The crux of the matter is that in an Islamic government, tendency towards Islam is inseparable from concern for the public. In the Islamic system of government, concern for the general public has its roots in Islam. Within this framework, it is impossible to talk of Islamic government while disregarding the public. The right of the public to elect the government is founded on Islam. Therefore, our type of democracy – that is, religious democracy – has a philosophy.
The foundations of religious democracy are different from those of Western democracy. Religious democracy – which forms the basis of all our choices and has its roots in the divine rights and obligations of man – is not something conventional. All human beings have a right to make their own choices and determine their fate. Religious democracy is the genuine type of democracy, the idea of which is supported by religious faith and responsibilities.
In this situation, we are determined to present the political theory of Islam and the Islamic Republic – namely, religious democracy – to the world. ‘Islamic’ means religious, and ‘Republic’ means democracy, hence religious democracy. Some people think that religious democracy was an innovation. That is not the case. Islamic Republic is the same as religious democracy. The essence of religious democracy requires that the government be run according to divine guidelines and the will of the public. The problem with the present governments of the world is that they suffer either from the lack of divine guidelines – exemplified by Western types of "democracy" in which public will appears to have a role but divine guidelines are absent – or from the lack of a role for the public will even if they enjoy, or claim to enjoy, divine guidelines. In most cases, both factors are lacking. That is, neither the people have a role in running their country nor do they enjoy divine guidelines.
In our Islamic culture, the best people are those who are more useful for the people. Contrary to hypocritical and demagogic democracies, religious democracy is a system for providing sincere services without expecting anything in return, a system for providing services out of a sense of responsibility which is accompanied by sincerity and virtue. Within the framework of Islam, democracy must be based on religion.
That is to say, within this framework, democracy is not simply a social convention. Rather, it is based upon Islamic thought, which requires that we refer to public will when it is necessary to do so. Therefore, this conception of democracy gives rise to Islamic commitment. Religious democracy is not like Western democracy in that it is not just a social convention that can be easily violated. In the Islamic Republic, democracy is a religious duty. The officials of the Islamic Republic have a religious duty to preserve this quality, otherwise they will be held responsible by God. This is one of the greatest principles that our magnanimous Imam believed in.
Western types of democracy are based upon the interests and will of powerful and wealthy people who determine the fate of their communities. The choices of the public could only be interpreted within that framework. If the public wanted something that was against the interests of the capitalists and economically powerful people – economic power is the source of political power for them – there would be no guarantee that these governments and regimes would give in to the public will. This rigid framework holds sway over all public will and all types of democracy in the Western world. This framework had absolute control over the previous socialist countries which considered themselves as democratic.
Today, religious democracy is the best means which the government officials can utilize in order to improve their behavior. There are two aspects to democracy. First, the government must be formed on the basis of the will and votes of the public. That is, it is the people who elect the government and the government officials, directly or indirectly. Second, having been voted into power, people like you and I have a genuine, weighty responsibility towards the public.
Democracy must not be reduced to the use of propaganda in order to drag some people to the ballot boxes only to leave them to their own devices later on. Getting people’s votes is the first phase and must be followed by the second phase – that is, fulfilling one’s responsibilities.
Avoiding extremism and administering further justice is another feature of democracy. That is, the officials must increase their contact with the people and try to earn the satisfaction of the general public.
The fact that an Islamic system – a system under the banner of monotheism and religion – can present democracy in a clear and eloquent manner to the people of the world is exactly the opposite of what the arrogant propaganda of the world of liberal democracy is trying to achieve. All they want to say is that they are the only embodiment of democracy. They cannot tolerate the fact that an Islamic system, with its lofty values of faith, can institutionalize democracy. We adopted our system of democracy neither from the Eastern regimes nor from the Western regimes. We adopted our system from Islam, and our people elected an Islamic government due to their familiarity with Islam.