'religion' that is truly incompatible with the modern world.

In fact, it's sad to say this but in the eyes of many Hindus, myself included, September 11th is just another horrific example of the 1400 years that Islam has been fighting 'the other'. We don't view it as some sort of perversion of Islam but rather the way it has been since its birth. I'm also tired of liberals blaming marginalization in Europe and Britain for everything. That is just rubbish. Hindus in Europe are the same colour as their Muslim counterparts and therefore would face the same discrimination and barriers but choose to direct their energy to better education and assimilating into the culture. Not to building better bombs."
I think he raises an important point. After all, Islam is in part a "model" for how to run a state created by a political leader. That there are problems reconciling it with Democracy (a competing political "model") is not surprising. And since Democracy seems to be the "winner" of the two (based on GDP per head of Democracies vs. Islamic states) then it follows logically that the Muslim world can't have its cake and eat it too. It has some tough choices to make:
  1. Recognize that Democracy must come before Islam and try to compete with the world's leading nations while de-emphasizing political Islam
  2. Continue unsuccessfully to try to mix the two while falling further behind
  3. Forget about Democracy and try to re-invent or modernize Islam (in a cohesive way) so that modernized Islamic states can compete with democratic ones
  4. Create pure Islamic states and try to live as they did 1400 years ago
The trouble with option 1 is not losing "face", especially since Muslims tend (with reason) to view Democratic states as "Christian". The troubles with option 2 are clear for everyone to see in many Muslim countries today (Pakistan being one of them). Option 3 is difficult without a visionary leader, and since Islam is also a religion this leader would have to be a deity of some sort (a new Prophet). These folks don't grow on trees. Option 4 is also difficult, especially since the Muslim ruling classes tend to enjoy the material goodies available in Democratic states, thereby corrupting the "purity" of old-fashioned ways (witness Saudi Arabia).

My take: The West should help encourage progress towards option 1. One of the ways to do this is to continue divorcing Democracy from Christianity. Having an American President who is a founding member of the Religious Right does't help. State-funded churches in Norway don't help either.

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