Can Islam, Sharia and a Secular Democracy coincide?

Our “illustrious” Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was interviewed by the CBC not long after the 2015 election where he boldly asserted that “Canadians are quick to point out that … Islam is not incompatible with a secular democracy”, and all that despite a great deal of evidence to the contrary. 


Our “illustrious” Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was interviewed by the CBC not long after the 2015 election where he boldly asserted that “Canadians are quick to point out that … Islam is not incompatible with a secular democracy”, and all that despite a great deal of evidence to the contrary.

While he may be commended for a high-minded approach to the issue of Syrian refugees, it seems more likely that he was, in his apparent agreement with that view, simply being soft-headed, clueless, or criminally negligent about Islam. And as that point seems to be the proverbial elephant in the living room – and of some bearing on at least his recent implications that hysterical “Islamophobia” is running amok amongst all Canadians, we might ask ourselves whether that claim of “compatibility” holds any water at all.

It appears that many Canadians would likely agree with the late British philosopher Anthony Flew who justifiably concluded, in his review of Ibn Warraq’s Why I’m Not a Muslim, that “Islam is flatly incompatible with the establishment and maintenance of the equal individual rights and liberties of a liberal, democratic, secular state”.

For instance, a November 2017 Angus-Reid poll of Canadians (Faith and Religion in Public Life) noted that some 46% og Canadians saw Islam as “damaging Canada and Canadian society” as opposed to an average of about 16% for the other seven “religions” considered.

And similarly, a February 2017 poll found that “an average of 55 per cent of people across the 10 European countries surveyed wanted to stop all future immigration from mainly Muslim countries.”

In addition, as reported in a January 2016 article, the Czech president, Milos Zeman, argued that “the integration of the Muslim community is practically impossible” while, more recently, the “possible next PM of Italy wants to close mosques and says Islam is incompatible with Italian values”.

It might also be worth asking ourselves why so many citizens of “secular democracies”, Canada included, apparently think that Muslims, in general, simply don’t play well with anyone, why Islam and the West appear to be like oil and water.

And, as a bill-of-particulars highlighting the many reasons why that might be the case, it wasn’t long ago (Ontario, 2003) that the “Islamic Institute of Civil Justice” attempted to set up “tribunals” there to implement Sharia Law.

However, it was, fortunately, and subsequently, shot down in flames after a vociferous outcry from many, including various Muslim Women’s groups, and individuals such as “Iranian-born Homa Arjomand [“Humanist of the Year” award; who] argued that Sharia tribunals would undermine women’s rights and ‘push back Canadian law by 1,400 years’”; (see Stop normalizing Sharia law in Canada).

And, a bit further afield in Britain where Sharia and Islam have more of a beachhead, One Law for All justifiably argues that “Sharia Laws are part of the extremist threat and not a solution”, and that the British Government has cynically accepted that “women’s rights are [to be] traded off as part of a process of appeasement of [Islamic] fundamentalists and extremists”.

But neither that “1,400 years” statement nor its author are untenable or surprising, respectively, given the recent protests in Iran over the forced wearing of the hijab which many women there have risked life and limb to protest against.

Rather unlike many “feminists” here in the “enlightened” West who were conspicuous by the absence of their support for their “sisters” in Iran – and who apparently think the hijab, niqab, and burka are nothing more than fashion choices, a personal idiosyncrasy, rather than the flagrant manifestations of a “totalitarian ideology that enforces a sexist and outdated worldview” (“Normalizing”).

And the hijab is hardly the most egregious example of that “worldview”, of the general tendency of far too many Muslims to reject various bedrock Canadian values and principles – and those of “secular democracy”.

For instances, there is the prevalence of rather odious hate speech found in many mosques in Canada and elsewhere (Britain) – there’s the source of your “radicalization” Prime Minister; the attempt to impose religious sentiments and rose-coloured views in secular environments; the thuggish attempts to curtail if not criminalize both criticism and even mockery of Islam ; and, finally, the decidedly odious misogyny of FGM.

And, more particularly relative to the last item, while the Liberals are maybe to be commended for stipulating, finally and under some duress, that the “New citizenship guide [is] to warn against ‘abhorrent’ practice of female genital mutilation”, one might ask why Trudeau was apparently so reluctant to include such provisions in the guide in the first place.

Given his “undoubted” bona fides as a feminist par excellence, one would have expected an uncompromising and enthusiastic “Aye, ready, aye” when the topic was first broached.

However, given that he has been cynically turning a blind eye to the egregious sexism of the Muslim community as when he “attended a gender-segregated event at Ottawa mosque”, and that he and his government are looking decidedly two-faced on Iran – pandering to the demented and barbaric theocrats in Tehran, we might also ask if he’s less interested in and supportive of Canadian values than of Islamic ones.

Maybe that’s why he promotes the idea that “Islam is not incompatible with a secular democracy”?

In any case, all of those many problems are, in largely part, due to fundamental incompatibilities between Islam and secular democracies – for instance, Islam has or had its own Declaration on Human Rights in Islam which promotes an Islamic theocracy, and is virtually antithetical to the UN’s own Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But those incompatibilities have commendably led many Muslims to consider the possibilities for reform of their religion.

A noteworthy example of that is Canada’s own Raheel Raza (“fighting against Islamic Extremists”) who is president of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, and a founding signatory of the broader Muslim Reform Movement – the precepts of which suggest a stark and worrisome contrast with those presumably at the heart of Islam.

In addition, she was a notable and credible witness, as was another signatory thereto (Dr Zuhdi Jasser), at the #M103 hearings (more a Liberal show trial than not), both of whom raised quite valid objections to the Liberal Party’s highly questionable “understanding” about the nature of Islam. However, as commendable as those initiatives are, and as much as we might wish them well in those endeavors, it is hard not to conclude that they’re barking up the wrong tree, that Islam is hermetically sealed against any and all attempts to reform it.

For instance, an article discussing an interview with Dr Jasser in The Federalist raises some sticky questions in that regard, and quoted him saying:

“We spent significant resources on this outreach over a period of ten months. We reached out through snail mail, e-mail, and telephone to over 3,000 mosques and over 500 known public American Muslims. We received only 40-plus rather dismissive responses from our outreach, and sadly less than ten of them were positive. In fact, one mosque in South Carolina left us a vicious voicemail threatening our staff if we contacted them again.”

None of which is likely to give any of us any warm fuzzy feelings of comfort that the worst of Islam might finally be jettisoned, or that it is – at least in its current form –  “compatible with secular democracy”.

So, how are we as a society going to get off the horns of that particular dilemma? Another sticky question on which the Angus-Reid survey may provide some guidance.

It notes that “nearly half of Canadians (48%) see religion as contributing ‘a mix of good and bad’ to Canada today” while a further 38% see its contributions as “more good than bad” or “very good”.

Which then raises the question as to what elements of each religion are good and which are bad, and how we can “accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative”. And a Biblical aphorism – “where there is no vision, the people perish” [Proverbs 29:18] – suggests that the best of them all share some commendable concern for what is, in effect, the survival of the species, for the directions we take and the values we endorse, for the greater glory of Man and God, so to speak.

However, not all visions are created equal, very few are without any “motes” of one sort or another, and not all religions are “keepers” – hard to imagine a worse one than that of the Aztecs. And even secularism and atheism have their own visions which many – Canada’s own Jordan Peterson for example – justifiably argue have their own inherent limitations and flaws. But Carl Sagan, writing in his Broca’s Brain [Pg xii], gives some suggestions on how we might separate the wheat from the chaff:

“Both borderline science and many religions are motivated in part by a serious concern about the nature of the universe and our role in it, and for this reason merit our consideration and regard. …. But both in borderline science and in organized religion there is much that is specious or dangerous.

While the practitioners of such doctrines often wish there were no criticisms to which they are expected to reply, sceptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep insights can be winnowed from deep nonsense. … The well-meaning contention that all ideas [religious or scientific] have equal merit seems to me little different from the disastrous contention that no ideas have any merit.”

A moot question of course whether the world’s religions, including secularism and atheism, are able to put their parochial dogma on the back burner, subject themselves to the same “sceptical scrutiny” they subject others to, and find the common ground that seems crucial to any social progress.

Unfortunately, the prognosis doesn’t seem particularly encouraging given the evidence from “the Second World Parliament of Religions held in Chicago [in 1993]” at which the Dalai Lama, in light of the fractious behaviour of many attendees, concluded “Nonsense!” in response to his own question: “If we have conflicts in the name of religion, can we help resolve other problems?”

Indeed; the question of the hour. And one with a profound bearing on many others, particularly on whether fundamentalist forms of Islam are “compatible with secular democracy”; on whether it can play nice with other religions on the block; on whether it’s true that as Muslim reformer Shireen Qudosi phrased it in speaking of Islam’s desperate need of reformation, “either Islam needs to evolve or it needs to die”.


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Jim Wiggins

Jim is a retired electronics technologist from Surrey, BC with some 30 years experience in programming, designing, maintaining, & repairing electronic equipment, primarily for the sawmill, marine, and automotive industries. Current interest include science, logic, the mind, sudoku, and writing Mathematica programs:

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