“Dr. Abou El Fadl’s essay is lucid, nuanced, and remarkably thorough given its brevity. The responses that accompany it are intellectually challenging, honest, and lively.” —Sohail Hashmi, Mount Holyoke College
“Islam and the Challenge of Democracy not only educates readers about the central issues involved in the quest to develop Islamic democracies, it provides its own substantive contributions to that discourse and debate. The voices of Dr. Abou El Fadl and the other contributors are engaging and supremely relevant.” —R. Scott Appleby, University of Notre Dame
The events of September 11 and the subsequent war on terrorism have provoked widespread discussion about the possibility of democracy in the Islamic world. Such topics as the meaning of jihad, the role of clerics as authoritative interpreters, and the place of human rights and toleration in Islam have become subjects of urgent public debate around the world. With few exceptions, however, this debate has proceeded in isolation from the vibrant traditions of argument within Islamic theology, philosophy, and law.
Islam and the Challenge of Democracy aims to correct this deficiency. The book engages the reader in a rich discourse on the challenges of democracy in contemporary Islam. The collection begins with a lead essay by Khaled Abou El Fadl, who argues that democracy, especially a constitutional democracy that protects basic individual rights, is the form of government best suited to promoting a set of social and political values central to Islam. Because Islam is about submission to God and about each individual’s responsibility to serve as His agent on Earth, Abou El Fadl argues, there is no place for the subjugation to human authority demanded by authoritarian regimes. The lead essay is followed by eleven others from internationally respected specialists in democracy and religion. They address, challenge, and engage Abou El Fadl’s work. The contributors include John Esposito, Mohammad Fadel, Noah Feldman, Nader Hashemi, Bernard Haykel, Muqtedar Khan, Saba Mahmood, David Novak, William Quandt, Kevin Reinhart, and Jeremy Waldron.
Khaled Abou El Fadl is Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law. His recent books include The Place of Tolerance in Islam. Joshua Cohen is the Leon and Anne Goldberg Professor of the Humanities at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and coeditor of the Boston Review. Deborah Chasman is coeditor of the Boston Review.