Halal Democracy : an oxymoron?

…or just a  politically correct smart sound bite in the wake of the recent upheaval in the middle east? It is certainly not without any traditional or historical rationale, and has appeared in respected media like the New York Times. The obvious implication is that democracy and Islam are not compatible and the recent popular youth uprising in the middle east can only be a rare exception to the rule. Theocracy rules, ok? Or, is it plutocracy? Oligocracy?  Autocracy? So many labels!

So easy to “profile”, to categorize, to miss the salient point that none of the labels would fit, that the default Islam does not apply in Tunis or Cairo any more than Christianity in a comparable situation in most western cities, or Buddhism in the old South Vietnam. So, looking for an easy label we tend to lump Tunis, Cairo, Amman with Iran, Iraq or Gaza.

But what about  democracy? Don’t forget that the much-vaunted democracy in Athens unfairly put Socrates to death? Or a few centuries later the Gracchi brothers in the heydays of ancient Rome were killed because of their campaign for popular democracy – still the  most relevant to us in today’s world!.  Or the idea of Plato’s philosopher-kings in an “ideal” meritocracy? Did it die when Plato himself was  reportedly sold as a slave by the tyrant Dionysius of Syracuse?

The idea of Democracy as rule of the people, or government by power derived from people, somehow crumbles when you dig deeper or when you are excluded or marginalized from we the people in case you happen to be a slave or an otherwise unrecognized citizen. Of course, the antecedent of our constitution, the Magna Carta of England deals only  with the knights, the clergy and the landed gentry, leaving out the common people. The recent protesters from Cairo or Tunis have clearly gone beyond that in asking for basic necessities of life and freedom  for the common man irrespective of  religious or political alignment – at least now! May be Halal democracy will rule, ok?

But who cares? We need headline recognition and catchy sound bites, right? Don’t know why but somehow the expression Halal democracy sounds outright derisory or   patronizing at best. Yet, Kosher democracy sounds respectable and worthy in comparison!

So how about Yellow Democracy, Chopstick democracy, or even Curry Democracy? Any idea?

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