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The Koran and Democracy

Reader comment on item: Civil War in Iraq?

Submitted by Patrick O'Brian (United States), Mar 4, 2006 at 12:01

One of the Muslims in this forum, in referring to the recent Hamas election, said democracy means free elections in which "the minority of the citizens ...have to live by laws of the majority". What a blind spot, so typical...!

What makes a democracy is the WILLING submission of losers to the results of an election. Why would losers willingly submit? Because the rule of law is more important to them than election results. This can happen only in societies where winners are tolerant of losers, where winners try to convince losers by argument (not by threat of violence), where current losers feel they have a chance, in the future, to convince current winners.

A society's longing for tolerance is the foundation of a stable democracy. It takes generations for such longing to develop in the hearts of enough people so that losers willingly support the rule of law. It develops democratic institutions to encourage tolerance but which must be maintained against internal threats. It took western european nations 300 years. The United States, my nation, started down the road to democracy with the words "All men are created equal" but had to get past its Civil War; and the USA democracy is still evolving. A democracy is always a work in progress.

Ah! but Muslim "democracies" will be different. What they have is a magic bullet called the Koran. All the laws you could possibly want are already there. Just find the right set of imams to interpret them for you. Why should an "Islamic democracy" care if losers of elections do not willingly accept laws that subjugate them? It can always find shortcut options enshrined in the Koran for dealing with dissatisfied losers: threaten them, kill them or forcibly convert them to your point of view. There is just too much violent intolerance inside the Koran for it to become the foundation of a stable democracy.

I will believe it when I see Christian Palestinians willingly submit to second class citizenship to be imposed on them by majority Hamas Islamic fundamentalists (or the other way around). Or when Islamic women willingly – and not out of fear - submit to strictures placed on them by their Islamic laws. Or when Sunnis in Iraq willingly submit to laws made by Shiites or Shiites to laws made by Kurds over several generations..

I will believe that tolerance can grow inside a devout Muslim heart when, among its many other hatreds, it recognizes and eliminates the poison of its all-consuming hatred for Jews and Israel. The truth is that all too many Muslims do not understand tolerance. How could they? They are fixated on the "superiority" that is bestowed on them by their Koran.

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