AREU Synthesis Paper Series
and democracy, since this has been done at length and by learned scholars elsewhere.14 Nevertheless, given the prevalence in the data of reference by respondents to “Islamic democracy,” it is necessary to provide a brief overview of key theoretical arguments that have been made on the subject before comparing these with the statements in the data. This section considers also the role of the state as it relates to Islam and democracy.
Some commentators, such as Samuel Huntington, have implied that a state cannot be Islamic and democratic simultaneously. In 1993, Huntington argued that while there are elements of Islamic doctrine that both facilitate and act as a barrier to democracy, there had never been an example of a fully functioning democratic and Islamic state:
[i]n practice...the only Islamic country that has sustained a fully democratic system for any length of time is Turke , where Mustafa Kemal Ataturk explicitly rejected Islamic concepts of society and politics and vigorously attempted to create a secular, modern, Western, nation- state.15
Assuming for the time being, however, that Tilly’s four criteria of breadth, equality, protection and mutually binding consultation are an appropriate way to gauge of the level of democratisation in a given state, this perspective begins to appear simplistic; in theory, none of these measures precludes a state being either conjoined with a national religion or specifically Islamic.
This is a very brief introduction to some of the issues surrounding
Islam and democracy that have been referred to by researchers and respondents during this project. It is not intended as a comprehensive
overview. For more Sourosh, Mahmoud In
information and Sadri and Ahmad
analysis, see for example A. Sadri (eds.), Reason, Freedom
(Binghampton, NY: Institute of Global University, 1998); and John L. Esposito
Cultural Studies, and John O. Voll,
Islam and 1996).
Samuel P. Huntington, “Democracy’s Third Wave” in L. Diamond
and M.F. Plattner (eds.), The Global Resurgence of Democracy Hopkins University Press: Baltimore and London, 1993), 19.
Before briefly considering the arguments surrounding Islam and democracy, the idea of an Islamic state should be discussed and differentiated. As highlighted above, the very concept of “the state” is problematic inAfghanistan; it could be argued that “the state” as developed historically in Western Europe does not and has never existed in a country where relationships between various communities and the state being determined by “externality and compromise,”16 rather than a consistent or reliable contract (as embodied in Tilly’s mutually binding consultation). This in itself is another debate—and since it is clear that “democratisation” inAfghanistan since 2001 has been very much a part of “state-building” agendas, the two concepts will be considered together here.
Olivier Roy makes a useful distinction between neo- fundamentalists, such as the Taliban—who have little interest in working through the institution of the state—and Islamists, whose political agendas are or can be intertwined with state policy. According
“Islamism” is the brand of modern political Islamic fundamentalism which claims to recreate a true Islamic societ , not simply by imposing the shariat, but by establishing first an Islamic state through political action. Islamists see Islam not as a mere religion, but as a political ideology which should be integrated into all aspects of society (politics, la , econom , social justice, foreign polic , etc.)...Contrary to the Islamists, [the neofundamentalists] do not have an economic or social agenda. They are the heirs to the conservative Sunni tradition of fundamentalism, obsessed by the danger of a loss of purity within Islam through the influence of other religions. They stress the implementation of shariat as the sole criterion for an Islamic State and society.17
Since the neo-fundamentalists described here are simply not concerned with the state—the current focus of democratisation—in any way, shape or form, it is thus possible to remove such groups from the
Roy, The Failure of Political Islam, 148.
17 Olivier Roy, “Neo-Fundamentalism,” Social Science Research Council, http://www.ssrc.org/sept11/essays/roy.htm (accessed 21 April 2011).