Democracy and Islam

Abdelwahab el-Affendi

in Islamic Studies

ISBN: 9780195390155
Published online December 2009 | | DOI:
Democracy and Islam


Just as there are numerous versions of democracy (which is why it is called a “contested concept”), the debate on Islam and democracy has polarized participants within Muslim communities and scholarly communities in equal measure. The debates raging in this area fall into two broad categories. At one level, there are internal debates that have been going for over a century within the Muslim world with regard to governance in general and the merits of democracy and its compatibility with Islamic norms in particular. These debates are multifaceted, involving religious scholars endorsing or attacking democratic ideals, politicians advocating or opposing democratization, and secular intellectuals arguing for or against liberal democracy from different ideological perspectives. At another level, there are the academic debates, taking place mainly in the West, but increasingly within numerous institutions with Muslim countries. In addition to tracking and assessing the primary debates, these ‘secondary’ debates often contribute to them. On many occasions, scholarly input (such as early Orientalist writings) has triggered some of the primary debates. The scholarly writings also include a number of empirical studies on the status of democracy in particular regions or countries. The output in both sets of debates has been growing exponentially in recent years, with interesting evolutionary changes and (at times) remarkable shifts in the positions of the major participants.

Article.  8020 words. 

Subjects: Islam

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