Is ‘Muslim’ Democracy Synonymous with ‘Constitutional’ Democracy?

Ayşen Candaş Bilgen in Reset DOC:

The first point I would like to make is that in suggesting that a Muslim democracy is not compatible with constitutional democracy, I am not claiming that there is something essentially ‘wrong’ about Islam nor I am assuming that Islam’s theology is ‘essentially’ different from the theologies of other monotheistic religions. Although I am not an expert in theology, I think it is accurate to suggest that Islam’s theology is not essentially different from the theologies of either Judaism or Christianity. The differences of Islamic theology which differentiate it from other monotheistic religions’ do not seem to amount to an ‘essential inability’ for Islam’s liberalization. This essential similarity of Islam with other monotheistic theologies implies that insofar as other monotheistic religions have liberalized, both through struggles and in time, so can Islam, and so can Muslim societies. Therefore when I suggest that a Muslim democracy is not a constitutional democracy, I do not want to suggest that Islam in specific is incompatible with constitutional democracy but other monotheistic religions were. In fact, I find it also plausible to argue that a Jewish or a Christian democracy would also be incompatible with the idea of constitutional democracy.

If we could possibly convince ourselves that a constitutional democracy and a Muslim (or Jewish or Christian democracy) are the same thing, then we would not have felt the need to use the adjective “Muslim,” (or “Jewish” or Christian”) before the word ‘democracy’ in that specific context. We, at least intuitively, seem to know that there would be something anomalous in a Muslim, or a religious, democracy that would render that political regime less than a constitutional democracy. A religious political system which attempts to rule a complex society is an oxymoron if it also calls itself a democracy. A Muslim democracy must necessarily refer to a regime that is streaked by the culture and the vision of Islam and its world view.

The second point of clarification I want to make is about the perspective that I am taking in making the observations I am about to make about Turkey. The complexity of the context sometimes remains partly invisible to the observers’ perspective, especially if they are looking to find some ‘otherness,’ and if out of sheer good will they portray this ‘otherness’ that they encounter as something necessarily and unquestionably benign. That is partly what happens to European and American liberals when they analyze a predominantly Muslim country such as Turkey.