Is Democracy Western?
The belief in the allegedly "Western" nature of democracy is often linked to the early practice of voting and elections in Greece, especially in Athens. Democracy involves more than balloting, but even in the history of voting there would be a classificatory arbitrariness in defining civilizations in largely racial terms. ...[T]there is reluctance in taking note of the Greek intellectual links with other civilizations to the east or south of Greece, despite the greater interest that the Greeks themselves showed in talking to Iranians, or Indians, or Egyptians (rather than in chatting up the Ostrogoths).
a) Democracy isn't Western and
b) The West doesn't own democracy.
These overlap nicely to create a coherent critique of the false west/non-west dichotomy. That democracy isn’t just a western concept is an important argument for those who aren’t western.
Sen provides interesting examples, and these need to be emphasised, of leaders such as Mandela and Gandhi who combined modern notions of democracy with their own 'native' traditions which, which while not containing voting, were similar to a democratic system in many ways.
This is not to say all desi's should rely upon such a fusion (although I feel that those who don't are missing out). If some would like to become 100% westernised, that is their choice. However for those who want to continue some of their cultural heritage, adopting concepts such as public reason should not make them feel as if they are 'selling out', or being brainwashed to think in a certain way.
This is where the second point comes in. As Sen points out, seeing Iranian dissidents as 'ambassadors for Western values', is both incorrect and counter-productive. To take an example, why should the Afghan convert to Christianity not be executed for apostasy? I would suggest because as Muslims, we should not consider it either a humane or rational thing to do. This is not to say that the West has nothing to contribute to this discourse - they should make their voices heard. However this should preferably be done in the spirit of reflection rather than conversion.
Cross posted on Pickled Politics.