April 19, 2006

Dutch Scientific Council: Islam & Democracy Compatible

Thankfully, someone has recognized that a mixture of Islam and politics does not always result in something ugly and scary (ie: al-Qaeda).
The Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) in the Netherlands, advising the government with the reports it prepares, acknowledges that Islam is "in perfect dynamism" with democracy and human rights.

The council, covering relations between Islam and democracy in its latest report titled "Dynamism in Islamic activism," stresses the frequently used statement that in principle Islam conflicts with democracy along with the cliche "clash of civilizations" leads to blocked dialogue among cultures.

A new opening is needed, the Council diagnosed, giving the following advice to EU countries: "Instead of exporting democracy to Muslim countries, democratic attempts harmonious with their own traditions and cultures must be supported."

The study reveals a lack of direct communication with Muslim nations, and describing Islam together with the words "clash of civilizations" and terrorism are the biggest obstacles facing dialogue. The report stresses new policies on a global scale must be put into practice in order to decrease the tension between Islam and the West.

Full story

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At 10:04 PM, Anonymous tommy said...

Which explains why there practically no serious implementation of democracy in the Islamic world and why so many Muslims even in Western Europe seem to hate pluralistic democracy. I don't know what evidence they are looking at to come to the conclusion that they have beyond, perhaps, the opinions of certain Muslim scholars.

This sounds like more politically-correct spin. It is especially funny (and unbelievable) coming from the country that experiencing the killings of Theo van Gogh and Pim Fortuyn both for exercising their democratic rights.

I especially like the line:

democratic attempts harmonious with their own traditions and cultures must be supported.

What the hell is that supposed to mean? Can they give us some examples. Like Muslims themselves they remain vague as to what this means. I think what it means is censoring speech offensive to Muslims among other things, which is why they don't provide examples.

Everything I've seen from Muslims so far when they speak of democracy doesn't include such traditions as "free speech," "free religion," "freedom of assembly," or "freedom of conscience" or "freedom of thought" all of which are essential to a truly democractic regime. Instead, I hear a lot of talk about "offensive speech laws," "blasphemy laws," "hate speech laws," "don't offend Islam laws" and the like. All of which, they say, are essential to "protecting" Muslims.

It sounds to me like this committee doesn't know what democracy really requires.

Islam may be compatible with democracy someday, but we aren't living in that day yet.

 
At 12:36 PM, Blogger moi said...

Tommy, I appreciate that you're following my blog so closely :)

Let me first say that I didn't need Dutch Scientific Council to tell me that Islam is compatible with democratic ideals and human rights. I simply found this bit of news interesting to share especially with regards to recent tensions in Europe.

This topic being much of the focus of my undergraduate studies, I have read a plethora of scholarly writing on this topic, much of which point to the similarity between many Islamic principles and modern democratic ideals. I don't like to compare "Islam and Democracy" because Islam is a religion and democracy is a form of government. Instead, I would take a closer look at various principles in Islamic thought applied throughout the history of Islam such as ijma'a (consensus), shura (consultation), ijtihad (independent interpretation), freedom of religion (contrary to popular belief), etc. (I will add that scholars have written books on each of the terms above and that the loose definition that I provided does not do justice to the history of each principle).

It appears that your view is constrained to the past 70-100 years, while Islam has existed for more than 1400 years. It is true that the majority of Muslim countries today do not have democratic systems in place, but there are many factors besides Islam that have led to this trend, one of the most obvious being the Western colonization of much of the Middle East and North Africa throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. At the same time, we should recognize that countries such as Turkey, Indonesia, (Palestinian territories) are considered democratic, while other countries in the Middle East exhibit varying forms of democratic institutions such as elected parliaments, prime ministers, etc.

Democracy is not a one-size-fits-all form of government and it has not been like that throughout history. Muslim countries do not have to adopt a British or American form of democracy to be considered democratic. These are just manifestations of democratic ideals, and they could be changed over time. Many would add that democracy is a government "for the people by the people" and it cannot be so in Muslim countries if it is imposed on them or if it exhibits traditions that they are not willing to accept.

You said...
Everything I've seen from Muslims so far when they speak of democracy doesn't include such traditions as "free speech," "free religion," "freedom of assembly," or "freedom of conscience" or "freedom of thought" all of which are essential to a truly democratic regime.


What have you seen? The cartoon controversy? The government of Saudi Arabia or Libya? Clearly none of those are considered to be implementing Islam in the correct way, as it had been implemented just a few decades earlier. The freedoms you state above are characteristic of Western Liberal democracy, which is just ONE form of democracy, although it may be the most well-known. In addition, personal freedoms are not the only concepts that make a government a democracy.

It sounds to me like this committee doesn't know what democracy really requires.
Tommy, I wouldn't depend on this committee to find out what democracy is or what Islam is either. Scholars such as Robert Dahl and Fazlur Rahman would be more appropriate in the study of such issues. I will refer you to the following sources for an in-depth look at the highly intellectual debate about the compatibility of Islam with democratic principles. Mind you, this is not a small debate, and definitely not one that can be resolved in this blog or with a few comments. I hope you do have time to take a look at these sources as I am sure they will broaden your perspective. Enjoy :)

Excerpts of Robert Dahl's book "On Democracy"
"Developing Democracy: Toward Consolidation" by Larry Diamond
"Democracy without Democrats? The Renewal of Politics in the Muslim World" by Ghassan Salame
"Islam and Democracy" by John L. Esposito
"Islam and Politics" by John L. Esposito
"Islam and Democracy in the Middle East" by Larry Diamond, Daniel Brumberg, et al
"The Rise of Muslim Democracy" by S. Vali Reza Nasr in the Journal of Democracy (PDF)
"Unchartered Journey: Promoting Democracy in the Middle East" by Marina Ottaway

 
At 2:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It appears that your view is constrained to the past 70-100 years, while Islam has existed for more than 1400 years.

Very true, moi. But democracy hasn't been around for 1400 years. Whether or not Islam is compatible with this newer concept, democracy, is debatable.

Islamic societies haven't been able to place a barrier between church and state the way the western world has. One of the problems that Islamic societies face is that they have a legal system, Sharia, embedded directly in the religion. This Sharia, unlike the legal systems of the west, is very inflexible and not easily changed.

The fact that there is still debate about whether an apostate should face the death penalty is a sad commentary on where things stand in the real world. The fact that so many Muslims still approve of laws calling for the execution of apostates is even sadder.

Islam that have led to this trend, one of the most obvious being the Western colonization of much of the Middle East and North Africa throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

It is true that colonization had a deleterious effect on many people around the globe. (Though in some circumstances, such as India, colonization did have some beneficial effects.) However, the Muslim world has been independent for decades now and it is debatable whether or not these societies, with their growing religious fundamentalism, are really moving in a progressive direction. What secularism exists in the Muslim world has tended to come only with heavy-handed governments.

Also, colonization cannot be used as an excuse forever. Many other non-Muslim societies experienced colonization and have been much more successful than Islamic nations have been.

At the same time, we should recognize that countries such as Turkey, Indonesia, (Palestinian territories) are considered democratic,

Turkey's democracy exists, in large part, because nationalism has to some degree trumped religious sentiment in that country. Also, Islamic movements have have suppression at the hands of the Turkish military. This is hardly an ideal situation. Even the current, moderately Islamic government, must keep in the mind the secular Turkish military when advocating views or making decisions. Finally, Turkey is in no sense as free a country as western European nations are.

Indonesia is only very recently a democratic nation. Only time will tell how successful Indonesia is. It is still far too early to call Indonesia a success story. Also, Indonesia's minority religions, such as Christians face persecution from Islamic extremists. The Indonesian government has been apathetic in protecting Christians and thousands have been murdered over the past few years. If a democratic government cannot protect its religious and ethnic minorities from such extreme and lawless brutality, that is not a good omen.

The Palestinian Territories are another wait and see situation. The current situation between Hamas and Fatah is not encouraging.

I think you place far too much emphasis on a country having a one or a handful of free and fair elections as the main criteria for whether or not a country is democratic. Many military dictatorships around the world have had free and fair elections at one point or another but are not democracies currently.

It takes a tradition of such fair elections, coupled with respect for the civil and human rights of individuals as well as protection, under rule of law, of unpopular minority views, groups and religions to truly constitute a democratic country.

Have a nice one, moi.

 
At 2:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry for my typos, I need to go back to sleep, now. Bye-bye.

 
At 11:57 PM, Anonymous tommy said...

The first time I read this post, I didn't, for some reason, notice your list of recommended reading. I will certainly look into some of those sources you recommend moi. I'm always anxious to learn about the "other side."

However, I notice that several of your titles are written by the notorious Esposito. This clown is basically an intellectually dishonest apologist for Islam's ills.

Robert Spencer and others have challenged many of his claims on previous occasions:

http://www.campus-watch.org/article/id/78
http://www.jihadwatch.org/dhimmiwatch/archives/010792.php
http://www.jihadwatch.org/dhimmiwatch/archives/011029.php
http://www.jihadwatch.org/dhimmiwatch/archives/010526.php
http://www.jihadwatch.org/dhimmiwatch/archives/010522.php
http://www.jihadwatch.org/dhimmiwatch/archives/010335.php
http://www.jihadwatch.org/dhimmiwatch/archives/010573.php

He is in good company with the likes of Stephen Schwartz, another dishonest apologist for Islam:

http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/011095.php#comments

 
At 9:55 AM, Blogger moi said...

Tommy, clearly we're not on the same level of thinking. I'm providing you with scholarly materials while you are providing me with websites of some of the most notoriously Islamophobic individuals on the www . If a professor asked you to write a research paper, he would not accept that you use "jihad watch" or "campus-watch" or "front page mag" as a source. They are not scholarly, not respected, and have the same value as any rant out there. You should recall your talk about agendas in one of your previous comments. It would apply directly to such individuals.

If you persist in your views and your opinions supported by such individuals, I'm afraid there is not much room for dialogue. These individuals do not accept such concepts, and prefer to rant and rave about how backwards Islam is all the while attacking every possible academic teaching about Middle East and Islam.

It's not just Esposito who they attack, he's just one of the "bad professors" on their list. In any case, thankfully, there are thousands of other professors in the US and around the world who are respected as preeminent scholars on Islam and the Middle East who agree with Esposito or provide more in-depth research about similar issues.

I highly advise you to pick up one of those sources that I mentioned in my earlier comment.
Good luck.

 
At 10:27 AM, Anonymous tommy said...

I'm providing you with scholarly materials while you are providing me with websites of some of the most notoriously Islamophobic individuals on the www .

You are appealing to the authority of these works. The problem is that both the authority and the content of these works are questioned in the articles mentioned (and many others unmentioned, as well).

Ad hominem attacks, such as the throwing the accusation of "Islamophobia" at people like Robert Spencer do not reduce the validity of the arguments made by Esposito's critics. I would think, being educated, you would know that by now.

If you find something factually inaccurate about one of these articles, please let me know, Until then, you might as well save your "Islamophobe" smears for someone more easily swayed by insults without any content.

If a professor asked you to write a research paper, he would not accept that you use "jihad watch" or "campus-watch"

Sure they would. Depending on the nature of the paper, I would most likely have to have other sources also, but there is no reason I couldn't cite Jihad Watch as a source if appropriate and clear-headed. The only professors who might have a problem with this are a few loony leftists/Islamic apologists like our friend at Georgetown, Esposito himself.

Robert Spencer has written several books regarding Islam. So has your other friend, Daniel Pipes. Applying the label "Islamophobe" doesn't make them invalid. Especially, when Islamophobe refers to any source that Muslims don't like regardless of its validity.

Islamophobe is quickly becoming as overapplied as the term 'racist' has become. Today, depending on your views, practically everybody has been labelled a racist by somebody on the left. Whether you point out to statistical facts regarding black crime in the United States or you don't buy wholeheartedly into Afrocentrism. You are a racist in somebody's eyes.

This is the problem of applying terms like racist and Islamophobe without justifying the validity of their application. They quickly become meaningless.

If you persist in your views and your opinions supported by such individuals, I'm afraid there is not much room for dialogue.

Oh, I get it. In other words, you are the self-appointed referee for what sources are valid and what form the debate should take. You get to limit the scope of the debate. Not much room for dialogue? Well, lets face it: what you want is not a dialogue but to lecture me as to your point of view. I'm open to reading sources I have no reason to question the validity of, but not of those that are dubious in nature.

It's not just Esposito who they attack, he's just one of the "bad professors" on their list.

I'm not in full agreement with the agenda of Campus Watch but I do appreciate the fact that they have drawn attention to how politically biased higher education is in the United States. You know that as well as I do. Anybody who has every taken a few social science courses quickly realizes the extent of the bias in education.

It is more acceptable in liberal academia to be a dishonest, unscrupulous dirtbag with militant, violent, liberal views (like Ward Churchill) than to be a conservative in this day and age. Campus Watch is right to point that out and ask why.

Did you find something you believe to be factually inaccurate about Esposito in the Campus Watch article?

How about a more constructive dialogue?

How about more specific criticisms?

 
At 4:02 PM, Blogger moi said...

Tommy--
Scholarly work refers to writing that has been peer reviewed . That is how the academic world works. Nobody has peer reviewed my blog from an academic standpoint so it cannot be considered scholarly. Neither can jihadwatch & co. be considered scholarly material. The works that I mentioned have a much higher authority and integrity in their arguments than do the sources you provided me. Even a high school senior would tell you that.

Citing such sources is like citing Al-Qaeda's website for a paper on American foreign policy. Give me a break. Just like you and I would refer to them as terrorist, I can refer to Pipes & co. as Islamophobic because that is what their work reflects. And it's not just Muslims who claim that.

I don't appreciate that an organization such as Campus Watch exists to stifle the freedom of expression/speech you were just championing in your previous comments. Obviously this liberal vs. conservative debate touches on everything in our lives as Americans these days, so I'm not surprised that it would reflect on this debate as well.

If you're really interested in scholarly information, again I refer you to the resources I mentioned in the first comment. In my view as well as the view of most intellectuals, politicians, and academics, blogs will never come close to peer reviewed scholarly work when discussing issues such as democracy and Islam.

My blog is not a public forum discussing the intricacies of every event related to Islam and the Middle East. Sometimes I provide news on this issues and my personal commentary. I do not mind that my comments are challenged, but I do not want this to become a "chat room" of sorts about Islam.

 

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