The Rights of God: Islam, Human Rights, and Comparative Ethics

By Irene Oh | Go to book overview
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3
ENVISIONING ISLAMIC
DEMOCRACIES

Although Maududi, Qutb, and Soroush agree that democracy is a human right and that Islam supports democracy, they conceive of Islamic democracies in different ways. Their individual visions of democracy derive from their unique religious, historical, and political views. In entering into conversation with these thinkers about democracy as a human right supported by Islam, we hope to come to an understanding about this subject matter by first accepting their views of democracy as arising out of traditions different from our own. We also bring to this dialogue sensitivity to the historical circumstances that may affect their visions of democracy and Islam.

Keenly aware of the historical contexts in which they write, Maududi, Qutb, and Soroush grapple with the prospect of democracy in Muslim nations that are freshly independent of colonial rule and eager to distinguish themselves from Western culture. The scholars conceive of distinct versions of religious democracy, each of which displays the unique concerns and attitudes that emerge from a particular individual, time, and location. These thinkers draw on intellectual and spiritual resources to develop democratic ideas out of Islamic traditions.

Democracy, defined broadly as a government for which the people assume responsibility, requires not only free and fair elections but also stable supporting institutions.1 Maududi, Qutb, and Soroush discuss in depth the teachings of Islam with regard to these supporting institutions of democracy, particularly free press and schools. They recognize the importance of selecting a leader by democratic means, but they place an

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