Episode 96: "Islam and Liberal Democracy"

From a historical perspective it would seem that of all the non-Western civilizations in the world, Islam offers the best prospects for Western-style democracy. Historically, culturally, religiously, it is the closest to the West, sharing much—though by no means all—of the Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman heritage that helped to form our modern civilization.
— Bernard Lewis of The Atlantic, February 1993
Comparing the relationship between property and power in the modern American and classical Middle Eastern systems, one might put the difference this way: in America one uses money to buy power, while in the Middle East one uses power to acquire money. That is obviously an oversimplification, and there are significant exceptions on both sides. The misuse of public office for financial gain is not unknown in the United States; the use of money to buy into the political process is not unfamiliar in the traditional Middle East.
— Bernard Lewis of The Atlantic, February 1993

In an increasingly globalized world, many of us submit to generalizations, misunderstandings and politics of vehemence. Particularly in recent decades, sharp hatred and criticism have been cultivated in the West against the followers of Islam. This week, we welcome Sewar Al-Quraan to discuss a 1993 essay by Bernard Lewis which examines the history and relationship between Islam and the West. It should be noted that these are broad labels applied to billions of lives, and as such they fail to get at personal and nuanced experience. In what ways do we perpetuate these stereotypes? Do we ever treat the religious tradition of Islam as a form of government? Do we ever see religious devotion in liberal democracies like the United States? As ever, our conversation is not final nor declaratory. We will absolutely revisit this and similar topics in the future.

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