Det finnes en gruppe mennesker som er modige, klarttenkende og velformulerte, men som i forsvinnende liten grad blir fokusert på i de vestlige samfunn. Jeg tenker på de arabiske intellektuelle som forsøker å holde menneskeverdets, rasjonalitetens og frihetens idé brennende. Deres situasjon er presset og farlig, og den blir ikke bedre av at deres vestlige kolleger stort sett allierer seg med frihetsforkjempernes fiender – islamistene.

Det har nylig kommet ut en antologi med tittelen Human Rights in Arab Thought. A Reader. Redaktør er Salma K. Jayyusi, som innledningsvis opplyser at hun er palestiner. Hennes dedikasjon brenner seg inn:

To the Arab prisoners of conscience
and to the Arab writers of conscience
I dedicate this book
for they have dared…

Boken består av 22 essays, 20 opprinnelig skrevet på arabisk, som tar for seg ulike aspekter av forholdet mellom menneskerettighetene og den arabiske verden. Under tittelen «The problematic of freedom and human rights in Arab-Islamic thought» skriver Yousef Salama innsiktsfullt om forholdet mellom frihet, demokrati, sharia og islamismen.

Frem til midten av forrige århundre har det tydeligvis vært en genuin liberal tradisjon i den arabiske verden, påvirket blant annet av opplysningstidens tankegods. Denne tradisjonen nådde imidlertid ikke frem, og etterhvert har araberne kommet i en religiøs, sosial og politisk knipetangsklemme mellom despoter og islamister. «The wretched plight of the present-day Arab world is largely the result of the abscence of individuals’ right to criticize, express opposition and take part in choosing the appropriate social and political system.» (s. 278). Dette kan man se som en forklaring på hvorfor liberale stemmer nesten ikke kan høres fra den arabiske verden; de er undertrykt, forfulgt og forsøkt tilintetgjort.

Yousef al-Qaradhawi og islams politiske teologi

En av de mest fremtredende islamistiske tenkere er Yousef al-Qaradhawi (også stavet al-Qardawi i essayet), som mange vil assosiere som en viktig inspirasjonskilde for Den norske kirke og Stoltenberg-regjeringen i forbindelse med karikaturstriden. Yousef Salama tegner et litt annet bilde av al-Qaradhawi enn det domprost i Oslo Olav Dag Hauge gjorde.

Salama hevder at al-Qardawi effektivt eliminerer liberalismen og dermed demokratiet i sin politiske teologi:

It is clear that al-Qardawi is effectively annulling liberalism and democratic life, especially in the constraints and limitations he imposes on the principle that the nation is the source of power; such power exists only within the framework of Islamic Sharia. This modification shifts things away from a view of man as focus – a democratic vision of the world – towards a theological vision whereby God is taken as the center of the world and man as a creature whose function is to meet objectives and targets not his own. As such the contemporary Islamist thinker is far from any discovery of the concept of man on which democratic life is founded. The modern state can assume a secular character only when it recognizes that its systems of law are based, in the final analysis, on one central concept: the concept of man.

All this is confirmation that present-day Islamic thought remains unable to form the basis of a modern state, in which the concept of man, freedom and human rights occupy a central position vis-à-vis other ideas; both at the theological level and in concrete practice in the spheres of legislation and implementation.

In the absence of such concepts, even in the theoretical system set forth by modern Islamic intellectuals, al-Qardawi is able to claim that ‘the most serious defect of secular liberal democracy is the lack of, indeed the deliberate disregard of, the spiritual element; a turning away from God and rejection of His guidance’. …

Secular liberal democracy fails to find acceptance with contemporary Islamist intellectuals because, quite simply, it is not a religion; and more specifically because it stands opposed to the Islamic religion on a number of issues and questions. What we are dealing with here, clearly, is a criticism of democracy from the outside; one that makes no attempt to discuss, in any depth, the view-point it opposes and rejects, or to study the internal elements of the theory against which it decides. This is the most fragile form of criticism. (s. 283).

Salama går så videre og stiller det gjennomtrengende spørsmål om islam i det hele tatt er forenlig med elementære demokratiske prinsipper som sekularitet og liberalisme.

Is it possible for Islam to be a spiritual system, regulating the relation between man and God in a private fashion, while turning over the issues of politics and the state to policy-makers and political philosophers, and over and above them – to the people, who will decide for themselves and be accountable for the choice they make, rightly or wrongly, of their representatives in the legislative authority?

To this question modern Islamic thinkers answer unanimously in the negative. Islam, they underline, is at once a religion and a state – or rather, the state is an essential aspect of Islam. It is a function of the Islamic state to organize all the affairs of society, including the structure, form and competence of the state, and all the rights and duties of individuals within that society. (s. 284).

Etter flere sitater fra islamske intellektuelle som underbygger dette resonnementet, konkluderer Salama:

In the understanding of contemporary Islamist thinkers, then, Islam is at once a religion and a state, and any separation of religious and secular authorities will, in the light of this, be viewed as a form of rebellion against the requirements of divine rule. This implies condemnation of anyone who advocates such a separation between religion and the state, or between this world and the hereafter, or between the political and civil on the one hand and religion and the sacred on the other. (s. 285).

Den hellige tekst står i sentrum

Det absolutte kjernepunkt i den muslimske samfunnsforståelse er, ifølge Salama, den religiøse tekst. Han siterer en annen nåtidig islamsk tenker Rashid al-Ghanoushi: «The text of Revelation, as a Book and as a Sunna, is definitive in its source and signification. It is the supreme constitution of the Islamic state.» (s. 286). Salama resonnerer:

Under the auspices of the Islamic state so conceived, the legislative powers are consistently limited and finite, regardless of any interpretative attempt to enhance them and broaden them into different areas. The interpreter is faced, in the final analysis, with an ahistorical text that must be recognized and kept intact, as a sacred text. For such a state, private faith or individual certainty, as a hidden contention, is subsumed into a sacred text that may not be approached, whether by believers or non-believers, with a view to any form of amendment, development or change. This is how Islamist thinkers understand the meaning of the text: ‘It is the ultimate ruler and the unrivaled authority; and this is the solid base upon which Islamic society is built, the power that institutionalizes and organizes community, state and culture. It is the source from which Islamic government draws its philosophy, values, forms, legislation, objectives and ultimate goals, the supreme governor … to whom everyone and everything belongs and subscribes. The Text is the constant, unchanging Sharia.’

So it is that the Islamic community has been generally preserved and maintained, as firmly based and established as the text on whose foundation it has been institutionalized; and no development in political life can be entertained without a cultural change in the way the community understands and reads this text. Indeed, the very survival of the community can be explained only by reference to the text from which it has been miraculously produced. (ss. 286f).

Dobbeltsnakk om frihet og menneskerettigheter

Det er tydelig at flere av disse islamske tenkerne som Salama refererer til, i utgangspunktet snakker som om de anerkjenner menneskerettighetene. Al-Ghanoushi, som har levd i exil i Frankrike og dermed kjenner det vestlige liberale system godt, tilkjennegir å støtte den vestlige liberalisme, men det blir etterhvert klart at han definerer individets frihet på en spesiell måte.

Soon, though, al-Ganoushi, takes a step backwards, speaking of freedom in its Islamic origins, and distancing himself from all the liberal notions of freedom he had initially adopted and supported. In developing this (Islamic) freedom, he falls far below the liberal level with which he had started out. He also falls short of a modifying and authenticating liberalism in the context of traditional Islamic thought itself. His attempt to blend various elements leads not to a coherent system of components but rather to a mixture of disparate notions. He ends up, in fact, by standing against human rights declaration vis-à-vis freedom, considering these ‘merely guarantees given to the bourgeoisie as a weapon against feudalism and the Pope. As such, they are an assortment of fragmented ideas which, in turn, were refuted by socialist systems that emphasized social rights and imposed a new form of tyranny.’

In making this simplified assessment, he disregards a long process of human endeavour in which Muslims, unfortunately, played no part. For five centuries these endeavours have continued in the Western world, from the Renaissance up till today, in a progressive line culminating in the form of political democracy now mostly practised in the industrialized countries. Other ancient people – the Indians, for instance – are now attempting to proceed along the same lines. Nor do their culture and history present any obstacle on their road to the democratic system as a political mode and as a way of life.

For al-Ghanoushi, then, freedom in the Islamist sense means that ‘we undertake our responsibilities in a positive manner, and fulfil our duties voluntarily by complying with commands, and avoiding things that are prohibited, and bringing ourselves to the level of the caliphs and God’s holy persons’. Whatever the value of this analysis of freedom, linked to duty and responsibility, al-Ghanoushi’s definition overlooks the point that closeness to God is a relative, subjective and personal matter. (ss. 295f).

Lite lystelige utsikter

Salamas konklusjon levner ingen tvil: «This analysis leads us to two conclusions. The first is that shura differs from democracy and that the two systems absolutely cannot be reconciled one with another. … The second conclusion is that the common people exercise no power in practice, …» (ss. 301f). Hans avsluttende tanker er ikke spesielt optimistiske når det gjelder de videre utsikter i dagens arabiske verden:

There is another significant issue vis-à-vis the Islamic theory of freedom and its application. Shura, which embodies the sole form of participation in political power, also involves the participation of a few memebers of the nation only, that is, of learned and knowledgeable individuals. These limitations mean that the majority of people will be totally deprived of any kind of participation in determining their future and the future of their society.

Sharia imposes a further constraint, on all Muslims. They are not permitted to change their faith by choosing another creed over that of Islam. If they do, they will be regarded as apostate and may, in the eyes of most jurists, and even in the eyes of intellectuals and legists generally, be killed. Apostasy does not only mean conversion from Islam to another religion, but also a shift to atheism or adoption of any of the philosophical and ideological disciplines that Islamic scholars and doctrinaires view as a form of heresy or aberrance, like existentialism, or Marxism, or even democracy.

Clearly, the challenges facing the true intellectual in the Arab and Islamic world are becoming ever more difficult; all the more so in view of the undeclared alliance between state and opposition – especially the Islamist opposition – against the genuine culture of rejection and the bearers of this culture. State and opposition are essentially fighting a single battle: the former to maintain a substantially corrupt power, the latter to attain power with an equally backward, often still more degenerate content. The only opposition in either case is the true or organic intellectual, facing two brutal authorities that do not recognize human freedom or human rights. So it is that state and opposition are brought together against the authentic culture that defends human freedom and rights, and promotes an open future in the face of those who consider themselves the final, ultimate authority in human history. (s. 302).

Dette er klar tale innenfra. Salama levner ingen tvil om at islamister og despoter står i en uhellig allianse mot frihetens modige talspersoner i den arabiske verden. Det er en utilgivelig skam at såkalte intellektuelle i store deler av Vesten har vendt disse menneskene ryggen og i stedet velger å fremstille islamistene som motstandskjempere og moderate alliansepartnere.

Sorle S. Hovdenak

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