In this post, I consider whether ‘democracy’ might mean different things in different places—focusing, specifically, on the relationship between democracy and the rule of law. Is democracy grounded in elections or a particular understanding of ‘justice’ set apart from ‘the rule of law’? Does this relationship operate differently in western contexts like the U.K. and non-western contexts like India or Pakistan? Does it operate differently in secular and Islamic states?
In my book, “In the Shadow of Shariah: Islam, Islamic Law and Democracy in Pakistan”, I describe voters who call on their elected leaders to provide a very specific type of patronage—the provision of protection: political protection from the enforcement of existing laws. My work focuses on Muslim families who seek to prevent their daughters from controlling land they are entitled to inherit by a set of Quranic injunctions and, in Pakistan, by Islamic statutory laws. These Muslim families do not seek to change existing injunctions; they do not press for legal reforms. They simply try to ensure that, with the help of their political patrons, ‘accountability’ involves an effort to derail the consistent application of existing Islamic laws.