Monday, July 05, 2010

Islam and democracy

One of the key issues raised by Phillip Bobbitt in Terror and Consent is that need to understand that "radical" Islam is opposed to the very idea of democracy.

It should therefore not be surprising to hear of cases of Islamist groups calling on Australian Muslims to spurn secular democracy and Western notions of moderate Islam and join the struggle for a transnational Islamic state. It is important to realise that this is not a universal view of Islam, and the specific group is outlawed in much of the Middle East.

The position explains in part the ongoing challenge of Afghanistan. Firstly we are naive to believe that simply inviting people to participate in democracy will make it so - democracy depends upon a universal acceptance of its precepts. Secondly we are naive in not understanding the overall resentment by people who have been colonised and fought over by others to yet another group of "colonisers" no matter how well intentioned their mission.

But most importantly we should not be surprised about the joining of church and state in Islam. Our own Western democracies had to battle the conjunction of the Catholic and Orthodox churches with the monarchical state. Even today Australia's ultimate "head" is a monarch who is also head of an establishment church - and a position that specifically excludes persons of the faith of the current leader of the opposition.

To be convincing in our claims for the benefit of democracy we need to ensure that democracy truly is founded on a secular state.

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