Across the Bay

Saturday, July 17, 2004

The Missionary Position

Lee Smith wrote a terrific piece in Slate yesterday, that pretty much summarizes all the main points I've been trying to make on this blog recently.

Smith writes:

"Some of Qaradawi's fans, like historian Raymond William Baker, note that the sheikh favors democracy, even writing a fatwadeclaring that democracy is compatible with Islam. However, Shaker Al-Nabulsi, a Jordanian intellectual who lives in the United States, argues that Qaradawi's Islamist democracy is a ridiculous contradiction in terms. Democracy, Nabulsi writes, "is not a religious council, nor the obligation to promote virtue and eliminate vice. … Democracy is not religious tolerance, justice, or any other religious value. Democracy is a civil principle, not a religious value.""

For those who aren't familiar with how Qaradawi conceives of democracy (cf. my earlier comments on "lexicon"), here's a translation of his views from his website:

"...as for those who claim that democracy is against Islam, who ever said so? Some have said that democracy is an imported heresy, and every heresy leads astray, and every deviation leads to hellfire. I say to them, no, the essence of democracy is not imported; the essence of democracy is shūra (Islamic consultation), it's religious advice (sic!), it's the command to do good and abstinence from the (religiously) forbidden, it's freedom of expression and criticism; these are all Islamic issues and clear Islamic teachings, and what's new are the tools and styles and guarantees...
I've said it more than once, that before we ask for the implementation of Islamic sharia, we want the liberation of the people, we want to give freedom to our people, and if freedom is given Islam will flourish, and the Islamic da'wa (call for conversion) will flourish, and Islamic thought will flourish, as well as Islamic behavior, because Islam is the thought of the people, and the people are believers in God, the Quran and Muhammad and they've never apostated...
We want, brothers, for our umma to walk the walk of freedom and democracy, even when I hate to use foreign words, however if we understand the meaning of democracy in its bounds and limits, it is the democracy of Islamic society which believes in Islam as a reference, and in sharia as its ruler and believes in Islamic values as a guide, and believes in Islamic doctrine as a basis for its identity, this democracy for this society, this society cannot allow what God has forbidden or forbid what God has allowed, nor can it drop what God has dictated or legalize what God has not allowed.
" (Emphases added.)

This is the "democracy" that Qaradawi and Islamists have in mind. However, as Nabulsi wrote, "democracy is not religious tolerance, justice, or any other religious value. Democracy is a civil principle, not a religious value.…" Thus, as Smith put it, true democracy "leaves little room for... those Islamist democrats who believe that the source of political sovereignty is God."

Therefore, Jacques Chirac's stupid, hypocritical, and damaging statement aside, the US must indeed maintain an aggressive "missionary" (Chirac's term) attitude. The worst thing is to revert back to defensive sterility, especially in the face of such a sick destructive scene that has (as we've seen) "overflown" and "hit the fan", splashing people all around (Asia, Europe, Africa and North America). Doing that would bring us to the ludicrous, nihilistic, state where Ghaddafi's Lybia is lecturing the US on democracy!