Patrick Schwerdtfeger is a motivational speaker who can cover the topic of Islam and democracy at your next business event. Contact us to check availability. The full transcript of the above video is included below.
Full Video Transcript:
Hi and welcome to another edition of Strategic Business Insights. Today we’re going to talk about the perception of democracy in the Muslim world. Now, I know the title of this video is very controversial so let me say right off the bat, I’m not speaking about all Muslims by any stretch. The vast majority of Muslims don’t feel the way that I’m going to describe in this video. I am speaking specifically about the very conservative elements within the Muslim world, the Islamic extremists and how they view democracy.
So let me start by saying here is the most important part of the video: In a democracy, people vote in progressively more liberal policies as the years go by – years, decades, even generations. Now, it’s not that an individual, like let’s say me, it’s not that my views become more liberal over time. That’s not how it works for the most part. Every now and again people will change their views, but nine times out of 10 the people, like the adults, will keep their views as is. But it’s their children – it’s their children that grow up in a more liberal society, that’s all they’ve ever known, and so they grow up that way and then there’s usually tension between parents and children because the children are more liberal and the parents are more conservative.
This happened to me, too, where my mother grew up in Europe and was very kind of aristocratic almost and my father was a physics professor, he was also a conservative guy, grew up in America but also quite conservative. And so when I grew up more liberally, they had problems with some of the decisions I was making, but of course now I’ve grown up and now I’m voting too. So now, my influence in the democratic process shifts the overall balance of power from the conservative older elements, balancing off with these new, younger liberal elements. And of course now, I’m 43 years old, the kids today are growing up with the Internet, which I never had growing up—didn’t even exist back then—so these children are in fact much more liberal than even I am. So it’s going increasingly liberal.
We can see this play out—look back a hundred years—the Civil Rights Movement and universal suffrage and blacks not being slaves, and then interracial marriage, which was very much frowned upon years ago but now it’s fine. No one even thinks about that anymore. And then women’s rights came after that, and women’s right to vote and equal pay for equal work in the workplace. These things were all kind of almost absurd 50 years ago or 70 years ago, but today we’re making huge strides in the interest of equality between the sexes. And of course, today we’re getting into gay marriage and gay rights, which just 10-20 years ago would seem completely unacceptable for many people. But today the population has grown up and so the younger people are in the voting bloc, and so now their influence is felt through the democratic process. Marijuana is now being legalized in Colorado and other states.
So it is true, democracy votes in increasingly, progressively more liberal policies as the decades and in fact generations go by. Every time a new generation comes along, you have more liberal views.
Now, you can contrast that to the Muslim world. And again, I’m talking about the conservative elements in the Muslim world, and they want to follow Sharia law and Sharia law says, “No, we want it this way. This way. This is what the prophet said we had to live,” or Allah or wherever the source of those policies came from, Allah I’m assuming. “This is how it should be. We don’t want democracy because we know that democracy will liberalize these rules over the decades to come.” So they want to draw a line in the sand and say, “No, we don’t want democracy. Democracy will take away these…”
Like for example, when women in the Muslim world have to wear burqas and hijabs—that’s the veil that covers them all—believe it or not, the Western people can’t believe this, but it’s designed as almost a respectful act for the woman because if they didn’t cover up their beauty—see, there’s a fundamentally different belief in the Muslim world, which is that we can’t control human instincts. Human instincts are so powerful that we have to put rules in place to protect ourselves from our own human instincts. So the burqa, which covers the woman, is there to cover her beauty, because if her beauty was shown then men would be overcome with their desire and you would end up with increased instances of rape and sexual assault. At the end of the day, that’s the belief, is that we can’t control ourselves. Or, you can’t drink alcohol because if you drink alcohol then you will be more likely to succumb to your own human instincts, which can be negative in so many instances.
So there’s this fundamental belief between the Western world and the Muslim world with respect to how powerful our human instincts actually are. Can we control our own instincts? And the conservative elements in the world would say, “No, we have to have Sharia law, which stops people from doing all these various things which would lead to the negative human instincts in human nature liberalizing the policy over the years to come.” I mean, which one’s right and which one’s wrong? I clearly grew up here in North America—I grew up in Canada and now I live in the United States—and I totally disagree with that, those notions.
But the bottom line is, they grew up on their side of the world with a totally different culture and societal background and history, so who are we to say which one’s right or which one’s wrong? But when you see these videos of people from that part of the world saying, “We hate democracy,” and people here in America are scratching heads like, “How is this possible that someone hates democracy?” they hate democracy because they think it will ruin, it will bring increasingly more liberal policies over the years and erode the Sharia law that they believe they should be following from God, from Allah, and that’s why US foreign policy is so naïve to go in to these countries and automatically say, “Let’s bring in democracy.” Obviously, there are a lot of people over there that want democracy, but there’s also a significant element of the population over there that hates democracy. They view democracy as the gateway to the infidels which they believe we all are, by having relationships before marriage and having alcohol with dinner like wine or whatever, by the clothing that we choose to wear. They think we are infidels. And how did we become infidels? Through the democratic process. So there’s a fundamentally different belief and democracy is viewed differently over there than it is over here.
At the end of the day the day, the next generation and the Internet will probably bring these two sides together, because by having access to the Internet their next generation is going to be much more liberal than the current generation or the generation that’s maybe in their 60s and 70s today. So you think about, say, someone in their 70s, someone in their 50s, someone in their 30s, and someone who’s 10, those are basically all 20-year generations. The people who are 10 years old, they’re growing up with the Internet and they’re dramatically more liberal than their parents and their grandparents. So as those people grow up and have influence in the economy and have jobs and become parents of their own with their own children, we are going to see these two sides come together. But for right now, we have to understand that the Internet’s still pretty new, which means that they evolved and grew up in a world where they didn’t know that much about our world and we didn’t know that much about their world. So we can’t expect their views to change, but their children’s views will probably change and bring these two extremes together, at least that’s the hope. That’s what we’re all hoping for.
Anyway, I appreciate you watching this video. I hope it helps you understand some of these differences between their view of democracy and our own. My name is Patrick, reminding you as always to think bigger about your business, think bigger about your life.
Patrick Schwerdtfeger is a keynote speaker who has spoken at business conferences in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.