By: Bahman Aghai Diba, PhD Int. Law
Some of the Iranian ruling groups and a large number of the Reformists believe that the Western democracy (and human rights) cannot be transferred to the societies like Iran. (1) They think and argue that a different kind of democracy (religious democracy or Islamic democracy), which uses the religious teachings, is needed for this purpose. Of course, as far as the Islamic countries, like Iran and Iraq are concerned, they recommend the Islamic tenets as the basis of such democracy. Speaking in London, Sayyed Mohammad Khatami, the former president of Iran, had said: “democracy was a right for all people in the East and West, but there was no one-size-fits-all model…democracy needed to be tailored to the social, historical, cultural and religious make-up of an individual nation.” (2)
Several questions are here:
1- Is democracy dividable into various forms?
Democracy means the government of people. It may have many forms (like direct and indirect democracies), but it must be based on several clear and simple principles. These principles are the backbone of any democratic system, and lack of them makes the political system avoid of democracy. Some of these rudimentary principles are:
a- People are the source of the legitimacy of the government. This clearly means that the governing body owes the legitimacy to rule to the people and no other source. Therefore, as soon as the people do not want a government, it has lost its legitimacy.
b- People have the right to choose those who govern them. People may choose the governing body through the institutions that they create such political parties.
c- People can change those who govern them. This means that the peop0le have the right to set aside those who have been ruling for any reason that looks proper for the people.
2- Are religions compatible with democracy?
Religions are not generally compatible with democracy for many reasons. Some of them are as follow:
a- The religions believe in the divine sources of power for the rulers and religious leaders.
b- Religions are based on fixed ideas that are supposed to have come from divine sources and therefore they are not subject to discussion, scrutiny and rejection or change.
c- Religious regimes have proved in the past that they are not able to accommodate democracy.
d- The era of renaissance and progress of the Western societies began when they separated the church from the politics. (until then the Eastern societies were in a higher level of development as compared to the Europeans).
3- Is Islam compatible with democracy?
First of all, there is not a unified or standard definition of Islam. The religious leaders of the “Islamic Republic” of Iran keep talking about the teachings of “Islam”, while they are Shiite and 90% of the Muslims are Sunnis. Many Sunnis do not consider the Shiites as Muslim. There is not even unity in the interpretation of Islam among the Iranian Mullahs.
Hassan abbassi, the Director of Center of External security analysis of the Revolutionary Guards of the Islamic republic of Iran has said: “…the leaders of the Islamic world should have the courage to declare: Islam and Western democracy are not compatible. Islam has nothing in common with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Islam has nothing in common with the Western liberalism.” (3)
People like Khatami that have clearly chosen a special ideology as the source of all truth, and reject the others as the wrong paths, cannot talk about democracy. They are like a researcher that set the results of the research from the beginning. They are not after finding the truth; they only intend to defend the one that they have already convinced themselves as being the only source of truth.
It seems that democracy is not compatible with any religion, especially Islam. The only way to create democracy in any country is the secularism (separation of the religion and politics). This does not mean the elimination of religion, but keeping it away from the political administration of the state affairs. What demagogues like Khatami are talking about is only a way of saving the undemocratic and tyrannical regime of Iran under the pretext of the “religious democracy” and other baseless and oxymoron expressions.
(3) FAQs about the nuclear case of Iran, Bahman Aghai Diba, Booksurge LLC, 2006, page 4.
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