An interesting piece from “The Majalla” magazine on how conservative Muslims, particularly Salfis, deal with the issue of democracy. Democracy, they say, is heretical; it permits man, through elections, to usurp the proper role of God in governing the people. Yet democracy is the name of the game, particularly in the wake of Arab Spring. If religious conservatives abstain from taking part in elections, then they (and their beliefs) are shunted to the sidelines. How, then, should a ‘proper Muslim’ behave? Should he take part in a heresy or should he not?
The answer seems to be: “Hold your nose. Vote. After the election, try to make things religiously correct.” Some will certainly see this as a Fifth Column effort to undermine democratic and civil values on the way to re-establishing the Caliphate. Others might view it as a proper role of a political party to work within the system to change it in ways it deems favorable.
I think it without dispute, however, that a new Caliphate is not going to happen. While Arab Salafis (and Srouris) might dream of it, a Caliphate is of no interest to the majority of Muslims in the world. These have found that they’ve managed just fine (enough) since the last Caliphate disappeared in 1924. This tail will never reach a point where it’s wagging the dog.
Democracy and the Caliphate
How Salafi activists in the Gulf think
An article entitled “Doctrines of People in Elections,” published on March 20, 2005, on the website Islam Today , described elections as a “mishap” and presented the “correct” legal and political stance towards them. The article was written as a response to the first municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, which took place on February 10, 2005. Its author was Ibrahim Al-Nasser, one of the most prominent symbols of Saudi Salafist activism—also known as “Srourism”—and whose writings constitute a vision and an inspiration to the members of the movement.
Nasser started his article by emphasizing that democracy is a modern Western ideology, and is based on the adoption of secularism and the exclusion of religion. Nasser stated that democracy is “a contradiction and violation of the law of Islam, and is inconsistent with the establishment of religion and monotheism.”
However, after he presented his ideological stance against democracy, Nasser wrote on his preferred political stance towards the existing democratic systems in the Islamic world. He stated that “democracy should be rejected as a philosophy, set of values and a mechanism, but should be accepted as a practice, within limits, seeing as it is in demand and is perceived as a necessity by the public. Those who hold such views use democracy as a mechanism not because it is permissible, but because of the damage that may occur if they do not.”
Thus, Nasser managed to strike a balance between his belief that democracy is an alien and un-Islamic phenomenon, and his belief that it is necessary to play a political role in societies that have adopted democratic features.