Sunday, February 10, 2008

Please, Rowan, do not undervalue democracy

Archbishop Rowan Williams' remarks about sharia law continue to make waves. See here, for example, for a robust dismissal of Archbishop Rowan's self-defence. Something I am not seeing comment on is this: the relationship between sharia law and democracy. Can anyone name a country in which sharia law dominates the legal system which is also an open democracy? By 'open democracy' I mean a society in which the media is free, the judiciary is impartial and beyond political interference, and regular elections to a parliament are held, in which multiple parties are able to campaign without let or hindrance. I look forward to at least a couple of countries being named.

But I am pretty sure the answer to the next question is nil. How many countries have moved from negligible influence of sharia to a growing dominance of sharia and matched that transformation with an increasingly open democracy?

Thus there is an added culpability on the Archbishop's side of the furore: a failure to uphold open democracy since any advancement of sharia is accompanied by the lessening of democracy. And just before anyone says something like, What's so great about democracy?, please think about the alternative system you would like to live in, and tell me about its advantages!

No comments: