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Islam > democracy
The idea that democracy is bent on converting the world is a very interesting notion that I have not much considered. So, excellent point. We, in the West, have developed this notion that democracy is the end-all and be-all of human achievement; that somehow once the world is universally democratic peace will break out all over the globe and as Francis Fukuyama thought, we will reach “the end of history.” I do not subscribe to this theory and think that the United States’ policy, in particular, of pushing democratic government is ill advised. Democracy does not have the ideological appeal it once enjoyed and the world is decidedly disenchanted with the West’s pretension to global leadership. But, on to the point. I feel that although there may be similarities between Islam’s desire for global hegemony and democracy’s push for universal adherence, there are also significant differences. For one democracy, as an abstract concept, cannot fanatically hold the allegiance of its pundits. Islam, by way of comparison, can. Islamic devotees believe that God is watching them, and guiding their path. If you believe that a God so inclined will be the arbiter of your final resting place for all eternity, it tends to strengthen your conviction. I do not believe that democracy can muster anything like that. I am also fairly convinced that democracy will be unable to provide the requisite motivation for further “wars of expansion,” if you will. Men do not die to expand an abstract philosophy that cannot be reckoned beyond the here and now. In the past democracy was championed for different reasons, I believe. Previously men fought and died for democracy as a means, not an end. Democracy was the mode by which we achieved freedom, justice, the ability to worship God, the pursuit of happiness, etc. It was these higher, transcendent ideals that tugged at men’s heartstrings, not necessarily democracy itself. Of late, however, it would seem that democracy has been detached from its defining teleology. We promulgate democracy irrespective of its ends. In Iraq we push for a democracy that will, in all likelihood, engender civil strife or Islamic fanaticism, both of which are counter to the real goals of our erstwhile political system. Because of this it seems likely that democracy will lose its hold over men, even in the West. And in that respect, it is weaker than Islam. Islam is both ends and means. Its underlying teleology is necessarily advanced by its growing ubiquity. This is not the case with democracy. The spread of desultory democracy may, in fact, be its undoing.
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Anyone for Zeus? Ra?
Extending these lines of thought – remember the principles of Democracy as a form of government are somewhat the science of politics and the baby of philosophers. As such, the concept will stand the test of time althought its various implementations will change as will those subscribing to it. On an infinite timeline, it seems logical that the only political systems that will survive are those derived from core philosophic ideas – democracy, the republic, socialists and communism. After all – nobody still worships Greek and Roman gods or uses them as a source of political power. One day, future societies will scoff and laugh at these few millenia where man was bent out of shape over Judaisim, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, what have you. They’ll be making these same arguments over the philosophic science of the day (see above paragraph) versus the religion of the day. Of course, in the future we could always just be enslaved by aliens and then live under their system which would put these issues to rest rather permanently.
Posted 11 October 2004,
This comment thread has
RE: Islam > democracy
Will, I liked your article. I myself am ignorant to the Islamic faith and your article peaked my interest enough to go pick up a book at the local B&N and check out some internet sites. I do however see your recent post a little differently….. >For one democracy, as an abstract concept, cannot fanatically hold the allegiance of its pundits. Islam, by way of comparison, can. Islamic devotees believe that God is watching them, and guiding their path. If you believe that a God so inclined will be the arbiter of your final resting place for all eternity, it tends to strengthen your conviction. I do not believe that democracy can muster anything like that. I think you’re right on with democracy not having a fanatical hold on its constituents like Islam does. I’m not fanatical about Democracy, however it is difficult to talk about Democracy without touching on Freedom (and this is what does have a hold on its pundits). I AM fanatical about Freedom; the ability to make choices; in a way that we all seem to take for granted all of the time….Freedom is about having the right to choose, and then possibly having to deal with the consequences of wrong/villainous choices (murder, robbery, tax evasion, etc). Islam has no freedom of choice other than the old adage, “my way or the highway.” >In the past democracy was championed for different reasons, I believe. Previously men fought and died for democracy as a means, not an end. Democracy was the mode by which we achieved freedom, justice, the ability to worship God, the pursuit of happiness, etc. It was these higher, transcendent ideals that tugged at men’s heartstrings, not necessarily democracy itself. I still believe democracy to be a means, not an end. Democracy to me is a means to an end….that end being Freedom. We still achieve freedom through justice and through our constitutional laws, amendments and “unalienable” rights. This is why I don’t go out and rape and pillage (although I sure would love to….j/k) We have laws….albeit grandiose, but still laws. With Freedom, if I make the wrong choices, I could go to jail or worse, be put to death because of these laws. In Islam, it is
death for making the
choice. Simply put, from a philosophical/Kantian perspective, Islam is plain black and white….no gray (and it is really one religious rule stated many different ways)…..whereas Democracy although mostly black and white has such an elaborate set up of checks and balances that it appears more gray……and on a cynical note, all gray for you Democrats out there J >Of late, however, it would seem that democracy has been detached from its defining teleology. We promulgate democracy irrespective of its ends. In Iraq we push for a democracy that will, in all likelihood, engender civil strife or Islamic fanaticism, both of which are counter to the real goals of our erstwhile political system. I agree that Democracy will probably engender civil strife and Islamic fanaticism in Iraq, the former being short-lived, and the latter like a little known disease (eventually I think we’ll rid Iraq to minor traces of Islamic fanaticism…..Freedom shall ring). >Because of this it seems likely that democracy will lose its hold over men, even in the West. And in that respect, it is weaker than Islam. Islam is both ends and means. Isn’t that the very meaning of tyrrany? Yes, Democracy is weaker than Islam, however people are still governed by a broader set of rules/laws with the Freedom of choice that I don’t think anyone could pass up. Your thoughts?
Posted 11 October 2004,
This comment thread has
RE: Islam > democracy
The comment that "democracy, as an abstract concept, cannot fanatically hold the allegiance of its pundits," is extremely falible. Take those freedoms that we have come to know as the norm and remove them. See how many democratic fanatics pop up around the nation. If our government were to try to take any of the freedoms we have come to love we would have similar issues to those faced in Iraq today. Many people in the US believe that God leads their lives as well and are devout Catholics, or Lutherans, or Methodist, but we still put them in power. Why? Because we know or believe that there is a seperation of powers between religion and state. This was not always so in the thinking of the American people. Pre-Kennedy the American public was afraid to elect a practicing Catholic because of fear that the Pope’s mentality would rule the Nation. Thus the conforming of the democratic society to fit the popular belief of the people; a prime example of democracy doing what it must to remain active. Why must we be hell bent on believing that all Muslims believe that their religion must be so deeply imbedded in their political structure, and that their religion and political structure is static and can not conform like a dynamic democratic system? If you look at the population in the U.S. who are religious, and I mean deeply dedicated to their religion, I bet surveys would consistantly show that an equally proportianate number of individuals across the world, over many religious boundries would be as dedicated to their religion as any other. Yes, there are Muslims that pray 5 times a day, there are those that eat pork, and drink and have sex during Ramadan, but there is a greater population that call themselves Muslim and live in Muslim nations that know nothing of the religion, don’t practice the intricate details of the faith and provide the world with their own view of Islam. The same is true with common religions here in the U.S. Many so called Catholics call themselves just that, but they eat meat during Lent, don’t go to confession, and don’t pray to God daily to tell Him how bad they were today. It just so happens that these individuals are not the ones we hear about. We see democracy as a ideology that changes on a constant basis and something that is not fanatical, and as was pointed out earlier, is something that started out with much deeper convictions. We view Islam as something to hinder growth and as a belief structure that promotes violence. Those few individuals and groups in Iraq that have pledged their lives to a higher power to defeat the "invaders" see us as fanatics. We see them as fanatics. Who is right? This example is crude and not nearly as complicated, but similar in nature. A football fanatic believes "his" team should win because they are better and calls himself a lover of football and everything that is good, like Green Bay. Yet a rival from another team calls that same fan a fanatic and evil because rival fan (fan #2) believes that Minnesota is the
team. Crude, I know; but when you break down why democracy has a tendency to push its theology onto Islamic states, democracy is saying, "I’m the best way, the only way to live. Because I don’t believe in religion mixing with the state, you shouldn’t either." I can’t argue with the statement that fundamental differences do exist, but the simalarities in how democracy and Islamic states do business are what makes them clash so harshly. So no bottom line up front, just sharing an opinion. Islam, much like democracy, is in a constant fluid state, changing as the beliefs of those who practice evolve. The stories are distorted generation to generation and each fills in the blanks with something that fits the time and the place. The fanatics will always exist, changing the current popular perspective to what gives them power, but fanatics will arise in any situation no matter time or place. Why believe that all Muslims are the same and all practice their religion in the same way when we do not follow the mandates of religion in our state? I have a friend in Minneapolis, MN who owns a record label, which produces hip hop albums in an attempt to undo the obscured or tokenized views by mainstream society’s imposed inferences of the Islamic identities and history. (Paraphrased from his company webpage). He is Muslim and though I have not seen him in a number of years, he was not a devoted Muslim at the time. He did not smoke or drink, nor did his family eat pork. But they were/are able to live within a culture that promoted freedoms. His family looks like any other family in the U.S. so what is stopping the rest of the Muslim culture from becoming like this, without becoming democratic? I theorize that it is an avenue, a leader, or a reason to do so. Democracy may not be the way for the Islamic cultures to change, so why not help them find a way instead of tell them to find it and force the avenue upon their unique culture. I think I may introduce this page to my friend to see what he has to say if he’s got the time to do so. Could make for an interesting read.
Posted 11 October 2004,
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