Essays on islamic issues

Most probably, participation will remain the defining feature of democratization in Egypt, and previously radical Muslim Brotherhood will pursue the line of democratization through elections, liberalization, and further political reforms. Islamic countries and communities are not monolithic; and Islam often lends itself to more than one interpretation of the Islamic and democratic ideals. Countries of the Middle East and other members of the international Islamic community reinterpret their values and beliefs to accommodate the ideal of democracy.

Despite considerable differences in how Muslim societies interpret the vision of democracy, many have abandoned their anti-democratic hostility and came to view democracy as a promising trend. Again, elections, liberalization, freedom of expression became the main ways to make democracy and Islam compatible.

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Back to the Islamic organizations, the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria acted openly against the authoritarian regime of Hafiz al-Asad. The Brotherhood was explicitly determined against similar dictatorships but, simultaneously, left some room for consultations and compromises in case such regimes came to power. The situation in Turkey is somewhat different but no less interesting.

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Turkey has come to exemplify one of the best places where democracy and religion successfully coexist. Turkey encourages free self-expression, organizes and holds liberal democratic elections, runs a multipartisan political system and relies on the principles of equity inherent in the Islamic religion and Koran. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan shows deep respect for democracy; like Islam democracy in Turkey works for the benefit of all people. Like many Islamic organizations, Erdogan relies on the Islamic principle of shurah, or consultation.

Through consultation, democracy turns into a process of knowledge exchange.

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For Erdogan, as well as for many other organizations and Islamic politicians, democracy is identical and synonymous to consultation in the widest sense of the word. In Turkey, consultation works through increased participation of non-Islamic parties in political decisions and processes.

In other countries of the Middle East, shurah makes possible to achieve a reasonable consensus among the conflicting parties and members of the political landscape. It would be fair to say that, through the proper understanding of the Koran and Islamic values most Islamic countries can achieve the desired balance of religion and democracy.

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In this context, the role and place of Islamist organizations cannot be easily dismissed. The emergence of pan-Islamism and the huge influence of Islamist beliefs and values distort the relationship between Islam and democracy. These beliefs position Islam as incompatible with democracy; apparently, where Islamist principles are dominant democracy and Islam cannot coexist.

For example, the Iranian revolution inspired the creation of independent Sunni terrorist organizations and networks which later served the basis for the expansion of the al-Qaeda. Islamism fueled the rapid evolution of Egyptian Islamic Jihad who planned and assassinated Egyptian President Sadat in The rise on terror and Islamic fundamentalism can be partially attributed to a the absence of liberal political institutions; and b failure to understand and interpret the religious philosophy behind the Koran.

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Outstanding political and religious figures to play a role in how democracy in the Islamic community is implemented: the dramatic influence of President Khomeini on Palestine and its branch of Islamic Jihad was responsible for the subsequent Islamization of the Palestinian Question. Yet, even these trends and influences do not deny the productive and desirable coexistence of Islam and democracy. Islamist organizations and leaders have a unique ability to use religious terminology in ways that distort the message of the Koran sent by people.

Moreover, these organizations have a habit to integrate this terminology with their own distorted political content. The abovementioned principle of shurah has been used extensively by Muslim readers to encourage public participation in politics, self-expression and liberalization of opinions through consultation and analysis. Shurah is not the only Islamic principle that supports the implementation of democracy; the concept of khalifa used in the Koran creates a strong linkage between Islam and democracy. The history of Islam and the Middle Eastern world witnessed various methods of implementing the concept in practice.

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To begin with, the Koran does not offer any explicit directions on how successors and governments should be appointed. Muslims used elections to choose the best caliph and end those governments and caliphates that did not satisfy their needs. This being said, Islam is not against democracy, and democracy fits perfectly well in the conditions and circumstances of the Muslim religion and culture. In light of this information, it is clear that Islam and democracy are fully compatible and can coexist, by means of liberalization, reforms, equity, and free expression.

Additionally, one of the principal ways to promote productive coexistence of democracy and Islam is to ensure that the values, beliefs, and concepts of the Islamic religion and Koran are properly interpreted.

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The issue of Islam-democracy compatibility remains the object of hot professional debates. Much has been written and said about whether or not Islam and democracy are compatible.

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Basically, the coexistence of Islam and democracy is not only desirable but simply inevitable; in any Muslim country, one without another would be poor and incomplete. The questions addressed in the essays are: what members of a particular religion think of those outside of the religion; whether they believe the outsiders can achieve salvation; if they see other religious traditions as legitimate or useful; and how people think of themselves in light of what they think about those outside their religious traditions.

The authors face up to the fact that not everybody is saying the same thing, and that they are in conflict with each other. For example, in an essay on Catholic understandings of salvation, the authors — Daniel A. Sarrio Cucarella, a member of the Society of Missionaries of Africa and a lecturer at the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies in Rome — take the position that the ideas in a declaration issued by the church put more emphasis on living in a way consistent with the ideals of justice, love and peace than on affiliation with the church.

Mohammad Hassan Khalil, a professor of religious studies and director of the Muslim Studies Program at Michigan State University, contends that inclusivism has long been the dominant attitude to the salvation of non-Muslims among Islamic scholars. He examines various forms that this inclusivism has taken, probing the work of major Islamic thinkers such as Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn Arabi and Ghazali. McKim said the issues presented in the book are hotly debated and highly controversial, and there is no consensus among the various religions on how to view those outside of those faiths.

His goal is to promote greater understanding and provide a way to help people think about the philosophical and theological questions. Photo by L. Brian Stauffer.