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Theocracy, democracy and secularization: is there room for compromise?

By B. de Gaay Fortman


Liberal democracy appears to feel far from safe today. Fears of theocratic\ud threats such as the introduction of Shar’ia law and anti-Western jihad abound.\ud This article examines the dialectics of democracy and theocracy with special\ud reference to past and present processes of secularization. In this connection\ud a distinction is made between ‘secularization’ as a process of separating the\ud secular from the sacred, and ‘secularism’ as an ideology restricting religion\ud purely to the private realm. Rather than in orthodoxy or even fundamentalis\ud the theocratic threat to democracy and the rule of law appears to lie in\ud exceptionalism in the sense of a religiously motivated exemption from\ud democratic decision-making and the rule of law. This type of threat is not\ud confined to extremist attitudes grounded in religion however; in respect of\ud the international legal order it is state-based exceptionalism that abounds.\ud Notably, international human rights standards imply semi-autonomy rather\ud than full autonomy for states and religious institutions alike. Prior to arithmetic\ud rules of decision-making it is in the transcendental principles of universality\ud and human dignity that society finds protection against exceptionalist threats\ud to democracy and the rule of law

Topics: Rechtsgeleerdheid, Democracy, Theocracy, Secularization
Year: 2008
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