Erik G. Jensen


Professor Abou El Fadl's Article, Islam and the Challenge of Democracy, demonstrates the need to move forward with knowledge of the nuance and depth of the historic, philosophic, legal, and theological foundations of both political stasis and political change in Muslim countries. The author comments on three aspects of Khaled Abou El Fadl's paper. First, the author will juxtapose the discourse that Professor Abou El Fadl is stimulating with other perspectives in order to delineate the sets of actors in this debate among Muslims. The author will also argue that “Islamic exceptionalism,” so prominent in post-modern critiques, is unhelpful. Second, the author will comment on the centrality of Shari‘ah to the internal debate, and discuss widespread misconceptions about Shari‘ah among non-Muslims. Third, the author will comment on the problem of human agency and imperfect institutions. This imperfection becomes a critical issue when sacred texts are codified into secular law.