Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Reblogged Political Science Essay by (my friend) Ahmed R. Teleb

The Mid-eastern Roots of Western Democracy

It was not the rediscovery of Greek thought that brought equality, human rights and democracy to Modern Europe, but the re-thinking of Monotheistic ideas that leveled both civil and religious hierarchy and made thinking democracy possible. Europe’s debt is to a North African-Iberian Jew, exiled in Holland, by the name of Baruch Spinoza.

People often ask, “Why have Arab Revolutions not produced stable democracies?” The “experts” ready to answer proliferate. But their answers seem stale, contradictory or even jingoistic. “They haven’t had the Reformation. The Enlightenment has not come to the Middle East. They need to separate church and state!” Or worse yet, “Islam is incompatible with democracy.”

Leaving aside how answers like the above are anachronistic or Western-centric, this non-expert article suggests another possibility, that there is a more basic, albeit philosophical prerequisite of democracy, humility. It not only deepened the Reformation and helped set the stage for Enlightenment thought, but perhaps made peaceful life under a democratic regime at all possible. First, the reasons why the cliched accounts above explain little about democracy.

Not Reformation Not Separation Not Enlightenment
"Religions are no longer identified with charity, but with spreading discord…under the name of zeal for the Lord."
---Spinoza, Theologico-political Treatise

To read the rest click here.

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