Q. The pro-democracy uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have resonated around the world, with even the Wall Street Journal going so far as to headline one column, “The Arab World's 1989?” Hosni Mubarak's resignation from his position as president of Egypt has resulted in the installation of a military government there that is promising reform and free elections, but is dogged by further protests, which are now spreading to other Middle Eastern countries.

But can democracy take root in an Islamic society? With the Muslim Brotherhood's involvement in the protests, there seems to be a danger that even though the protesters may get what they want in terms of elections, they may end up trading secular rule for religious theocracy.

Is Islam, which in the West is inextricably linked with authoritarian rule such as that in Saudi Arabia, compatible with democracy? Is there anything American faith leaders should be, or could be, doing to influence this change?

 

Of course there can be a Muslim democracy. Look at Turkey. Also, hast thou considered Indonesia, where I think the majority of the world's Muslims are located? (I do not know what form of government Indonesia has, but we certainly haven't heard much from that part of the world these days.)

It is quite provincial of those of us in the West to assume that since some Muslim states are autocratic, they all must be. It is also quite chauvinistic of us to assume that “they” haven't evolved as far as “we,” therefore “they” wouldn't know what to do with a democracy if “they” had one.

A bigger question for us in the West to answer is this: What if the Egyptians (or anybody else) actually choose, in an open and legal and democratic way, to be governed by some group such as the Muslim Brotherhood? Would we support that choice? I say that we had better, if we say we believe in democracy.

Otherwise, we're bigger hypocrites than those in charge in Tehran.

The Rev. C. L. “Skip” Lindeman

La Cañada Congregational Church, United Church of Christ

La Cañada

 

It’s so easy to speculate about current political transitions, and, in this instance, about which religious groupings may or may not be compatible with democracy. And yet freedom is a concept about which people are increasingly cognizant, with significant increases in education and a growing middle class in many parts of the world, where the populace feels increasingly empowered. While many questions about the future remain, advances that may not have been achievable previously also are possible, despite fears of sliding backwards.

The endeavors of those who cherish freedom will be successful to the degree that emerging leaders and their citizens express the loving intelligence that comes from God. I was reading an article about Moez Masoud, a popular Cairo host of English and Arabic broadcasts about Islam, who, in an interview with the BBC, spoke about the spirituality of the Egyptian people — that is, their spiritual, and not just their religious, attitudes. That’s forward thinking.

The freedom underpinning democracy constitutes a quality of God, Spirit, to which we all have a natural connection, which we can all realize is ours to cherish as we consider world events. In the Old Testament we find this declaration: “The battle is not yours, but God’s.” Setting aside fears and concerns and letting ourselves be guided by divine wisdom is possible, and it’s a form of prayer in which we support not only our own well-being, but also the prospects for better governments everywhere, regardless of religious or cultural backgrounds.

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, wrote in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfills the Scripture, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself.’” We can acknowledge each individual in these various countries as having God-connected qualities of insight, balance, hope and love that will help shape improved futures for their respective countries, including the paving of the long road to real democracy that doesn’t emerge overnight.

Graham Bothwell

First Church of Christ, Scientist

La Cañada Flintridge