Islam is a political faith. It sees no separation between the sacred and the secular. Everything is religious, and everything is political. Westerners have a hard time comprehending this, since politics and religion in the West tend to be clearly distinguished.
Muslims living in democratic nations therefore really have only two options. On the one hand they can embrace democracy, pluralism, freedom of religion, and the separation of powers, but in so doing, effectively renounce the essence of the Islamic faith.
Or they can affirm the central teachings of Islam, follow the example of Muhammad, and seek to transform the West into a sharia-compliant Islamic state. Despite protests to the contrary, a faithful Muslim cannot simultaneously affirm democracy and sharia.
To choose the one is to renounce the other. In his recent book, Defeating Political Islam, Moorthy Muthuswamy puts it this way: “Political Islam holds that Islam should have a prominent if not dominant say in governing the affairs of those nations in which Muslims are the majority or a significant minority.”
He continues, “Islam itself has a dominant political flavor to it. There is an internal component of political Islam, as it governs the kind of life and political system to which Muslims should adhere. But the internal politics of Islam, and its legal code, called sharia, do not provide a way of setting up a modern state, for the obvious reason that it reflects the customs of societies that existed several hundreds or thousands of years ago….
“Conquest of unbelievers is either taken to mean their embrace of Islam or their reduced status under Muslim control as the non-Muslim dhimmis. Political Islam concerns those of us who do not believe in its tenets because it commands Muslims to conquer the world for Islam.”
Mark Durie notes that Islamic sharia is “based upon Muhammad’s example and teaching. This system of rules defines a total way of life. There can be no Islam without Sharia. Westerners sometimes mistakenly think of Sharia as a medieval penal code, something from the dusty and irrelevant past.
“However, the Sharia is intended to be simply what it says: the pathway for a Muslim to walk upon, an authoritative application of Muhammad’s example in a comprehensive and consistent way, using rigorous principles of reasoning and Islamic case-law. This is much more inclusive in concept than any penal code.”
Thus those who are considered to be “extreme” or “radical” in Islam are in fact being quite faithful to their own religious tradition. A very good example of all this was found a few days ago in the press. An Australian Islamic preacher made some rather blunt remarks about the relationship between sharia and democracy.
According to a report in the Australian, Ibrahim Siddiq-Conlon is adamant that Australian democracy must go, to be replaced by Islamic law. He said this: “My attack is on the Prime Minister of Australia. I hate the parliament in Canberra. I want to go straight for the jugular vein and advise the parliament that they have no right to legislate. They should immediately step down and let the Muslims take over.”
The article says this in part: “An Australian-born convert to Islam, Siddiq-Conlon is the self-anointed leader of a group called Sharia4Australia, which is pushing for the introduction of sharia courts as a first step towards achieving Islamic law.
“‘One day Australia will live under sharia; it’s inevitable,’ he said. ‘If they (Australians) don’t accept it, that’s not our problem. We hope, and our objective is to have a peaceful transition, but when you look at history that has never been the case. There’s always been a fight. It is inevitable that one day there will be a struggle for Islam in Australia.’
A masters graduate in architecture from the University of Technology Sydney, Siddiq-Conlon formed Sharia4Australia last year. He said he had three objectives. The first is to persuade Muslims they must hate ‘taghoot’, the worship of any God other than Allah, which includes democracy. ‘They must hate it, speak out against it. And, if that doesn’t work, take action against it.’ His other objectives are to advise elected governments they have no authority to rule, and to educate non-Muslims on the benefits of sharia, including punishments such as stoning adulterers and severing the hands of thieves.”
Again, this is not extremism in the eyes of a faithful Muslim, but simple adherence to the clear teachings of the Koran, the hadith, and the example of the Prophet himself. They rightly believe, according to their own faith, that democracy is simply not compatible with Islamic law.
In contrast to this inherent anti-democratic impulse in Islam, Christianity led things in just the opposite direction. From its earliest days it in fact helped to prepare the way for democracy. George Weigel puts it this way: “Christianity taught that, while Caesar was to be given his due, so was God (see Matthew 22:21). And if there are things of God that are not Caesar’s, then Caesar’s power is, by definition, limited power.”
He continues, “By stripping political authority of the mantle of the sacred, Christianity helped create the possibility of what we know as ‘limited government’: government that has specific and enumerated powers, government that ought not reach into that sphere of conscience….
“The rich social pluralism of the West did not just happen. It emerged in a society formed by the biblical idea of the dignity of the human person and the culture that epic idea shaped.”
Quite right. Christianity ultimately transcends any one political structure or blueprint, but Christianity and democracy are compatible. The same cannot be said of Islam. The Islamic faith, with its aim of a universal caliphate and sharia law over all, cannot peacefully coexist with democracy. One or the other will have to prevail.