Does Human Rights Need God?

By Elizabeth M. Bucar; Barbra Barnett | Go to book overview

4
Islam and the Challenge
of Democratic Commitment

KHALED ABOU EL FADL

The question I deal with here is whether concurrent and simultaneous moral and normative commitments to Islam and to a democratic form of government are reconcilable or whether they are mutually exclusive. I will argue in this essay that it is indeed possible to reconcile Islam with a commitment in favor of democracy. I will do so by presenting a systematic exploration of Islamic theology and law as it relates to a democratic system of government, and, in this context, I will address the various elements within Islamic belief and practice that promote, challenge, or hinder the emergence of an ideological commitment in favor of democracy.

In many ways, the basic and fundamental objective of this chapter is to investigate whether the Islamic faith is consistent or reconcilable with a democratic faith. As I will address below, both Islam and democracy represent a set of comprehensive and normative moral commitments and beliefs about, among other things, the worth and entitlements of human beings. The challenging issue is to understand the ways in which the Islamic and democratic systems of convictions and moral commitments could undermine and negate, or validate and support, each other. At the outset of this essay, I make no apologies for my conviction that separate and independent commitments in favor of Islam and in favor of democracy are morally desirable and normatively good. The problem is to facilitate the coexistence of both of these desir

This essay was originally published as “Islam and the Challenge of Democratic Commitment,” Fordham International Law Journal 27, 4 (2003): 4–71. The current version, slightly modified and reedited for a more general audience, is substantially the same as the Fordham essay. I am grateful to my wife Grace for her invaluable feedback and assistance. I thank Naheed Fakoor, my executive assistant, and Omar Fadel, my faculty assistant, for their invaluable contributions to this project.

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