What Islamic exceptionalism means for democracy


Islam is exceptional in how it relates to law, governance and politics, and plays an outsized role in public life in the Arab world, Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Shadi Hamid argues in his book “Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle over Islam is Reshaping the World.”  He posits that the hope that Islam will eventually undergo a reformation and secularise may be misplaced – a development with implications for the future of Western democracy, Brookings writes:

Two factors that contribute to its exceptionalism relate to the founding moment of Islam and the nature of its main scripture, the Quran. History and theology matter and should be understood particularly in the context of Islam. Prophet Mohammad was not just a man of religion, but a politician, a state-builder and leader of a state. The Quran therefore addresses the socio-political context of that time as well as issues of governance, law, and order. Religion and politics are interwoven within the teachings of Islam.

In contrast, Jesus Christ was a dissident against the state, and did not rule or hold territory. Therefore, the New Testament does not talk about governance, adds Hamid, a recent contributor to the National Endowment for Democracy’s Penn Kemble Forum. RTWT

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