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The Role of Islam in the Public Square: Guidance or Governance?

The Role of Islam in the Public Square tackles the critical role of religion in the development of democratic institutions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Constitutional debates, Abdulaziz Sachedina asserts, have yet to address the role of religious convictions alongside their citizens’ basic freedoms and rights. Sachedina argues that the way in which religious values are defined in Afghanistan and Iraq remains a major stumbling block, and that an inclusive sense of citizenship—one that transcends doctrinal and theological uniformity—is needed if democracy is to succeed in both countries.
In recent decades, especially following the Islamic revolution and the establishment of religious authority as the head of government in the modern nationstate of Iran, the public role of religion in general and the role of Islam in particular has been revisited by social scientists. With the American interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, constitutional debates have as yet to tackle the role of religious convictions and values in the development of democratic institutions to guarantee basic freedoms and rights in those countries. The major stumbling block to democratization appears to be the way the role of religious values is defined in developing an inclusive sense of citizenship without insisting upon doctrinal/theological uniformity. In both of these countries religious leaders have insisted on making the religious law of Islam, the Shari’a, the principal source of defining freedoms and rights in the national constitution. While it is acknowledged that in the area of the personal status of a Muslim man and woman, the Shari’a could continue to provide judicial decisions in the area of personal law, there is also a major concern in the way traditional juridical formulations define a woman’s social and political rights. More importantly, the religiously pluralistic nature of Muslim societies requires taking into consideration not only Sunni- Shi’ite but also interfaith relationships. The need to search for inclusive religious values has assumed a situation of urgency.

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About Ali Teymoori

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