Dr.Daniel Pipes: “As Erdogan (Turkey’s PM) has revealingly explained, “Democracy is like a streetcar. When you come to your stop, you get off.”
Pipes brings some much needed wisdom to the debate on whether Islam can ever be fully welcomed into the family of religions, that have fully embraced the democratic model/system of governance in the modern age. He makes no pretense that its a forgone conclusion that Islam will indeed take the plunge into modernity.
Two obstacles stand in the way of these changes, however. In the Middle East especially, tribal affiliations remain of paramount importance. As explained by Philip Carl Salzman in his recent book, Culture and Conflict in the Middle East, these ties create a complex pattern of tribal autonomy and tyrannical centralism that obstructs the development of constitutionalism, the rule of law, citizenship, gender equality, and the other prerequisites of a democratic state. Not until this archaic social system based on the family is dispatched can democracy make real headway in the Middle East.
Globally, the compelling and powerful Islamist movement obstructs democracy. It seeks the opposite of reform and modernization – namely, the reassertion of the Shari‘a in its entirety. A jihadist like Osama bin Laden may spell out this goal more explicitly than an establishment politician like Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but both seek to create a thoroughly anti-democratic, if not totalitarian, order.
Islamists respond two ways to democracy. First, they denounce it as un-Islamic. Muslim Brotherhood founder Hasan al-Banna considered democracy a betrayal of Islamic values. Brotherhood theoretician Sayyid Qutb rejected popular sovereignty, as did Abu al-A‘la al-Mawdudi, founder of Pakistan’s Jamaat-e-Islami political party. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Al-Jazeera television’s imam, argues that elections are heretical.