Islam and state-building in Afghanistan: whither legitimacy?

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The current internationally-led state-building mission in Afghanistan faces continued challenges, such as government corruption, a worsening security environment and a dismal human rights situation. These factors have led certain Western scholars, such as Bernard Lewis, to argue that Islam and democracy are functionally incompatible. This paper argues that Islam and democracy are indeed compatible and that the political and social issues threatening Afghanistan’s nascent democracy have little to do with Islam and more to do with decades of warfare and international interference, and the lack of a consolidated vision among Muslims for reconciling Islam and democracy. Afghans need to develop both a theoretical and practical approach to establishing Islamic democracy, and the international community must do its part to secure rule of law, build institutional capacity, and bolster human rights. In doing so, the decades-long crisis of legitimacy in Afghan politics may be resolved.
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