the good of the ummah?

my earlier "muslim for Howard Dean" piece was published on alt.muslim as a standalone essay. It also sparked a response piece from a muslim who supports Kucinich:

America is a democracy. Bush can be voted out and another president elected in his place. That other president may be someone who will bring benefit to Muslims. Or he may just be somebody who will do less harm to Muslims. In either case, by voting for this other president we will have done something to help the umma, even if it is a small thing. That is exactly what Shakyh Munajjid is talking about. Bringing benefit to the umma and reducing harm.

This is profoundly wrong. When I cast my vote I am doing it as an American, not a muslim. From my perspective, trying to effect change "for the good of the ummah" by political action makes no sense, unless you are willing to admit that what's best for the ummah is not necessarily best for Islam.

Islam is eternal. The impact of the 2004 election upon Islam, the religion, the revealed Truth of Allah, will be absolutely zero. Ariel Sharon could be elected President with Daniel Pipes as his Veep and it would make no difference to Islam.

The ummah, on the other hand, is a loose political identity of muslims worldwide. This presumably includes the Sunni fanatics who tried to kill me in Yemen because of my Shi'a beliefs. It also presumably includes Udai and Qusay Hussein, who were not averse to reciting Qur'an verses in between bouts of debauchery. The ummah includes entire countries, such as Syria and Pakistan, whose pursuit of regional self-interest sometimes does much greater collective harm to muslims as a whole than Bush could do in twenty thousand lifetimes.

As such I reject the idea that we need to be on the lookout for the "ummah" when casting our vote. It's the height of arrogance to even presume what threads of fate will, in the end, tie together and benefit muslims as a whole. Only Allah can judge these things - and ascribing cosmic significance on behalf of the entire believer-politic to your vote is to take what is no more than your opinion and try to wrap it in the Qur'an for legitimacy.

Using religion - or even religious unity - as a validator of your political beliefs is a fundamental abuse of religion. And it offends me profoundly.

So let's dispense with the grandstanding and get down to the basic principle: your vote for President of the United States is solely a function of your political beliefs. Al-Muhajabah has done an excellent job in making a principled case for Kucinich, not just on his position re: the Middle East and Iraq, but for his generally Progressive position at the far left of the American political spectrum. I greatly admire AM for her principles and her dedication to them - she is admittedly far more progressive than I am and I disagree with her on the issues to some extent, but she is honest about her beliefs and does not try to wrap them in the Qur'an for legitimacy.

(I'll tackle the substance of why I won't vote Kucinich in a separate post..)

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