Finding Allies within Islam; Muslim World Struggles with Concept of Democracy

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 17, 2005 | Go to article overview

Finding Allies within Islam; Muslim World Struggles with Concept of Democracy


Byline: David R. Sands, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The tensions and tricky crosscurrents in the debate over Islam and democracy can be seen in the battle over women's suffrage in Kuwait.

The key vote in the debate was not cast by Kuwait's male voters, not by the country's parliament or even by the longtime emir, Sheik Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah, but by a small group of Muslim scholars in the government's Ministry of Islamic Affairs.

In a March 19 fatwa, or religious edict, the ministry said clerics were divided on the question of whether the body of Muslim religious laws known as Shariah gives women the right to vote and run for office.

In the absence of a consensus, "a decision by the ruler should end disputes on the matter," the fatwa concluded.

Reform advocates hailed the ruling, as the emir supports giving women the vote. An Islamic-based, undemocratic process had produced a democratic result.

"Human rights activists have tended to see Islamic activists as an impediment, as 'not one of us,'" said Neil Hicks, director of international programs for Human Rights First. "That's an attitude that has to change."

The stakes in the debate over Islam and democracy are huge, and will shape the fate of President Bush's strategy in the global war on terrorism.

The debate is taking place amid a remarkable series of political shifts across the Islamic world, from successful elections in Afghanistan and Iraq to regime-shaking street protests in Lebanon and Kyrgyzstan, to more cautious democratic experiments in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian territories.

Mr. Bush, in his second inaugural address, his State of the Union speech and in his Middle East policy, has adopted a "forward strategy of freedom" for countries of the Islamic world.

The president rejected the idea that Western concepts of individual rights, limited government and popular sovereignty are incompatible with the Muslim faith.

"Some skeptics of democracy assert that the traditions of Islam are inhospitable to representative government," Mr. Bush said in his now-famous November 2003 address outlining an aggressive new U.S. democratic push in the region.

But, the president argued, "a religion that demands individual moral accountability and encourages the encounter of the individual with God is fully compatible with the rights and responsibilities of self-government."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in an interview last week with the Wall Street Journal, put the political transformation of Arab and Muslim worlds as the U.S. government's top foreign-policy priority - ahead of such hot-button issues as North Korea and Iran's nuclear program.

"I think the biggest test is the Middle East and the evolution of a stable and democratized Middle East. That's really going to be the historical test," she said.

The so-called "Arab Spring" of political reform has some of Mr. Bush's harshest foreign critics reconsidering. "Was Bush Right After All?" asked a headline in the anti-Iraq war Independent newspaper of London recently.

Lined up against Mr. Bush is an unlikely combination of Islam's harshest critics and its most fervent fundamentalist believers.

Author and Islamic scholar Ibn Warraq, writing in the just-published collection "The Myth of Islamic Tolerance," calls Islam a "totalitarian ideology that aims to control the religious, social and political life of mankind in all its aspects."

Islam, he says, "does not value the individual, who has to be sacrificed for the sake of the Islamic community."

From the very other end of the spectrum, some radical Islamists agree.

Abu Musab Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born al Qaeda operative blamed by U.S. officials for much of the insurgent violence in Iraq, has harshly condemned representative democracy and open elections in Iraq as "un-Islamic principles" that violate the belief that all laws must come from a divine source. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Finding Allies within Islam; Muslim World Struggles with Concept of Democracy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.