The Truth About Islam and Democracy

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by Neil Godfrey

We’ve posted about Islam, democracy and the different meanings of sharia law before. See, for example,

  • three posts posts based on Muslim Secular Democracy: Voices from Within by Associate Professor Lily Zubaidah Rahim;
  • quite a few posts citing John Esposito but one especially focused on the meaning of sharia based on Who Speaks of Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think by John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed. 
  • and glimpses of conflicts within Islamic societies as large scale movements push back against some of the worst conservatism according to Riaz Hasssan in Inside Muslim Minds
Anwar Ibrahim ; Dalia Mogahed

Here are interviews with two prominent Muslims, a liberal opposition leader in Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim and then with Dalia Mogahed (co-author with Esposito). Take your pick between the podcast or transcript. (I read the transcript.)

The Intercept: Deconstructed (14th Feb 2019): THE TRUTH ABOUT ISLAM AND DEMOCRACY (WITH ANWAR IBRAHIM)

Some key points:

  • the anti-democratic states associated with Muslims are in the Arab world, the minority of Muslims. And it’s not hard to see why.
  • Sharia has a range of meanings and applications. It is among less well informed Westerners that it has a singular meaning. Any law that violates human rights is to be condemned. But we need first to know who and what, exactly, we are talking about in each situation.
  • Islam has bloody borders; a clash of civilizations. . . . both catch phrases are grounded in ignorance and selective amnesia.
  • Oh yeh — most Muslims love the fundamental principles of democracy. Most Muslims live in democracies and most of those who don’t live in a democracy want to live in a democracy.


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Neil Godfrey

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3 thoughts on “The Truth About Islam and Democracy”

  1. “the anti-democratic states associated with Muslims are in the Arab world, the minority of Muslims”

    Associated with Muslims is a pretty oblique way of putting it. Maybe brutal Islamic theocracies would be a little clearer. And outside of the Arab world, Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority country, and therefore also “associated with Muslims” is hardly a human rights paradise. And what Islamists are up to in Nigeria doesn’t reflect well on the “religion of peace” either.

    1. You are confusing two quite different terms, Islamic and Islamist.

      What “brutal Islamic theocracy” do you know of outside Saudi Arabia? (Please read the post and what it says about the Arab world.)

      Are you aware of the Islamists protesting peacefully in support of a democratically elected government in Egypt and how hundreds of them were massacred by the anti-Islamist dictatorship, a dictatorship that continues to be supported by the USA?

      What “human rights” problems do you associate with “Islamism” or “brutal theocracy” in Indonesia? Are you referring to regions that the Indonesian government has been in military conflict with, such as Aceh? Which Prime Minister of Indonesia or democratically elected government represents the sort of “Islamist human rights abuses” you seem to be speaking about?

      Did you read the post about Nigeria? Why do you single out Nigerian rebels at war with the Nigerian state as somehow indicative of the vast majority of Muslims who live in and have overwhelmingly indicated a liking for (read the post if you doubt) democracy?

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