Islam and Democracy

Islam and Democracy

Islam and Democracy

Islam and Democracy

Synopsis

Religious resurgence and democratization have been two of the most significant developments of the last quarter of the twentieth century. Frequently they work together; other times they are at odds. In the muslim world, this relationship is of special importance because of the strength of the Islamic resurgence, and the intensity of muslim demands for greater popular participation in political processes Esposito and Voll use six case studies to look at the history of this relationship and the role played by new Islamic movements. At one end of the spectrum, Iran and Sudan represent two cases of militant, revolutionary Islam opposing the political system. In Algeria and Malaysia however, the new movements have been legally recognized and made part of the political process. The authors identify several important factors, such as the legality or illegality of the new Islamic movements and the degree to which they cooperate with existing rulers, as being key to understanding the success or failure of these movements. Still, the case studies prove that despite the commonalities, differing national contexts and identities give rise to differences in agenda and method. This broad Spectrum of experience contains important lessons for understanding this complex and subtle relationship, and will also provide insight into the powerful forces of religion and democracy in a broader global context.

Excerpt

Religious resurgence and democratization are two of the most important developments of the final decades of the twentieth century. In many areas, movements of religious revival coincide with and sometimes reinforce the formation of more democratic political systems. In other areas, the two dynamics are in conflict. In the Muslim world, these issues are raised with special force because of the strength of the Islamic resurgence and the intensity of the demands in recent years for greater popular participation in the political processes.

The Islamic Revolution that overthrew the Iranian monarchy in 1979 was one of the first popular revolutions against a modern authoritarian political system in the final quarter of the twentieth century. In the early 1990s, another Islamic movement, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), was suppressed after it dramatically challenged the authoritarian regime of the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) in Algeria when the government had been forced to allow open elections. In many areas of the Muslim world, one of the crucial issues defining the political future is the relationship between the forces of Islamic resurgence and the development of democratic political systems.

Governments and political leaders throughout the Muslim world respond to popular sentiments for greater political participation and the activities of religious movements. Rulers and regimes are forced to choose among policies of repression and greater popular participation, with the threat that if they make the wrong choice they themselves could lose power, as did the Shah of Iran or the Algerian FLN. If they do not adjust rapidly enough, they could be overthrown; however, they also face the risk, if they open their political systems, of electoral defeat. Islamic movements and their leaders face similar critical choices between adaptation or violent opposition. All groups, whether Islamic or secular, that are seeking greater democratization must decide upon the most effective means for achieving their goals. These options represent power conflicts as existing regimes and popular opposition movements of many different kinds interact in complex ways. Competition, cooperation, and conflict are among the most important dimensions of . . .

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