Friday, April 25, 2008

Shari'ah, Christianity and Democracy

The influence of Shari'a in Muslim society

The Anatomy of Islam

The word 'religion' in Western usage falls short of the totality of Islam as a comprehensive system influencing all aspects of life, individual as well as communal. The total address of Islam to its followers is called the Shari'a, and it is only arbitrary to divide the Shari'a into the three compartments of (ritual) Worship, Moral Code and Legal System, since these are closely interrelated and integrated. What is moral for the individual constitutes the norm for communal morality; and moralities do not live in a legal vacuum. The inner self (conscience and intentions) and the outer self (deeds and observable behavior) should be in harmony and not conflict, and the system of worship prepares the individual to attain this reality of Islam. Anything less is fraudulent and counterfeit.
A- General Outlay - The Shari'a The Sources of The Shari'a

The primary source of the Shari'a is of course the Quran, the literal word of God. The Quran deals with a full range of issues ranging from the establishment of the creed (chapters I, II, and III) to defining the absolute moral standards and codes of permissible and impermissible behavior. It delineates the articles of worship, and lays down the framework of a comprehensive legal system relating to family law, economic rules, penal code, social conduct, treaties, ethics of war and peace, pattern of government (the Shura is considered the Islamic forerunner of democracy), human rights, relations with other nations and other religions, inheritance, (Zakat) taxation, etc., so that it is true to say that there is hardly an affair of life that lacks some reference in the Quran. Yet the ultimate and final rules in the Quran pertain only to the issues of Creed (Aqeeda) and Worship (Ibadat), whereas the third area of law and other human interaction (Moamalat) is, with a limited number of exceptions, covered with general and flexible guidelines. The constants of the Shari'a in Moamalat are therefore limited, which allowed the science of Jurisprudence (derivation of rulings) to arise and flourish, accommodating various schools of thought and amassing over the centuries a wealth of opinions that suited various places and times and proved that the Shari'a is neither static nor exhaustible.

The second source of the Shari'a is the Sunna (Tradition) of prophet Mohammad in what he ordered, forbade, did or acknowledged in his capacity as prophet. The Sunna sometimes explains the Quran, illustrates it, details some generalities and complements it in some areas. The sciences of Sunna especially the process of authentication of the sayings of the prophet are perhaps the most exact branch in the science of history in general. The tracing of the chain of reporters and witnesses and, above all, making sure that a reported Sunna conflicts neither with the Quran nor with established fact and common sense establish the Sunna as a science of precision.

The third source of the Shari'a operates when an issue is not specifically settled by the Quran or the Sunna. Analogy is resorted to through a process of deductive reasoning that equates a new issue with one already decided by the Quran and/or Sunna. "Ijtihad" is the term indicating the utilization of available evidence (religious, scientific, statistical, social) to think out the best course to be taken provided it does not conflict with the Quran or Sunna or the goals of the Shari'a that will shortly be presented. The Shari'a therefore is not a rigid set of rules to be copied and applied any time any place, and allows for human ingenuity to address changeable situations by progressive legislation. During the evolution of the science of Jurisprudence certain juridical rules were established to enable derivation of new rulings. Examples of these are "Necessities overrule prohibitions" For example, pig meat is unlawful to eat, but if it is the only food available for a traveler lost in the desert, it becomes permissible as long as necessary. Other rules include "The choice of the lesser of two evils if both cannot be avoided", "Public interest to take priority over private interest", "Harm is to be removed" etc. The overall rule, given no conflict with the Quran and Sunna, is "Wherever welfare goes, there goes the statue of God."

B. Goals Of The Shari'a

The supreme goal of the Shari'a is the welfare of the people in this world and in the hereafter. Broadly speaking, the needs of the community are classified into dire necessities, ordinary necessities and complementary needs (that make life more enjoyable), in this order of significance. Topping the list is the first category which comprises the widely known "Five Aims of the Shari'a" whose objective is the preservation and protection of: (1) Life, (2) Mind, (3) Religion, (4) Ownership and possessions, and (5) Procreation and preservation of the species. Each of these is divided into sets and branching subsets until seemingly small details are reached, and each is serviced by appropriate moral and/or legal rulings. Resisting all temptation to step into the deep waters of this immense subject, we can glean the essential ideas from each category to hopefully clarify the picture.

1. Life

This includes the right to life and the duty to protect it. It entails the prohibition of killing and defines the permissible exceptions such as legitimate war or judiciary sentence. To seek treatment when ill and to avoid ill health by avoiding whatever leads to it are Islamic duties, hence the dietary rules, encouragement of physical fitness by exercise, the laws of cleanliness of person, home, street, and environment. The principles of quarantine were established when Mohammad instructed: "If there is pestilence in a city don't go in if you are out or get out of it if you are already in." Encouraging agriculture is commendable. Teachings of prophet Mohammad include a) If the Day of Judgment comes and you have in your hand a shoot to implant, hurry and implant it if you can, b) Whoever cultivates a land will be rewarded for every soul eating from its harvest, even birds and animals, and even a thief who steals from it, c) No trees should be cut or burnt as a means of warfare. Ecological awareness and respecting the environment are mandated (The water cycle is described in the Quran and its conservation and nonpollution is ordered by Mohammad. 'No bird or animal is to be killed except for food' is one of his instructions, as is kindness to animals and refraining from overburdening them.) One of the impressive teachings of Mohammad is: "God has not created an illness without creating a cure for it.. some already known and some are not", an impetus for continuing the search.

2. Mind

The mind is the hallmark of a human being. It is our instrument to know good and evil and to explore nature within and around us. Thinking, pondering and reflection are religious duties, and the Quran condemns those who were given minds but do not use them. Freedom of thought and expression are basic human rights. The pursuit of knowledge is not only a right but also a duty in Islam. Scientific research, in juridical jargon, is called "the revealing of God's tradition in His creation" and is a duty on those who are able to do it. Censorship over the mind is rejected, and no human being can claim authority over another in this respect. The first word ever of the Quran is "Read" and the Quran says "They are not equal those who have knowledge and those who haven't, nor are light and darkness equal." "Of His servants the learned heed Him most", the Quran says. Not only from censorship should the mind be protected but also from repression, fear, anxiety and stress. Anything that numbs or kills the mind is abhorrent, hence the consumption of alcohol and drugs are absolutely prohibited in Islam, not even in social proportions!

3. Religion

Many authors give religion first place, but obviously without the integrity of life and mind religious tasks become superfluous. Freedom of religion and worship is a basic human right, and we don't mean to Muslims only. It is against Islam to coerce anyone to embrace it, and the Quran says: "There is no compulsion in religion" (2:256) Houses of worship should be built. When Muslims are attacked on account of their religion they have the right and duty of defense.

4. Ownership and Possessions

The right of ownership is inviolable and there is no objection or limit on the amassing of wealth provided it is secured by lawful ways. Unlawful ways of collecting wealth are delineated, including usury, cheating and fraud, stealing, monopoly, etc. The rights of capital are coupled with its duties including taxation and contribution commensurate with the needs of society. The Zakat tax is mandatory and roughly equals 2.5% of money hoarded over the span of one year, with other formulas for earnings from agriculture, animal husbandry, real estate or industry. Every individual is the joint responsibility of the whole community and no one can behave like an isolated island. Rules of commercial dealings and exchanges are delineated.

5. Procreation and Offspring

Authentic marriage through a solemnized and documented marriage contract is the only legitimate way of pairing off to form a family and beget children. Purity of lineage and the right to know with certainty one's parents and one's progeny is a must. The Shari'a spells out certain relations that make the marriage of a couple impermissible. The mutual rights and duties between spouses, and between parents and children are detailed. Sustaining the family is the obligation of the husband, whereas the financial contribution of the wife is her option. Extramarital (including premarital) sex is sinful, and may also become a legal offense if witnessed by four witnesses. Family laws and the laws of inheritance are detailed. Family planning (natural or medical) is permitted but not if it entails the killing of a life (abortion). Women have the right of independent individual ownership, the right of inheritance, the right of education and the right to work as compatible with the integrity of the family. Men and women are equal, and obligations (and prohibitions) of Islam apply to them equally. The pursuit of fertility and treatment of infertility is legitimate but only as admissible by the Shari'a. The fetus has the right to life, inheritance and reception of a will or an endorsement. Breast feeding is encouraged, optimally for two years. Western style adoption is censored but fosterage or endorsement is encouraged as a charity, devoid of the lie of claiming true sonhood or daughterhood. The child is told the truth about his/her origin. After growing up, if that child proposes to marry a biological child of the family, the proposal cannot be denied on the basis that they are brother and sister, since in reality they are not.

C. Church And State

It was a wise decision for Europe to separate church and state. The near monopoly of the early church over all aspects of life had no basis in Christianity as taught by Jesus. Its power to obstruct freedom of thought and scientific progress is reflected in many well known historical examples. Later on, America followed the same line for the same reason, as well as to avoid one faith having a heavy hand over the others and thus interfering with freedom of religion. Many of the early immigrants to America were in fact fleeing the religious intolerance and persecution that afflicted European Christianity.

As we perceive it, the separation of church and state is consistent with the essential ideals of Christianity for its primary purpose was to purify the human soul and ennoble the human character, but not to pursue the organization of the state. Jesus' Kingdom was not of this world. When asked whether to pay taxes to the Roman Empire he took a coin with Caesar's engraving on it and said: "Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's." Muslims in the United States, like all others, appreciate the idea of pluralism that ensures the freedom of religion for all without bigotry or persecution, which as a matter of fact coincides with the Islamic teachings in this respect.

Perhaps it is timely here to express a reservation felt by many Muslims, Christians and Jews in America and the West. They feel that the principle of separation of church and state has been wrongly exploited, and manipulated to exclude the heeding of God in the daily life of people in an attempt to cast away His universal values of morality and human decency. The debate "Is God dead" has been raging in American media over the past three decades, that influenced many attitudes. Many of those who believe that God is not dead, have ceased to acknowledge His authority to tell us what to do with our lives, as individuals and as a nation. Calls for moral behavior or against pronography and licentiousness and other social ailments are often accused of violating the separation of church and state. The slogans "One nation under God" and "In God we trust" are becoming hollower by the day, and if things continue moving in the same direction, we anticipate that constitutional amendments to delete them will be implemented before long.

A universal reaction in the West when people hear that Muslims in Islamic countries want to be ruled by the Islamic laws, is one of disapproval and dismay. Conditioned by European history that led to separation of church and state, they automatically abhor the idea and translate it as a regression to dark ages where Europe toiled under the repressive authority of the church. This conclusion is not correct, because the two situations are not the same. When we study the case of Islam, we find that the principle of separating church and state is obviously inapplicable. Whereas in Christianity there is no state, in Islam there is no church, which makes it impossible to project one situation on the other. Although there is scholarship, there is no clergy in Islam, nor an institution of priesthood. The fact that some graduates of Islamic studies in some Islamic countries wear a special outfit is not a religious requirement and does not really make them priests or raise them any degree above the rest of the Muslims. It did not exist at the onset or early times of Islam and is a rather late phenomenon as society recognized special garbs for special groups like the military and police uniform or the white coat of the doctor. Religious knowledge and studying are open, and interpretation is not the monopoly of certain group, although of course scholastic specialization is considered and respected but not sanctified. Nor is it part of Islam that those religious scholars should conduct the government, for obviously they lack the technical expertise in the various divisions of the executive branches. Office should be held upon personal qualification and posts are open to both Muslim and non-Muslim citizens.

Reviewing the goals of the Shari'a even at the level of the brief bird's eye view we gave here, it is obvious that their implementation goes beyond the area of individual behavior into the realm of government. The Shari'a, the constitution, is the source of legislation and the foundation from which laws are to be derived. Although secularism in Christian societies is not incompatible with Christianity, the same cannot be said about Islam, for this would entail ignoring, inactivating or replacing much of the dictates of the Quran and Sunna, contradicting the basic creed of Islam. Appreciation of these facts should clarify the fact that what is agreeable to Christian societies might not be so to Muslim societies, each within the freedom of religion and the right to self-determination. Neither Islamic nor Christian nations should impose their views on one another, but unfortunately this is not the case as the West, unilaterally, seems to be bent on preventing Muslims from self-rule in accordance with their own religion. It supports both secular dictatorship or dictatorships that identify themselves as Islamic but are abysmal on human rights, basic freedoms of men and women, and government by the people for the people, the hallmarks of real Islamic government. As a matter of fact there is hardly any state now that can qualify to be the perfect representation of the Islamic state. Whenever sound democratic process is about to lead to the victory of an Islamic party, a paradoxical and embarrassing alliance between the major democracies and the reigning dictatorships immediately intervenes to abort the attempt without considering giving it the chance to prove or disprove itself. Alas! The democracies are more keen on the status quo than they are on democracy itself.

One of the charges leveled against the demand of Islamic nations to be ruled by Islamic laws pertains to the status of Christian and Jewish minorities who are citizens of those countries. This objection is being played upon and blown up by both media and politics although in reality it has no standing whatsoever. It is a sparsely known fact that the Islamic system, uniquely, leaves it to Christian and Jewish communities to run their affairs of a legal nature in accordance with the guidelines of their own religions. Such issues, however, are few, and pertain to family issues (marriage, divorce, inheritance, and the like). Otherwise, with neither conflict with their Books nor alternative therein, the minorities will not be wronged to stand equal with the majority before the law the majority claims (out of religious conviction) in keeping with sound democratic principles.

We will not be completely honest, however, without voicing a few remarks and apprehensions about the question of implementing the Shari'a. In various instances we see it has been relegated to the realm of sloganism and emotionalism. Some overenthusiastic youth have transformed it to a confrontation with followers of other religions. The Shari'a, however, requires them to behave in a completely opposite way, aiming at dissipating fears and alleviating anxieties and exhibiting the ethics of good citizenship in a practical way, a task we know that mainstream Muslims and the great majority of Islamic movements are actively pursuing although with hardly any coverage in the media or in professional political circles in the West.

Islamic political parties that decide on the democratic option are also in need of a word of advice here. Although they wage the electoral battle under the attractive banner of Islam, they should also present the electorate with the detailed programs they have prepared to realize the goals of the Shari'a. The word 'Islam' is not a magic word that will solve the complex economic, social and political problems that burden their countries. Intense technical and specialist studies should be made to work within the Shari'a towards appropriate solutions. Prospectively, those who opt for democracy are required by Islam to be honest to their declarations, and not commit the treachery of exploiting democratic rhetoric until they are in power, and then it is gone with the wind. The worst case scenario is for some Islamic parties to ride over democracy to power, then fail to deliver their promises, then refuse to acknowledge their failure erroneously thinking that their personal failure will be ascribed to failure of Islam, and so they deny the nation its right to remove them by rigging or abolishing the following elections, and then, alas, it is just another dictatorship!

Islamic parties are yet to be tested on that, and it is unfair to prejudge them without trial. Their adversaries, however, who hold to power against the will of their people, have been proven a failure and it behooves the major democracies of the world not to support them. If Islamic parties ever come to power, we advise them not to do the same, for it is not only Islamic laws that are needed, but above all, Islamic character and integrity as well.

Some famous examples who claim, even boast, that they rule by the Shari'a are in our opinion lacking in honesty or in knowledge about the Shari'a or in both. Reducing the Shari'a to a selected few items of its penal code without regard to its total context is a big fraud. Meting harsh punishment on petty crimes without any attempt at addressing the massive corruption in the ruling circles or their greedy exploitation of the nation's resources in total absence of accountability can never pass as Islamic. In Islam the ruler is accountable to the nation, and is considered its servant and not its master. Besides, the Shari'a is to be implemented from beginning to end and not from end to beginning. Islam curbs crime by three defense lines: the cultivation of Islamic conscience (education and guidance), the prevention of the causes that might lead to crime (social and economic), and then comes legal punishment; in that sequence. And then, the law knows no ceiling. It is against Islam to judge the commoners and the enfeebled and let the nobility get away with violations.

D. Democracy

The question is quite often posed these days whether Islam is compatible with democracy. It is striking to note that those who say it is not are such a heterogeneous group, they hardly share anything else. Just as groups of Islamic intelligentsia at the turn of the century were fascinated by the West to such a degree that they called for the adoption of the good as well as the bad in the Western experience, the present time witnesses such disillusionment with the moral decline and the political injustices of the West that many reject, by way of reaction, all that is Western, including democracy. Secular dictators of Islamic countries, of course, abhor democracy by virtue of being dictators and have vested interest in featuring democracy to their Muslim masses as un-Islamic. Dictators who wear Islamic garb and claim to be Islamic also propagate the view that democracy is alien to the Islamic faith and have in their retinue and payroll religious scholars that are willing to play that Machiavellian role.

Traditional adversaries of Islam in the West, both in the media and political circles, are also relentlessly bent on featuring Islam as an anti-democratic religion that has no room for democratic values. The aim of course is to further alienate Islam from the psyche of the Western public opinion, making it both possible and palatable to demonize Muslims in a way that facilitates the acceptability by public opinion of the harsh ways and unjust positions by their governments towards Muslims. They often raise up the issue of the lack of democracy in the majority of Islamic countries. What they do not mention is that the only effective support of the dictators against the democratic aspiration of their peoples in the Middle East is provided by the Western democracies.

It is perhaps not feasible to compare the Islamic system that came into being early in the seventh century with the democratic institutions of the West, that began to evolve many centuries later, and as we see them today. Nor are the Western democratic systems an exact replica of one another but simply share the principle and ideology of democracy. The Quran (fourteen centuries ago) spelled out explicitly the principle of "Shura", which means that issues are to be decided by joint deliberation and consultation. The practical applications of this principle in the earliest days of Islam (the time of the prophet and his immediate successors) qualify it to be considered the forerunner of democracy. Only in his capacity as prophet was Mohammad to be obeyed without reserve, but outside the area of conveying and explaining religion as he received it from God, Mohammad himself made it clear that he was an ordinary human being who could not foretell the future or claim to have more knowledge over ordinary people in their respective areas of artisanship or trade. On the eve of the battle of 'Badr', the first and historically the most significant military encounter between Islam and the Arab alliance of idolaters, the prophet drew a military plan entailing deployment of his meagre troops in a certain fashion. But then one of his followers would ask him "Is this positioning revelation from God so that we have to abide by it without question, or is it an opinion of strategy and plan?" When Mohammad answered that it was indeed the latter, his companion gave his sincere criticism and offered an alternate plan which the prophet accepted and adopted; the outcome was a resounding victory.

Years later, the enemies dispatched a large army to attack the Muslims in Madinah. It was Mohammad's opinion to remain at Madinah and meet the enemy there, but discussions revealed that the majority preferred to march out and make battle with the enemy at Mount Uhud well outside Madinah. Mohammad yielded to the majority opinion in compliance with the principle of Shura. Muslims achieved an initial victory until the battalion of archers positioned at the mountain top thought that the battle was over and rolled down to join the chase, disobeying clear orders the prophet had given them earlier never to leave their positions no matter whether it was victory or defeat. This caught the eye of Khaled ben el Waleed (a military genius leading a cavalry regiment of the enemies) who took a stealth circle to the mountain top and rolled down on the Muslim infantry so upsetting the balance that the best the Muslims could do was a graceful retreat after incurring heavy losses.

Although there was fault twice on part of the Muslims, Quran was shortly revealed addressing Mohammad "And it was of the mercy of God that you dealt gently with them (your followers): had you been harsh or thick of heart they would have dispersed from around you. So pardon them and ask (God) for their forgiveness and maintain Shura with them." (3:159) This Shura is to pervade all walks of life at all levels, even to the detail mentioned in the Quran that the decision to wean a suckling infant should be taken by mutual shura and consent of both parents.

When the prophet died it meant the conclusion of the prophethood, but he had to be succeeded by a head of state. This was done in a meeting in open debate, with more than one contender, until Abu Bakr the closest companion to the prophet, was chosen by consensus to be first caliph. On that occasion, established Islamic principle was reiterated and emphasized, foremost of all by the caliph himself, the significant rules in which are: 1- The post is filled by the mandate of the people (Abu Bakr immediately proceeded to seek the opinion of others who were not in the meeting to make sure they concurred). 2- The appointment was conditioned (obey me as long as I obey God - the caliph declared). 3- The right of the people to give the mandate is coupled with their right to withdraw it (Abu Bakr declared that if he went wrong then the people owed him no obedience). 4- The ruler was the nation's employee, hired by them to fulfil the duties of his office (seeing that Abu Bakr in his earliest few days pursued the management of his business to make his living, the people imposed on him to take a salary equal to the earnings of an average Muslim, neither rich nor poor, in lieu of working full time). 5- The head of state was no hostage to the elite or nobility or interest groups. His words were: "The weak amongst you is strong with me until I secure what is due to him, and the strong amongst you is week with me until I take from him what is due on him."

In short, it looks like the antithesis of what we see in the majority of Islamic countries nowadays. We have no doubt that if things evolved in the same direction ever since, as the Islamic empire expanded and the Islamic civilization developed in maturity and sophistication, that the Muslims would have achieved a form of government that endorses the best in modern day democracies while free from their shortcomings. Things went on in a very promising manner for sometime. The second caliph (Omar) further alerted the nation of its duty to support him when right but to correct him if wrong, to which a man answered, "If you go wrong we will correct you even by our swords." The caliph's comment was, "You are no good if you don't say it, and we are no good if we don't accept it."

Unfortunately the trend was broken in one of the saddest, if not the saddest, incidents in Islamic history. Caliph Uthman had to face a rebellion accusing him of nepotism and was assassinated. Caliph Ali was a cousin of the prophet, his son-in-law, and a very beloved person to him. He also possessed outstanding personal merits, and when he was chosen for caliph, the notables and masses poured in to give allegiance. However, the governor of Syria (now part of the Islamic empire) refused to give the pledge and eventually marched towards Madinah at the head of a large army. The apparent pretext was on how to deal with the assassins of the late caliph, who was a relative of Moawya, the governor of Syria (both from the Umayyad tribe) and who demanded direct revenge rather than resort to lengthy due process. On the battlefield the victory was Ali's, but Moawya was a resourceful man, and in his camp were some very cunning men so he could secure a tricky arbitration. Some disgruntled people targeted both for assassination but only succeeded in killing Ali. The nation was shocked, but after negotiations Hassan, Ali's son and successor, consented to yield authority to Moawya to avoid further bloodshed and gave his allegiance.

A short while later Moawya, well entrenched in authority, shocked the nation again by forcing from them a pledge to his son, Yazid, as successor after him, resorting to the technique of punishment and reward. Hussein, the second son of Ali, headed a revolution against Yazid (both Moawiya and Hassan had died). The inhabitants of Iraq had promised Hussein their support, but under the trickery and brutality of the central government they deserted him. Rather than flee or capitulate, Hussein and seventy loyal followers faced Yazid's army of several hundred thousand soldiers and bravely fought to their death at Karbala. This proved much later to have been the first nail in the coffin of the Umayyad dynasty which reigned for some two centuries.

This was also the birth of Shiism as a movement, hard-liners who called themselves the proponents of Ali (the Arabic word is the Shi'a of Ali), that actually started as a political dissidence but where it is not possible to separate politics from religion since the strive for justice is a religious dictate. As time went on Shiism took the form of an Islamic sect, centered around the belief that eligibility to the caliphate should belong to Ali then consecutively to his progeny (eldest son in succession). They acquired many secondary views as they broke into several sects, the major being the Twelver Shiites who believe that the twelfth of the successors (Imams), who mysteriously disappeared as a child, will come back one day as the awaited Mahdi and reign in justice. The Shiites constitute some ten per cent of the Muslims, the remainder are traditionally called the Sunni's. The Shiites tend to hold a grudge against the Sunnis for early acquiescence to the unjust authority, but all believe in the one Quran and the prophethood of Mohammad. It is a palpable fact that the Sunni's also hold the same sympathies and sentiments towards Ali and his sons, Hassan and Hussein, and their households. Every year the Shiites commemorate the Battle of Karbala and the martyrdom of Hussein, many of them slashing themselves in mourning and in remorse that their forebears deserted Hussein at the critical moment.

And now enough for history even though I tried to make it extremely brief and back to the issue of democracy. That sad historical episode was the precedent for transfer of power from hand to hand not by the pledge of the nation but by sword and gold. This seemed to plague the history of Muslims ever since. Despots always could find scholars to rationalize while others stood in opposition and paid with their lives or freedom. Things went well when the caliph was good and went bad when the caliph was bad, which was more often than not. In either case the authority of the people and their rights over the ruler were eroded. Islamic civilization, however, flourished because there were people who believed it was a religious duty to seek knowledge, to excel in science and establish civilization. Government encouraged them in all aspects but left little room for writings on the rights of the people versus the ruler and means of controlling him. Given the genius of Islamic civilization in all walks of knowledge writings on the constitutional rights of the nation were powerful and marvelous but scant.

To our Muslim brethren who convulse and contort against democracy, we would like to say that democracy was never one of the ailments of the Muslim nation, but always the affliction was despotism and dictatorship. We would be blind if our history fails to reveal to us this fact. To those who accuse Islam of being intolerant to democracy, we say you are wrong, but there is a major difference. In a Western democracy God can be vetoed or outvoted if His opponents can muster a majority vote. Under Islam the constitution is based on the Shari'a so any legislation that conflicts with it will be unconstitutional. Within that context the democratic process takes its course one hundred per cent. The contemporary Islamic resurgence is beyond the widely publicized images of inflammatory extremism or violent expression or despotic secular or religious (!!) governments. A broad enlightened and quiet mainstream has discovered the realities of the religion and awakened to the lessons of history. It is not fueled by hollow sloganism. After all, Islamic scholars have decreed for a long time that a non-Islamic state that observes justice is better than an Islamic state riddled with tyranny and injustice.

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