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The party of God

Recent elections in Algeria and Turkey have highlighted the reluctance of elites in Muslim countries to allow fully free elections, because of fear of losing power to Islamic fundamentalists. But it does not follow that Islam and democracy are incompatible?

By Edward Mortimer   June 1999

In the last edition of his classic, The Arabs, published in 1992, the late Peter Mansfield described the Arab world in the 1990s as “confronted by a formidable problem which in reality affects all Muslims in the 21st century.” The problem was that of “finding the means of combining Islam with democracy in our time.” The perception of Islam as a problem for those wishing to promote the universal values of human rights and democracy is widespread, both in the west and among the elite of Muslim countries. But is it correct? If so, what is the nature of the…

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