If Arab countries want democracy, they’ll have to abandon Islamic law, said Türker Alkan in Istanbul’s Radikal. “Is there a theocracy which is administered with democracy anywhere in the world?” Of course not, and that’s because the two are mutually exclusive. A constitution based on “divine law” can’t be changed—yet it is the people’s ability to change their laws that defines democracy. Turkey has the distinction of being the only democracy with a majority Muslim population precisely because Islam plays no role in our laws. Secularism was the most important reform that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk made when he founded the modern Turkish state back in 1923. Only when a society is unequivocally secular can it offer equal rights to all its citizens, including women. Islamic law, by contrast, allows men to beat their wives and steal their wives’ property, and it gives men’s testimony far more weight in court than women’s. “I’m not saying that democracy can never come to the Islamic world,” but that it won’t happen until religion and civil life are separated. And that won’t be easy. “Even in Turkey, it’s still a struggle.”
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