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A religion of law

Reader comment on item: Islam and Democracy - Much Hard Work Needed

Submitted by Malcolm Smith (Australia), Feb 19, 2011 at 02:12

In assessing Islam's ability to modernize and democratize, it is important to note one major difference between Christianity and Islam. Islam is a religion of law, while Christianity is not. Starting from the Council of Jerusalem about 48 AD, it was decided that, under the new covenant, it was no longer necessary to follow the Jewish law. This meant that Christianity has general moral principles, but not a law. When Christians have come to power, they have attempted to gradually bring the national laws into line with moral principles, and the church has seen its duty to advise the country's rulers on moral principles. However, it leaves a great deal of scope for the individual to develop a practical application of these principles.

Islam, on the other hand, contains a complex legal system which attempts to regulate every aspect of a person's life. The Koran, Hadiths, and the 4 schools of jurisprudence as set in stone, and leave much less leeway for an Islamic government. A democratic government in a Muslim land could let the people decide whether, and where, a railway should be constructed, but if it, for instance, decided to punish theft by prison rather than amputation, it would be rightly open to criticism as unIslamic. If the mullahs are not in charge of the government, they will be issuing fatwas left, right and centre as to how it should be run.

Most importantly, democracy means, not only rule by the majority, but freedom for the minority. And here Islam is incompatible with democracy. It is a matter of religious principle that a Muslim can never be allowed to change his religion, and that non-Muslims must be second class citizens.

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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