Is Islam incompatible with democracy?


Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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8 Responses

  1. Jaybird says:

    Why is he distinguishing between Arab Muslim states and non-Arab Muslim states?Report

    • Will in reply to Jaybird says:

      I guess I wasn’t clear as I should have been in the original post: The existence of non-Arab Muslim democracies cuts against the “Islam is fundamentally anti-democractic and anti-modern” thesis.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Will says:

        I wonder if the majority of the people who say stuff like “Islam is fundamentally anti-democractic and anti-modern” are thinking only of Arab states and, if asked to give examples of Muslim States, would rattle off all of the Arab ones but express surprise when told “Senegal is, in fact, Muslim too.”Report

  2. Art Deco says:

    Some Arab states have in recent years maintained electoral institutions and some degree of power sharing between elected officials and the ruling group (Morocco, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, and Yemen). A number of Arab countries had parliamentary institutions sixty years ago, but they had all imploded by 1963, bar Lebanon.

    Stanley Kurtz had an article in National Review about seven years ago offering a thesis on why democratic governance was a tall order in the Arab world. The gist of it was that the type of family relations modal in the Arab world (a particular sort of cousin marriage) had certain downstream implications for public life and state-society relations which largely precluded the satisfactory function of electoral institutions &c. I think Daniel Pipes has argued at length that public life in the Arab world is badly addled by conspiratorialism.Report

  3. Consultant says:

    Reasoning is a bit weak. Turkey and Albania are radically secular states, although Islam is the overwhelming majority religion. Bangledesh also has a secular constitution, and Islam there is much more of the traditional folk variety than orthodox by any measure. Senegal and Malaysia are both diverse states (Malaysia in particular has a constitution committed to maintaining diversity, harmony, and protection of minority rights) — Muslims are the majority, but any attempt to suppress very large non-Muslim minorities would lead to destroying the economy or civil war.
    There are (faint) moderate voices within Islam that support pluralism, however their arguments are rarely defined or supported in religious terms, i.e., by later Suras of the Noble Qur’an, or al-Hadi al-Muhammadi (hadeeth). When they are, the arguments do not generally fly in the Arab world, because a Muslim Arab grows up memorizing these things in the original language, and knows well the meaning, intent, and range of interpretations within the Sunnah.
    In the formal Islamic worldview, there exists only Dar al-Islam (the house of Islam, which includes non-Muslims subject to Islamic rule that pay the jizya (head tax)) and Dar al-Harb (the house of War, i.e., everybody else). As an Arabic-speaking Christian living in a 99%+ Muslim Arab country, I have asked locals about this dozens of times, and get the same answer every time.
    Western apologists for Islam should let real Muslims speak for themselves.Report