Major Essay: Are Islam and Democracy Compatible?

Essay by macca11874College, Undergraduate March 2011

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Major Essay: Are Islam and Democracy Compatible?


At the end of the Cold War a number of authoritarian states, most notably the USSR and its Eastern Europe satellite states, simply crumbled. The decisive victor was the western philosophy of liberal democracy and capitalism, leading proponents of a New World order, such as Fukuyama, to suggest that the world was witnessing the "end of history"�. Yet not all states followed the example of the USSR. In particular, a number of Islamic countries continued under single party rule. Indeed authoritarianism remains the dominant political force in most Muslim countries leading to arguments about the incompatibility of Islam with the tenets of liberal democracy. This seemingly inherent incompatibility has been examined by numerous academics, although Milton-Edwards asserts that the bulk of scholars posit that Islamic culture and democracy can co-exist and even thrive�. This essay studies the multifaceted connections between Islam and democracy.

It categorizes developments within Islam that can indeed be associated with democratic administration but argues that, despite Milton-Edwards' contentions, the current dominance of sectional Islamic views highlights that religion's incompatibility with the liberal ethos of democracy.


Two broad groupings of Islamic states can be identified, depending on how Islam is integrated into the running of a nation. In the first group, religious ideals are component of day to day life but Islam, while acknowledged as the national religion, does not comprise the legal framework of the state. Examples of such states include Pakistan, Malaysia and Algeria. The second group, led by Saudi Arabia, formally and comprehensively incorporate Islamic law - Sharia - into state institutions. The basis of this incorporation is that "in Islamic history, there are a number of very important concepts and images that shape the contemporary visions of...