Islamic Democracy

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Definition

Islamic Democracy, sometimes also referred as Faisalism, is a confessional political ideology which defends the modernisation of Islamic societies by blending the principles of Islam with representative democracy.

History

Faisal I al-Saud, king of Saudi Arabia between 1964 and 1975, started during the 1960’s an ambitious development plan in his own country which he called the Three Laps Forward. Such plan intended to take Saudi Arabia from traditionalistic society to a strong and modern new one.

Following other development plans, financed by oil industry in the Middle East at that time, King Faisal established his own plan based on progressive leaps to achieve democracy in the future.

The Three Leaps Forward intended to be a succession of thematic five-year plans (the leaps, as he called it) to develop his country in a sustainable way. These should be firstly the development of infrastructures, secondly the development of national economy and finally the development of civil and political rights.

Firstly rather successful his plan started to face problems when the Oil Crisis of Hijra 1393 occurred, causing a dramatic loss on oil prices. Such damaged much national economy and the plans started to be refrained causing a growing discontentment on the population.

That discontentment was much exploited by the opposition to his plans, notably by the highly conservative wahhabi clergy. Faisal turned then his rule from a benevolent dictatorship to oppression in order to control the situation. Such made things get worst and consequent loss of popularity. Finally in 1975 the wahhabis deposed the king in a bloody coup and turned Saudi Arabia to a theocratic regime.

Meanwhile other younger rulers educated in Europe and America (the so-called Third Oil Generation) started to see with interest King Faisal’s development plans. Oil prices once again increased with the beginning of Persia-Iraaq War, in 1980, and such gave them the chance to start their own development plans in their countries.

They understood that to avoid hostility among local conservative clergy and society they should make their plans more progressively and emphasized Islamic religion in their new born ideology which evolved from the King Faisal’s Three Leaps Forward to Islamic Democracy as it started to be called.

Firstly financed by the high oil prices caused by the Persia-Iraaq War combined with the increase of the oil needs from industrialised countries due to the booming of the petrochemical industries these young leaders understood that the high oil prices wouldn’t last forever. So they made efforts to diversify economics in their countries to make them less dependable from oil industry. They promoted industrialisation and services so as education among the people. They knew Islamic radicalism, coming from Iraaq and Saudi Arabia, was closely related with low levels of education. It was the birth of the so-called Gulf Leopards, name given to several small arab countries located around the Arabian Gulf which were able to achieve social and economic high development.

The success operated in the Gulf Leopards inspired many politicians around the Islamic countries and soon political parties and movements around the world started to follow the ideal of the Islamic Democracy.

For many Moslem such ideology also became an ideal for freedom. During the 1980’s and 1990’s islamic democrats opposed to Snorism in Turkestan, Azerbaijan and Qazaqstan (Russia), to King Lansana Conté’s regime in the Islamic Kingdom of Guinea or to the rebelled radical Moslem who in 1991 tried to establish an Islamic republic in Albania.

flag of the Islamic Democrat International Federation

In 1992, in order to work together in points of agreement and to co-ordinate their activities, twelve political parties and movements founded the Islamic Democrat International Federation (IDIF). In time more parties joined being currently 45 from Asia, Africa and Europe.

Today almost one hundred political parties claim to be islamic democrat which makes of this political family one of the biggest in the world.

Ideology

Islamic Democracy focuses on the health of the community in all areas of community existence. This community orientation is often considered as conservative, or at least right wing, in regard to cultural and moral issues; and progressive, or left wing, in regard to social justice, labour and socio-economic issues.

It claims a strong social conscience, in the respect for the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death emphasizing the alleviation of poverty and maintenance of a societal protection (welfare state) keeping the weak from abandonment and destitution, and incentivising of market forces for the common good.

Islamic Democracy sees the economics and politics as being at the service of humanity. The duty of economy is to create conditions for a social free market and the duty of politics is the creation of a state which should take care of its citizens.

Islamic principles

  • Shahada (profession of faith) : Islamic Democracy is frontally a confessional ideology. Islam should be at the centre of everyone’s life. Although confessional it refuses strongly radicalism.
  • Salat (ritual prayer) : as consequence people see their right of Islamic cult protected and they are allowed to interrupt their works for praying.
  • Siyaam (fasting during Ramadan) : as continuation of the previous principle the right of fasting during Ramadan month is also guaranteed for people. People should be called for a virtuous life and to encourage others to do the same in all activities of their lives. People should refrain from vice and evil actions for the common good.
  • Zakat (charity given to the needy) : Islamic Democracy basis its social welfare state on this principle. It is supposed for the State, persons and market agents to finance a welfare system through paying of taxes which should provide protection for the weak.
  • Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) : the State should provide to the weak conditions which allows them to perform the Hajj. It is seen as part of the welfare state.

Islamic Democracy versus…

Pan-Arabism

Islamic Democracy always refused to be an ethnically arab political ideology due to not all arabs are Moslem (Lebanese are mostly Druze and many Syrians and Libyans are Christian, for example). More than an arab ideology it is a Muslim one which should be practicable by all Moslem whatever if they are arab or not.

They are rather critical especially to Nasserists, left wing pan-arabists, which islam democrats consider their ideology as oppressive to the people and unrespectful to religion.

…Radical Islam

Islamic Democracy refuses all religious radicalism. In fact there are historical reasons for such position. Islam democrats see on Islamic radicalism an enemy. The deposal of King Faisal I al-Saud was never forgotten.

For them radical Islam provides ignorance, intolerance and poverty for the people leaving no space for the individual rights and common good.

Criticism

Islamic Democracy is often compared with Christian Democracy. For many it is the Muslim counterpart of such ideology. Christian Democrats refuse such comparison as they consider Islamic Democracy as too religiously minded, too Islamic and too state guided. On the other hand Christian Democrats recognise that this ideology was a strong qualitative step on terms of democracy among Muslim countries.

To avoid such comparisons Christian Democrats tend to refer Islamic Democracy as Faisalism.

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