The Liberty Forum was kind enough to ask me to participate in a discussion of “Islam and Constitutionalism.” The lead essay was by Professor Sohail Hashmi from Mount Holyoke, and I responded along with Robert Reilly from the American Foreign Policy Council and Asma Uddin from the Becket Fund. Rather than address Islamic theology head-on (I leave Islamic theology to the experts), my essay — called “Islamic Constitutionalism and Human Flourishing” — focused on a more practical question:
While Islamic constitutionalists have ideas and arguments, do they have a constituency? If they gain a meaningful constituency, can that constituency gain the numbers, resolve, and – ultimately – power to prevail against a deadly foe?
My (pessimistic) partial answer:
The battle for the heart of Islam can only be won within Islam, and it is and will be not merely – or perhaps not even principally – a contest of ideas, but a literal battle on many battlefields. While the parallels between the growth of natural law and constitutionalism in the West will of course not be exact, at some point there must exist constituencies large enough – and strong enough – to force the king to sign the Magna Carta (so to speak) or to hold the line against a quite literal onslaught of Islamist foes. After all, when Hamas took power in Gaza, one of its first acts was to hurl its opponents from high buildings. Those are not men who reform or surrender power easily.
I invite you to read the entire exchange.