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Islam Can Lead in Either Direction

Author: Ed Husain, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
October 5, 2012
New York Times


"I come not to bring peace, but a sword," said Jesus, according to the Gospels. The same sources tell us Jesus advocated "turning the other cheek." Religions are replete with multiple narratives and several interpretations of almost every facet of a faith. Islam is no different: it is a religion concerned with salvation, not a political ideology competing with capitalism and democracy.

The prophet Muhammad bequeathed to us no fixed system of government, but taught Muslims the importance of justice and equality, and of eliminating corruption and bringing rulers to account. The Koran commands Muslims to decide on matters with "shura" or consultation, and Arabs brought to Islam the conceit of a "bai'ah" or allegiance. Early Muslim scholars referred to these ideas as governing with consent, and creating a contract with the governed.

Fast forward to our times: Leading Islamist reformers like Rachid al-Ghannouchi in Tunisia draw on those teachings to argue that democracy best serves these principles. In Turkey, the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has gone one step further and lectured the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt on the importance of secularism in maintaining democracy and guaranteeing religious freedom for all.

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