A legitimate government is crucial to the prosperity of a country and its people. A government that is acceptable to everybody is a product of a democratic process. Democracy is a system of governance where electing and replacing of an incumbent government is done through free and fair elections, (Adams Henry, 2008:2-5.)In a democratic system the government and the citizenry enters a social contract. The government is given the mandate by the electorate, to implement the social contract for the fixed period of time, failure to which it is kicked out through an election. Besides elections a democratic system displays the following features: Recurrent free and fair elections, Human rights are respected, political party pluralism exists, and above all civil society is tolerated (Ibid: 15-17). It is impossible for the state to remain religious at the same time democratic. In every jurisdiction there are always people of different religious orientation. They may be affiliated to dominant or minority religions, therefore it is prudent for every state to remain secular in order to uphold the rights of every religion. Depending on the location of the state there’s always a dominant religion and minority religion. A dichotomy between governance and religion should be there, to avoid the Un- necessary conflicts that arise due to different ideologies of different religions, (Anderson, John ,2006:78-85).In a secular state religion play a very instrumental role in nurturing democracy, by giving direction to the government where it has faulted.
The cause of the reformation of the church in 1450-1550 A.D was due to intolerance of individual views and liberties. The modern religions have not transformed either, they are still conservative by opposing new ideas . The principle of liberalism is a key facet of a democratic state; therefore any state that claims to be democratic must uphold this principle. It becomes difficult for such a state to uphold the same principle if it maintains the duality of religion and democracy because most of religions, do not allow people to behave as they wish as long as they don’t enfranchise on the rights of others.
The Duality Of Democracy And Religion In Middle East
The Middle East comprises countries like Iraq, Iran Saud Arabia and many others. My discussion will be limited to Iran by examining the implications or possibility of maintaining this double characteristic. In situations where extreme fundamental principles of a religion like Islam are the basis of governance, it is difficult to nurture the spirit of democracy. Sharia law is very intricate hence difficult for liberal ideas of a modern government to penetrate. Majority of the states in Middle East are governed by extreme Islamic fundamentalism which is opposed to western liberal ideas, (Sayed ,Khatab 2007:107-112 )The system of governance in Iran is based on extreme Islamic fundamentalism where the Koran is the only document recognised when interpreting social political and economic issues. It is illegal to refer to any other book or document.
Iran like many other states it is a republic but it is a special republic, where the highest office is that of a supreme leader. The second most powerful office to the supreme leader is the presidency. The qualification of the supreme leader is that he must have had intense training in Islamic law and must be someone of justice. The supreme leader is the appointing authority of the powerful offices like the commander of the armed forces, director of communication, and the chief judges who decides the bills that becomes the law and determines who runs for presidency and parliament. What the supreme leader pronounces becomes the law because according to the Koran the Muslims are not supposed to challenge what their leader says, (ibid: 123-125).
Implications of Religion to Democracy in Iran
Historically the supreme leaders have, evaded elections yet they are vested with appointing authority. Therefore his leadership is not legitimate because people are not given the opportunity to elect an individual whom they want. Therefore there’s, a tendency of a supreme leader to impose his leadership to be accepted.
In a democratic state, the culture of regular and free elections of the parliamentarians, and the executive is practised. Although regular elections has been conducted in Iran, it has not been free and fair because the supreme leader, single headedly appoints the high court judges who decides who to run for presidency or parliament therefore the outcome of the elections can easily be predetermined by the supreme leader.
Besides exclusive power to appointment the supreme leader has got no proper checks and measures because his word is law and must be respected by the parliament. Therefore the supreme leader can misinterpret the law to favour his personal interests.
In a country like Iran where the Koran is the basis of the society there’s a threat of discrimination. The Koran discriminates against women and the minority religions. The rights of people who subscribe to minority religions are always abused they intimidated and denied freedom of expression. (Charles ,E 2001:200-205 )
In order to successfully to incorporate the aspect of religion in democracy the Islamic region must be modified in away to suit democracy. Islamic subgroups like Islamic brotherhood which incorporates secularism in Islamic culture, is friendly to democracy hence should be encouraged.
- Anderson, John Religion Democracy and democratisation Rutledge (2006)
- Sayed, Khatab Democracy in Islam Rutledge (2007)
- Charles, E Between the state and Islam Cambridge university press(2001)
- Adams, Henry Democracy :An American Novel Cosmo (2008)