Monday 22nd Sep 2014
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Islam, Muslims and Democracy-I

Governance

, by DR JAVED JAMIL

It is recurrently argued that Muslim countries are not democratic. This is based on the assumption that only the Western style democracies are the best form of government. The truth is that the Western style democracies are nothing but an instrument in the hands of the big business powers to perpetuate their hold, through good as well as bad means. And when we look at the statistics, what comes out is that there are only about one fifth of the total number of countries that are democratic. If we look at the Muslim world, currently Indonesia, Turkey, Malaysia, Lebanon, Kenya, Afghanistan, Iran, Palestine and several other countries belonging to the erstwhile Soviet Union are democratic countries, where regular elections are held. Bangladesh, Pakistan and Algeria too have been democratic countries though military dictatorships have time and again ruled them. This number is certainly not less than one fifth of the total number of Muslim countries.
If there are several monarchies or autocratic Muslim countries, there are a sizeable number of Christian countries too that have autocratic regimes (Zimbabwe, Peru, several African countries being some examples). If there is a democratic India, Nepal, a country with an overwhelming Hindu population, is a kingdom. Now democratic movements seem to have achieved some successes. Most of the Buddhist countries, including Myanmar, Bhutan, Thailand, China and Cambodia are also not democracies. It has been discussed before that in Islam no ruler can occupy the seat unless he has the support of the people and Islamic system of governance is much better than the Western style of democracies.
 
GOVERNANCE BY THE BEST
Democracy literally means ‘a government by the people, of the people and for the people’. But in truth it is a government of the corporate, by the corporate and for the corporate. The result is that in most of the cases it is not the best among the people that ascend the ladder of politics but the ones chosen by the corporate, who often prove to be the worst for the people. The irony is that it is the people who appear to be voting them to power; they have no option but to elect from among those chosen by their rich masters. Islam, on the other hand, promotes the real democracy, which means Government of God, by the best servants of God and for the people; (theomeritodemocracy) for in Islam the state belongs to God, and what belongs to God does in truth belong to the people. God alone can be selfless Master, whose only interest is mercy on all its creatures. In Islamic countries, Islamic organisations must campaign for an Islamic republic. In other countries, they must campaign for suitable changes in the constitution that allow the most dedicated, selfless and competent persons, at the same time clean enough to be role models for the people, to form the political hierarchy. There must be a screening procedure for the candidates in all elections, and the criteria for the head of state and government must be very strictly selected and applied. They should not just be the administrative heads but also true leaders of the masses. Suitable steps must be taken to ensure that the corporate world and other powerful lobbies are not in a position to unduly influence the decisions of the government.
Huntington says: Many Arab countries, in addition to the oil exporters, are reaching levels of economic and social development where autocratic forms of government become inappropriate and efforts to introduce democracy become stronger. Some openings in Arab political systems have already occurred. The principal beneficiaries of these openings have been Islamist movements. In the Arab world, in short, Western democracy strengthens anti-Western political forces. This may be a passing phenomenon, but it surely complicates relations between Islamic countries and the West.
His assessment that the introduction of democracy in the Islamic world will strengthen Islamic movements is pretty accurate; monarchies misuse Islam only to keep a strict control on the masses, which long instead for a true Islamic rule. The democracy in Malaysia has seen the emergence of Islamist elements as the ruling coalition. In Iran, it is Islam that has brought democracy to the country. In Iraq, the externally imposed democracy is more likely than not to culminate in one or the other form of Islamic revolution. North African countries, Turkey and Egypt will also witness the concurrent strengthening of Islamic movements and democracy. The same can happen to other Muslim states. Most of Islamic revivalists are disenchanted with monarchies and consider them to be systems that violate the political spirit of Islam. All of them regard an Islamic paradigm of democracy as the ideal fulfilment of the aspirations of the people.
 
POLITICAL SYSTEM OF ISLAM
The Qur’an sets basic but distinct and categorical guidelines for the development of political system. Islam encompasses the life of individual as well as society; and society is not conceivable – at least in the modern world, without an elaborate administrative and political set-up. Therefore it could not be possible that God would not have given explicit instructions in this regard. Islam means peace, and is defined as submission to God because the real peace cannot be achieved without wholly submitting to the injunctions of God. The grand objective of Islamic political system therefore is to ensure peace at all levels. This cannot be achieved without taking three basic steps: first, to enjoin the righteousness and forbid evil; second, to ensure justice; and third, to foster unity and brotherhood. It is this trio that forms the foundation of the Islamic political set-up. Before understanding Islamic political system however, let us have a brief look into the development of modern political ideology.
Needless to repeat, the political revolution in the West was masterminded by economic fundamentalists. Political experts of the West, under the impact of the ongoing industrialisation, felt the need to initiate a movement for the establishment of democracy, which they described as a system of “the government of the people, for the people and by the people”. The slogan of people’s rule was indeed fascinating. It cannot be said with certainty whether the onset of the movement of democracy had direct involvement, or not, of the economic fundamentalists. But sooner or later, they were able to fathom the extraordinary potential in the on-rushing political developments for the growth of their ideology. A system other than the people’s government was now incomprehensible for a government that would be periodically changed would be easily manoeuvrable. The political hierarchy would not only be far more accessible than the monarchs but would also be in no position to ignore the interests of the business-world; for the politicians required free flow of money for electioneering and other political functions. Manufacturers and traders would not mind parting with a small loaf in hope of greater returns. The movement for democracy could not have been successful if the dons of the world of business had not been kind to it.
The history soon witnessed the birth of different forms of democratic systems. Little wonder that democracies prospered primarily in those lands where the industrialisation was in full swing. Multiple-party democracy was the obvious choice; for in party-less democracy the individual leaders might have ignored the interests of the market as soon as they seized the reins of power. On the other hand, parties had long-term interests, and it was more improbable for the parties to forget the pre-election promises.
Though the avowed goal of democracy has been to fulfil the long cherished aspirations of the people and to work for their all-round betterment, it has miserably failed in guarding itself against the damaging intrigues of the vested interests, particularly industrialists. The power can be seized only at the hustings; the big business either fields its own candidates or more often supports a political party that is expected to best serve its interests. Any meaningful electioneering requires not only huge funds but also other extreme methods, including the use of muscle-power, and facilitating the entry of criminals. Thus a permanent nexus has developed between politics, organised crime and industry. This is true of almost all the big democracies of the present world.
The bracket has extended itself to include the bureaucracy, administration and media. Elections are regularly held and the people can exercise their right to franchise. But the issues on which the elections are contested are usually such as suit the game-plan of the economic fundamentalists. The media create and un-create issues; the masses are beguilingly reconditioned into thinking the way the media think. Politics has become highly expensive and hazardous. The word “moral” has ceased to exist in the political lexicon. Anyone with semblance of conscience dares not venture into the political arena that has become playground for the rich and the criminals. The upright and educated have in fact developed repugnance for it. Not only politicians have harmonious relations with criminals, the latter have also developed fascination for politics themselves. In the absence of any strict criteria for candidates, the undesirable elements gain a sort of legitimacy once they enter the election fray after joining one of the parties expected to fare well in the elections. It is much more tedious for an intellectual or social activist to convince the party stalwarts of his claim for party ticket; criminals’ wishes to become people’s representatives are expressly granted. Once they enter Parliaments or Assemblies, they acquire a distinct halo of respectability and esteem; big functions are organised to shower encomiums on them for their “services” to the nation. After a few years of politicking, they become veterans and often occupy ministerial chairs. The ongoing politicisation of criminals breeds the criminalisation of politics, which enhances the prospects of the economic fundamentalists.
(to be continued)


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