About OUFI

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London, United Kingdom
Welcome to my Blog. This Blog provides a platform for free expressions on issues of importance that appeal to the independent mind. Matters of political, moral and social concern, that may agree with or contravenes our free and well-intentioned thinking, have free reign on this blog. Friends and colleagues can express and respect different opinions on current or historical issues that at times may run counter to established worldview. “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.” - Voltaire

Monday, 8 July 2013

The Road to Democracy can be painful




The current turmoil amongst the people of the Middle East, with worse to come, is a stark reminder that copying European political ideology needs time to realise if at all.  Even if Democracy was the aim, it is not a catch-all phrase nor is it an ideology for all seasons.  It is a European body of ideas that developed in line with Freedom and individualism propagated by organic growth.  A culmination of European intellectual minds, concentrating on Liberty and Rights of the individual gradually, over two or three centuries, that eventually was to catapult Europe into the modern era.  For all its shortcomings, democracy today is the best Constitution based ideology for self-government.



Since Democracy is the aim to achieve in The Middle East, The Arab Countries and Islam it is essential to use the same road map.  A jump to  Modernity ex nihilo is impossible if we take Egypt today as a paradigm.  We need to consider that Middle Eastern form of mind is different than that of European in the sense of historical, cultural and heritage influences that go a long way in evaluating one's priorities.  After all, some people need to be guided, unlike the Europeans, they want their mind made up for them.  Self-government may not be the solution, but tyrannical or despotic rule instead may be the most appropriate.  They should choose to what suit best their mentality and religion; learn if possible to contain it, finally to iron out its contradictions and arbitrariness.  That is a tall order but so was the road to democracy.



Here is an extended quotation, an extract from Arthur James Balfour made in a speech in the House of Commons on June 13, 1910. “First of all, look at the facts of the case.  Western nations as soon as they emerge into history show the beginnings of those capacities for self-government [...]having merits of their own[…]You may look through the whole history of the Orientals in what is called broadly speaking, the East, and you never find traces of self-governments.  All their great centuries – and they have been great – have been passed under despotisms, under absolute government.  All their great contributions to civilisation – and they have been great – have been made under that form of government.  Conqueror has succeeded conqueror; one domination has followed another; but never in all the revolutions of fate and fortune have you seen one of those nations of its motion establish what we, from a Western point of view, call self-government.”  This outlook is well worth thinking about instead of trying to go against what is natural.


5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Democracy and religion do not mix. The Middle East in particular will never be democratic as in Western societies. To become democratic the Islam must cease to be the basis on which their constitutions are written. Until such an unlikely time that that becomes a reality, there will not be any democracy.

OUFI said...

Dear Anonymous,
Thank you for your comments.
Although you find that Islam and Democracy are incompatible you do not tell us why.
Why do you think?

Layla Allos said...

In my opinion, democracy and Islam are compatible - metareligion. Democracy is not violated when a faith is embraced it is violated when a particular belief is imposed or disbelief is punished. But there are a range of issues standing in the way of such a collaboration.

The first is the Muslim perception of the West. US and UK foreign policy has been strategically self-defeating, therefore counter-productive in the Middle East. This has caused a variety of undesired consequences (increase in terrorism, violence, political instability, death, disease etc). A lot of Muslims now associate Democracy with such problems, increasing their resentment towards the West and its political system.

A second problem would be how those in power in Muslim countries would attempt to implement democracy. Political corruption, nepotism, cronyism .etc. runs rampant in the region. For democracy to work I believe a complete overhaul of the system is needed, which I do not think would be very welcome by the benefiting elites. The problem is whether reformists can find enough room to man oeuvre among the ruler's relationships with state bodies, social elites and foreign powers

A third problem resides in the religion and politics of Islam itself. For some Muslims, Democracy is another version of man ruling over man, going against the one rule of God.

There is definitely a demand for pluralism, liberalism and democracy. Democracy is the only form of government that can protect human right violations, and preserve a proper role for religion in politics. Yet, Western countries cannot maintain a "one size fits all" solution. It must be adapted to fit the local context to achieve the best results.

Layla Allos said...

In my opinion, democracy and Islam are compatible - metareligion. Democracy is not violated when a faith is embraced it is violated when a particular belief is imposed or disbelief is punished. But there are a range of issues standing in the way of such a collaboration.

The first is the Muslim perception of the West. US and UK foreign policy has been strategically self-defeating, therefore counter-productive in the Middle East. This has caused a variety of undesired consequences (increase in terrorism, violence, political instability, death, disease etc). A lot of Muslims now associate Democracy with such problems, increasing their resentment towards the West and its political system.

A second problem would be how those in power in Muslim countries would attempt to implement democracy. Political corruption, nepotism, cronyism .etc. runs rampant in the region. For democracy to work I believe a complete overhaul of the system is needed, which I do not think would be very welcome by the benefiting elites. The problem is whether reformists can find enough room to man oeuvre among the ruler's relationships with state bodies, social elites and foreign powers

A third problem resides in the religion and politics of Islam itself. For some Muslims, Democracy is another version of man ruling over man, going against the one rule of God.

There is definitely a demand for pluralism, liberalism and democracy. Democracy is the only form of government that can protect human right violations, and preserve a proper role for religion in politics. Yet, Western countries cannot maintain a "one size fits all" solution. It must be adapted to fit the local context to achieve the best results.

OUFI said...

“A third problem resides in the religion and politics of Islam itself” that I believe is the fundamental flaw in an argument to advocate the compatibility of Islam and democracy. The doctrine of Islamic religion is embedded in its uncompromising structure as it is no longer open to reform or re interpretation. Islam is a religion that must be adhered to without interpretation where the written word remains sovereign. The intellectuals allow for some toleration on interpretation while others mainly fundamentalist the word is taken in its literal and narrow hermeneutical sense leaving no room for freedom which largely underpins Democracy.

Ever since the Mongol invasion of Baghdad in the thirteenth century the philosophy centre was destroyed along with most of Baghdad and thousands were put to the sword. Under the ruling Abasid dynasty the intellectual school of thought made up from Muslim, Jewish and Christian philosophers all theologised Islam and gave it meaning beyond the scriptures. It was a gradual reformation towards less monolithic but a more adaptive religion. Unfortunately, the destruction that followed also meant the burning of all the newly acquired knowledge carefully assimilated that never again resurfaced to this day.

Today Islam remains rigid, on the surface at least, un-reforming and uncompromising and I believe increasingly used by leaders in the Middle East as carapace for their political indulgence. Democracy with its liberal values can only find this stance difficult to harbour if not impossible unless of course as was the case of the Christian religion towards Reformation period in the sixteenth century the burgeoning separation of powers was taking hold between state and religion that went to initiate Hobesian and Lockean liberal values. Otherwise, I can not see how a mix of spiritual values and the belief in myths and superstition can provide a constructive framework to a political institution that deals with the rights of Man and all that goes with it. The irony of course is the despotic nature of Middle Eastern rule which is a mirror image of the authoritarianism that is manifested in Islam.