In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, many individuals have come to the conclusion that the lack of democracy in some Muslim countries has contributed to the spread of Islamic extremism and poses a continued threat to global stability.
With the United States actively attempting to establish democracy in a Muslim nation — Iraq — we invited two scholars to discuss several issues related to the compatibility of Islam and democracy.
The views expressed in this debate are solely those of the participants.
The lack of democracy in many Muslim nations around the world gained greater public attention in the West following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. As a result, some individuals have come to the conclusion that Islam and democracy are essentially incompatible. What is your view?
In Muslim nations advocates for the implementation of Sharia (Islamic) law believe it will establish a more just society, where crime would be nonexistent given the harsh punishments that the law imposes, including flogging, amputation, and stoning. Is it possible to give primacy to Sharia law and still have a democratic society?
In the United States the separation of church and state is one of the nation’s founding principles set forth in the Constitution. Can democracy only succeed in a nation where there is a separation of religion and state?
In a western democracy such as the United States, government is instituted in order to protect individual rights. Does Islam support values and structures that are incompatible with safeguarding individual rights?
Although the government of the United States helps to promote democracy throughout the world, it has also continued to support repressive and undemocratic regimes in countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Has this support hindered democracy from taking root in these Muslim nations?
Some scholars have argued that Christianity and Judaism have essentially come to terms with modernity, as represented by western pluralistic societies such as the United States, and don’t view modernity as a threat. Is Islam opposed to modernity?
In a discussion about Islam presented on the PBS series NOW WITH BILL MOYERS, author Fareed Zakaria noted that religious texts cannot be used as “blueprints for organizing modern society.” Would you agree or disagree? Within a modern Islamic society, can religious texts be used selectively?
In the West, the image of the veiled Muslim woman has come to symbolize Islam’s oppression of women. Do women hold an inferior position in Muslim society? Can equality for women only be fostered in societies governed by secular laws as opposed to Islamic law?