04.10.2004Emran Qureshi - Heba Raouf EzzatAre Sharia Laws and Human Rights Compatible?
I support liberal as well as Islamic civic virtues as well as the celebration of human dignity and social welfare. But I do not believe that democracy necessitates a specific economic system. As Islam is more of a social democracy than an economically liberal one, it can be viewed as a democracy and platform to tame capitalism.
If we enjoy the fruits of modernity, mainly science and technology as you pointed out, it does not mean that we should not be critical to the ultra utilitarian ideas some modernists advocated. Capitalism is not what we are keen to defend but rather an egalitarian and humanist Islam.
Darfur is a sad story if you wish to give an example of how a regime that advocates a narrow legal notion of Sharia can become so authoritarian and ignore equal distribution of national wealth and social justice as well as true power sharing. Yet allow me to ask: is this a problem of Islamic politics or rather a recurrent policy of African political elites?
Iran is enjoying a dynamic political change and that we can only hope that other regimes in the region would allow the same transparency and openness. I do not advocate an Iran without Mullahs in the public sphere, as the grip of Shii doctrines is strong, but I do advocate a larger presence of progressive voices. We should admit that an Islamic Iran has been relatively more democratic that the secular rule of the former "Shah of Persia" who was an ally of the "liberal" American administration.
Moreover, many Muslims have raised their voice against atrocities committed in the name of Islam. The Wahhabis and Salafis were subject to harsh criticism by Muslim intellectuals such as Yusuf Qaradawy and late Mohamed Ghazali. Both these intellectuals stressed democratic notions of women's rights and minorities' equality. Many other names can be mentioned in other contexts who had critical views regarding the practices of Wahhabis in the domestic politics of many regimes in the Arab peninsula.
It is true there are those who abuse Islam. In the same way we see liberals or socialists abusing the moral core of their respective ideologies, be it individual liberty or the primacy of social justice. In a global age we need to unite across ideologies, religions and cultures to defend us of extremists of any kind.
Through constructive debates we could come to democratic experience that, with time, sweeps away injustice, hegemony and arrogance in each and every corner of this small world and allows the heart of Islam to be recaptured as a message of mercy, justice and power sharing.
Heba Raouf Ezzat
The correspondence was conducted between June and August 2004. The letters were first published in the German daily Frankfurter Rundschau on 4 October 2004. The correspondence was initiated by free-lance journalist Monika Jung-Mounib, currently working in Switzerland.