University of Exeter
Is Islam compatible with Democracy?
Abdullah Rifai Student Number: 600012806
Word Count: 1936
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“Is Islam compatible with democracy? In many ways the question is not whether Islam is compatible with democracy, but rather how Muslims can make these concepts compatible”1. Islam, Islamist politics and democracy are not monolithic terms. They can, with no doubt, be understood in numerous ways. Accordingly, it needs to be made sure, that democracy and Islam can have diverse connotations for diverse people, making the mission of judging whether they are well-suited extremely challenging. In its traditional sense, democracy is ‘direct rule by the people’. The usual meaning of democracy used by many social experts often classifies it with “key features of the political conducts of the west, which, in turn, makes debates on democracy reflect the supremacy of the Western experience’’2. This idea of democracy does not allow for the development of different forms of democracy that are linked to other specific social backgrounds and circumstances different to those in the West. Democracy, instead of being understood in routine terms, must be defined as a process, ‘development’ or ‘joint venture’, where the community can contribute to the circumstances and political settings of their lives. Democracy must be articulated in a way to uniform the main social, economic and political conditions it is in. Ergo, a single model of democracy cannot exist. The fact that this essay question and others have revolved around the question of the compatibility of Islam and democracy shows that the starting point of any discussion of this issue is the divergence and incompatibility of the two. The mere fact that we say Islam and democracy and not, for example, Judaism and democracy or Christianity and democracy, shows that automatically we are assuming that the two are opposed to each other while we never doubt the compatibility of other religions and...