Islam and Democracy: Fear of the Modern World

By Fatima Mernissi | Go to book overview

4
The United Nations Charter

When we speak about the conflict between Islam and democracy, we are in fact talking about an eminently legal conflict. If the basic reference for Islam is the Koran, for democracy it is effectively the United Nations Charter, which is above all a superlaw.

The majority of Muslim states have signed this covenant, and thus find themselves ruled by two contradictory laws. One law gives citizens freedom of thought, while the shariʿa, in its official interpretation based on taʿa (obedience), condemns it. Most Muslims, who are familiar with the Koran from very early in life, have never had occasion to read the United Nations Charter or to become acquainted with its key concepts. For many people, the charter is like the Haguza monster of my childhood: you hear about it, but no one has ever yet seen it. It has come onto our shores mysteriously folded away in the attaché cases of diplomats and, like a harem courtesan, has never succeeded in getting out. With age and confinement it has become, like Haguza, the more terrifying because of its invisibility.

But first I must introduce Haguza.


HAGUZA, THE MONSTER OUT OF THE NORTH

I was born in one of the last harems of Fez in the 1940s, just before the walls of that honorable institution began to crack under the force of modernity. I had what is called a happy childhood, living

-60-

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Islam and Democracy: Fear of the Modern World
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction the Gulf War: Fear and Its Boundaries 1
  • Part I - A Mutilated Modernity 11
  • 1 - Fear of the Foreign West 13
  • 2 - Fear of the Imam 22
  • 3 - Fear of Democracy 42
  • 4 - The United Nations Charter 60
  • 5 - The Koran 75
  • Part II - Sacred Concepts and Profane Anxieties 83
  • 6 - Fear of Freedom of Thought 85
  • 7 - Fear of Individualism 104
  • 8 - Fear of the Past 114
  • 9 - Fear of the Present 130
  • 10 - Women's Song: Destination Freedom 149
  • Conclusion the Simorgh is Us! 172
  • Notes 175
  • Index 191
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