Sharia and Democracy

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.

Image of Defeating Political Islam: The New Cold War
Defeating Political Islam: The New Cold War by Moorthy S. Muthuswamy (Author), Steven Emerson (Foreword) Amazon logo

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.

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20 Replies to “Sharia and Democracy”

  1. There are also troubling new developments as this news item atests but ignored by the MSM;

    IN EGYPT, an extraordinarily important fatwa has been issued by Dr. Imad Mustafa, of al-Azhar University, the world’s most important Islamic university.

    He began by stating the well-known doctrine of “defensive jihad,” that is Muslims must go to war against infidels who attack them. Of course, the word “attack” is often spread rather thinly to justify aggression.

    But now Mustafa has publicly and explicitly come up with a new concept, one that up until now was supposedly restricted to groups like al-Qaida: “Then there is another type of fighting against the non- Muslims known as offensive jihad… which is to pursue the infidels into their own land without any aggression [on their part]…

    “Two schools [of Islamic jurisprudence] have ruled that offensive jihad is permissible in order to secure Islam’s border, to extend God’s religion to people in cases where the governments do not allow it, such as the Pharaoh did with the children of Israel, and to remove every religion but Islam from the Arabian peninsula.”

    Damien Spillane

  2. Thanks Bill,

    Any thoughts on whether or not democracy is Biblical?

    In Christ,
    Isaac Overton, Canberra, ACT

  3. Thanks Isaac

    In an ideal world we are all self-governing, under the authority of God. But we are not in an ideal world, but in a fallen and sinful world. That is why God established the state to curtail evil and promote a modicum of righteousness. The Bible does not give us a blue print for the best form of government. But obviously the ideal would include the diffusion of powers, checks on state power, and so on, in recognition of our fallen condition.

    Thus some forms of government – federalism, republicanism, democracy – may be closer to biblical principles than others, such as dictatorships, oligarchy, anarchy, etc. None will be perfect, and none can claim to be the one biblical model.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  4. Why are so few listening to what is happening in front of their faces?? I am extremely worried not about my wife and I, but my wonderful God fearing children.
    Doug Matthews

  5. To Doug, take heart mate, you have a gift that many Christian parents would give everything they had for. God will look after them and perhaps use them to bring muslims out of this darkness that they are in. Sadly mate, I think we are witnessing a new type of Australian citizen, flabby, into appeasement, not using their vote responsibly, “worry about it later” mentality, the list could go on! We as Christians need to be praying constantly about this nation and the type of people who are currently in it and the type of people we subsequently let into it!
    Steve Davis

  6. Thanks Bill – I think you’ve hit some important nails on the head there in your comments (i.e. the reality of a fallen world, and that government is a God-established ministry in light of that; diffussion of powers and checks and balances – as well as understanding Biblical principles).

    As you say (I think) – the institution of government as it exists would not be necessary were there no sin in the world.

    I think i’d probably disagree with your statement that there is no Biblical blueprint for the best form of government – but my own understanding on the matter is no where near competent enough to either meaningfully criticise what you have said, or to present a positive case for my position.

    I’d really love to read an article expanding what you have said in your comment if you have one – and if not, perhaps assessing the ‘Biblical-ness’ of democracy is an idea for a rainy day!

    Bless you,
    Isaac Overton, Canberra, ACT

  7. Thanks Bill,

    I’ll look to read up in anticipation of some good profitable discussion!

    Isaac Overton

  8. I came to this country 38 years ago, because this country is a good country, peaceful, wealthy, friendly, and a land of opportunity and a Christian country. I had always wandering why is Australia is so blessed until I read a booklet about the United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy. It explained that Britain and the United States are the descendant of the two lost tribes Ephraim and Manasseh (Deuteronomy 33:13-17) God had promised to take a direct hand in delivering magnificent physical blessings to Joseph’s descendants.
    The British Empire aspired to weld together a peaceful, productive domain ruling a quarter of the world’s population. A great achievement of British administrators was the establishment and extension of law and order in Britain’s colonial and imperial territories around the globe. This alone brought untold blessings to the people of these territories. That explained to me that this country and the people are belong to God, God of Israel. Ibrahim cannot change our law with his law (Islamic law) which means to change God of Australia? Do we want that??? I think the best is if he go back to his own country and exercise his law there.

    Helen Ballard

  9. Thanks Helen

    I am with you except for one point. The idea that the ten lost tribes of Israel ended up in Anglo-Saxon nations is called British-Israelism, and to be honest, it is a cultic, even heretical belief. It is neither biblically nor historically justifiable, and it is not worth being involved in.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  10. Re: British-Israelism. Bill I first heard the BI message back in 1971 and have held to that school of thought since. The church I have worshipped in since then is a mainstream and inclusive Pentecostal church. To my knowledge a cult was never formed from the teaching of the BI message and those who I know that embraced this message did not enter a cultish syndrome. After all who are we all but lost souls saved by His grace. Those who consider themselves as part of the BI family see it as an added blessing and responsibility but nothing to be exclusive about. In simple terms I see it like this: Judah brought the Christ and the message of Christ was embraced in part by those of the lost 10 tribes who then took the message to the world. In loose terms I see the western democratic nations as being of the 10 lost tribes. It makes an intersting if not fascnating talking point but none of this should become a distraction to or even replace God’s Saving grace received only through faith. God works through His Church to bring salvation but at the same time he is dealing with Isreal the Jews and Benjaminites in the land of Israel and the lost 10 tribes. Afte rall He promised to bring them back together.
    Keith Lewis

  11. Thanks Keith

    BI cannot be defended theologically, biblically or historically. And of course cults like the old Worldwide Church of God had it as a major plank in their doctrinal system. But given that this post is on sharia law, not heterodox teachings, we may simply leave things there, thanks.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  12. What you have written is so true and the remarks attributed to Mark Durie are also true and accurate. Two years ago you spoke at a seminar in Adelaide and I have followed your writing since that time. I had, at that time, recently returned from Afghanistan where I had been teaching in an expat school. Your evaluation of Islam, and in particular Sharia and militant Islam is 100% true and accurate, in my opinion.
    Brian Hof

  13. Well said Bill.

    Anyone who ignores the spread of Islam in this country does so at their own peril and that of future generations.

    Peter Coventry

  14. The problem is that Siddiq Conlon is an Australian born man, converted to Islam – legally, he could be tried for sedition as he is advocating an overthrow of the elected Government, but, as well, he advocates that Australia should become an Islamic country. I feel it is unfortunate that our Churches are not standing up for Christian teachings, but are rather, sitting complacently and singing their pretty little choruses instead of teaching Christ as Saviour. Sometimes I despair at the way in which some Christians are calling for understanding of muslims instead of trying to reach them for Jesus.
    Joan Davidson

  15. The term “democracy” could possibly be used by Muslims, but the values and character of governance would be different.

    Take Egypt as an example. El Baradei & others argue for greater democracy. I think they mean that they want the party with the largest vote to govern – the Muslim Brotherhood perhaps? This might be governance by the people/majority – i.e. democracy – but with values of sharia that may well permit or encourage discrimination on the basis of gender or religion.

    James Wheeler

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