Political Islam and Democratic Transition

Apr 15

It would be an understatement to say that westerners remain concerned about the role of Islam in democratizing Arab states. ¬†Some, however, have suggested that secular democracy need not mean a complete exclusion of religion from the public sphere, but instead permit its participation against a background of institutions that serve to moderate the risk of a “tyranny of the majority.” ¬† I agree that this is the most that can be reasonably obtained under present conditions in a country like Egypt.

In my opinion, modernist Islamic thought — the ideological basis of moderate Islamism –has been concerned primarily with equality before the law, establishing accountability of the government to the people, and eliminating arbitrary decision-making so as to better pursue the public good. They are attracted to democracy because they see democratic institutions as the best means to establish these ends. ¬†Unfortunately, Islamic modernism (nor secular modernism in the post-Ottoman world, for that matter) has not been gravely concerned with pluralism as such.

Read More