Alpine Summit

Monday, August 22, 2005

Preston: Islam Incompatible with Democracy

Bryan Preston wrote on Michelle Malkin's site that he doesn't think Islam can resolve itself to democracy because it is a product of Christian thought.

... A real question that has hovered over our entire Iraq enterprise centers on whether Islam, even the non-caliphascist variety, is even compatible with democracy at all. That's not an idle question; republicanism only arose in the West after long exposure to and experimentation with Christian thinking and its emphasis on the value of the individual soul. It took us several centuries to get to the American experiment, centuries which saw the "divine right of kings" and sectarian warfare. Islam it's fair to say lacks the same set of ideals regarding the individual, and doesn't have for its prime example a figure nearly as complex as Christ, who eschewed secular power and never once preached converting anyone to his banner via the sword. Mohammed may or may not have been a prophet, but he was definitely an earthly warlord whose powers of persuasion were enhanced by martial thinking. He would not and did not volunteer to suffer for anyone else's sake, and thus provides no example for loving one's neighbor selflessly. The two examples for religious leadership--Christ and Mohammed--couldn't be more different, therefore it's reasonable to believe that their faiths would take followers down different moral and political paths. But if a majority of Muslims now think democracy is compatible with their faith, and if we have given them the spark they needed to demand the right to try democracy, then we have gone a long way toward winning the war.

I don't think it will take centuries for Islam to resolve itself to democracy. I also think Malkin is comparing apples and oranges, here.

The reason I don't think it will take so long for Islam to come around to democracy, disregarding the view that it's Christian-based, is that they are starting out further down the learning curve thanks to the "American experiment." the U.S. was more or less the first time anyone tried running a country based on the view of the people. That means that we were groping blindly in the dark trying to figure out everything. We've made mistakes along the way (still do) and have become aware of (and solved) many different issues associated with a government run by those it governs. The Muslim countries have the benefit of learning from our mistakes and can start off where we are now after 230 years.

I've never considered the democratic process to be a Christ-inspired ideology- though it may be, it's an interesting concept to consider. I see how those who came up with the democratic process happened to be Christian, but I don't see how it couldn't work for other countries, either. One of the main points of the U.S. is that we aren't a Christian country (officially); we're a secular nation that respects all faiths. I imagine Islam could conflict with THAT, but it's hardly a conflict with a "Christian" ideology and more a conflict with a democratic ideology. Again, Muslim countries can learn from the U.S. by taking a cue from Muslim communities in the U.S. to see how they resolve living in a democratic nation already. America is the perfect model for them to look at and emulate because it incorporates, in some way, most or all the aspects and issues the Muslim countries considering democracy will need to address.