Foreign Policy

Is This the End of Democracy in Iran?

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The disputed election results in Iran have snowballed into a historical crossroads for the nation and its ruling principles.

As President Barack Obama has accurately said, the internal affairs of Iran are the sole business of the Iranian people and any foreign attempts to meddle in those affairs would be not only inappropriate but counterproductive.

With that said, we at the Muslim Public Affairs Council feel that we have a duty to analyze current events through the lens of Islam and democracy.

Islam's teachings, as articulated in the Quran and through the example of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), revolve around the central notion of free will. The Quran guarantees human rights of freedom of expression, freedom from compulsion in religious affairs, and the right of the people to question their leaders.

Any government claiming to be Islamic has a duty to respect the right of its people to vote for their leaders, to have input in determining the direction of their country, and to dissent when they disagree with their government's actions. Authoritarianism and theocracy are unacceptable, according to Islam's teachings, because they violate these human rights.

Throughout the history of Islamic civilizations, clergy did not take part in government. They acted instead as the conscience of the nation by educating, reminding, and sometimes opposing the government or ruler. As described in the Quran, leaders should be selected from among the people, work for the people, and be held accountable by the people: "O you who have attained to faith! Pay heed unto God, and pay heed unto the Apostle and unto those from among you who have been entrusted with authority..." (4:59).

The hundreds of thousands of Iranians we have watched take to the streets for the past two weeks began as silent demonstrators with no slogans or chants. According to all available reports, the government initiated the violence, not the demonstrators. We condemn the government's use of deadly force against people who have gathered peacefully to voice their opinions.

Ultimately, history will be decided by the Iranian people. We simply hope that the Council of Experts in Qum as well as other Iranian clergy and well-respected thinkers will make clear Islam's opposition to imposing a leader whose so-called election victory is disputed by its own people.

Our prayers are with the Iranian people as they face this historic moment.

Read the Opposing Views debate, Can Democracy Thrive in the Middle East?

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