Political Islam and the West
Moderator Mike Ghouse: It is in the interest of the World, capitalists and the poor to invest time and money in nurturing democracies. It is not giving out to poor nations, it is rather an investement in lasting peace and security, which brings prosperity to one and all. The following article is thoughtful, but way too long for the content.
A considerable amount of research and analysis has been undertaken on the issue of political Islam. This has helped to correct some simplistic and alarmist assumptions previously held in the West about the nature of Islamic values and intentions. Many Muslim activists, using broad and sometimes crude notions of secularism and sovereignty, consider democracy to be the rule of humans as opposed to Islam, which is rule of God. The West argues that rule by the people cannot reconcile with the sovereignty of God. While sovereignty belongs to God, it has been delegated in the form of human agency.
The political task is to reflect on how this God-given agency can be best employed in creating a society that will bring welfare to the people. God cannot become an excuse for installing and legitimising governments that are not accountable to their citizens and responsive to their needs. Islam, like other faiths, is spiritual and is a code of conduct for over a billion people. The political aspects of Islam are derived from the Holy Quran and sunnat, Muslim history and, sometimes, from elements of political movements outside Islam.
The political concepts in Islam also emanate from the leadership by successors of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) known as Caliphs, Islamic law, the duty of rulers to seek shura or consultation from their subjects and the importance of rebuking unjust rulers. It has been established that political Islam is like a changing landscape, deeply affected by a range of circumstances. But a debate on this topic often gets stuck on the simplistic question of, “Are Muslims democratic?”
Western scholars have tried to present Islam as anti-democratic and inherently authoritarian. By misrepresenting Islam in this way they seek to prove that Islam has a set of values inferior to Western liberalism and is a barrier in the way of progress of civilisations. Turkey and Malaysia set a fantastic example for nations around the world to see that democracy coexists with a great religion like Islam. The experience of both the above-mentioned countries reflects the fact that many Muslims, whether living in secular or formally Islamic states, see democracy as their main hope.
Vali Nasr, a professor at America’s Tufts University, terms “Muslim democracy” as a potentially decisive force in the non-Arab parts of the Muslim world. In his view, the recent experience of Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia point to a single truth: Wherever they are given the chance, Muslim democratic parties can prevail over the violent varieties of political Islam. Millions of the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims live under democratic rule. This is an ample proof that there is no discord between the two ideas.
But Islam, like other religions, can be interpreted in different ways.
Some interpretations, rather misinterpretations, are favoured by al Qaeda and radical Islamists. Such interpretations clash with democratic ideals. There is one exception is the shape of Iran since the revolution in 1979 and the other is the Taliban in Afghanistan. For the preceding 1500 years since the advent of Islam, secular political elites have controlled political power. The Christian tradition, for example, provided a conceptual foundation for the divine right of the monarchy. In contemporary times, it fosters the concept that Christianity and democracy are truly compatible. Similarly, some Muslim scholars agree that Islamic values are compatible with democracy. According to them, the principle of shura (consultative decision-making) is the source of democratic ethics in Islam.
It is based on three basic teachings. First, that all persons in any given society are equal. Second, public issues are best decided by the majority view. And third, the three other principles of justice, equality and human dignity, which constitute Islam’s moral core, are best realised in personal as well as public life under governance by a shura. Ijma (consensus) that is acceptance of a matter by a specified group of people is another source that relates to democracy. All the Muslims of all the times, according to some Muslim scholars, may be involved in the process of building consensus.
Finally, the model set by Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) reveals how democratic practices and theories are attuned to an Islamic state. The first Islamic state based on a social contract was constitutional in character and had a ruler who ruled with the written consent of all citizens of the state. Demonstrating democratic spirit, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) chose to prepare a historically specific constitution based on the eternal and transcendent principles revealed to him but he also sought the consent of all who would be affected by its implementation. This means that in a democracy, Muslims and non-Muslims are equal citizens of an Islamic state.
The Constitution of Madina established a pluralistic state, a community of communities. The principles of equality, consensual governance and pluralism were central to that concept and practice. There are many reasons that democracy prevails in only few Muslim nations. In the Arab world, for example, oil has been a factor, entrenching the elites and slowing the development of market economies and political freedoms that accompany them. Political manipulation of the Arab-Israeli conflict in which Muslim leaders covered the domestic unrest under the criticism of Israel and the West is also a factor.
One of main reasons of the West fearing political Islam is that most of the leaders in Arab nations are Islamists — groups that embrace a political view of Islam and reject secular forms of government. The West also feels that these groups are anti-Western. But religious ideals within Islam always favour democracy. The holy Quran contains a number of ideas that support democratic ideals. One is shura, or consultative decision-making. The other is ijma, or the principle of consensus. So this leads us to agree that political Islam has all the democratic norms.
The West believes that in Islam God is the giver of laws while men have only limited autonomy to implement and enforce those laws. In fact, shariah applies to all aspects of religious, political, social, and private life. The reasons of human rights abuses in the Muslim world come not from Islam but from economic, political, and educational forces. The struggle for human rights in the Muslim world will be lost or won on the national level, not on the international level. It is up to Muslims to decide how much respect to accord to human rights. Those countries that have weak civil society structures and authoritarian regimes are fertile grounds for terrorism.
The biggest question is how to adopt new ideas and policies while maintaining religious and cultural integrity. To maintain such a balance, the Muslim world’s elites, scholars, and activists must explain Islamic values and social norms in a manner consistent with modern and internationally recognised principles of human rights. The Western world must treat Muslims as partners in their struggle against human rights abuses and help to empower reformist voices and civil society. If the Western countries want to suppress terror they have to support those movements that express dissenting voices within repressive political systems. Western countries should apply economic and political pressure on authoritarian regimes to encourage change.
The West generally, and the US particularly, should change their policies with regard to the repressive regimes in Muslim nations to prevent political Islam from growing as a threat to the West. To promote democracy in the Muslim world, the US and the West should increase the amount of foreign assistance, provide governments and key interest groups in Muslim societies with incentives to engage in democratic reforms. Still, basic responsibility lies with Muslim scholars who should reinterpret Islamic laws in the light of the changing needs of a modern society.
The writer is a staff member
SUCCESSFUL NAATIA MUSHAERA ON 2.21.14
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August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas
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Mirza A Beg
PLANNED MUSLIMS RESPONSE TO QUR'AN BURNING BY PASTOR JONES ON 9/11/13 IN MULBERRY, FLORIDA
We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.
Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”
God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.
We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration (www.UnitydayUSA.com) held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.
Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.
As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.
We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.
We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.
We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.
Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.
Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.
We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.
The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.