Saturday, April 21, 2007

Islam and Democracy

The question is: can Islam be compatible with democracy? The excellent essayist Fjordman, provides another installment in this series at the indispensable Gates of Vienna blog.
Occasionally I get annoyed over the fact that I am compelled to spend significant amounts of my time refuting Islam, an ideology that is flawed to the core and should be totally irrelevant in the 21st century. But then I try to see it from a positive angle: The good part about our confrontation with Islam is that it forces us to deal with flaws in our own civilization. It has already exposed a massive failure in our education system and our media, both filled with anti-Western sentiments and ideological nonsense. These legacies from the Western Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 70s have left us unable to recognize the Islamic threat for what it is. Thus, when we are confronted now with the question of whether or not Islam is compatible with democracy, we also have to ask under what conditions a democratic system is able to function.

....Although the potential for abuse of power and tyranny is indeed there in the democratic model, this potential exists in other forms of government, too. What Plato failed to see was that it could be possible to institute constraints on democracy that would limit some of its potential downsides, although not eliminate them completely. The American Founding Fathers, too, were skeptical of “democracy” in the meaning of unconstrained direct democracy, which they, like Plato, perceived could quickly disintegrate into mob rule. They outlined a constitutional Republic with indirect, representative democracy defined by a constitution. Citizens would be governed by the rule of law, thus protecting the minority from abuse and the potential tyranny of the majority. John Adams defined this as “a government of laws, and not of men.”

The Constitution of the United States was inspired by the French Enlightenment thinker Montesquieu, famous for his theory of the separation of powers into branches: The executive, the legislature, and the judiciary, with checks and balances among them. The USA has strong separation of powers, whereas many European countries typically have parliamentary democracies with weaker separation, since the executive branch, the government, is dependent on the legislature. Democracy strengthened by such constraints and individual rights has worked reasonably well, but like all other human inventions it isn’t perfect.

....It is obviously easier to establish democracy in a small and transparent nation state than in a larger one. However, Sweden - the Western country where people pay the highest tax rates - is also arguably the most politically repressed nation and has the least real freedom of speech. Sweden’s problem is not its geographical size, but the bloated state apparatus. Perhaps limitations on bureaucracy, government influence and intrusion are crucial for a functioning democracy, too. In a traditional pre-modern state, the ruler might not always have ruled with your consent, but he largely left you alone as long as you paid your taxes. Not so in our modern democratic nations. Our schools are increasingly filled with courses disparaging our own indigenous cultural heritage while they praise Islamic “tolerance.” We are barred from bringing up our own children and instilling in them our values. Is this liberty?

....There is a crucial reason why the European Union isn’t democratic: There is no European demos. Most people in Europe identify themselves as Italian, Spanish, Dutch or Polish. The notion of being a European is at best a very distant second. In contrast, United States citizens consider themselves Americans, although Multiculturalism encourages dual identities, in which individuals are African-American, Asian-American etc. This tribalization represents a critical long-term challenge to the continued quality of American democracy. It is conceivable that the backlash could cause the country to fall apart if the white majority, too, decides to view itself as a tribal group of European-Americans.

....For this democratic process to work there has to be a loyalty and identity that precedes political allegiance. We must have a community that has primary common interests. This has no real counterpart in Islamic countries, where the ideal is the global Ummah and the Caliphate. Concepts such as the nation state or territorial integrity have no equivalent in Islamic jurisprudence, which helps explain why democracy is so hard to establish in Muslim countries.

....Two central concepts in sharia are the notions of “blasphemy” and “apostasy,” both incurring the death penalty. These laws are incompatible with the ancient Western ideas of freedom of conscience and of speech. Thus, sharia is anathema to the goals of democracy. Sharia is also hostile to equality before the law, since Islamic law is based on the fundamental inequality between Muslims and non-Muslims, men and women, free men and slaves. Moreover, it does not provide any protection for minorities, since non-Muslims are supposed to be unarmed and their lives and property subject to the whims of Muslims at any given moment. Although Islam does contain the vague Koranic notion of shura, consultation, this has never been formalized or concretized, which means that there are no formal constraints on the power of the ruler under sharia. The only thing an Islamic ruler may not do is openly to reject Islam.

....One great obstacle to establishing democracy in this cultural sense in Muslim countries is that Muslims have been taught from birth that non-Muslims can’t be expected to enjoy the same kind of rights as Muslims do.

....In Pakistan’s Sindh province there is an alarming trend: Muslims kidnap Pakistani Hindu girls and force them to convert to Islam. The worried resident Hindu community has resorted to marrying off their daughters as soon as they are of age. Alternatively, they migrate to India, Canada or other nations. Recently, at least 19 such abductions have occurred in Karachi alone.

....Underlying this Muslim supremacist mentality, there is also the idea of Arab supremacy. Again according to Qutb, “What are the Arabs without Islam? What is the ideology that they gave, or they can give to humanity if they abandon Islam? The only ideology the Arabs advanced for mankind was the Islamic faith which raised them to the position of human leadership. If they forsake it they will no longer have any function or role to play in human history.”

....Politiken, a left-leaning, intellectual newspaper championing multiculturalism in Denmark, argued that the principle of blood money might be worth considering. Luckily, they were met by an outcry from angry citizens. There are at least two major problems with this Islamic “justice.” The first is that it is settled between families, tribes or clans, not in a justice system administered by the authorities where it is a matter concerning the individuals involved, not the entire clan. We had similar tribal vendettas in the West at one time, but we left this practice behind a long time ago, as Muslims should have done. The biggest problem will come if this tribal system were to undermine the Western justice system to the extent that Westerners, too, would revert to tribal law in order to protect themselves.

Many commentators in Denmark failed to understand the worst part of the blood money concept. Not only is it pre-modern and anti-individualistic, but the compensation to be paid is fundamentally inegalitarian. Muslim men are the only full members of the Islamic community. All others have fewer rights due to their religion, their sex or their slave status.

....The largest student group on campus, the Muslim Students’ Association, has monopolized use of the multifaith room. Eric Da Silva, president of the Catholic Student Association, said the group looked into using the room for mass but was told by RSU front desk staff that the room was “permanently booked” by Muslim students. “No one is trying to take away the space from the Muslims, we just don’t want to be stepping on their toes,” said Da Silva. He stressed that the group found another space to hold mass and the conflict was quickly resolved. The space, which was divided to separate males from females, had rows taped on the floor for prayer and Islamic decorations adorning the walls, was only accommodating to Muslims. A Canadian Federation of Students task force tackling cultural and religious discrimination was brought to campus by members of the MSA, but it only addressed the problem of Islamophobia.

....The reason why many former Muslims such as Ali Sina and Ibn Warraq write under pseudonyms is that in a religion that is so hostile to both individuality and freedom of speech, there is no worse crime for a Muslim than to exercise both by criticizing and leaving Islam. Apostasy bears the penalty of death. In the book Leaving Islam - Apostates Speak Out, a unique anthology by former Muslims, Ibn Warraq writes that (p. 31):

“However, apostasy is a matter of treason and ideological treachery, which originates from hostility and hypocrisy. The destiny of a person who has an inborn handicap is different from the destiny of one whose hand should be cut off due to the development of a dangerous and infectious disease. The apostasy of a Muslim individual whose parents have also been Muslim is a very infectious, dangerous and incurable disease that appears in the body of an ummah (people) and threatens people’s lives, and that is why this rotten limb should be severed.”

The death penalty for apostasy from Islam is firmly rooted in Islamic texts - certainly in the hadith, but arguably also in the Koran.

....Islam’s hostility towards freedom of speech does not apply only to Muslims, but to anybody saying anything remotely critical of Islam, including non-Muslims. Muslims are already busy trying to shut down freedom of speech in Western nations through legal harassment and, increasingly, physical intimidation.

The body of Theo Van GoghMohammed Bouyeri, born in Amsterdam of Moroccan Berber parents, murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who had recently made a film critical of Islam together with the Dutch-Somali former Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali, on the morning of Nov. 2, 2004. As Mr. van Gogh cycled to work in Amsterdam, the bearded young man in a long Middle-Eastern-style shirt fired at him with a handgun, chased him, shot him once more, slit his throat from ear to ear and plunged two knives, one with a five-page letter attached, into the body. “I did what I did purely out my beliefs,” Bouyeri told judges while clutching a Koran, because he believed van Gogh insulted Islam.

....According to Adonis, the underlying structure of Arab societies is a structure of slavery, not of liberty: “Some human beings are afraid of freedom. When you are free, you have to face reality, the world in its entirety. You have to deal with the world’s problems, with everything. On the other hand, if we are slaves, we can be content and not have to deal with anything. Just as Allah solves all our problems, the dictator will solve all our problems.”

....Freedom of speech is one of the most fundamental of all freedoms; it is necessary for a functioning democratic society. The Islamic world will never know true liberty until Muslim individuals may openly criticize their religion and even leave it without having to fear for their lives. This freedom must be established not just in Switzerland or the United States, but in Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. That vision of liberty so far remains a mirage in the distance.

....Perhaps the greatest idea of the Leftist factions after the Cold War was to re-invent themselves as Multicultural parties and begin to import voters from abroad. There is nothing new about buying “clients” by promising them access to other people’s money. However, this defect becomes more dangerous when combined with massive immigration. In Europe, Muslim immigration may turn democracy into a self-defeating system that will eventually break down because native Europeans no longer believe that it serves their interests.

....Certain observers mistakenly claim that “once Muslims become a majority, we will get sharia through elections.” On the contrary, sharia will arrive much sooner. Observe that relatively small percentages of Muslims can squeeze concessions out of democracies. Sharia has already been partially implemented in India, Thailand, the Philippines, and Britain. Islam’s inherent aggressiveness elicits appeasement from non-Muslims in order to avoid bringing down the democratic system through civil war.

....“The jihadists are not interested in winning in our sense of the word. They can succeed simply by making the present world order unworkable, by creating conditions in which politics-as-usual is no longer an option, forcing upon the West the option either of giving in to their demands or descending into anarchy and chaos. It is tempting to call this approach the crash of civilization.”

.... it is now a criminal act in several Western nations to tell the truth about the dangers posed by Muslim immigration. Hate speech laws amount to “sharia lite”: they are used to silence infidels such as Harding for criticizing Islam, which again corresponds to the workings of sharia. The sharia lite of political correctness is thus paving the way for the gradual implementation of full sharia in the West.

....Islam has always valued individual life inequitably. But now there is a creeping tendency within the West toward the same view. In the case of assault or murder, an additional sentence is added if the act is viewed as a “hate crime.”

Murder is murder, and all human life is to be valued equally. However, according to Multiculturalism we are required to treat all cultures and religions as equally valid, which they obviously are not. This perversion of reality indicates that the Western system of justice is regressing. As it does so, justice becomes vulnerable to exploitation and infiltration by Islamic law.

I have excerpted perhaps 5% of Fjordman's excellent essay, available in its entirety at the link above.

Suffice it to say that Islam is a total system of living, including civil and religious laws and observances, and prohibitions that penetrate into every area of life. In other words, Islam is not compatible with any other way of life--secular nor religious. Islam is a world unto itself. It recognizes no equals, and enforces inequality in its judgments.

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