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Islam And Democracy Essay

2512 words - 10 pages

In the current climate of international politics, there is a great deal of speculation regarding the governance of Islamic states. Many traditionally Muslim states have operated under theocratic rule, a difficult concept for the West to swallow. The American control of Iraq is purportedly only to hold the place of power until a democratically elected regime can take the place of the occupying force. But is there, as some critics have speculated, some aspect of Islam that makes it inherently hostile and incompatible with Western notions of democratic rule? This is the question which John Esposito and John Voll have tried to examine in their book Islam and Democracy. Published in 1996, this book explores the different ways in which Islam relates to democratic principles and ideas. Arguing against previously held explanations about the nature of Islam and the very definition of democracy, this book explores several cases where Islamic movements operate to a varying degree of success in the area of popular representation.The authors begin with the assertion that due largely to economic and technological globalization, the world is presently experiencing an increase in the spread and influence of democratic ideals. Occurring alongside this political shift, they argue that there is a growing focus upon what the authors refer to as "the assertion of the authenticity and legitimacy of communal identities." This trend toward the popular identification of people with subgroups within the larger cultural framework often takes the form of the resurgence of religious fundamentalism. The authors point out that this resurgence is a natural part of the pluralistic mode of social representation. These two forces of cultural change are seem to be at loggerheads, but the book posits that they can be either complimentary or contradictory, depending upon the setting in which they interact.The setting in which they have chosen to ground their study is the Islamic world, examining the ways in which democratic principles play out within the faith. Refuting the claim that the two are polar opposites and completely incompatible, the authors' central point is that Islam has several features that make it ideal for democratic rule. That this seems to fly in the face of practical experience with theocratic dictatorships is not lost on the authors. Yet it is their claim that in more cases than not Islam lends itself rather well to democracy. Just not the idea of democracy that is usually associated with the West. They point out that democracy had historically been a contested notion, a hotly debated idea that has played itself out in a number of differing means. Pointing to the dissimilarity between ancient Greece, Great Britain, the United States and other democratic states both in regards to each other and in regards to themselves over the course of time. In particular, the aspects the authors claim are the most heavily contested areas within democratic theory are the...

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