10/14/2004

The muslim vote

The election and religion are two completely separate things. This should be obvious, but it often is not. There's a dangerous attitude among Islamic fanatics to equate their political aims with religious duty - there's an addictive quality to such a rationale that infects even well-meaning moderates.

I've posted a diary at Kos on the topic which reflects and summarizes my own thoughts on the argument that muslims must strive to always act according to some premise about the "good of the ummah." Such an attitude leads to pointless, and distracting, angst. Here's what I wrote at Kos:

we as muslims should not try to confuse religion with political motives. There is a concerted effort underway by some in the muslim community to try and paint the outcome of the election as crucial to the "good of the ummah". I feel that this is a false understanding of our civid responsibilities, and an artificial construct.

False because our duty in the election is to vote for America's future, not the ummah. Artificial because the Ummah is not an entity whose welfare can be affected by something so.. dunya.. as an election (important though it is on the civic sphere). The ummah is not a political party, it is the collective quality of the muslims' actions - and as such, if there is any action we must take, it is to make sure that this Ramadan, we perform our duties with piety, humility, and honor. Give Allah his due - not Caesar.


I've written on these topics before in these posts:

I also should mention that Laura (al-Muhajabah) has compiled a list of judgements (PDF) from many respected Islamic scholars that attempt to debunk the strange notion in some muslim circles that voting is not halal. Laura has been criticized by some for taking the argument seriously, but that's unfair. To those muslims who genuinely have been led to believe that voting is somehow at odds with teh concept of Islam, we must first reach out to them within the framework of their belief before we can change it. But change it we must. Islam is not only compatible with democracy, it mandates it.

Where I part ways with Laura is on the neccessity for a "muslim bloc" - at least until such a bloc can be guaranteed to interpret the self-interest of American muslims in a strictly American context, rather than the "ummah" false dichotomy mentioned earlier.

BTW, calling a muslim who donates to the Bush campaign an "Uncle Tom", is reprehensible. Such pronouncements are as closed-minded and ruthlessly political an appropriation of religion as the Taliban. Kudos to MWU for addressing the issue.

The challenge to American muslims to is to articulate self-interest from an American perspective - which means we should be willing to find ourselves at odds on occassion with muslims elsewhere. Especially on divisive topics such as Israel-Palestine, we must not allow our positions to be influenced by those of muslims outside the United States, who do not have our interest in mind, be assured. Just as Tariq Ramadan has begun forging a European muslim integrated identity in his books, so too must we do the same.

1 comment:

Dan said...

Honest question, and one you may be uniquely qualified to answer because of your own origins: how united "is" the Muslim vote?

The reason I ask is because even though there is a definite "Catholic vote," it's as much divided along ethno-cultural lines as anything else and was even worse back during the 1800s when Catholics first arrived in the US and were divided along lines of their former national origins.

Has the Muslim community had any similar experiences? If not, why?