Part One
By. Dr. Amir Parviz Parsa


It is often asserted that Islamic countries lack democracy; the suggestion is made in such a way that it gives, (in a stereo-type format) the connotation that Islam is inherently incompatible with democracy. It is true that many Muslim countries suffer from having dictators and undemocratic rulers at their helm, but part of these are also to be blamed on exploitations of the so-called advanced countries (who had previously been engaged in colonialism), and their continued silent support of corrupt authority of the country considered to be a good partner in protecting their interests.

Those who are familiar with the historical background of the United States of America know quite well the atrocities of the British Colonial power and wars that the colonies had to put up to survive first, and secure their independence next. Obviously, England was NOT the only colonial power, but France, Spain, the Dutch, and others were also engaged in colonialism, in one way or another.

Therefore, it is the purpose of this article to reject the assertion of incompatibility of Islam and democracy, and to indicate clearly that a democratic behavior is not only inherently consistent with Islam, but that Islam has been one of the first outstanding real promoters of true democratic values and democracy. We take it for granted that the reader is aware of atrocities of England and its continued colonialism, although more in the form of hidden rip-offs, and therefore leave this aside.

Some Verses from the Holy Quran:
1. Verse 159 of Surah 3 commands Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and says:

فَبِمَا رَحْمَةٍ مِّنَ اللّهِ لِنتَ لَهُمْ وَلَوْ كُنتَ فَظًّا غَلِيظَ الْقَلْبِ لاَنفَضُّواْ مِنْ حَوْلِكَ فَاعْفُ عَنْهُمْ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ وَشَاوِرْهُمْ فِي الأَمْرِ فَإِذَا عَزَمْتَ فَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللّهِ إِنَّ اللّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَوَكِّلِينَ
…. Pass over their faults, ask for God’s forgiveness for them, and consult them in affairs (of moment), then when thou has taken a decision, put thy trust in God.

Note that despite the great love of Allah (swt) on His Prophet─ which can easily be discerned from other verses of the Quran too─ Prophet Muhammad is told in the clearest language to seek advice from the people and to consult them in management of their affairs.

2. For those who believe in God and do place their trust upon Him and offer prayers Allah (swt) describes them by saying in Verse 38 of Surah 42:

وَالَّذِينَ اسْتَجَابُوا لِرَبِّهِمْ وَأَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَأَمْرُهُمْ شُورَى بَيْنَهُمْ وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ
Those who hearken To their Lord, and establish regular prayers; who (conduct) their affairs by MUTUAL CONSULTATION, who spend out of what We bestow on them for sustenance.

Note the phrase “Mutual Consultation” and recall that these verses were revealed and told to the people about 1430 years ago when the Roman, Egyptian, and Persian Empires were at times engaged in tyrannical and selfish/improper behavior relative to their citizens.

3. God Almighty also blessed the character of Prophet Muhammad by giving him a kind and compassionate character and calmness and tells him specifically in Verse 159 of Surah 3:

فَبِمَا رَحْمَةٍ مِّنَ اللّهِ لِنتَ لَهُمْ وَلَوْ كُنتَ فَظًّا غَلِيظَ الْقَلْبِ لاَنفَضُّواْ مِنْ حَوْلِكَ فَاعْفُ عَنْهُمْ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ وَشَاوِرْهُمْ فِي الأَمْرِ فَإِذَا عَزَمْتَ فَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللّهِ إِنَّ اللّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَوَكِّلِينَ
It is part of the Mercy of God that thou dost deal gently with them. Were thou severe or harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from about thee, so pass over their faults and ask God’s forgiveness for them…

4. Verse 4 of Surah 68 tells us that the Prophet stands on “An exalted standard of character”.

وَإِنَّكَ لَعَلى خُلُقٍ عَظِيمٍ
And thou (standest) on an exalted standard of character.

5. If we consider the final goal of democracy to be securing the welfare of the people and raising their standards of living, along with justice and other virtues in the society, then Verse 254 of Surah 2 becomes relevant to our discussion:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ أَنفِقُواْ مِمَّا رَزَقْنَاكُم مِّن قَبْلِ أَن يَأْتِيَ يَوْمٌ لاَّ بَيْعٌ فِيهِ وَلاَ خُلَّةٌ وَلاَ شَفَاعَةٌ وَالْكَافِرُونَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ
O ye who believe! Spend out of the bounties We have provided for you, before the Day comes when no bargaining Will avail, nor friendship nor intercession. Those who reject Faith they are the wrong-doers.

Such a great warning to believers not only to consult others but even to know enough about their style of living to the point that if the others are poor, it becomes incumbent upon the Muslims to financially help them out by their charity!!.

One needs to remember that the final goal of many multinational corporations that exist nowadays is to protect “Their own interest” even though the official policy of their governments may not be so. Such protection of the interests of Multinational Corporations (MNC) may be based on nothing but exploitation of people in other lands. As one example, when the correlation between cigarette smoking and lung cancer becomes clear, and cigarettes are banned from being promoted, the verdict is silently given to MNCs to export it to Egypt, and other Middle Eastern Countries.[Please see the article on the Necessity of Giving More in Charity by the writer on this same Website]

6. Verse 10 of Surah 4 protects the interests of the orphans by saying:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَأْكُلُونَ أَمْوَالَ الْيَتَامَى ظُلْمًا إِنَّمَا يَأْكُلُونَ فِي بُطُونِهِمْ نَارًا وَسَيَصْلَوْنَ سَعِيرًا
Verily, those who unjustly eat up the property of orphans, eat up a fire into their own bodies: they will soon be enduring a blazing Fire.

Ask yourself: Which one of the so- called democracies on earth protects the interests of the orphans to this extent?.

Some Observations on Democracy in the U.S:

First: Scott McClelan says in his recent book: What Happened, on Page 4: “… Coming to Washington as a member of a Republican administration, I thought the mentality of political manipulation had been largely the creation of our predecessors in the Clinton White House and that the leader I placed great hope in, George W. Bush, was dead set on changing it. He chose not to do so. Instead his own white house became embroiled in political maneuvering that was equally unsavory, if not worse, much of it related directly to his most consequential decision as president-The decision to invade Iraq.”

Second: We all realize that elections in the U.S. are very expensive monetarily, and often times those who can afford to spend more money win the elections. Stated differently, much more qualified individuals who are far more qualified to be truly elected, get to be defeated just because they do not have enough money, or can’t raise it, to spend like their opponents. So, it is a deceptive ability to raise funds that matters more really, not what the candidate’s views are.

Third: Hillary Clinton, when beaten in primary elections from the Democratic Party against Barrack Obama, all of a sudden decided to lend her own election $6.1 million dollars, from her own so-called accumulated wealth! [Only a few really know how she got it]. Obama could muster more donations, even small ones through the Internet from very ordinary people. Interestingly enough someone called Hillary Clinton as The Iron Lady, a title that belonged to Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of England, who was also known as “the Only man in Europe”! or the “Iron Lady of Europe”, while John Major’s performance was much better than hers internationally!!

The Western democracies have unfortunately become too accustomed to praising corrupt authorities of various countries! Nora O’Donnell reported on Chris Mathew show on Sunday the 18th of May 2008, that so far Obama has raised $250 million and Hillary Clinton $215 million dollars for their respective elections. How much more will be raised between now and November real elections is yet to be seen; the writer would NOT be surprised that over a billion dollar would be raised and spent on a “ democratic” election!

Fourth: We have seen the effects of final coalitions in politics and their compromise outcome and deals/covenants/pledges which are made between them: The art of compromise!.

Fifth: Almost everyone who remembers the first election of George Bush, the son, against Al Gore, remembers how the Supreme Court intervention really saved the elections of the U.S with the verdict of some appointees to The Highest Court by George Bush, the 41st president, his father, while Gore had higher popular vote.

Sixth: The real percentage of participants in elections is not very high. At the time of President Ronald Reagan’s first term the percentage of qualified voters was 24.5 percent.
The implication of this is that less than one fourth of people ruled over the entire population! That does not sound much like true democracy!

Seventh: The vote of a real brilliant, educated, and highly intelligent elite counts exactly equal to the vote of an unlettered, uneducated, ignorant person [some people consider this as a virtue of elections].

Eight: At times, because of mishaps in the machinery used in elections to count the votes, some of the votes may have to be totally discarded to assure the results.

Ninth: We all have noticed how political candidates behave before and after elections. We all also have noticed 180 degrees deviation from promises and pledges given by them to get elected; yet how easily they change after elections and forget their pledges is not well-known. An example in this case is the second round of election of George Bush against John Kerry. George Bush appeared to the voters to be more moral than Kerry. His later engagements in the war of Iraq and the great mistakes he made in that war, clearly showed, however, that even though he was right against the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, he was completely wrong to trust the intelligence information provided to him by The British Intelligence for which his Secretary of State, Colin Powell later recognized how they had been had and how he gave up his position as Secretary of State to his successor Dr. Rice!

Tenth: We all have noticed all of the pumps, hoopla, and noise in the national conventions of both the Republican and Democratic Parties and detailed discussions of the issues of the day. Yet, we are also clever enough to see the similarity of the election issues after 30, 40, and 50 years from a given election, and the close resemblance of the issues such as 35-40 million poor people of the States who do not have any health insurance coverage. The same picture has been true since the election of John F. Kennedy in the most “materially” successful democracies of the world.

Eleventh: In an African Country called Ghana, the people ask their political candidates running for office before elections to pledge that:

  1. He will not close the door of his office to the people, after elections;
  2. He will not turn his back to the people to ignore them;
  3. He will not break promises given at the times of running for office;
  4. He will not run away from the duties of the office;
  5. He would not betray people’s confidence after election,

In the U.S., we the electors take these for granted; however, ask yourself how often have we been betrayed by violations of the types mentioned above by our elected officials?

While Islamic countries are definitely in need of improvements in their “democratic behavior”, it cannot be asserted that their religion is incompatible with the institution of democracy or democratic behaviors as a whole. Islam itself is pure, excellent, and beautiful, the beauty of which cannot be easily understood until they are very well-versed in it. We shall take up the Freedom of expression and further remarks on democracy in the next article.

Please Part Two of this article