X hits on this document





10 / 14

Jean Bethke Elshtain


is foreordained, however. Most important, Islam is no monolith, and for Western observers of religion and democracy to treat it as such does it an enormous disservice.

One final voice among the hopeful is that of Abdelwahab El-Affendi, who writes that the absence of democracy in most Muslim countries is dismaying. He adds that:

[i]t goes without saying that Islamic teachings, traditionally understood, conflict with aspects of Western liberalism, but that does not in itself mean that they are an obstacle to democracy. Any set of religious beliefs . . . could be compatible with democracy (understood as consensual popular rule) if they are shared by all members of the community. On the other hand, differing and incompatible versions of beliefs would make democratic consensus difficult, regardless of their content.17

I will address below whether or not consensual popular rule is both a necessary and a sufficient definition of democracy. El-Affendi’s overall point, however, is that it is unfortunate that the most prominent and no- torious Muslim voices of the twentieth century were those that drew on religious arguments against democracy rather than the other way around. That a religious case for democracy can be mounted within Islam is, for El-Affendi, an essential item of faith.

Now to the third category—the despairing or dubious—of which there are two types: those who lament their own deep doubts about democ- racy’s future within Islam, and those who celebrate what they take to be the antithetical nature of Islam and democracy, which is considered to encompass modernization, liberalism, and a host of other sins. Ladan and Roya Boroumand observe the way in which a

religious vocabulary hides violent Islamism’s true nature as a modern totalitarian challenge to both traditional Islam and modern democracy. If terrorism is truly as close to the core of Islamic belief as both the Isla- mists and many of their enemies claim, why does international Islamist terrorism date only to 1979?18

The Boroumand sisters, who are rather despairing of the present situ- ation in the Muslim world, dissect the claims of radical Islamists—those who rejoice in the incompatibility of Islam and democracy—ultimately branding them fraudulent and finding that terrorist practices are modern tactics at odds with the historic Islamic tradition of political ethics.

Their position dovetails with that of Francis Fukuyama who, in his 2005 Lipset Lecture, described militant Islamism, especially in Europe, as “a manifestation of modern identity politics” rather than an assertion of traditional Muslim culture.19 In a complex and illuminating discussion, Fukuyama unpacked the stresses and strains attendant upon shifting from a territorially bound Muslim identity to one that is uprooted and exiled in the West. The failure on the part of Western Europe to integrate these

Document info
Document views54
Page views54
Page last viewedFri Jan 20 20:41:21 UTC 2017