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Islam and Western liberal democracy are incompatible

Ali: Islam has certain characteristics that can co-exist with Western democracy. As a Muslim, I was taught to be generous, to be hospitable, to be kind to the elderly and to be kind to the poor. But the basic tenets of Islam and the basic tenets of Western liberal democracies are incompatible.

Islam fails to recognise secularity or the separation of church and state. Women are subordinate. Life is not valued as much as in the Western liberal societies, where life and the freedom of the individual are separate ends in themselves. In Islam, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are things that you can pursue when you go to heaven, but you have to die first because life on earth is just a passage and you observe certain rules, and if you don't observe those rules you're not considered a Muslim.

And then you have the treatment of homosexuals, or at least the idea that they are not allowed to live and should either be banished or killed. Now, in liberal societies these are values that are radically different from what Islam preaches.

O'Brien: But there are many, many moderate Muslims in Australia and I imagine England, The Netherlands and other Western-style democracies who would say they have no absolute problem practising their religion faithfully but also supporting the democratic system of their country.

Ali: Precisely, and that's why in this debate I think we should make a distinction between Muslims and Islam. Muslims are individuals and they are varied. Islam as a doctrine, as a body of ideas, as a belief, means submission to the will of Allah ... You will find that some accept democracy and appreciate it, some who do not, and you will find others who are out to destroy it. I think we should not underestimate those.


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