Pakistan’s election today reminds me that the United States made a big mistake in Iraq and Afghanistan by pushing democracy rather than liberty. As the Founders knew, democracy becomes majority-rule mobocracy, with no respect for minority rights, when a society lacks a foundation of respect for individual rights and religious freedom.
This morning’s New York Times includes a column by Manan Ahmed Asif, “Pakistan’s Tyrannical Majority,” that provides an example of this point. Asif notes that Muslims have persecuted Christians and killed their leaders: “Prominent Christian leaders, like Shahbaz Bhatti, the minister of minorities, have been assassinated.”
Asif also points out that majoritarian Muslims have targeted minority Muslim sects: “Over the last five years, hundreds of Ahmadis have been targeted and killed in Pakistan’s cities. In 2010, 94 were killed in a terrorist attack in Lahore, and since then their burial grounds, mosques and homes have been under assault. There has been no response from the government, which still refuses to grant them equal status as citizens of Pakistan.”
Today’s elections will probably make things worse: “The candidates campaigning in this election, rather than arguing for the rights of all Pakistanis, have further marginalized religious minorities and given license to those who attack them.”
Democracy is a good thing, but when we pursue it without proclaiming liberty throughout the land, and to all the inhabitants thereof, we turn this good thing into an idol.