Islam in power

A note from the editor

Hadani Ditmars

Change from within

‘Islam in power’ is a contradiction in terms, said contributor Ziauddin Sardar, when I first mentioned this issue’s title to him.

The foundation for Muslim democracy, he maintains, lies in egalitarianism not in authoritarian theocracies. In fact, he contends, the whole idea of the Islamic state is un-Islamic, since the faith is a universalist not a nationalist movement. Grassroots decision making is much more in line with Islamic tradition than authoritarianism.

I was thinking about this the other day while attending a service at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford. The sermon was about the need for community consultation and consensus, whose Islamic equivalents are met in the concepts of shura and ijma. Later there was discussion about how to re-invigorate the church and make it relevant in the modern world. Issues around women bishops and gay rights were the elephants in the room.

I was reminded of issues the ‘Islamic world’ is contending with – ones that we explore this month. With dispatches from a Saudi feminist, an Iranian Jewish woman and a gay Iraqi Muslim activist, we hope to expand the concept of the larger ummah or community. And with a feature by Nafeez Ahmed on the connections between Western intelligence agencies and Islamist extremists, we offer a peek at realpolitik.

On the way back from the service at Christ Church, I crossed paths with a Muslim man coming back from his isha prayers at the mosque. Ramadan mubarak, I told him, and he nodded back. Acknowledgement and inclusion of the other are pan-Abrahamic traditions that need to be revived on all sides.

And our special feature this month on green law is all about acknowledging the rights of the earth itself.

Here’s to the fine art of mutual respect.

Hadani Ditmars for the New Internationalist co-operative.
www.newint.org

The big story

Photo by Patrick Brown / PANOS

Photo: Patrick Brown / PANOS

Islam in power

Hadani Ditmars calls for a return to Islam’s spirit of democracy and pluralism.

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Much has happened in the world since I agreed to take on the challenge of editing an issue on political Islam. Protests against suspect elections in Iran morphed into a popular and brutally suppressed uprising against the constraints of theocracy, eerily reminiscent of the prelude to the 1979 Revolution.

The war in Afghanistan, with its high civilian death toll, was brought increasingly into the living rooms of the West, as NATO soldiers continued to die fighting an amorphous enemy ...




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