The current state of governance in Middle Eastern countries is one that demonstrates numerous examples of human rights being violated and preposterous actions being taken in the name of Islam, the most widely practiced religion in the region. In light of these instances the question posed is whether or not religious beliefs should be excluded from the consideration of public policy in the area. Despite the current state of affairs in the Middle East, this paper asserts that religious beliefs should not be excluded from the consideration of public policy as this would involve ignoring the undeniable fact that Islam plays a major role in Middle Eastern public life, it would lead to the better protection of ethnic and religious minorities and
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Here, it is important to bear in mind that even were democracy were to exist in the Middle East it would not mirror the model of democracy prevalent in Western societies. This was depicted clearly in Jordan’s parliamentary elections of 1989 where Islamic candidates campaigned using slogans such as “The Quran is our constitution” and “Islam is the solution” securing themselves 34 out of 80 seats. The observation to be made here is that even though the process of electing leaders is democratic, the outcome may involve leaders with strong religious sentiments obtaining power and incorporating these sentiments into decision making regarding public policy amongst other things. Therefore, we see that divorcing religion from public policy in a region such as the Middle East is practically very challenging as religion plays a role in all spheres of life including the formulation of public policy with political parties often bearing religious considerations while formulating election manifestos.
Envisioning a secular Middle East would involve fantastical reformations of the tradition of countries that have been kingdoms, or ruled by sheikhs who ground their legitimacy in affiliation to the Prophet Mohammad (S)’s tribe. Ironically, religiously speaking, political succession is based on the notion of choice (ikthiyar). History however has seen the domination of the Middle East by powerful clans all grounding their power in religion; the point being that an overwhelming