Breaking the Democratic Taboo

Some Islamic thinkers point to an inevitable contradiction between Islamic and democratic values, arguing that Islam requires submission to the will of God, while democracy implies submission to the will of people. But it was not the Prophet Mohammad’s intent to build a theocratic state under the rule of mullahs.

I am often invited by religious authorities in the Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia to attend meetings that are held to urge people to follow Islamic faith and law, while avoiding any debate connected to politics or political rights. Political rights, my hosts insist, are maintained by the ruling regimes themselves, and these follow the teachings of the Koran.

But recently an invitation came from the Faisal Center for Islamic Research and Studies, which actually wanted me to talk about democracy, or “good governance,” as the participants called it.

Until recently, this topic was taboo in Saudi Arabia, where the regime doesn’t allow any margin for political debate, and commands people to listen, obey, and leave matters of government to their rulers.

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