The Christian democrats (CDA) conclude in a study that Islam can be a source for fostering democracy. The sharia, or Koran-inspired law, can play a role in this process, the study compiled by Arie Oostlander finds.
Oostlander strongly opposes what is known as the secularisation premise, which claims that democratic development benefits from reduced religious involvement. “I take a strong stand against the idea that Islam is incompatible with democracy. This premise plays into the hands of extremist groups. Islam can provide a basis for promoting the democratic constitutional state,” Christian newspaper Nederlands Dagblad quoted him as saying.
Oostlander was director of the scientific bureau of the CDA between 1975 and 1989. Jan Peter Balkenende, the present CDA leader and Prime Minister, once called him his ‘spiritual father’.
The West, Oostlander maintained, must try to link up with religious groups in Muslim countries that are open to democratic developments. He said he did not wish to be “naïve” about this, because there are also extremist groups that do not eschew violence. But space can be created for the sharia. “Not everything stated in the sharia is bad. We should be prepared to take part in discussion about this.”
Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen (CDA) took receipt of the study. “Religious leaders can play a positive role in reforms in a country,” he said. “But religion is not the only factor that decides someone’s identity. It should never be impossible for someone to participate in a discussion because of their convictions.”
Where the sharia is concerned, Verhagen maintained that “there must never be any excuse for stoning women to death” or killing homosexuals. But this does not alter the fact that people may allow themselves to be inspired by their religious convictions in shaping society, the minister declared. And this can be manifested in legislation in one way or another, he added.