Journal of Democracy
narrow and stringent one at that. The inflexibility of this secular “faith” actually makes it more difficult to integrate Muslim immigrants into the French democratic system, as Muslims there believe that their own faith is unwelcome and under assault.
I mention all this because, over the course of multiyear discussions with a group of Muslim Arab intellectuals, it became clear to me as well as the other U.S. interlocutors that our conversation partners, at least initially, saw the only options for the Muslim world as being Islamic fundamen- talism or a strict la¦cité-type secularism.9 It took the U.S. participants some time to realize that the harshness of these options stemmed from our Arab Muslim partners equating a secular state with severe secularism at the civil society level—and this they found unacceptable. (Although several had at some point in the past subscribed to a Marxist-inspired hard secularism, they had since come to recognize that this approach lacked viability in the Muslim world.)
A breakthrough occurred when my U.S. colleagues and I were able to make clear to our Arab friends that, as the American model demon- strates, a secular state should not be equated with a secularized civil society scrubbed clean of religion. This surely helps to account for why and how the integration of Muslim immigrants into their new society has proceeded more smoothly in the United States than in the far more secularized societies of the West European democracies. Indeed, only by loosening severe restrictions on the public expression of religion will democracy become more attractive to moderate Muslims.
One might sum up the matter in this way: Out of the French Revolution came forth a monological form of democracy and sovereignty that under- wrote the system of la¦cité. In the United States, by contrast, a dialogical system emerged that combined a secular state with a democratic civil society that was both inspired by and infused with religion, and in which religion and politics intermingled in all sorts of ways. The future of democracy in the Muslim world will likely display similarly diverging patterns, but with the emphases somewhat reversed: What emerges will be either a mono- logical fundamentalist Muslim state and society dominated by a stringent form of shari‘a law or a nontheocratic dialogical state characterized by a civil society in which shura (consultation) between religion and politics is practiced. I am not trying to shoehorn Islam into a U.S. Christian-inspired model; rather, this appears to be the considered view of a number of so- phisticated observers who focus on Islam and democracy.
Islam’s Democratic Prospects
Because the case of Islam invariably arises—erupts might be a better term for it—whenever the subject at hand is religion and democracy, it is necessary to consider briefly the democratic possibilities for the Muslim world. Although I cannot claim expertise in this area, I can claim intense