Friday, March 10, 2006

What's Muslim for Democracy?

Yes, that title sounds stupid. But often, especially since 9/11, folks have said, especially in the US press, that Muslims have never had democracy; heck! they don't even have their own word for it and use "Demokratiya" in Arabic. Now I am not an Arabic scholar or even a speaker of the language. (Though the fact that the last word in Libya's official name isn't that comes to mind: the People's Libyan Arab Gamahiriyya.)

But I do know that the Muslims of South Asia--fully half of the global Ummah, so to speak--have had a live tradition of consensual government. And especially since the days of resistance to colonial rule, we've had much more than that; we've had a rich literature of popular engagement in governance. All this came up because, in relation/reaction to the recent blocking of blogs in Pakistan, the following couplet from the person that Pakistan designates its national poet, (and who also wrote India's most popular national hymn also, by the way) was echoing in my head; and of course, I had to do an English translation to put on my blog:

sulthani-e-jamhoor ka athaa hai zamaana
joe naqsh-e-kohan thum koe nazar aayay mita dho!

comes, now, the era of the people's sovereignty
whatever sign of oppression you see, erase it!

The word we use is "Jamhooriyath", which comes from Jamhoor, as in "sulthani-e-Jamhoor" above; just as "Democracy" comes from the rule of the demos, the commons.

آدابAdaab,
فقیر-iiFaqeer


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2 comments:

Omer said...

So far as I know, the word 'democracy' isn't derived from any Arabic words, rather it is derived from Greek word 'Dimokratia', which means popular government.

Omer said...

So far as I know, the word 'democracy' isn't derived from any Arabic words, rather it is derived from Greek word 'Dimokratia', which means popular government.