In Continuation of the Article posted on TF Blog on 4/13/2013


متاعِ معنئِ بیگانہ از دوں فطرتاں جوئی

You’re seeking the subject of your affairs from mean cultured foreign sources
ز موراں شوخئِ طبعِ سلیمانے نمے آید

From the well disciplined ants the intellectualism of Solomon cannot emerge
گریز از طرزِ جمہوری غلامِ پختہ کارے شو

Stay away from the democratic form, be a slave of the experienced wise person
کہ از مغزِ دو صد خر فکرِ انسانے نمی آید

For the brains of two hundred donkeys do not produce wise thought of a human


جمہوریت اک طرزِ حکومت ہے کہ جس میں

Democracy is a form of government in which
بندوں کو گنا کرتے ہیں تولا نہیں کرتے

People are counted not weighed or judged 

(Sir Allama Muhammad Iqbal, Poet-Philosopher of Islam)

These verses of Allama Iqbal reflect his sentiments about political form of Democracy in which people are counted but not weighed. Here he is not speculating on Secular Liberal Democracy.

What is “Arab Spring”? The term “Arab Spring” was popularized by the Western media in early 2011 when the successful uprising in Tunisia against former leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali emboldened similar anti-government protests in most Arab countries. It was, in fact, a series of protests, uprisings, and armed rebellions that spread across the Middle East rather than a struggle for a “liberal democratic rule.” Its purpose, relative success, and the outcome, remains hotly disputed in Arab countries, among international observers, and between world powers interested to exploit the changing political scenario of the Middle East. But the events in the Middle East went in a less straightforward direction. Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen entered an uncertain transition period, Iraq, Syria and Libya were drawn into a civil conflict, while the wealthy monarchies in the Persian Gulf remained largely unshaken by the events. The term Arab Spring, today, is viewed imperfect, simplistic, and the protest movement of 2011 as an expression of deep-seated resentment at the decades-long and illegitimate Arab dictatorships. It has proved as an expression of anger at the unemployment, rising prices, and corruption that followed the privatization of state assets in some countries. Protesters in monarchies like Jordan and Morocco wanted to reform the system under the current rulers, some calling for an immediate transition to constitutional monarchy; others content with gradual reform. People in republican regimes like Egypt and Tunisia wanted to overthrow the president, but other than free elections they had little idea on what to do next; beyond calls for greater social justice there was no magic wand for the economy. The expectation that decades of authoritarian regimes would be reversed and replaced with a stable liberal democratic systems across the region, Arab Spring has proved a failure. It has disappointed those expecting that the removal of corrupt rulers would result in an instant improvement in their living standards. Moreover there are still some hard-line Islamists, holding sufficient ground, who are more concerned with enforcing strict religious norms. Its success is that it has, however, helped the Arabs to understand their position between a fading authoritarian order and the need for a liberal or a political democratic order compatible or accommodative with the spirit of their religion.

Arab Spring and Secular Liberal Democracy: Since the first wave of revolt in the Arab world launched as ‘Arab Spring’, it seems uncertain that the western form of ‘secular liberal democracy’ will emerge and take hold in that part of the world. So far there are no signs that the future of liberty and democracy in the Arab world is bright. Liberal democracy is a system that emerges from the bottom up, implying a horizontal relationship among individuals in a society, i.e. human to human; while at the bottom the masses are religious. It requires a form of political secularism, not Godless but devoid of any divine interference. In Islam, religion is primarily a vertical relationship between an individual and his God, where Divine sovereignty is imposed from top down. In the Muslim world, even today, the primary intellectual, political, and cultural resources at the disposal of enthusiastic Muslim democrats are theological, where for the staunch Hanbali, Wahhabi, and Salafi Arabs, divine sovereignty cannot be compromised. Here the most important question is, are the ruling elite or the military dictators in the Arab land adopted to the concept of divine sovereignty willing to give up power in favor of the sovereignty of the people? Within such a framework of religious thought, Islam’s primarily vertical relationship between a person and his God, divine sovereignty clashes with liberal democracy’s horizontal conception posing a key question: “Is Political Islam compatible with liberal democracy in the Arab world?” In order to find an answer to this question we have to probe whether it is the revealed Divine message, or the tribal cultural and traditional ethos, or the astonishingly poetically based literary and sentimental heritage of the pre-and-post Arabic poetical language’s literature, barricading the emergence of liberal democracy? Is there a possibility that the Arabs should not emphasize that religion is far above politics, or at least in the beginning stage of a nation’s political order “one serves as an instrument of the other.” Or they can find a way to liberal democracy by following what the renowned American poet Walt Whitman reflected about liberal democracy in USA as: “For I say at the core of democracy, finally, is the religious element. All the religions, old and new, are there”; and also what President Barack Hussain Obama has said, “Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.” Can the concept of “Twin Tolerations”—the minimal boundaries of freedom of action that must somehow be crafted for political institutions vis-a-vis religious authorities, and for religious individuals and groups vis-a-vis political institutions—intertwining liberal democracy with the belief of religious oriented mullas and masses, help the political leaders indigenize a form of religion based liberal-democracy? The real problem with the Arabs and the Muslims in general is that the believers view religion as far and above politics, while the modernists seek liberal democracy free from the shackles of religion. However, there exists a symbiotic relationship between a religious adaptation and the liberal-democratic formation. Though the French political scientist Alexis Tocqueville’s claim that “the first political institution of American democracy is religion,” seems odd when compared to secularism, religion paradoxically and typically helps proceed the democratic process; they are in fact interwoven and interrelated processes just like a secular-liberal-democracy of USA with a dictum of “In God We Trust.” The first reason for Tocqueville to see religion as the primary political institution of democracy is religion’s powerful conviction about the centrality of human liberty to the entire purpose of the universe. He argues, “Faith adds to a morality of mere reason, an acute sense of acting in the presence of a personal and undeceivable Judge, Who sees and knows even actions performed in secret, even willful acts committed solely in one’s heart.”

Role of Literary-Geo-Social Background: What if there was no Islam in the Arab land, would the Arabs have conceived a rational ideology or a democratic form of government just like the Greeks? In order to understand this, we need to search and study the literary-geo-social background of the Arabian peninsula. In my article “The Origin of Democracy and its Role Today” I have argued that the birth of democracy in ancient Greece was linked with the art of tragedy. For the Athenians, who were the architects of democracy, not only that democracy and tragedy shared intrinsic links, but also both were the product of Greece’s geographical atmosphere and social temperament. The story of democracy, much like a tragic tale performed on stage unfolded as a social and political order. Sociologists believe that different myths, cultures, traditions, literature, religions, and political systems are the product of geographical landscapes, and atmospheric environments. Muhammad Asad (Leopold Weiss 1900–1992) a Jew converted Muslim scholar of the 20th century, regarding the geo-social background of the Arabs argues, “Though there are many more beautiful landscapes in the world, but none, I think, that can shape man’s spirit in so sovereign a way as the bare and clean desert that knows no compromise. It sweeps out of the heart of man all the lovely fantasies that could be used as a masquerade for wishful thinking, and thus makes him free to surrender himself to an Absolute that has no image: the farthest of all that is far and yet the nearest of all that is near.”

As far as Arabic literature is concerned, in pre-Islamic Arabia the warring tribal chiefs extending their rivalries into the urban settlements, a remarkably lively tradition of fine poetry had sprung up—a sharp contrast to the plays of Greek tragedies performed on stage for the common citizens. The main purpose of these poems, it seems, was to extol one side of the quarrel and to pour insult on the other. These poems, and the legends remembered or fabricated to explain their purport, remain a principal source of information on Arabian affairs in the country of the Prophet of Islam’s birth. In those days poetry was not a kind of aesthetic-luxury for the cultured few, but sole medium of the common people of the desert of what they felt and thought. Poetic literature, as a voice of the people, gave life and currency to an ideal of Arabian virtue, which, though based on tribal community insisting that only ties of blood were sacred, nevertheless became an invisible link between diverse feuding clans. It helped form, whether consciously or not, the basis of a society known as Arabs, a larger community of sentiment—not based on reason and rational thinking as we have seen the role of theater in the case of Greek society. Poetry helped create an extensive vocabulary of themes, images and figures, establishing Arabic as a sublime rhetoric language of the Qur’an that made it easy for the common people to embrace its verses as miraculously enchanting. Language is not only a vital medium of communication, it significantly helps us to articulate and clarify the incoherent turbulence of our inner world. We coin and use words when we want to make something happen outside ourselves. It is no less a surprise that during the eighth century, Arab thinkers and philosophers while translating Greek sciences and philosophy translated many Greek and Latin terminology quite easily into Arabic, beautifully coining new words. But there is no word to be found in classical or Qur’anic Arabic that is exactly synonymous with “secularism” as an ideology beyond religion. Consequently the only words for “secularism” spoken today by the Muslims are, dunyawi, zamaani, or dahri, and the term “secularism” now being interpreted as dahriyyat, which is understood by a believer as atheistic or Godless. On the other hand “secularism” in its political affirmation does not mean Godless. According to the Newsweek, February 25, 2008, “Secular was first used in the Middle Ages to mean things and people not belonging to church—as Webster’s puts it, ‘not covertly or specifically religious; not ecclesiastical or clerical.’ Today this remains its best and important meaning. In this great experiment that is American democracy, ‘secular’ is the only word we have to describe the idea handed down by the Founders of American democracy—not that they do not believe in God—rather they do not belong to God, they belong to their people.”

We know that poetry is the voice of human emotions and sentiments. It expresses reason and wisdom through sentiments, as we see an example of sentimental expression of democracy by the poet Allama Iqbal cited at the top of this article. On the other hand theater or drama within its forms of comedy and tragedy, presents human emotions and sentiments through reason, where rationalism supersedes emotionalism. In Islam the vertical axis of religious sentiments clashes with the horizontal axis of humanist reason. Therefore, it is not a simple and straightforward course for the Muslims to adopt a secular-liberal-democratic form of political system, unless a major compromise like the “Twin Tolerations” is brokered.

Historical Background: However, exploring the historical background of the earliest period of Islam we find that for the Prophet of Islam declaring man a servant of God did not cause any hurdle in following a political system which was not based on revealed injunctions. We find an excellent example of the Prophet’s toleration that even exceeds the idea of “Twin Tolerations.” The Hijra, the migration of Prophet Muhammad to Medina, marks the beginning of his political activity and the hypotheses that led to an Islamic Political system. He laid the foundation of a new body politic, an Islamic city-state without precise geographical landmark. He framed a charter famously known as the Constitution of Medina, to manage law and order amongst the feuding tribes of Medina. Although the charter invoked the name of Allah and Muhammad as his messenger, it was neither a religious canon nor an invention of a political theorist, but a kind of Secular Contract—not overtly or specifically religious, not ecclesiastical or clerical—based on natural moral rules and rooted in pre-Islamic pagan-Arabian tribal traditions. The Prophet would settle all matters in the light of natural law remaining within the frame work of the charter. When the Prophet died in 634, Islam was secure as the paramount religion and political system of all Arabia. The believing Arabs were firmly welded together into a theocratic community ‘obedient to Allah and His Prophet’, to be joined in a bewildering short time by countless multitudes of non-Arabs accepting or capitulating to the Call. This secular Constitution of Medina remained in force and was fully honored by the first four Right Guided Caliphs who were elected—though not directly by public vote but consensually by a body of the elders—until it was scrapped by the Ummayyads. The Arabs believing in hereditary leadership at that time were neither familiar with the Greek Democracy nor it was within their tradition to elect a leader.

All through the Golden period of Islamic history the Arabs, who accepted so much and so readily from the Greeks, never knew, or never cared to know, the glories of Greek literature and its politics. First of all Aristotle’s Poetics was translated along with the rest of the canon and at a later stage Plato’s Republic and Laws, and then Aristotle’s Politics and Ethics became available to Arab readers. We notice from the works of al-Farabi, the terms ‘tragedy’ and ‘comedy’ as well as ‘political philosophy’ were quite meaningless to the Arabs. In fact the drama in the western sense remained unknown to the Islamic people until comparatively modern times. Throughout their past and medieval history the Arabs developed a creative mind that had a flair for poetry and storytelling by focusing the faculties of imagination and memory on vertical axis as an integral part of their culture. In order to conceive philosophical ideas and contrive theories in social sciences, poetic fancy and intuitional faculty is of little help. Caliph al-Mamoon’s early period marks that the formal Arabic ode or ghazal became a form of Persian literature and poetry still enjoying its old primacy of aestheticism. Study of philosophy was presumed to invade the sanctum of theology that gave birth to a conflict between rationalism and revelation. By the tenth century the three currents—theological, philosophical and mystical—made confluence to attempt an all-embracing harmony. Orthodox Islam, though suspicious of the mystics, accepted Sufis as allies against their far more dangerous enemies, the free thinking philosophers. The Ottomans in the Middle East and Central Asia, the Sufvis in Persia, and the Mughals in India became the promoters of Sufism and thus “free thinking philosophy” came to an end.

The Causes of Decline: In the world of Islam the decline in rational and scientific thinking is linked with the rise of Sufi mysticism. Though al-Ghazali did not invent Sufism, which already had deep roots in the Arabian and Central Asian cultures. In the difficult circumstances of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries—the period of Mongol’s invasion—it emerged as a need of that crucial time. However, Ghazali did more than anyone else to legitimize it within Islam and to give it the central place among ways of knowing. He strongly opposed ibn Rushd’s rational and scientific thinking as well as his concept of separation of religion and politics. In doing so Ghazali pushed aside reason and logic. He prepared a hierarchy, in which the rational intellect was reduced to a subordinate status from which it was neither able nor allowed to challenge knowledge gained through mystical intuition and tradition. During the eighteenth century when the West was beginning to adopt progressive form of democracy and human liberty, Islamic world experienced the retrogressive religious ideology of Wahhabism shifting Muslims back to pristine Islam causing a great set back to free reasoning and rational thinking. Abdel Wahhab’s teachings of a pre-modern fundamentalist belief of Islam wedded the Arabs into politico-religious unity rather than the separation of religion and politics. The Arabs started viewing democracy as decidedly this-worldly ideology and Godlessly secular.

The declining Islamic civilization came to further ruin after the advance of European imperialism which added enervative humiliation to its past pride—even the earliest tradition of electing a caliph was also ignored. Of all the Muslim lands only Arabia, Turkey, Persia and Afghanistan escaped subjugation by the Europeans. A state of confusion created by modern inversions and religious reversals developed a collective psychology that for generations has grown as a second nature of today’s Muslims. Added by the complex of victimhood even the teachings of Islam have been denatured. It is against such a background of abject degradation after imperial glory, that the passionate struggle for national independence through the world of Islam is to be viewed and understood. Though a political rebirth started in the nineteenth century but its main stimuli was Western culture and political movement of French Revolution, and British liberal idealism. The literary and artistic models, the scientific, technical, the political examples, were to a great extent furnished by Europe and the United States. Even the very impulse to study Muslim history, and to appraise the cultural achievements of medieval Islam—as a chief source of greater pride and aspiration for the Muslims—goes to the credit of the Western Orientalism. These facts go a long way to account for the love-hate relationship that characterizes the attitude of many Muslims today towards the West as well as the Western political philosophy.

The Possible Way Towards Liberal Democracy: Psychologists affirm that more extreme a person’s views are the more he thinks he is right. Both hard-line religious fundamentalists and extreme modern liberals have a staunch belief of superiority with disdain for all those who do not share their views. In order to prepare a ground for the emergence of a liberal democracy an educational system has to be introduced that help produce a generation of free and moderate thinking. Democracies depend upon the presence of the moral psychology of their citizens which has to evolve from a society’s educational and literary impetuosity and pass through the gates of its cultural, environmental, social, historical, and also religious ethos. During the Golden Era of  Islamic history, philosophical and scientific thinking remained dominant and Islamic civilization flourished. But no nation or civilization basking on the past glory can give its present a “new past.” It has to shape its present by adapting the four basic dimensions of its contemporary period: educational, cultural, economic, and political. Since humans are naturally both spiritual and rational beings, the educational dimension should establish a harmony between faith and reason. For cultural dimension, there is freedom within Islam to adapt to different cultures and environments, to experiment, to change, and to develop. As regards economic dimension, the Prophet himself being a merchant, the road to adopt modern economic values is always open for the Muslims. For political dimension, there are four universal liberties, which are also Islamic liberties: liberty of worship, liberty of speech, liberty from poverty, and liberty from tyranny. Islam’s interpretation of human rights and liberty are clearly reflected by its greater emphasis of “Haquq-ul-Abad” which is over and above “Haquq Allah.” Islam’s concept of “Haquq-ul-Abad” is egalitarian and a close interpretation of the modern view of “secularism.” To resolve the economic, cultural, and political crisis in Islam, an awakening, a renewal, and a rejuvenation both in literal sense and in the way of thinking is the need of the hour. A democracy is always fluid in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. Critically, the rules of democracy can be changed, amended, and adjusted according to the needs of the people which is an inclusive nature of democracy that distinguishes it from religion and from theocratic based political systems. Democracy is founded on economic stability and will continue to exist up until the time voters discover that they can vote themselves for the generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury. So far the only success of the Arab Spring is in smashing the myth of Arabs’ political passivity and the perceived invincibility of arrogant ruling elites. It is a time of transition which is going to decide that the earliest Islamic politico-religious and the medieval glorious achievements cannot be used to provide reason for a modern Arab world. Today is the era of global connectivity where in every moment everyone is connected with no one in control; no religion or ideology is going to be fully in charge. By transcending man’s biological limitations and merging humans and machines, modern technology with the help of its cyber-network is evolving a new cultural, social, religious, and political Universal Order.


Books Consulted:

Religion the First Political Institution: Argued by Alexis de Tocqueville

The Universal Hunger for Liberty: by Michael Novak

Islam and the Arab Awakening: by Tariq Ramadan

The Future of Freedom: by Farid Zakria

Islam and Modernity: Edited by John Cooper and Ronald Nettler

Islam and the Challenge of Democracy: by Khalid Abou el Fadal

A Literary History of the Arabs: by Reynold Nicholson

Aspects of Islamic Civilization: by A. J. Arberry

Islam and Modernity: Transformation of an Intellectual Tradition: by Fazlur Rahman

Islam, Secularism, and Liberal Democracy: by Nader Hashemi




8 thoughts on “ARAB SPRING AND LIBERAL DEMOCRACY By Mirza Ashraf

  1. By writing this lecture for monthly get together of TF USA, Mirza Ashraf has done a wonderful job. Being a research scholar Mirza Ashraf has put together an important document which can be read by TF USA affiliates and discuss its important points for a long time to come.
    It has an excellent introduction.
    There are 5 following subheadings:
    (1) Arab Spring and Secular Liberal Democracy
    (2) Role of Literary-Geo-Social Background
    (3) Historical Background
    (4) The Causes of Decline
    (5) The Possible Ways Towards Liberal Democracy
    Mirza Ashraf has done a great service for TF USA affiliates by providing so many authentic facts about this complex topic. Of course we are entitled to analyze with our own intellectual dimensions and derive our own conclusions.

    Mirza Ashraf has mentioned the concept of “Twin Toleration”.
    It is directly linked to American Democracy because of historical reasons.
    Subsequently he has attempted to establish a link between “Charter of Medina” and “Twin Toleration” which can be discussed by TF USA affiliates.
    Under “Twin Toleration” Mirza Ashraf has written about Alexis de Tocqueville a French Political Analyst of 19th Century.
    Tocqueville is a favorite of Conservative American politicians and quite frequently used by Conservative think-tank’s of USA.


    Who was Alexis de Tocqueville?
    An aristocratic Frenchman who came to the U.S. in 1831 — when he was only 25 years old — and later wrote Democracy in America, a two-volume study of the American people and their political institutions. The book is frequently quoted by journalists and politicians.

    Why is his book, Democracy in America, so popular?
    The book deals with issues like religion, the press, money, class structure, racism, the role of government, the judicial system, etc. — issues that are just as relevant today as they were then. Democracy in America has undergone several periods of popularity throughout the century, but it’s never been as popular as it is now. Scores of colleges around the country use the text in political science and history courses, and historians consider it one of the most comprehensive and insightful books ever written about the U.S.
    The Weekly Standard
    November 13, 1995
    By John J. Pitney, Jr.
    Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America is a beloved, canonical text; the urge to quote from it is understandably great. Politicians ever seek to demonstrate familiarity with it, from Bill Clinton to Pat Buchanan. One of their favorite quotes runs as follows:
    I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers – and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce – and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution – and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.
    These lines are uplifting and poetic. They are also spurious. Nowhere do they appear in Democracy in America, or anywhere else in Tocqueville.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>. END <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<,

    Mirza Ashraf has provided valuable info about Greek and Arab intellectual environments.
    He talks about verticals and horizontal axis, fundamentalists, mystics and free thinkers.
    He has mentioned lot of important and complex concepts.

    I was intrigued to read that all three Muslim empires Ottoman (Turks), Sufvids (Persian), Mughals (Indian) encouraged/patronized Mysticism in their respective areas of influence – which covers all Muslim word from approximately 15th to 19th centuries.

    During this time Europe was nurturing rationalism, emancipation from dogma and scientific thinking. Muslims were taking refuge in intuition and supernatural thoughts.

    Even the modern Muslim thinkers feel more comfortable with enlightened mysticism – including Allama Iqbal.
    These are complex and controversial concepts, TF USA affiliates can discuss for a long time to come if they are willing to.


  2. Comment By Zaki Ahmed Sabih

    This is a very good analysis of the situation in the aftermath of what is called “The Arab Spring.” In fact watching the Arab world today, I would rather call it “The Arab Garbage.” The situation in the Arab world is now more chaotic, more disturbing and more uncertain than before. The classic example is Libya where foreign intervention helped topple the Qaddafi regime. Though Qaddafi was a ruthless dictator and criminally held the office, there was some semblance of peace, security and stability in the country. Schools, colleges and bussinesses were open. Now the so called democratic Libya has no central authority, no army, no peace or stability and a bunch of tribal factions rule different parts of the country. The common man is more miserable now than before. I always believed that road to democracy and reform is through peaceful means and passive resistance and civilo disobediance, NOT through vilent uprising, armed struggle and revolt. We should follow the example of Qaid-e-Azam, Mohatama Gandhi and Dr. King.

  3. In my first article, The Origin of Democracy and its Role Today, I have argued: “The birth of democracy in ancient Greece was linked with the art of tragedy. For the Athenians, who were the architects of democracy, not only that democracy and tragedy shared intrinsic links, but also both were the product of Greece’s geographical atmosphere and social temperament.” Thus the birth of democracy was not from love and peace, but through pathos and tragic plays. The gist of the article ‘Arab Spring and Liberal Democracy’ clearly reflects that democracy in dictatorial or aristocratic societies never emerged through a peaceful process. People have to fight out for their liberty. Gandhi’s non-violent movement is a different story. The British were so weak after the 2nd WW that they viewed Gandhi’s peaceful movement as a blessing, preferring it over a violent movement for the freedom of India. If a violent movement had taken place in India, it would have been impossible for the British to withdraw their civil and military personals safely out of India. Both, Bacha Khan and Gandhi proved their saviors and without loosing a single British soul, they moved out of India safely. After partition of the sub-continent, India adopted ‘Political form of Democracy’ but it is not ‘Liberal Democracy’ rather it is–as Farid Zakaria views–an ‘Illiberal Democracy.’

    Democracy appeared in modern times after a bloody revolution in France, followed by the American Revolution and matured after the Civil war in USA. Democracies in Canada, Australia and few other modern societies appeared because there was no or at least less tribalism or any authoritarian rule. My present article reveals that the Arab world is naturally barren for democratic growth. It needs to sow the seeds of democracy imported from the West and then fertilize it with modernity. To achieve this the indigenous tribalism, religious fundamentalism, and authoritarianism has to be fought out by force. This is going on in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and also in Pakistan. ‘Liberal Democracy’ is to be achieved by the people in the Arab World after fighting out anti-democratic elements in that region. The process is on, though the future is unpredictable as I have said at the end of my article:

    “Today is the era of global connectivity where in every moment everyone is connected with no one in control; no religion or ideology is going to be fully in charge. By transcending man’s biological limitations and merging humans and machines, modern technology with the help of its cyber-network is evolving a new cultural, social, religious, and political Universal Order.”

    Mirza Ashraf

  4. We tend to interweave east and west without regard to the great divides between the two rather different ways of life. The western ideas of the separation of religion and state are quite different from the Islamic merger of the two. The societies have evolved accordingly. A consequence of that difference is the implications for democracy. The idea of one man-one vote has not worked out too well in Islamic countries. Egypt is a case in point. The direct election produced a majority muslim brotherhood government who were ousted when they tried to mix their brand of religion into the political life. The current military regime will force through a more secular agenda. Neither form captures the imagination of the people who yearn for the basic of economic and social betterment.
    The era of connectivity has made people more aware of the failings and less accepting of the status quo. So turmoil will continue to wrack most Muslim countries until they evolve a more receptive system pertinent to their particular social evolution and build institutions that reflect those values. The system that evolves might be a hybrid like Israel.

  5. The America that Tocqville describes in 1831 is profoundly different from the one we live in today. It was time when religious faith was the main force in bringing together disparate immigrants escaping the tyrannies of diverse countries to meld and help shape a society with a manifest destiny as shown in the Monroe doctrine for America. It took a hundred years and a civil war to merge the ideals of democracy and insulate politics from religion. The American democratic model is unique to its history and policies that seek to overlay it on societies of the third world have not and will not work.

  6. In response to Dr. Nasik’s point that “The America that Tocqueville describes in 1831 is profoundly different from the one we live in today. It was time when religious faith was the main force . . .” I have already stated in my article that, “A democracy is always fluid in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. Critically, the rules of democracy can be changed, amended, and adjusted according to the needs of the people which is an inclusive nature of democracy that distinguishes it from religion and from theocratic based political systems.” However, the spirit of religion and its moral and ethical virtues are there in the core of the liberal democracy in USA and it will remain for ever.

    Recently a news appeared that a Michigan public school banned an 8-year old boy from bringing his Bible to his class, insisting that Bible is only for the church not for the school. His mother pleaded that her son likes to read Bible during free time. When a reporter called the school authorities, the superintendent had to reverse the order, not because of the boys fundamental right, but because of the fact that being religious is his natural right.

    Man is intrinsically a spiritual animal. Religion is not what a person just believes, rather it is what a person acts upon. A non-believer–even an atheist–who acts upon all the ethical and moral virtues (which are always same in all the religions) is more religious than the one who is a believer but fails to fulfill the moral and ethical virtues of his religion. Religion will never die; it may not appear as priority of a person or a society, but its spirit will live for ever within human beings psyche. Almost a century of Communist rule in Soviet Union, mosques, churches, synagogues, and temples remained locked and God was no where to be heard or talked about. But the moment communism collapsed religion has mushroomed all over Russia and other freed states. Religion is re-surfacing in Turkey as well as in India, where democracies are well established. In the end, I am quoting Tocqueville which are worth considering.

    1. Faith corrects moral and manners. In a free society like America the law allows the Americans to do everything, there are things which religion prevents them from imagining and forbids them to dare break the law.

    2. Fixed ideas about God and human nature are indispensable to humans for the conduct of daily life, and it is daily life that prevents them from acquiring them.

    3. Religion adds to reason indispensable support for the view that every human being is not simply a bundle of pleasures and pains, a higher kind of animal.

    4. Tocqueville argues that faith adds reason five worldly strengths: (1) restraint of vice and gains in social peace; (2) fixed, stable, and general ideas about the dynamics of life; (3) a check on the downward bias of the principle of equality and the materialism toward which it gravitates; (4) a new conception of morality as a personal relation with the Creator, and thus a motive for acting well even when no one is looking; and (5) through the high honor paid to the marriage bond, the quiet regulation of mores in marriage and in home.

    Mirza Ashraf

  7. Reference Nasik Sahib’s comment, “The western ideas of the separation of religion and state are quite different from the Islamic merger of the two”, I would like to say that it is not impossible to eliminate this difference. In fact, the early history of Western governance was not much different and state and church were just as much merged as in present Islamic way of governance. We are about a thousand years behind but following the same path. The good news is that the connectivity and exchange of ideas among the masses has progressed greatly and hopefully we will leap forward and come abreast with West sooner without repeating the experiences of the West (like the French and American revolutions). The history has by now shown us the winner idea from the choices that were available but not fully tried out (Theocratic, Communist and Democratic). Rulers in the Muslim world better see the writing on the wall and step aside instead of getting dragged to the guillotine.


  8. Technology is the big game changer that may allow the Muslim societies to hurtle through change without waiting for a thousand years. The blood and guts are being spilled on the way as regressive religious forces fight the progressive elements to attain the desired societal balance. As the so-called Arab Spring has demonstrated the path to progress is fraught with reversals and there is no way to predict the outcomes when the rulers are weak, corrupt and self indulgent and their opponents are unyielding and mired in medieval thinking.

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