Badly briefed

In response to what can only be described as Lawrence Reza Ershaghi's highly fallacious assertions in “Islam vs. Democracy”, I thought that silence in face of these non-arguments is tantamount to betrayal of our future.

The gist of the argument is that Islam is such potent and coherent religion/philosophy that far from being challenged by the tenets of Secular Democracy, it poses a serious challenge to Democracy itself. It does so by virtue of the fact that it provides a value based Totality that can enrich the spiritual vacuum otherwise left behind by Secularism. Indeed the author claims and I quote: 'the absence of permanent values leads to hedonism, making pleasure the greatest attainable good. And we see this today in America, freedom translates to the glorification of satisfying one's carnal desires'.

Later on the author submits that: 'Thus, freedom becomes the freedom to pursue self-destructive tendencies'.

In my view there are several fallacies with this argument:

There is perhaps a case for self-restraint. The trouble is that political Islam seeks to impose that restraint as part of a social contract that turns the action of restraint into a means of political coercion with disastrous results for the citizenry. Don't take my word for it, look at the disastrous results of this in Iran today. Look at the disastrous results of this any where political Islam has sought to promote personal restraint by law. The result has been state coercion and the slaying and torture not to say slaughter of innocents.

Secondly individuals have choices; they have a choice to seek pleasures in the flesh as in the mind or for that matter the spirit. Lumbering them with religious guilt and duty is not going to alter their desires or choices. Removing that choice will render people dysfunctional, flawed, depraved and frustrated. None of this is healthy as the author's perception is likely to encourage.

Thirdly one of the choices that Secular Democratic societies render is that of Gnostic religious belief. What is more it allows the freedom of belief. Who is to say that the religious values espoused by the Bahaais in Iran who are persecuted by the Islamic religion is suspect? Yet they are persecuted precisely because the Islamic regime in Iran is a vile theocracy.

The author comes up with some incredible assertions: 'The Holy Quran not only denounces tyrants, but it also denounces those who follow tyrants and obey their orders. This is exactly why Imam Hussein rose up against the tyrant Yazid in Karbala. It was for the ideal of justice, which is the supreme purpose of model human governance that he rose up. Imam Ali used to say the one who submits to oppression is worse than the oppressor'.

Actually the question of Hussein and Yazid have to be sought in the power struggles that bedevilled Islam in the aftermath of Ali's standoff with Abubakre over the Caliphate. It has absolutely nothing to do with notions of justice seeking in Quran. At best it is a petty feud at worst a clash of egos. It has become the staff of petty contention between the Shiites and Sunnis and has done nothing other than muddying the waters. Fact is that the Yazidi cult of Sunnis revere Yazid. So who is right in all this? The Shias who are Anti-Yazid and Muslim? Or the Sunni-Yazidis who are also Muslim?

More generally what is written in the Quran is interpreted by fallible individuals. Else one can look at any societies run on the basis of Sharia law to find how unjust and inequitable they are. Saudi Arabia and Iran are notable examples. Quite honestly for any one to argue that Secular Democracy is being seriously challenged by Islam when empirical models of both exist, and in which the latter has proved to be an abject failure, must have his perception seriously reappraised.

Quite incredibly the author argues that at any rate all talks of Democracy in the region is a symptom of Western arrogance and hypocrisy. He says and I quote: '[Secular Democracy is] an agenda set by the West for its own interests'. He later on says: 'But occupations will never lead to democracy. If democracy is a prerequisite for the flourishing of freedom, I can't help to disbelieve this, because America is relatively the “freest” country in the world, yet its people are the most brainwashed'.

To round off his observation, which is the result of what can only be described as a deluded mind, he furnishes: 'Moreover, let us recall that in Bosnia it was democracy which legitimized the worst war crimes in Europe since the Nazis. This Islamophobic trend in the West was deepened after the triumph of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and its enemies have made no secret of “trying to extinguish the light of Allah.”

Again more generally the disregard for facts by this author is astounding: 'What's interesting is that the United States itself propped these regimes in the Middle East and now uses them to accuse Islam of incompatibility with democracy'.

The author goes on: 'If democracy is a prereq for success, Cuba defies this'.

May be the author would like to persuade the hundreds of thousands of Cubans- who would take the first plane out to Miami if given half a chance- that Cuba is a success. I trust that he has actually lived there and he knows what it is like living in this success. I trust that he is not simply writing in the comfort of some Liberal Democracy in the West whose abysmal failure has nevertheless afforded him the liberty to criticise it so.

Then again he writes: 'In Turkey, secularism is apparently more important than democracy, when the army must intervene on behalf of the state to cancel Islamist parties' electoral victory', what he forgets is that in the very last elections in Turkey an Islamist government swept to power. The same party has now accepted secularism after years of admonishing it and if it secures enough votes it will sweep to power again.

In short the author has been badly briefed.

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