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    Islam can go together with democracy, say experts

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    MOSCOW, June 1 (RIA Novosti) - Islam and democracy are mutually compatible categories. A Novosti-hosted roundtable on "Islam and Democracy" was all but unanimous on that point.

    "A thing referred to as 'Islamic democracy' is impossible as a whole-but democracy can work in every country where Muslims live," Alexei Malashenko, Islamic scholar prominent in Russia, said to the conferees. He is Academic Council member of the Moscow Carnegie Center.

    "Islam does not need to be justified. We are to take it the way it really is-naturally, with due consideration for every particular country's specifics," he emphasized.

    "The present-day Muslim world needs reforms. That goes without saying. But on what experience are democratic developments to base? That is the question," said Malashenko as he highlighted several trends, in particular, the American way of "we'll come and teach you." Then, there is a Muslim point: "We have our own history to proceed from, and we know what we need."

    The Muslim world, too, has different reform roads to offer, said Shamil Beno, Vice-President of the Fund in Support of Democracy and Social Progress. There are roads proposed by the Al-Qaida and Ussama bin-Laden, and ones charted by Arab intellectuals and Muslim elites outside the Arab world, for instance, in Malaysia or Bangladesh. Russia can also be regarded in that context, with its Muslims possessing a unique historical experience of absorption into a non-Muslim milieu while retaining their identity.

    "Muslims are in the backyard of history, and they are alone to blame for it. Yet we are not to forget one thing: all processes that were taking place in the Muslim world within the preceding 200 years went on under a diktat from without. Today, Muslims are no longer putting up with others telling them how to arrange their life," Beno said.

    "Democracy is a form, while Islam the content, and the two can go hand in hand," said Ali Vyacheslav Polosin, Organizing Committee spokesman of the Russian Islamic Heritage, an emergent public movement.

    There are roughly twenty million Muslims in Russia, and it aspires for an observer's status in the Organization of the Islamic Conference, so it certainly cannot stay aloof to current developments in the Muslim world.

    Muslim theologians and preachers ought to adapt Islam to contemporaneity, said certain conferees. They did not mean religious precepts changed. What they want is adapting Muslims to, let say, Europe when they live there. Muslims are to feel fit and comfortable, and not be aliens in an unfriendly community.

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