Secular Democracy in Muslim Nations

Sun Nov 25 18:38:32 2007

“I see no hope of a flourishing free democracy in any Muslim nation.”

It is easy to see how one might come to believe that. It is a point of view that is well represented in our news media. However, as is often the case, when we do some basic fact checking it does not stand up to the data.

According to the methodology set forward by the Freedom in the World Report, the nations Turkey, Senegal, Mali, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Niger, Albania, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique are all secular democracies with predominantly Muslim populations.

Arend Lijphart, in Patterns of Democracy, sets a higher standard for evaluating free and democratic nations. He only lists 36 nations with stable democratic government over the previous two decades. Only five of these nations (Botswana, India, Israel, Japan and Mauritius) are located in Asia or Africa. This clearly demonstrates that establishing and maintaining a free and democratic form of governance is a problem for many nations no matter what their race or religion.

Another thing to keep in mind, as Rein Taagepera at the Center for the Study of Democracy at UC-Irvine points out; 75 years ago you could have sensibly posed the question “Is democracy possible in Catholic countries?” Yet there are not very many people today who would consider that a reasonable question.

Most Muslim writers that I have read or have met in person are interested in democracy, but not on the US model, which they find too materialistic and destructive to social, cultural and family values. They would like to import democracy but to preserve local communities and create a better system for social justice. They would also like to use valuable natural and human resources to enhance local communities rather than to enrich global capitalists. I know these are problems that we still struggle with in this country. After more than two centuries of democracy we have not solved or even come to an agreement on these issues.


~ by severalfourmany on November 25, 2007.

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