Two cheers for democracy


The Dutch Justice Minister, Christian Democrat Mr Donner, shocked the Netherlands yesterday by stating that it should be possible to introduce shari'a (Islamic law based on the Qur'an and enforced by Islamic scholars) if two-thirds of the population was in favor. Quite apart from the big row that was created over an obviously hypothetical scenario, I think that your reaction to this statement says a lot about how you see democracy.
If you disagree, you're basically saying that shari'a is so much against democracy that even its democratic emergence must be prohibited. While this idea runs counter to the democratic principle that whatever most people want goes, it does have a point in that shari'a is fundamentally undemocratic because it eliminates the separation of church and state. Then again, the Netherlands has state-subsidized Christian schools.
If you agree with Donner, you believe that it's worth risking the existence of a fundamentalist Islamic state over the principle of democracy. This is an optimistic, possibly naive view, a strong faith in the resilience of the democratic state.
Ironically, it's exactly the response to Donner's statement, an ugly mix of paranoia, stupidity and demagoguery, that makes me less optimistic and lean toward the 'disagree' camp.

Posted by cronopio at 02:08 PM, September 14, 2006