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Accueil > Revue de presse > Archives 2006 > 08 - Articles d’août 2006 > Islamic Democracy or Democratic Islam ?

Islamic Democracy or Democratic Islam ?

samedi 12 août 2006, par Cüneyt Ülsever

Source : Turkish Daily News (Istanbul), 12 novembre 2002

I am certainly one of those who really « feel good » about the future of Turkey after the elections of Nov. 3. I feel good not only because of the fact that the country has finally captured a one-party rule i.e. stability after 11 years of coalitions. I also feel good that the politicians associated with the crony capitalism era are gone hopefully for good. I hope that Turkey will enjoy a new era of what I call « rational capitalism » or « capitalism with rules » from now on and will fully integrate to the worldly global order. But above all, I feel very exited about the possible laboratory-test the world will experiment in Turkey.

Not only Turkey, the whole world may achieve three goals through the possible success of the Turkish experiment :
The possibility that democracy and Islam can cooperate together. More than that, freedom of the Islamic world may be best achieved under democracy. Related to the first point the world may witness the possible and necessary peace between Western civilization epoch and the Islamic civilization epoch. The Islamic countries may voluntarily join the globalization era.

I trust that many intellectuals in the world approach the results of the Nov. 3 elections with the same curiosity. Around the similar discussions one term that has been put into circulation recently is Islamic democracy/Muslim democracy. Both the internal and international media have been very freely using this term now days. The term has sort of become a fashion.

Islamic democracy is over all borrowed from Western political tradition i.e. Christian democracy. The borrowed term has settled down in the West in the past century and thus there is no point to argue against it. But this simple term scares me when applied to Islamic political culture. Why ? The term « Islamic democracy » is very open for distortion. I would like to clarify one possible danger behind this term although I am sure those who use the term are not aware of it and also do not mean it. I want to warn that the possible danger behind the term may cause trouble in the future and that is why I feel that I should do my warning quite early.

My point of view is as follows :
Like all religions, Islam has little to say about the worldly order except for some ethical concerns. i.e. Islam, like all religions is not democratic and has no obligation or goal to be democratic. Islam is only concerned that people live in a just world.

On the other hand, democracy is the ultimate men-invented system to solve the main question of « how to live together in peace ». It is a worldly order, has many loops but so far nobody in the world could propose a better system to optimize the happiness of people. Vice versa democracy also does not have any holy or beyond-the-world messages.

The common denominator in both systems are the ethical codes.

Thus, as a worldly order, it is not Islam (people may have different religions ordered by the same God !) but it is democracy (there is only one democracy) which is eternal. Islamic democracy may be understood as an Islamic version of democracy which means that some people may interpret it in the way they desire. In fact, Iran claims that they have their own version of democracy i.e. Islamic democracy. But we all know that Iran has nothing to do with democracy except for the elections. The fact is : Islam both may have democratic and undemocratic versions depending on the country and culture where it is worshiped. Thus, it is the Islamic culture that should attempt to adjust to democracy, not vice versa. On the other hand, that does not mean that Islam should change. All we mean by the term « Democratic Islam » is : Eternal democracy enjoyed under the Islamic civilization/culture. Have Christians become less religious after they become democrats ? I strongly urge the term Democratic Islam in order not to make serious mistakes in the near future.

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