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November 1, 2012 |  1 comment |  Print  Your Research  

MA Thesis: Democracy and Islam: Compatible Norm Systems?

Salahodin Aryapur: Ever since the beginning of the global “war on terror”, the issue of democratic governance and reforms in the Muslim world has been high on the list of issues. This master’s thesis takes a look at whether the theories of state found within Islam are compatible with democratic values.

This research attempts to analyze the efficiency of Islamic states and to measure their compatibility with democracy. The author tries to answer the question of whether the state theories in Islam could lead Islamic societies towards implementation of democratic values such as political participation, rationalism in legislation, implementation of the international norms and respect for human rights or not.

In this respect, the author first analyzes the political theories in two big religions within Islam (Shiite and Sunni) with a historic approach using the new texts and historic documents about the theories of Caliphate and Imamate. Then he explains the methods of appointing the rulers and their duties. Afterwards issues such as, legislating in Islam, implementation of the Sharia law, Hudud and finally respect for the international orders and human rights are analyzed.

The results of this analysis reveal that the political theories in Islam are not capable of presenting an efficient political system, while considering the divine legitimacy for the rulers in these theories, Islam helped to create autocratic regimes. The other challenge is in the rigidity of Sharia law that led to resistance against modern regulations, human rights and international orders.

This study suggests that moving towards secular democracy is an answer to solve these obstacles. Ignoring religious and ideological norms, a secular system emphasizes rationality to lead the society and creates an environment for genuine participation by the people. However, that would also be naïve to implement the secular reforms without any consideration because it needs a proper environment. Educational and cultural methods can prepare people to understand secular democratic values. It must also be considered that moving towards secularism could take a long time in certain Islamic societies and it might face challenges from those groups that see their interests in old systems.

Salahodin Aryapur studied political science and law at the Mashhad University in Iran and the University of Washington in the US, and Public Policy at Erfurt University in Germany. He has worked as a lecturer at Herat University School of law and political science in Herat, Afghanistan, as the regional coordinator of International Development Law Organization, and the head of external relations of the Independent Election Commission in Herat province.

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Tags: | Muslim world | democracy | Islam |
Gwendolyn N Akoto

December 6, 2012

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Mr. Salahodin Aryapur, I am in agreement that the political theories in Islam cannot be ignored and must be considered in order to proceed towards democracy. It is clear that there are many challenges that would lie ahead and that the different religions and beliefs within Islam are at the root of such challenges. Therefore, I understand that secularism democracy is the best approach for Islamic states. I also agree, as you have stated in the Implementation section of your thesis, mental awareness and public preparation is the most crucial in establishing democracy but I wonder what you would project to be a practical timeline for completion and what system would be in place while the Islamic states are transitioning into secular democracy? Also, if there is any resistance against the secular democracy how that would be handled?

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