T Nation

Islam's Problem With Democracy


#1

Thought this was interesting. Thoughts?

Islam's problem with democracy (de Tocqueville analysis alert)

Religion has always been linked to political power, often controlled by kings and despots. In a democracy, there's a different kind of link. Freedom allows everyone to raise questions, confront dogma and challenge beliefs. That's why maintaining the complete separation of church and state is crucial.

Alexis de Tocqueville, visiting the United States in the early 19th century, identified this separation as crucial to democratic governance. Religion gave support to democratic political institutions because it restrained the exercise of liberties, appealing to conscience and morality in lieu of imposition by the state.

De Tocqueville's words came to life in the controversy over the cartoons satirizing Muhammed in the European newspapers, and Muslim reaction threw in sharp relief the differences between East and West. Cartoons in Middle Eastern newspapers depicting the Jewish star placed across a swastika and Jews with hooked noses adorned in Nazi helmets, slaying innocents, were widely reviled by Jews, but Jewish mobs did not set out to torch embassies or to kill one another in protest. So where is the outrage of "moderate" Muslims over the way the suicide bombers invoke the name of Muhammed on behalf of the slaughter of innocents?

The Frenchman was surprised by the pervasive religious atmosphere he found here, and in interviews with both clergy and laymen, he never met anyone who doubted that it was this separation of church and state that enabled religious belief to flourish. In times of enlightenment and democracy, he argued, the human spirit does not readily accept dogmatic beliefs except through faith. ". . . [A]t such times above all, religions should be most careful to confine themselves to their proper sphere, for if they wish to extend their power beyond spiritual matters they run the risk of not being believed at all," he wrote in his classic, "Democracy in America" (Ed. Note: This classic is on sale for 25% off this week at the Townhall Book Service.)

The Founding Fathers certainly thought this to be true, which is why God is invoked throughout our early history as the unifying force for equality, without dogma intruding into the specific details of government. The spirit rather than the letter of the law says "we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights." Like de Tocqueville, we cannot see into the secret places of the hearts of those who express faith in their religion; the benefit of the Judeo-Christian religious tradition is in its inspiration for our small-r republican institutions.

A century and a half before Samuel Huntington expressed concern for the "clash of civilizations," de Tocqueville identified the difference between our inheritance of Western religious values and the teachings of Muhammed that inspired Arabs in the Middle East. Muhammed contributed political maxims, criminal and civil rules and scientific theories to the Koran, mixing religion and politics, whereas the Gospels deal only with the relationship between man and God, and man and man: "That alone, among a thousand reasons," he wrote, "is enough to show that Islam will not be able to hold its power long in ages of enlightenment and democracy, while Christianity is destined to reign in such ages, as in all others."

An "open civilization" once flourished under the rule of Islam, but that was a long time ago, and the current incarnation of Islamic rule is theocratic and usually despotic, demanding that all see the world through the same lens. The Islamic scholar Ralph Ghadban, writing in a Swiss newspaper, argues that "a marked retrogression is observable in the Islamic world." He observes that the strict blasphemy laws being introduced in Muslim countries are intended less to protect Islam than to get rid of other religions. The Islamists are eager to see whether they can transport their theocratic bans to Europe.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Dutch writer and politician who wrote the film script for the movie that inspired an Islamist terrorist to murder filmmaker Theodore van Gogh, told the Danish newspaper that first reprinted the cartoons of Muhammed: "It's important to remember that Islam hasn't undergone all the reforms and adjustment which Christianity and Judaism have undergone over the past thousand years." This controversy brings attention to the Muslim taboos that are incompatible with democratic values. Subjugating women and imprisoning writers is anathema to Western religions.

If religious institutions are to be capable of maintaining themselves in a democratic age, observed de Tocqueville, "their power also depends a great deal on the nature of the beliefs they profess, the external forms they adopt, and the duties they impose." This is history's challenge to Islam.


#2

This is indeed very interesting, Irish. Thanks for putting it up.

The observation regarding the prevailing lack of democracy in Islamic countries is correct. On the other hand, linking it to Islam is...well, I wanna remain as neutral as possible, so let me just say questionable.

I think we can all agree that the murder of Theodore van Gogh or the reaction to the Jillands-Posten, have nothing to do with the topic of democracy - not even in the slightest terms. Notwithstanding, the author introduces the murder of Van Gogh then argues that "this controversy brings attention to the Muslim taboos that are incompatible with democratic values". The logical fallacy is quite blatant, and her argument crumbles when you realize that neither the Quran nor the prophet Muhammad condones such actions.

Such a cheap shot prompted me to investigate the source of the article. Bear with me. I'm not going for ad hominems and I'm coming back to the exciting topic of "Islam and Democracy" in a while. I felt like the details (sources, author...) which the OP failed to provide may be interesting.

The article comes from Townhall.com which is run by Hugh Hewitt, an evangelical Christian who started as ghostwriter for Nixon and held a variety of job in the White House under Reagan. Regular contributors to Townhall.com include people such as Ann Coulter and Robert Novak. Suzanne Fields wrote the article presented and, at the risk of sounding JustTheFact-ish, I have to point out that she is a regular at the "Jewish World Review". A conservative (that's euphemism for the Z word) Israeli online magazine.

I thought it might be appropriate to include a quote by Ms. Fields to get a grip of the her mindset, so here it goes; "Many of the Europeans who want Israel to go away don't even know why they do. Nearly a third of those interviewed concede they have no idea what the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is all about. It's enough to know that Israelis are Jews."

But enough about the charming lady, let's get to the meat. The article revolves around Alexis De Tocqueville. The author claims that Muhammad, "mixing religion and politics, whereas the Gospels deal only with the relationship between man and God, and man and man" lead De Tocqueville to write "that alone, among a thousand reasons is enough to show that Islam will not be able to hold its power long in ages of enlightenment and democracy, while Christianity is destined to reign in such ages, as in all others.".

I have a profound respect for De Tocqueville's work, but when he concludes that "Christianity is destined to reign in such ages, as in all others", it's only fair to say that he had a bit of a bias about other faiths. The religious bias shows even more when one reads his publications on French Algeria. Alexis was a particularly fervent supporter of racial segregation Apartheid-style. In his numerous papers on Algeria - commandited by Napoleon if I'm not mistaken -, he repeatedly referred to the Muslims as "barbarians". In this light, let's examine his proposition in depth.

Muhammad was indeed a political leader as much as a religious one. But his legitimacy as a leader is almost impossible to deny. Had you held a modern day transparent election election (no Diebold please!) in Medina he would definitely have won. His message, like Christianity, was one of equality and very popular among the lower classes which represent the bulk of any society. I urge you to read the writings of the Medinians of the time to realize how much so. This is a prophet that abolished the female infanticide that was common practice at the time. You needn't be a sociologist to realize that this alone, would win him a great support from every mother who were torn apart from her own flesh and blood before the advent of his message. Then, there is the fact that in a good part of pre-Islamic Arabia, women weren't allowed to inherit land or wealth. The inheritance was held by the tribe she was born or married in. With the advent of the Quran, women were given rights to inherit from their relatives and have it as personal property. So, it is safe to assume that he would get the votes of a great deal of women. The prophet (and of course the Quran) highly praised those who free their slaves, so it is highly likely that he would also get the vote of the slaves that made up a good deal of the general population. The votes of these two groups alone should have been enough to win him a majority. Remember that the prophet debarked in Medina (formerly Yathrib) upon invitation of the city's people. They did so to protect him from the persecutions of the Qurayshi. The Qurayshi represented Mecca's leading tribe at the time and were guardians of the Ka'aba (that famous large black cuboidal building built by Abraham according to Islamic tradition). The Ka'aba hosted a variety of idols and statues that the surrounding pageant tribes paid good money to be allowed access to during pilgrimage season. Islam threatened the livelihood of the Qurayshi because it forbade adoring statues. But I digress...

Is Islam opposed to separation of church and state? Not at all. It's important to understand that in Islam, there is no such thing as "church". There are three authorities and they are the Quran, Hadith , and Ijma' (consensus). Period. The Ijma' is derived from the following hadith: "My community will never agree upon an error". The direct implication of this concise statement is that central role of the majority's voice in any matter pertaining to society.

One might ask, if democracy is so central to Islam, why are a lot of Muslims ruled by dictators? The answer is quite simple. Bluntly put, Muslim countries were all colonized until very recently, and some are still under occupation (e.g: Somalia, Gaza, The West Bank, Iraq, Afghanistan...). It can also be easily revealed that the West did everything it could (brute force, covert assassinations, blockades..) to smother democratic movements in any of the (former) colonies. This is largely documented and is not restricted to the Muslim world. Look at central Africa for a crying example. Should one conclude that since most African nations are ruled by dictators, black folks are inherently anti-democratic?

It makes absolute sense. A truly democratic nation will never allow the colonial powers to keep sucking them dry. Everytime somebody turns off the tap or tells the foreign folks exploiting the silver mine to take hike, he's bound to run into trouble.

I'm sure if this was the 50's and Suzanne fields looked at the staggering number of dictatorial regimes in Latin America, she'll concluded that it must have something to do with the Spanish language.

P.S:
Here's where the article was originally published.


And the quote of Suzanne Field.
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/s/suzanne_fields.html


#3

I shall sum up Lixy's drivel thusly:

  1. Ad hominem attack from the outset - despite the fact that Lixy whines for days when he thinks someone has used an ad hominem attack on him (which isn't as often as he thinks).

  2. Despite the fact that Islam has no history approaching an Enlightenment, a Reformation, or a Renaissance; the religious and political movements are inseparable, offering no privilege for individual rights, which underly every democratic government; Islam grew itself by way of conquest, the same sin it apparently is victimized by; the exact same internecine tribal conflict that tears apart current Islamic states pre-exists all the "colonialism" that took place (after the Islamic world picked a fight and lost); Islamic nations continue to engage in an apartheid among various classes of its citizens, which pre-date any "colonialism" visited upon those nations....

...despite all these, the reason Muslim nations don't have democracy is.....(drum roll)......Muslims are the hapless victims of everyone else.

It has nothing to do with Islam's history, culture, or religious tenets - remember, it's not their fault - it is the fault of the mean, colonial West.

Lixy's answer to any question remains a mindless "it is someone else's fault" - the answer never wavers, it never changes no matter what the information suggests. It is the same answer, whether the question is micro- or macro-. The worst people in the world are always "victims" - end of story.

Lixy - why bother anymore?


#4

I didn't really get any of this from Lixy's post.

What is more telling is your (typical) response to well a thought-out response from Lixy on an article written by a person of questionable background (her politics). You now, considering Lixy's religion, he knows more about Islam than than the author of the article ever will.

It amazes me that you and several other board members have to be such douche bags to any individual that holds opinions that don't conform to your narrow ideology. Can't you just debate people without acting as though your opinion is the only one that matters?

Dustin


#5

I have to say I thought Lixy's post was extremely well reasoned, balanced and thought-out.

In fact Thunderbolt, I'm afraid you have just posted what must be the absolute dictionary definition of an Ad hominem attack.

Oh and as for

...

Ummm... Is that really what you think happened? Really? And if it is, exactly how have they lost?


#6

Islam's problem with democracy? Simple, when an honest attempt to behave like Mohammad is undertaken, then you're left with a brutal individual. Sorry, the guy was definitely not someone to imitate. He was a bloodthirsty slaver who developed a political/religious force of subdue (convert or pay the tax) or kill.

Islam had a strong run of conquering for awhile there. Even to the point of pushing into Europe. They made a damn good run conquering the Jews, Christians, and Pagan tribes/societies throughout the mid-east. A wonderful time of it in Africa, in fact. Today, one still sees this subjugation of religious/non-religious minorities far, far, too often in the Islamic world.

Islam needs a large scale reformation. Women need to be allowed access to education up to the highest levels of academia, for example. Domestic violence needs a drastic curb in many regions, etc. You can't sideline that much of a population from meaningful education/economic engagements and yet expect decent living standards.

Democracy? It doesn't mean much if a more secular tyrant is replaced with a theocratic tyrant. There are definitely reform minded muslims. Sadly, they have run to Europe, or live in their homelands surrounded by bodyguards 24/7. Oddly enough, the reformists sound like me. That is, stop looking to Israel and the West, it's time to look inwards.


#7

You didn't get that he expressly said that the reason Islam has not adopted democracy because Western colonialism prevented it?

The question is about Islamic culture, more specifically.

And the author has "questionable politics"? What, because they aren't a Chomskyite? Please. Deal with the arguments they make.

This is hilarious - and you never miss a chance to whine.

I have tried - over and over - to meet Lixy on the merits of a debate: rational, informational, acting in good faith. He doesn't reciprocate. Ever. Not my problem to fix.

And, arguing forcefully for one's point is hardly "acting as though my opinion is the only one that matters". Let's do a quick inventory - if you arguing against a Republican, for example, you can trot out all sorts of bad faith and serious charges, such as "neocon conspiracies" to pillage the world, evil corporate machinations, wars of imperialism, all of which Republicans support with their sinister ideology, unabashedly put forth daily - but make aggressive arguments against non-Republicans, and suddenly it's my job to be the model of tolerance and make sure I tread lightly around the delicate sensibilities of the non-Republicans and certainly not imply any bad faith in their ideology?

Heh. You want me to take you seriously or not?

As for my "narrow ideology", I find this charge - leveled by several - to be particularly amusing. What is my "narrow ideology" exactly, Dustin?


#8

Then get a new dictionary. I specifically went after his contention with a litany of facts that suggest Islamic societies have themselves to blame to for failing to foster democracy, thus refuting Lixy's singular claim that someone else's "meanness" stopped democracy from flourishing in the Islamic world.

Defintionally, not an ad hominem - that list of facts is no attack on Lixy's character, rather a rational counterpoint to his thesis, for all the reasons presented.

Get a new dictionary.

The fall of the Ottoman Empire in WWI - they lost the war. It was after this that the West carved up and ruled as protectorates the bulk of the empire. Lixy wants to complain that "colonialism" brought on by Western overmasters is what prevented Islamic societies from taking off, as if Muslims were just minding their own peaceful business and meanie Westerners swooped in. In fact, the vast Ottoman Empire (and the Islamic empires before it) did quite well for itself engaging in the very sin Lixy thinks the West is guilty of - and after many attempts to gain ground in Europe, and finally firing up the aggression in WWI and losing, the empire found itself on the other side of the relationship.


#9

The Afghani Jirga's are an old form of representative democracy. So there is some tradition of governance through consensus building. I think it is a bit of a stretch to say that Islam is incompatible with democracy.

What I do think is missing in the Islamic world is the concept that democracy needs to be more than just a mere dictatorship of the majority.

I think that some of the practices in Islam lend themselves to the mob mentality a little bit more than other religions.


#10

Lixy, do moderate Muslims believe that Quran is a direct and unaltered word of G-d? Or do they interpret Quran as liberal Judo-Christians interpret Torah-Bible?


#11

No desire to start an argument with you Thunderbolt, but if you don't feel your response, after a such a thought-out post from lixy, was anything but a snide and personal dig at someone you perhaps appear to have 'previous' with, then I would suggest rethinking how you word your posts, because the next two people to read and comment on the thread saw it as exactly that....

Apologies re war comment - That is NOT what I thought you were referring to.


#12

I didn't pass judgment on the author. The only thing that comes close was when I called her a "charming lady", which was not pejorative but a mere attempt to do justice to her photograph.

I didn't pass judgment on De Tocqueville except to express the profound respect I have for his achievements.

Most importantly, I didn't pass judgment on FightingIrish. In fact, I thanked him for sharing the piece. That usually is the worst possible ad hominem one can throw around here. It's not at all constructive, and more often than not, turns the thread into a childish name calling session. If one cannot assume good faith, it's better to stay out of the debate. At the risk of losing points on the humility scale, I'll have to refer you to correspondences of humanity's great thinkers and point out that letters from a Foucault or Smith don't start by characterizing their detractors of being "whiners", "foolish", "juvenile", and "propagandists". One need only to look at the Finkelstein-Dershowitz debate to realize how badly a good debate turns into a turd throwing contest. I insist on this because you are on of the few right-wingers that usually has interesting arguments and presents them well. I have learned a lot from you and I hate it when we start making it personal. Please consider that.

Let's go thru your points one by one,

  • "Enlightenment" is an elusive concept. If by that, you mean a movement that brings people from the dark into the light, then that is the essence of Muhammad's message. If you mean the Siecle des Lumieres, then I'll ask you to elaborate. Ijtihad has been a central precept of the religion and was highly encouraged by the prophet and his followers. Ijtihad, is case you don't know, advocates reason as the primary basis for interpreting the Quran and the Sunnah. In that sense, Islam had an enlightenment about 10 centuries before Christianity or Judaism.

  • Your second argument is that Islam has no history of a "reformation". I don't see how that is possible. The concept of clergy is foreign to Islam. Nobody has the authority to reform. A person I'm sure you never heard of that goes by the name of Al-Zawahiri claims to have that authority. Yet, anyone familiar with the Quran can see that the last person permitted to dictate anything was Khatim Al-Anbiya' Muhammad. Some translate it as "the last prophet", but it's doesn't convey the sense of importance of "sealing" that Khatm does. If I was to translate it, I'd go with "absolute final person who apposes a seal on the message". This little parenthesis was to show how adamant the Quran is on stripping anyone of authority to touch the message after the prophet's death.

  • Your third argument is about "renaissance", which even though I am familiar with, would have a hard time defining. So, I requested the Wiki's help:

The Renaissance (French for "rebirth"; Italian: Rinascimento), was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th through the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. It encompassed the revival of learning based on classical sources, the rise of courtly and papal patronage, the development of perspective in painting, and advancements in science.

So, had the Islamic world had "the revival of learning based on classical sources"? Sure. In fact, had it not been for the Arabs, many of said "classical sources" from the Greeks or Persians would have been lost in the wind.

I'm having a hard time understanding what "the rise of courtly and papal patronage" means, but since there is no figure analogous to the pope in Islam, it's safe to discard this bit it as irrelevant. If you disagree, then please explain what that sentence means.

The "development of perspective in painting" is a tough one. There is no tradition of painting in the Islamic world, but there was most certainly a "development of perspective" in the calligraphy. I don't see how paintings relate to the topic of democracy though. Feel free to show us.

As for the "advancements in science", well, suffice it to say that in my university (the leading tech institution of Sweden) there are two departments named after Abu Musa Jabir Ibn Hayyan and Al-Khwarizmi. And oh, I happen to notice something called the Arab numerals on my keyboard...

Because...?

I have often heard this thrown out, but am yet to see a shred of evidence supporting it. Do me a favor and educate me on what I supposedly don't know about my religion. Thanks in advance.

On a side note, have you ever been to a country with a majority of Muslims before? If it was Saudi Arabia and Iran, I'll have to remind you that there are over 40 countries you still need to consider.

This argument depends on your previous one. Only needs addressing if you can substantiate your claim according to which "the religious and political movements are inseparable".

Not exclusively. Islam was actually welcomed by many at those times. Many leaders and kings converted without a sword put to his throat. Now, there were regions that didn't like the idea of praying five times a day. But then again, can you tell anything that grew by other means. Last I checked, your country grew by way of conquest too. Take that as a tu quoque if you must, but don't expect me to believe the Mexicans and Indians were greeting you as "liberators".

That was for the first part of the sentence.

The second part is a strawman. I never victimized Islam. In fact, in concluding my previous post I stressed out that Islam had nothing to do with the colonizations the Arab/Islamic world endured. The people were colonized, not the religion. You may wanna read it again.

I'll overlook the flamebait you put in parentheses.

"Internecine tribal conflict that tears apart current Islamic states" have nothing to do with Islam nor with the religion being democratic. Some of the conflicts predate Islam itself.

You're basing your argument on two fallacies. The first is that a democratic state doesn't go to war with its neighbors. Need I refer to a democratic state that goes to war with countries that are nowhere near its borders? I didn't think so...

The second fallacy is that Islam should be held responsible for whatever those people are doing. Islam's got nothing to do with it.

Apartheid? Interesting. Even more so when you write "Islamic nations", not "Some Islamic nations, not "A few Islamic nations", and not "The minority of Islamic nations".

What apartheid practices do you have in mind and what makes you think it is condoned by Islam? Does the Quran say to put black folks, or women don't have the right to sit at the front in buses? Tell me, I'm curious.

Muslims aren't victims, not anymore than Spanish-speaking people are victims. I thought I made that clear.

It that is the way you perceive it, and others - who read the same posts - view them otherwise. It's conforting to see that none of them qualified my answer of "mindless".

What can I say? I'm guilty of believing in causality.

It's the same ol' story. When I once pointed out to the historical context that lead to the rise of Hitler, people rushed to conclude that I was "victimizing" him. I can't do much about it. It is bound to happen.

For the sake of peace, love and understanding.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'll step into my colorful VW van and light up some incense...


#13

Consensus building, after the monotheistic message of the prophet, is the central tenet of the religion. There is nothing that comes above it but the Quran and to a lesser extent, the Sunnah.

It is very evident from the Quran that the supreme authority is God, and that any authority from anything else should be subjected to public scrutiny and thorough examination.

Now, we're talking!

It is indeed missing from the Islamic world, but the Quran is clear on that such "dictatorship of the majority" is to be averted. It stresses out that minorities should be treated nicely and with the utmost respect.

Personally, as a social-libertarian, I don't see much problem with the dictate of the people. But then again, I advocate small communities and pacifism.

And no, I don't see much use for the Bugatti Veyron nor the space hotel they're opening in 2012.

Can you please provide some illustrations of what you think those mob-mentality "practices in Islam" are?


#14

Lixy, the islamic world has a problem with democracy. They don't have it and that makes it our problem too.

It took the western world a long time and a lot of bloodspilling to develop truly democratic societies. Just out of curiosity, do you have thoughts about which islamic countries possibly have the potential to reach this goal?


#15

Lixy, I have to compliment you for staying on track when (so often) confronted with a barrage of prejudice and insult.


#16

This is the question that I have for Lixy that perplexes me when I read about the peaceful and democratic ways of Islam:

Someone...or groups of "someones"... created a MAJOR "disconnect" (perhaps over time) between the pacifist, democratic words of the Prophet and The Quran and many of the Muslim Leaders and masses of today.

By whom and how did this occur?

(Jews and America can't be blamed for everything).

Mufasa


#17

The last sentence is making it VERY hard (if not impossible for lixy to respond).

I can hear his mental gears turning from here.

JeffR


#18

Well, if one understands what colonialism is and how it works, then I believe Lixy to be correct, at least to some extent. I mean usually, colonialists don't care about the people they're exploiting.

I know what the question was about. I just found your response predictable.

Lixy alluded to the author's background. Her article is an attempt to defame all things Islam.

Cuz, I mean, we all know Muslims hate freedom and democracy, correct?

You never miss a chance to attack people who don't conform to your wack, Rupert-Tube ideology.

Point out in another thread where I was whining.

Well, that would be nice, except you've never done that. Point out a thread where you've allegedly done this and I'll read it.

I don't care for most non-republicans either. I'm not sure what your talking about in the rest of this response though.

Do I get a gold star everytime I post to your standards? I could really care less about your seel of approval because I don't really pay attention to most of your posts. Why don't you try the same with me.

Whatever the mainstream media defines as "discourse". Anything outside of that, you just label as radical or stupid. You've done this more times than I can count.


#19

Of course, your text says exactly otherwise:

[i]The article comes from Townhall.com which is run by Hugh Hewitt, an evangelical Christian who started as ghostwriter for Nixon and held a variety of job in the White House under Reagan. Regular contributors to Townhall.com include people such as Ann Coulter and Robert Novak.

Suzanne Fields wrote the article presented and, at the risk of sounding JustTheFact-ish, I have to point out that she is a regular at the "Jewish World Review". A conservative (that's euphemism for the Z word) Israeli online magazine.[/i]

Why raise who wrote the article and where it was posted unless you think that proposes a problem with the thesis from the outset? You wouldn't have mentioned any of this unless you thought it represented a problem with the idea.

I never suggested you personally attacked Irish.

That is precisely the problem so many around here have with you when they try and engage you in a debate on issues in good faith - you don't return in kind. If your advice is good advice, presumably it is good advice for yourself, as well. Don't read this as an insult - it is an observation that has played itself out time and again.

Foucalt is certainly not one of humanity's great thinkers, but that is a different thread. That said, what is ironic is that when pressed to explain yourself in your opposition to certain ideas, you almost always opt for some version of bad faith slur, which does not seem to fit in with your desire to see "bad faith" characterization in a debate.

You can call "neocons" all sorts of awful names, but someone calls a radical-leftist an awful name, then suddenly manners apply?

Point is - it is a two way street. You can't indulge in the aggressive talk and then complain about aggressive talk.

Here is the thing - I have, on many occasions, tried to meet you squarely on the merits of the issues. You don't reciprocate, instead engaging in deflection, convenient ignorance of arguments made that hurt your position, and general red herring yet inflammatory rhetoric.

You want a debate on the merits? Then opt for some response other than your usual approach - if you continue to sidestep the arguments placed in front of you to revert only to recycling ideological bullet points, you will continue to be derided for failing to hold yourself to the standards you claim you want around here.

Actually, it isn't an elusive concept, because since I spelled Enlightenment with a capital "E", I was clear I was referencing the Enlightenment of the Western variety that is known for a very specific set of principles of philosophy. Any old "enlightenment" won't do - and I suspect you knew my argument was to parallel specifically the Enlightenment.

That said, Islamic societies have no such event in their thread of history. We know that democracy emerged as a concept in classical Greece - which presumably, by the lights of the Islamic world preserving much of antiquity's materials, the Islamic world had access to - but was augmented by the Age of Enlightenment, when thinkers began to evaluate the nature of man and the state, the rights of individuals, and the birth of what we know as liberalism. Not only did the Western world enjoy the fruits of such a movement, but also the process of serious self-audit became a sacrament among emerging societies.

Islamic societies, despite touching the fundamentals of antiquity and then surrounded by the amazing transformation in thinking going on, the Islamic empire(s) shared in none of it.

And curiously, the Age of Enlightenment occurred when Islamic empire(s) were at the peak of their powers, enjoying great power and strength - so no "colonialism" was preventing these societies from sharing in the transformation and transmission of knowledge.

Instead, it was rejected. Much of the Enlightenment was a reaction to the repression of the development of reason, primarily due to religious oppression. Islamic civilization experienced no such challenge to its religious institutions, and we see that trend in place today.

So, since the Enlightenment created fertile architecture for the rapid development of Western democracies - in particular, the intellectual gunpowder for the American and French Revolutions -
and the Islamic civilizations have no such tradition or experience encouraging democracy, basic cause and effect explain that the Islamic lack of embrace of Western-style rationalism, skepticism, empiricism, and devotion to individual rights (all fruits of the movement, all necessary for a people-driven democracy) is a clear explanation for why democracy doesn't exist in Islamic society.

The lack of Reformation is not about a "church" or a "person" - the important point of the Reformation was that a major religion underwent a powerful self-scrutiny, challenging the assumed dictates and dogmas that controlled its believers. A cousin of an Enlightenment-type challenge, the Reformation was also a philosophical reaction to the church, causing an important self-critique and self-audit to occur within the religion and the society it dominated.

Islam has had no such challenge. As you stated, no one can dictate anything about the religion - no one can rightly question it. Therefore, the important process of philosophical self-audit - "does it makes sense for us to do that anymore?" - is stillborn in Islam. Its adherents don't have the confidence to ask tough questions, and since government and religion are practically inseparable, there remains no serious movement to Reform a culture and religion stuck in the 10th century.

Without the courage to make the kind of challenge a Martin Luther undertook, no way to have a functioning democracy, which relies on citizens to raise hard questions. Therefore, again, no predicate for democracy on the basis of internal aspects of submission to the religion/state - democracy means a possible disagreement with authority, and as you made clear, that is not permitted, nor is their enough "social bravery" to take on the challenge.

Democracy can't exist in that kind of social arrangement, period - so there is no independent catalyst to get democracy moving.

The tough question remains - despite the Islamic world's stewardship of the classical materials (true to a degree, but often overstated), the Islamic world did nothing to build on that heritage of wisdom. In fact, after the Golden Age of Islam, we have seen nothing short of backsliding. So, here we have an Islamic world with every opportunity to piggyback on the wonders of Greek and Roman philosophy as it related to democracy and republican government - and yet, it never happened.

For some reason, the West took the ideas and used them to blossom the world's great democracies with unprecedented freedom and prosperity. The Islamic world did not.

There is a reason - just as Europe "rediscovered" classical wisdom through a Renaissance, the Islamic world largely ignored it. Why? All the reasons listed above.

It would make little sense to expect the Islamic world to enjoy democracy in the modern world - modern day - when the Islamic culture of the past saw the starter seeds of such an important human institution and ignored them completely. Democracy is most certainly a work in progress - but the Islamic world never even got in with a "starter kit". Therefore, one more reason why Islamic society - by virtue of its own cultural attitudes and choices - has no democracy today.

The evidence of Islamic advances in math and science don't help your argument, it helps mine - after all, what has Islamic society done to build on those great advances of many centuries ago. See above, w/r/t backsliding.

From a source you love, Wikipedia:

Islam holds that political life can only function properly within the context of Islamic law, and since God's law is universally true and beneficial to all people, any state law or action contrary to God's law would be harmful to the citizens, and displeasing to God. Many Muslims consider the Western concept of separation of Church and State to be rebellion against God's law. There is a contemporary debate in Islam whether obedience to Islamic law is ultimately compatible with the Western secular pattern, which separates religion from civic life. However, some majority Muslim nations are secular, such as Turkey, Senegal, and Albania.

This really isn't all that controversial - this has been a center of the debate for years: can a secular government among Muslims and Islam exist independently? If secular government and Islam were compatible, there would be no debate.

I offer you an opportunity to produce a list of Muslim nations that offers legitimate freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, universal suffrage, due process rights in law - all under the same government, guaranteed by a constitution or equivalent.

This is irrelevant to your argument. Your primary complaint is that Muslim nations suffer because they were the victims of empires. And yet, Islamic civilization itself was most certainly an empire, created by the sword. No doubt some kneeled to the Islamic throne without fighting, but that doesn't dismiss the plain and uncontested fact that Islamic empires had no problem with the very "colonialism" that you claim is so foreign and troublesome to modern Muslims.

Moreover, the once conquered places under the thumb of the Islamic empire suffer from none of the colonial afflictions - and yet you don't explain why. Societies that threw off their Islamic overlords don't suffer from your "post-colonial" maladies - but under your theory, they should.

A short answer: Muslim nations are no more "victims" of colonialism than those they victimized when they were the ones exacting tribute from their subjects.

This is completely irrelevant to the topic being discussed, and it is an obvious to attempt to try and insult America instead of focusing on strengthening your argument. What America did or did not do in its past is a red herring to the question of whether Islamic societies were master imperialists.

We are discussing the people of Islam - it doesn't do well to try and obfuscate the point being discussed. You can't "victimize" a religion, you can only "victimize" human beings, which you brought up. Such sophistry is no answer, and is irrelevant to the point.

It isn't flamebait - it is a directly stated fact related to the end results of WWI and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.

Your point flatly goes wide of the mark, mostly because your point - that democratic states do war with neighbors - have little to do with the inherent tribal rivalries that exist within the same Islamic state. There can be no democracy when members of other tribes are not allowed political/civil rights on the basis they are apostates. As long as this fight that has extended centuries continues, no functioning democracy can exist - each faction will claim the other has no right to determine what the law should be.

See above: no separation between political and religious law, and no insistence on freedom of religion.

Therefore, because democracy cannot flourish when these tribal conflicts exist, it is a clear explanation why democracy hasn't blossomed in Islamic societies. You only extend democratic rights to those you think worthy of living in your democracy, and Islamic societies continue to struggle mightily with allowing that level of tolerance within one political space. So, no democracy.

Generally speaking, the Islamic world engages in gender apartheid. This is not news.

Other forms exist as well, but the blatant disrespect for women as political citizens is undisputed.

If the Quran does not provide for subjugation of women, why do so many Muslims practice as though it does? If the Quran is iron law, not subject to interpretation or modernization, and the subjugation of women has persisted for centuries - can so many Muslims be wrong?

Surely if Islam called for equalization of women - and Muslims followed the Quran to the letter - we would see equalization of women. We do not, of course, and actions speak louder than words.

You wrote:

One might ask, if democracy is so central to Islam, why are a lot of Muslims ruled by dictators? The answer is quite simple. Bluntly put, Muslim countries were all colonized until very recently, and some are still under occupation (e.g: Somalia, Gaza, The West Bank, Iraq, Afghanistan...). It can also be easily revealed that the West did everything it could (brute force, covert assassinations, blockades..) to smother democratic movements in any of the (former) colonies.

If Muslims would have developed democracy but for the colonialism of Western powers, and they have been harmed as such, they are definitionally "victims" of said colonialism.

Again, don't try and obfuscate your point. They have to be victims, according to your own argument.

Actually, you aren't. A belief in causality requires you to begin with a framework of "cause and effect" and building a logical, coherent connection based on observable, objective phenomena. Then, you state how the causality works, and you don't care about the outcome - you only care to explain how the outcome came about.

You do the opposite. You don't examine the observable, objective phenomena and then form a connection. You start at an ideological conclusion you prefer, and then you work backward, being selective in the information you use, conveniently ignoring very important information that hurts your arguments, and often trying to "fill in the gaps" with conclusory statements of a particular preference without ever offering evidence of the conclusory statement's validity.

No scientist would operate this way, but it is your process. You demonstrate it often, and it is often pointed out to you when you do it. It is the opposite of rationalism and empiricism, even though you occasionally make reference to these concepts.

I am off to the gym.


#20

Then surely you can point me to the "post-colonial" effects of the Islamic empires.

So? Should the same standard be applied to Uncle Noam, who has a habit of wanting to defame quite a slew of political ideas himself?

Cuz, yeah, show me a constitution in a Muslim country that guarantees either one of those concepts to a degree that you would be content moving there and living under its laws.

This is it? Trying the tired and lazy "Fox News" slur, when I have always posted that I never watch Fox News and I don't like the network?

Do you have anything better? Because you are wasting my time.

Educating you is time-consuming, but it is clear to anyone who can read that I have met Lixy on the issue of the Iraq war, backing all my claims with objective evidence (as to whether there was a rational basis to think Iraq was a threat, for example), only for Lixy to say "well, but I believe in the conspiracy, even if there is no evidence. Bush sucks!".

Let's see, you don't care about my posts, but you directly engage them by complaining about them in a reply to me. Then, you say for me to not pay attention to your posts, but you reply to me, even when my post was never directed to you in the first place.

Make sense? I don't think so either. I am happy to go along my way and ignore you - so why reply to me, then, if you don't care about my posts?

I label things radical and stupid "radical" and "stupid". You continue down this road of trying to characterize me as a dupe of the "mainstream media" - silly, stupid (!), and it isn't even a legitimate criticism.

It is easy for you to compartmentalize all your political opponents as "not getting it like you do" because they are "brainwashed by the media". Here is tip, sparky - make an argument, and leave such ad hominems (presumably things you don't like) behind.

I am admittedly a conservative, which means, in my mind, a rejection of most things radical. Radicalism - from either the right or left - gets thousands of people killed, all in the name of a zealously possessed "truth" based on sloppy and trendy thinking and reactionary emotions. I'll continue to argue that way against radicals of all kinds when I think they are wrong, and if that hurts your sensibilities, too bad.