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After Jihad

After Jihad

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Published by bassam.madany9541
Noah Veldman is hopeful that before too long, Islamic Jihad would have become a thing of the past, with democracy spreading in the Muslim world, and bringing about piece in our troubled world. Let's hope his forecast is right!
Noah Veldman is hopeful that before too long, Islamic Jihad would have become a thing of the past, with democracy spreading in the Muslim world, and bringing about piece in our troubled world. Let's hope his forecast is right!

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Published by: bassam.madany9541 on Apr 01, 2009
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Book Review by Rev. Bassam M. Madany
After Jihad:
America and the Struggle for Islamic DemocracyNew York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2003. Pp. 260, $24.00
Islam & Democracy
One of the most urgent challenges facing Muslim nations today is their willingness toespouse democratic principles and act upon them in our ever shrinking and globalizedworld. Several books dealing with Islam and politics have appeared in the last fewdecades. Noah Feldman’s book has the distinction of treating the subject in a veryhopeful manner, notwithstanding the events that have rocked parts of the Muslim worldsince the First Gulf War. This book could not have appeared at a more auspicious time asthe United States is working hard to establish democratic regimes in Afghanistan, andIraq.The book is organized around three major themes:
The Idea of Islamic Democracy,Varieties of Islamic Democracy, and the Necessity of Islamic Democracy.
I am veryimpressed by the author’s coverage of vast areas of the Muslim world. To peruse its pagesone gets an up-to-date description of politics and political activities from Indonesia all theway to Morocco. This feature makes the book very helpful to students of contemporaryIslam.Having thus far drawn attention to the positive aspects of 
“Islam and Democracy,”
letme say that I found the book rather abstract, with the author assuming all along that Islamand democracy, can, and should co-exist.At the outset, the book would have been very helpful to the average reader, if certainclear definitions were made at the beginning of the work. The word ‘democracy’ cannot be simply understood etymologically. Across the last few centuries, it has acquired aspecific political baggage. Thus, for North Americans, Europeans, the peoples of India,South Korea, and Japan, democracy implies political freedoms, the rule of law, a parliamentarian form of government, and the guarantee of the rights of minorities. Is“Islamic” democracy to be a unique genre of democracy? Nowhere in the book, did I findany serious discussion of the rights of ethnic and religious minorities within the futureand hoped-for democratic Islamic regimes.While the notes at the end of the book refer to many sources that the author hadconsulted, it is not clear whether Noah Feldman did research dealing with the topic inIslamic languages such as Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Urdu, and Malay. I don’t mean that awriter on Islam has to know all these languages; however an ability to consult Muslimscholars writing in their own languages for domestic readers on this subject, would havemade the book more realistic in its forecast for the future of democracy in Islam.It is my conviction that a prerequisite for the rise of democracy within Islamic countriesis the renewal and modernization of the Arab mind. Dr. Zaki Naguib Mahmoud, an
Egyptian scholar undertook such a project in several books as well as in the Kuwaiti journal,
He called for 
“the opening of the door of Ijtihad” as well as for the jettisoning of the irrational elements in the Arab-Muslim intellectual heritage.” 
Until such serious thinking spreads in the Muslim world, no kind of democracy can takeroot and flourish.One sign for the rise of a true democratic spirit within Muslim lands is to see whether self-criticism is allowed and practiced. For example, there is a general tendency amongMuslim thinkers to brand every policy vis-à-vis their world, undertaken by Westerncountries as bearing the marks of another 
The implication is that only Islamhad a right to conquer territories outside Arabia. Nowadays, the crusader wars(1099-1291) are not glorified or celebrated by any descendants of the Crusaders. It ishigh time that those wars be placed in their proper perspective. As Bernard Lewis put it in
"The Arab in History"
"At the present time, the Crusades are often depicted as an early experiment inexpansionist imperialism --- a prefigurement of the modern European empires. To the people of the time, both Muslim and Christian, they were no such thing. When theCrusaders arrived in Jerusalem, barely four hundred years had passed since that city,along with the rest of the Levant and North Africa, had been wrested by the armies of  Islam from their Christian rulers, and their Christian populations forciblyincorporated in a new Muslim empire. The Crusade was a delayed response to the jihad, the holy war of Islam, and its purpose was to recover by war what had been lost by war --- to free the holy places of Christendom and open them once again, without impediment, to Christian pilgrimage” 
P. 139Quite often, Turkey is mentioned as the only true democratic country in the Muslimworld. But this is true only up to a point. Elections are held, and governments change.Beginning as a purely secular republic under Ataturk’s autocratic rule, the TurkishRepublic has evolved into a more tolerant country where Islamic parties may exist andeven participate in elections, and form governments. But if judged by the universalunderstanding of what a true democracy is, Turkey falls short of the mark. It oppressesethnic minorities (like the Kurds) and the lot of religious minorities (Christians) is worsethan under the Ottoman rule.When dealing with Pakistan, Noah Feldman asks the question,
“Why has democracydone so poorly in Pakistan? Is Islam somehow at fault, given that neighboring Hindu-majority India has managed to preserve its democracy for half a century.” 
P. 125 Theanswer he gives, partially blaming geography, is unconvincing. The same applies to hisdismissal of the remarks of V. S. Naipaul in his latest book,
“Beyond Belief”
(P. 208)As the author nears the end of his book, he has an eloquent chapter dealing with
“Imagining an Islamic Democracy.” 
“What would an Islamic democracy look like in practice?” This description, or rather this hopeful forecast, is very touching. One onlyhopes that it would come to pass before too long. The very title of the last chapter (whichis also the title of the book) is
“After Jihad.”
Our author remains hopeful,2

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