Thursday, January 18, 2007

Muslims and Politics in the West

For a while now, but especially in recent times, the call for Muslims to become more involved in their local politics here in the West has increased. People argue that it's time for us to stop being a silent minority, and become a vocal majority. They say we need to make our needs and feelings known. Enough whining and complaining! they cry. Take a stand! Make a change!

But, how are we supposed to do this? How are we to become more vocal? How are we to become more politically active?

Two answers given are: Vote, or get into politics yourself!That's where the problems show up, though. Now, I know that the whole thing about voting in a non-Muslim country is really controversial, and I for one am not going to be so bold as to declare it haraam, so keep in mind that the following is simply MY humble opinion and nothing more.

So:
First, let us remember that we are in a non-Muslim country, governed by non-Muslims in accordance to laws that are not derived from the Shari'ah. These laws do not enjoin the good and forbid the evil as the Qur'an commands. Furthermore, if we look to the political parties, we'll notice something very important: that no matter what they say about multiculturalism, each and every one of them stand for and support un-Islamic views and values. As Muslims, we cannot in good faith or conscience support those who support homosexuality, nor can we support those whose foreign policy has to do with harming our Muslim brothers and sisters overseas. These are absolutely un-Islamic, and we can in no way support the breaking of Allah’s Divine Laws and the transgressing of His bounds.

Also, with the current political system, when you vote for a candidate, you vote for the whole party - and when you vote for the whole party, you're voting for their stance on ALL issues, not just a couple. So while you might be voting for them to support their stance on, say, homelessness and the national budget, you're also supporting other decisions that they'll be making once they get into power. Your voting ballot does not say, "I support such-and-such a stance towards such-and-such an issue; I do not support such-and-such a stance towards such-and-such an issue." It is a blind ticket of approval. Your vote counts - and when they come into power and start making certain decisions, then part of the responsibility for it rests upon you, who voted them into power.
Therein lies a weakness in the system.

Fine then, someone might say. If you're going to be so picky, why not run form a party of your own and run as a candidate?
It sounds good at first - I thought that way for a while too - but then we have to realize something. The West considers itself secular, standing for ‘separation between Church and State’.
In Islam, however, there is no such separation, because Allah has given us the Quran and the Sunnah of His Messenger Muhammad (SAW) to guide every single aspect of our lives, as individuals and as an Ummah – and this includes the laws that we abide by.
Therefore the only type of political party that we Muslims could form would be an Islamic one. And let's face it: something like that would NEVER work here - not in Canada, not in America, not in the U.K., not in Europe. (Although, what with the all the EurArabia hype going on, maybe in a decade or so we could actually form that kind of political party - if not on a federal level, then on a more local level... I dunno for sure, though).

So what can we do, if we don't vote and an Islamic political party simply won't work here?

Well, it might not be politics, per se, but there are things we can do. Social work. Start making changes within your local community - Muslim or otherwise. Support good causes that we as Muslims can feel comfortable supporting. Form a lobby group, maybe, and try to get the government listen to you that way (although the success of such a lobby group would depend on a variety of certain factors, money being one of them).

Politics is not all-important, as I have been learning. The people in politics care more about the power, the wealth, the influence, their own agendas, than doing the truly unselfish things that could help change the country around. A whole lot of big words, and very few examples of effective action.

Do we want change? Yes, we do. But getting involved in politics won't miraculously change everything for the better. If anything, it'll simply cause more problems.
Therefore, I have concluded: If we want action, if we want change, we have to start close to home. Let's start with our local communities first, because there's always a need for more volunteers to help out with numerous programs that benefit many people. The more we get done on a smaller scale, the closer we get to achieving change on a greater scale in the future,
insha'Allah.

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What do you guys think? Should we Muslims continue to become involved in politics and use politics to try and create some positive change? Or should we stick to social work and activism to achieve our goals?

This is a question I’m turning over in my head quite a bit because the answer might help to decide my future – I’m interested in both politics and social work, yet I’d prefer to choose only one to really go ahead with, y’know?

So yeah… right now I’m actually leaning a bit towards social work and community activism ‘cuz it reminds me of what the Prophet (SAW) did with the Muslims: first he strengthened them in their faith and helped them solve the problems they were suffering from, and *then* real political work and change was instigated.

Your little sister in Islam,
Mouse

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Warning: long, rambling comment alert!

Hmmm... politics; not my strongest subject, though i have been getting into it more, of late. I actually watched three parts of a four-part series on Thatcherism this week! It was quite illuminating.

Basically, i don't see why this has to be an either/ or situation.

Lemme give you a little biology lesson here...

A typical cell in your body is made up of various different structures and compartments, called organelles. Each one is specialized to do a very specific task, and do it extremely well. The mitochondria manage metabolism, the endoplasmic reticulum manage protein synthesis, the nucleus manages gene expression, etc etc. This concept is known as "division of labour" and is the most efficient way to manage the complex chemistry required for the cell to function.

In fact, this same concept of division of labour is seen on every level of organization in the human body: from cells, to tissues, to organs, to systems; each consists of various specialized structures, that together work to keep the whole body alive and well.

The same can be seen in societies, where people specialize into different jobs that are most suited to their skills.

Allah has employed division of labour as His method of choice for keeping His creation efficient and on track; so why not take a lesson from the "best of planners" and try to organize this Ummah in the same way?

So there can be a group of people who have the knowledge and skill to work in politics (in whatever way is deemed halal) and there can be another group working on social services, and another on education, and another on health care, etc etc.

Perhaps this may be more difficult to manage in smaller diaspora communities, and you'll potentially have people juggling multiple roles. I suppose in this situation, the community should prioritise its limited resources. Seeing as charity begins at home, working on local projects may be the best use of one's efforts. Allahu 'alim.

Keeping one foot in the political scene is advisable though, and i think lobbying is the way to go, though i personally do not know how this works without the use of threats and/or bribes!

Oh, another interesting program i watched this week was on the potential influence that the blog-o-sphere has on American politics. They gave the Ned Lamont vs Joe Liebermann 2006 race for the Senate primary in Connecticut as a prime example of how bloggers can directly affect the outcome of political campaigns. We should all take notes!

Anonymous said...

i wrote a piece about American politics and Muslim opinion ... in fact that kinda got my blog going...

not entirely relevant to your point, but politics nevertheless!

Here is the Link

Hakim said...

as-salaamu 'alaikum,

Sis...this would be an excellent post to cross-post over at Eteraz.org. I think you would get a lot of help that way.

As for suggestions, one way is to become knowledgeable of local and national politics and use the power of your blog to insightfully make your opinions known.

You see little do many Muslim bloggers know - although I've posted it many times - that the RSS Feed: Islam in the West, is monitored by a large number of people, A VERY LARGE NUMBER of mostly non-Muslim blog readers. So often times if you get strange guests, it perhaps is from the RSS Feed: Islam in the West.

maa' salaama

Anonymous said...

Come vote in Egypt, it would NOT count. LOL!

Well written masha'Allah mousie. Im not living in a western country at the moment tho.

Good luck with your dreams ;). Will be fulfilled insha'Allah.

w/salam

Anonymous said...

little sister...here is my advice to you. Since this topic is too big for you or I... since we have sooo many things to worry about... let it be... whoever wants to participate, let them. Whoever doesn't, let that be too.

After seeing that documentary on channel 4 and talking to yasir personally... i just think we need to steer away from topics that (a) we don't have the knowledge to talk about, and (b) which can lead to some hardship esp. when the answer is not what 'they' want to hear.

So, let it be... ain't there soooo many things to talk about? :)

Anonymous said...

Sweet little mouse,

These are dear thoughts that you should hold on to.

May I suggest a book? Reza Aslan's 'No god but god' is a good start about ancient Arabia. It may provide you with clues about how to tackle your dilemma.

AnonyMouse said...

As-salaamu 'alaikum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatu,

Sorry for the long delay in my response! I've been a bit busy lately, trying to catch up with some school assignments...

iMuslim: You make a great point, and ideally, that's what I *would* call for - both social and political activism. But here in Canada, and most especially my province, we simply don't have the resources and the manpower to do both. As for lobbying, I think it would be a good idea - there are enough Muslims in Canada, especially in the Eastern provinces, that I think it could work. In fact, we might already have one such lobby group: CAIR-Canada. However, I don't know how effective they are. They talk a lot, but when it comes to action, I really don't know how effective they are.
Hmmmm, maybe Faraz might know more about them... hey, Faraz, what do you think about CAIR-Canada? D'you think they're any good?

Hakim: Good idea! Insha'Allah I'll cross-post this over at Eteraz tomorrow... :)

Anonymous: JazakAllahu khair! :) I hope to see you around here again, insha'Allah... :)

Amad: You have a point... but you see, I'm not discussing this out of idleness - this is something I'm thinking about in relation to my future, because insha'Allah I hope to dedicate myself to serving Islam and the Muslim Ummah. And, since I'm in my second-to-last year of high school, I need to be thinking seriously about what sort of post-secondary education I'll be pursuing... and all this figures into it somehow.

Humeirah Fasq: Jazakillaahi khairan! Thank you so much for the book suggestion; insha'Allah I'll try to get my hands on it as soon as possible! :)

Anonymous said...

CAIR Canada is excellent, though they're not really a lobby group per se. They've been surprisingly quiet since the new director took over sometime last year; before that, they were a strong voice for Muslims all over Eastern Canada. The former director, Riad Saloojee, is an amazing brother; he studied at my university. When the first Muslim was arrested on the anti-terrorism legislation in March 2004, Riad and CAIR Can was offering tremendous support to all of us who were affected by the incident. I don't know much about the current director or board.

CAIR Can is more about media relations and advocacy than political lobbying. CIC, the Canadian Islamic Congress, (not to be confused with the "progressive" Muslim Canadian Congress) is the closest thing we have to a lobby group I think. Though I don't see them doing that much, to be honest. I know they were active at the Liberal leadership convention in December, but aside from that, I see them doing little more than condemning whatever they find condemnable. The Muslim newspaper we used to run in Ottawa used to have a page dedicated to the CIC every month, for their articles and announcements. Jokingly, some of us used to call that page "The Monthly Condemnations".

Still, they're definitely trying to increase Muslim presence in politics, and I'm sure they're sincere in their intentions. Also, they have some nice scholarship programs for Muslim students interested in certain fields. You'd actually be a perfect candidate for their scholarships; you should look into that whenever you come to that stage where you want to pursue higher education.

Athena's Son said...

CAIR is an extremist, Muslim supremacist group more like the KKK than the ACLU; that's why we should break them financially and deport their members.

mortalmuslim said...

Salamz
I think politics is essential to Establish Shria and Islamic laws....And it can be combined with social work,If u dunt mean fighting is politics!