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Islam, Democracy and Civil Society

  • Kukathas Chandran

    (University of Utah)

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    The purpose of this article, more particularly, is to explore the place of Islam in the modern world-a world which contemporary writers increasingly try to understand by invoking the notions of democracy and civil society.For many, then, Islam stands in a relationship of tension with - if not complete antagonism to - democracy and modernity. It is a religion, and a philosophy, which is a throwback to the middle ages, and an obstacle to human progress.The concern of this essay is to argue that Islam is not the threat it is taken to be. But to understand why, it is necessary to acquire a surer grasp of the nature of democracy, of the relationship between democracy and civil society, and of the place of religion in the modern world. Only an understanding of these matters will allow us to appreciate the moral worth of Islam, and to see why it might be a source of strength rather than a danger.None of this is to suggest, however, that there are no problems associated with the working of Islam or, indeed, any religion in the modern world. A related task of this paper, therefore, is to reflect on these difficulties, and to try to understand to what extent they stem from the nature of faith, or of religion, or certain religious faiths; and to what extent they have their roots in the nature of modern society, and liberal democratic society in particular.L’objet de cet article, plus particulièrement, est d’explorer la place de l’Islam dans le monde moderne – un monde que les auteurs contemporains essaient de comprendre en invoquant de plus en plus les notions de démocratie et de société civile.Pour beaucoup, dans ce cas, l’Islam reste dans une relation tendue – quand elle n’est pas totalement antagonique – avec la démocratie et la modernité. Il apparaît comme une religion, et une philosophie, qui remonte au Moyen-Age, et un obstacle au progrès humain.Cet essai explique que l’Islam n’est pas la menace que l’on considère qu’il est. Mais pour comprendre pourquoi, il est nécessaire d’acquérir une compréhension plus certaine de la nature de la démocratie, de la relation entre démocratie et société civile, et de la place de la religion dans le monde moderne. Seule une compréhension de ces sujets nous permettra d’apprécier la valeur morale de l’Islam et de voir pourquoi ce dernier peut être source de force et non de danger.A aucun moment cependant nous ne suggérons qu’il n’y ait pas de problèmes associés à l’Islam ou, de fait, à n’importe quelle religion dans le monde moderne. Une des tâches de cet article, ainsi, est de relater ces difficultés, et d’essayer de comprendre dans quelle mesure elles proviennent de la nature de la foi, ou de la religion, ou de certaines fois religieuses ; et dans quelle mesure elles ont leurs racines dans la nature de la société moderne, et de la société démocratique en particulier.

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    Article provided by De Gruyter in its journal Journal des Economistes et des Etudes Humaines.

    Volume (Year): 13 (2003)
    Issue (Month): 2 (June)
    Pages: 1-18

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    Handle: RePEc:bpj:jeehcn:v:13:y:2003:i:2:n:10
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