Is Democracy Consistent with Islam?

Global Research, February 16, 2019

Most people are under the impression that democracy and Islam are somehow incompatible. However, I don’t see any contradiction between democracy and Islam, as such. Although, I admit, there is some friction between Islam and liberalism.

When we say there is a contradiction between Islam and democracy, we make a category mistake which is a serious logical fallacy. There is a fundamental difference between democracy and liberalism. Democracy falls in the category of politics and governance, whereas liberalism falls in the category of culture. We must be precise about the definitions of terms that we employ in political science.

Democracy is simply a representative political system that ensures representation, accountability and the right of electorate to vote governments in and to vote governments out. In this sense, when we use the term democracy, we mean a multi-party, representative political system that confers legitimacy upon a government which comes to power through an election process which is a contest between more than one political parties in order to ensure that it is voluntary. Thus, democracy is nothing more than a multi-party, representative political system.

Some normative scientists, however, get carried away in their enthusiasm and ascribe meanings to technical terminology which are quite subjective and fallacious. Some will use the adjective liberal to describe the essence of democracy as liberal democracy while others will arbitrarily call it informed or enlightened democracy. In my opinion, the only correct adjective that can be used to describe the essence of democracy is representative democracy.

After settling on theoretical aspect, let us now apply these concepts to the reality of practical world, and particularly to the phenomena of nascent democratic movements of the Arab Spring. It’s a fact that the ground realities of the Arab and Islamic worlds fall well short of the ideal liberal democratic model of the developed Western world.

However, there is a lot to be optimistic about. When the Arab Spring revolutions occurred in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen, and before the Arab Spring turned into an abysmal winter in Libya and Syria, some utopian dreamers were not too hopeful about the outcome of those movements.

Unlike the socialist revolutions of 1960s and 1970s, when the visionaries of yore used to have a magic wand of bringing about a fundamental structural change that would culminate into equitable distribution of wealth overnight, the neoliberal democratic movements of the present times are merely a step in the right direction that will usher the Arab and Islamic worlds into an era of relative peace and progress.

The Arab Spring movements are not led by the likes of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Jawahar Lal Nehru and other such charismatic messiahs that socialist thinkers are so fond of. But these revolutions are the grassroots movements of a society in transition from an abject stagnant state toward a dynamic and representative future.

Let us be clear about one thing first and foremost: any government – whether democratic or autocratic – would follow the same economic model under the contemporary global political and economic dispensation. It’s a growth-based neoliberal model as opposed to an equality-based socialist model. It’s a fact that the developing, Third World economies with large populations and meager resources cannot be compared with the social democracies of Scandinavian countries where per capita incomes are more than $40,000.

A question would naturally arise that what would the Arab Spring movements accomplish if the resultant democratic governments would follow the same old neoliberal and growth-centered economic policies? It should be kept in mind here that democracy is not the best of systems because it is the most efficient system of governance. Top-down autocracies are more efficient than democracies.

But democracy is a representative political system. It brings about a grassroots social change. Enfranchisement, representation, transparency, accountability, checks and balances, rule of law and consequent institution-building, nation-building and consistent long term policies; political stability and social prosperity are the rewards of representative democracy.

Immanuel Kant sagaciously posited that moral autonomy produces moral responsibility and social maturity. This social axiom can also be applied to politics and governance. Political autonomy and self-governance engender political responsibility and social maturity.

A top-down political system is dependent on the artificial external force that keeps it going. The moment that external force is removed, the society reverts back to its previous state and the system collapses. But a grassroots and bottom-up political system evolves naturally and intrinsically. We must not expect from the Arab Spring movements to produce results immediately. Bear in mind that the evolution of the Western culture and politics happened over a course of many centuries.

More to the point, the superficially “socialist” Arab revolutions of 1960s and 1970s only mobilized the elite classes. Some working classes might have been involved, but the tone and tenor of those revolutions was elitist and that’s the reason why those revolutions failed to produce desirable long-term results. The Arab Spring movements, by contrast, have mobilized the urban middle class of the Arab societies in the age of electronic media and information technology.

In the nutshell, if the Arab Spring movements are not about radical redistribution of wealth, or about creating a liberal utopia in the Middle East overnight, what is the goal of these movements then? Let me try to explain the objectives of the Arab Spring movements by way of an allegory.

Democracy is like a school and people are like children. We only have two choices: one, to keep people under paternalistic dictatorships; two, to admit them in the school of representative democracy and let them experience democracy as a lived reality rather than some stale and sterile theory. The first option will only breed stunted bigots, but the second option will engender an educated human resource that doesn’t just consume resources but also creates new resources.

Finally, I would like to clarify that the militant phenomena in Libya and Syria has been distinct and separate from the political and democratic phenomena of the Arab Spring movements as in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen.

A question arises that when political movements for enfranchisement turn violent, do their objectives cease to be legitimate? No, the objectives remain the same, but from a pacifist standpoint, we ought to make a distinction between political movements for democratic reforms, to which we should lend our moral support; and the militant phenomena, which must be avoided at any cost due to immense human suffering that proxy wars and military interventions anywhere in the world inevitably entail.

In legal jurisprudence, a distinction is generally drawn between lawful and unlawful assembly. It is the inalienable right of the people to peacefully assemble to press their demands for political reform. But the moment such protests become militarized and violent, they cease to be lawful.

Expecting from heavily armed militants, as in Libya and Syria, who have been described by the Western mainstream media as “moderate rebels,” to bring about political reform and positive social change is not only naïve but is bordering on insanity.*

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Nauman Sadiq is an Islamabad-based attorney, columnist and geopolitical analyst focused on the politics of Af-Pak and Middle East regions, neocolonialism and petro-imperialism. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from Kodak Agfa

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Imran Khan Has Successfully Exposed Liberalism as Pakistan’s Greatest Enemy

America’s Establishment – the military-industrial complex

During his final address as President of the United States of America, General Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of the development of a military-industrial complex in the following way:

“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government.

We recognise the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted.

Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together”.

Since Eisenhower’s speech, the US military-industrial complex has become so influential that its policy making role in government is thought to exceed that of elected officials up to and including the head of state. As the country with the world’s most powerful military and strongest economy, this means that not only does the US military-industrial complex threaten democracy in the US but it threatens the peace and freedom of those in other nations whose governments may occasionally quarrel with Washington.

Against this background, it is both absurd and hypocritical for anti-patriotic forces within Pakistan to heap scorn on the young government of Imran Khan and his PTI party under the guise that they are “too close” to Pakistan’s military establishment. In the United States, it has proved to be impossible to even get close to power by promising a revision in the nation’s foreign policy while in Pakistan, PTI proved that a party with a clearly reformist approach to foreign policy making can not only win but in many cases obliterate the vote of the old legacy parties as well as fringe extremist parties.

It is in fact true that Pakistan has a long history of open conflict between civilian governments and what is widely called The Establishment – the military. In July of this year however, a peaceful democratic election signifying only the second ever peaceful transition of power in Pakistan’s history has signalled the early stages of a shift from a policy of confrontation between the Establishment and government to one of cooperation. Before going further, it must be noted that while conflict between the military and elected government is a phenomenon that the international media tends to universally associate with Pakistan, such conflicts transpire in multiple nations with different histories and societal issues.

Turkey

Modern Turkey has a long history of civilian governments in open conflict with the military. In spite of reforms early during Erdogan’s time as Prime Minister to harmonise the relationship between the Turkish Army and elected government, the apogee of conflict between the military and government in Turkey occurred as recently as 2016 when elements of the Fethullah Terror Organisation infiltrated the Army and led an illegal coup against President Erdogan. The result has been an intensified effort by Erdogan and the civilian government to bring to justice those in the Army associated with all forms of anti-government activity. After his recent re-election under new constitutional regulations, Erdogan has made good on his pledge to make the army directly answerable to the president rather than operate as a body that was previously allowed to make public political pronouncements without conclusion with civilian factions.

Egypt

After the US backed de-stabilisation of Egypt in 2011, a Muslim Brotherhood government came to power in Cairo that was directly at odds with the military. In 2013, the military led an ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood’s leader Mohammad Morsi and put General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in power who remains President to this day. While some called Sisi’s rise to power a coup, others point out the reckless incompetence, unpopularity and social extremism of Morsi and his followers. Egypt is clearly a country where mainstream forces all make reasonable arguments both for and against the Army’s strong influence on the country’s national political development.

Pakistan’s light at the end of many tunnels 

Therefore, while Turkey took decades to peacefully harmonise military-civilian government relations and while Egypt has yet to fully do so, Pakistan stands on the verge of peacefully achieving such harmonisation. Furthermore, this was largely accomplished through the ballot box and domestic diplomacy. This is not to imply that the incoming PTI led coalition government of Pakistan is “subservient” to the Army as some of PTI’s domestic detractors have said for obvious enough self-serving reasons. Neither is it to say that Fatima Bhutto (whose relations with a powerful Pakistani political family are minimised by the Guardian’s editors) is correct in stating that “Imran Khan is only a player in the circus run by Pakistan’s military” as she recently did in Britain’s ultra-liberal Guardian newspaper.

In reality, Pakistan is maturing into a state where both the military and civilian leaders are increasing cooperating for the benefit of the nation, just as is the case within all three major superpowers where open schisms between the military and government are largely unheard of. While all such moves in any nation are bound to have growing pains, the fact of the matter is that Pakistan’s leaders are embarking on a new era of national unity – something that is necessary in order to ensure peace and prosperity for future generations. Therefore, less open antagonism between the government and military in Pakistan should be welcomed rather than be subject to conspiracy theories and wild speculation disguised as analysis.

Pakistan has a real enemy within and it is not The Establishment 

With PTI is moving to modernise and harmonise the government’s relationship with the Establishment on a legal and win-win basis, Imran Khan’s transformation from opposition leader to statesman has laid bear the face of the true enemy within. In Pakistan, Imran Khan’s critics have sunk to new lows in their ever more frequent gossip column style criticism of the new Prime Minister. Before Imran has even settled into his new desk, his critics are already proclaiming the PTI led government a failure in a manner that only serves the foreign enemies of the Pakistani people and which in turns threatens the unity and survival of the state.

But while Imran Khan’s opponents continue to hurl stones within a glass house, they fail to realise that in shrieking about their own country’s supposed inferiority under the prying eyes of India, Afghanistan and The United States, they do not realise that when compared with other nations, Pakistan’s problems are not unique. To say otherwise is to fall into the trap of the colonial mentality which in the last election doomed the PML-N and PPP to electoral failure.

Liberal Pakistanis complain about the country’s blasphemy laws and the fact that PTI has no plans to change such laws. Meanwhile, such forces ignore the fact that in the countries of Europe and North America – countries which face a substantially low terrorist threat vis-a-vis Pakistan, legislators are hastily drafting new laws to censor criticism of just about any social trend ranging from feminism to sectarian politics. While Pakistani laws defend the country’s historical religious traditions, western governments are passing laws to protect the pagan gods of the west – the totemic ramparts of ultra-liberalism. Thus, Pakistan’s blasphemy laws should not be viewed in a vacuum and should certainly never be seen as more dangerous than the decrepit state of Indian society in which Muslims are being openly lynched with the support of members of the ruling political party simply for going about their daily business in peace. Until western hypocrisy and Indian mob rule are addressed, there is little point in growing hysterical over Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Liberal Pakistanis then complain about press freedom before realising that Pakistan actually has some of the freest political speech in the world.

In an age where US corporate media, European corporate and state media and the Indian government all look to clamp down on free speech, Pakistan remains a place whose levels of political free speech are staggeringly high. Whether on Urdu, English or provincial language media, Pakistanis can say almost anything they want about almost anyone they want and for the most part it is all done in relative peace.

When the PTI government announced a further step to free Pakistan’s already highly open media it was clear that existing trends will only improve under the leadership of Imran Khan While private media outlets have long had editorial freedoms, according to a recent statement from Pakistan’s Information Minister Chaudhary Fawad Hussain, now even state owned media will be given full editorial freedom.

As per vision of @ImranKhanPTI Ended political censorship on PTV, clear instructions issued for a complete editorial independence on PTV and Radio Pakistan, drastic changes ll be visible in Information Dept in coming 3 months Inshallah — Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) August 21, 2018

This means that if fully realised, Pakistan’s private and state owned media will be more free to criticise the government than both private and state owned media outlets in many European countries where opposition views are increasingly shunned or derided as “fake”.

The real fight for Pakistan’s future 

Imran Khan has drawn the liberal werewolves out of their hiding places and has thus exposed the real enemies of social and economic progress in Pakistan to be liberal forces who see it fit to criticise every element of Pakistani society without cessation. Such people take perverse delight in blaming the Establishment for doing that which it does not do while summarily ignoring how the US military-industrial complex is vastly more powerful than Pakistan’s Establishment ever was. Likewise, Pakistan’s liberal fifth column somehow believe that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are unusual while similar things either already exist or are being legally erected in the countries who join Pakistan’s home grown liberals in heaping scorn on a nation being antagonised both on its eastern and western borders.

What good is it to be on guard against terrorism from Afghanistan and India if Pakistan’s own liberal fifth column continues to scapegoat the nation itself for every problem under the sun. Pakistan does have problems and most of these problems are not unique to Pakistan. What is however unique is the agility with which supposed patriots of Pakistan do more for the country’s foreign enemies than the foreign enemies themselves could ever hope to achieve.

By increasing the amplification of these anti-national voices in so far as his presence seems to agitate them into fits of Pakistan hating hysteria, Imran Khan has already proved why he is in the best position to fight this enemy within and secure a better internal and external future for Pakistan.

By Adam Garrie
Source: Eurasia Future

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