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Democratic Faiths


To be a Muslim is to be a peacemaker, one who seeks to mitigate conflicts and nurtures goodwill for peaceful co-existence. God wants us to live in peace and harmony with his creation; that is indeed the purpose of religion, any religion. Mission statement


The following article “Democratic faiths” is an excellent piece on roots and sustenance of democracy, however, the author exhibits his inadequacy in the research.


One of the most powerful sentences that has life altering effect on one is “finding the truth is one’s own responsibility”. It was a turning point in my life doing research on Qur’aan and the beautiful verse comes from Bhagvad Gita. If our feelings, opinions and actions towards others are based on the sayings of our Parents, Pastor, Pundit, Imam, Rabbi or clergy, then they are not going to be responsible for the pangs of our conscience in our solitude and hence we have to take responsibility to find the truth to find salvation from malice and ill-will.


It is ironic that the author flips the very words that Prophet Muhammad had said in his last sermon “No wonder that democracy does not find any foothold in nations that discriminates between believers and non-believers, men and women, masters and slaves and even slaves white, brown and black. “ The Prophet had said nearly the same words and added No man is superior to the other; all are equal beings in the eyes of God. The author has failed to understand and distinguish between religion and the people. All religions came into being to make us better beings and create better societies. Most of the people get it, and some don’t.


The Muslims around the world are waking up and figuring out the effects of cold wars, the power struggles of nations to control the resources and extricating themselves from these tentacles. 2/3rds of Muslims live in democracies and about a 1/3rd under monarchies and dictatorships. The largest Muslim majority nation Indonesia is a successful democracy and the 2nd Largest Muslim population lives in Democratic India and the third and fourth largest Muslim majority nations (Bangladesh and Turkey) are also democracies. There are several more democracies out there. It is a shame that democracy has not reached every nation in Asia, Africa and South America, and the author has failed to identify this.


The freedom movement began with India’s freedom in1947 and since then more nations have become free from colonialism and gone democratic than the recorded history of humanity. Among the Muslim majority nations, dictatorships began with Shah of Iran in 1952 and in 1956 with Ayyub Khan in Pakistan, and for the first time clergy had their say in governance was in Iran in 1979.


The author flaws the religion of Islam without naming it. Democracy has its roots in Islam. The Prophet could have easily declared his successor and appointed Ali – who was the most qualified in every possible way to run the leadership, the only disqualification was Ali was his son in law and a cousin – and the prophet did not want it to become a dynastic rule, instead he desired the people elect the one with consensus. There is good research done by Dr. Abdul Aziz Sachedina on in the form of a book, the roots of democracy in Islam.


Author’s bias comes through when he subtly claims superiority for Hinduism and Christianity and shows his ignorance about Islam or rather Prejudice against Islam.


This is not how you build peaceful societies by creating bias against another faith. One has to find the truth, point the specific errors and not generalize it to suit one’s bias.


Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker and a Writer. He is a frequent guest on talk radio and local television network discussing Pluralism, Terrorism, India, Islam, Peace and civic issues. His comments, news analysis and columns can be found on the Websites and several Blogs listed on his personal website


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Democratic Faiths

by J. Ajithkumar


General elections, whether rigged, manipulated or impartial, are the most vital and visible signs of life in any functioning democracy. Be it presidential or parliamentary, democracy has been widely accepted as the nearest form to minimum acceptable governance embodying the vital elements of liberty, human rights and equality that are beyond-bargain parameters for dignified human existence. The harsh reality that many world nations are still suffering from greedy monarchies, military dictatorships and religious theocracies makes a mockery of all our claims of progress in this 21st century. There are several reasons for the flourishing or floundering of democratic institutions in different parts of the world. The latest elections in India and Iran provide a very good opportunity to look at some of the reasons for the sustainability of democracy in the current world.


Though various forms of democracy are under trial in different nations, we can easily notice that it is showing signs of survival only in certain environments. The very spirit of democracy, especially in countries offering universal adult franchise, seems to be compatible only with certain types of people and faiths. The strengthening or weakening of democracy as a form of government among 200 odd nations with 6 billion people gives some clear indications about the real faith of democracy. One can also draw very good conclusions about the thought process, mentality and behavior of the people, nation and faith of those who prefer essentially democratic arrangements for governance. In contrast we can also get glimpses about why certain faiths are incompatible with democracy. There must be underlying reasons for both.


Conceding Spirit


Enough and more clues about the reasons for success or failure of democracy in different nations can be obtained by analyzing the happenings in their recent elections. In the last one decade we have seen presidential elections in USA (2000, 2004, 2008), general elections in India (2004, 2009) and different types of elections in Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal. It will not take much effort to prove that the 2000 election in USA, 2009 elections in India and Iran were neither impartial nor fair. All these elections have been rigged in one form or another. Rigging of elections need not always be in the form of duplicate voting or over printing of ballots or even false counting of votes. It can be in the form of manipulating the tools for elections, including the election commissions that conduct the elections, or even by hijacking of mandate obtained in any election. In India the popular mandate in 2009 elections in favor of a particular political formation has been hijacked by installing an ˜unelected leader.


No election is perfect and the success of any democratic arrangement emanates from the spirit and willingness of contesting parties to accept defeat. Only if equanimity exists to accept defeat or victory on the part of each and every contesting party, prior to any election, can the democratic process end conclusively. Extreme contrasts in this regard are provided by the reactions of an erstwhile Indian Prime Minister as against the current stance of the ‘defeated’ Iranian leaders in the recent elections. “Our party may have been defeated but India has won†were the famous words of a statesman like Vajpayee when he got defeated in 2004. And Al-Gore and Advani went many steps further when they conceded defeat in elections which they have morally won for furthering democracy in their own nations. The fact that these leaders had the support of their followers (in India it is in hundreds of millions) shows the general characteristics of their faith. However, the unhealthy trend of certain families hijacking the rule under the guise of electoral victory in successful democracies is another factor that merits the attention of all those who value genuine democracy.


Basic Incompatibilities


There are certain basic incompatibilities between some dominant faiths and the essential spirit of democracy. The bare minimum belief that is needed for any favorable thought on democracy is the concept of equality of human beings. To accept anyone becoming the nation’s ruler, its majority must strongly believe that all of them have equal rights (even if they are not equals in every sense) and hence eligible to rule. In the case of genuine communism and theocracy, this concept of equality is non-existent. If workers are more equal than others in a communist setup, it is the rights of clergy to be more than others in a theocratic arrangement. No wonder that democracy does not find any foothold in nations that discriminates between believers and non-believers, men and women, masters and slaves and even slaves white, brown and black. The exhibition of universal brotherhood by hugging, singing, praying and preying together are only skin deep rituals in such societies.


Conceding equality to others is easy to preach but difficult to practice. It needs a strong underlying principle to accept equality as a natural concept. In Hinduism it is easily available in their belief of having the very same God present in everything animate and inanimate. And in Christianity it is provided by the belief that all are born as sinners. But having the very same starting point does not provide a good reason for considering other competitors as equal in the subsequent race for living. The belief that all are made by the same God does not automatically confer equality on everyone. Products can be of different value even if they are manufactured in the one and only producing company. It is difficult to consider them equal but there is no harm in having brotherly feelings that can subsidize, promote or confront the enemies together.


In very general terms it is easy to conclude that democratic process succeeds only amidst some of the world’s dominant faiths, and fails miserably in the case of others. The current turbulence in Iran and successful transformation from monarchy to a democratic republic in Nepal provide living examples for this argument. And in Pakistan, democracy has failed to make any foothold even after 60 odd years of free rule. In Iraq and Afghanistan it has miles to go before we can conclude that it is acceptable. There is a great message to humanity coming out of all these. It is about the misery and turbulence that awaits us if one of those undemocratic faiths comes to dominate the world. Silence of graveyards will be the only sign of equality that will be present among all nations then. Only by considering and respecting all others as our equals can we nurture democratic principles and that requires nothing less than the acceptance of same God’s presence in everything.


June 28, 2009

Posted by Mike Ghouse at 8:46 AM 0 comments 

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