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Islam and Democracy: The Crucial Questions

 

Syed M. Islam 

Many Muslims insist that Islam must have a political dimension. This insistence is nothing new. In Europe and later in the US church leaders insisted similarly, and unsuccessfully.  

Why is it an issue whether religions should have political dimension? Isn't it a fact that, between the two, there is inherent incompatibility: reason tends to guide most decisions of modern governments whereas at many levels, faith drives applicative justification of religions?  

Do Muslims understand the reasons why Western societies evolved to separate Christianity from politics? Do they assign merit to that separation or do they feel that modern western, secular countries would have been better off had they retained a 'religious dimension' in politics? According to some faithful Christians of both past and present, it was a blunder to separate religion from state. Yet, what do historical facts reveal, if we compare pre-secular western societies to their post-secular makeover?  

The US was founded on secular principles. The majority of its inhabitants have accepted that, even though a handful of puritanical citizens still hope for a 'Christ-based' political posturing of priests and pastors, as 'cure-all' for all of its alleged secular evils. As Muslim gain more political foothold, might they propose a modification to its secular principles to include Islamic religious influence, in the manner it was (illegally) done to the Constitution of Bangladesh after Sheikh Mujibur Rahmanís assassination? Examples of Christian failure at it notwithstanding.  

In this regard I wish to refer to the 1990 Cairo Convention of Human Rights in Islam. What was the Islamic issue with UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights that many attendants refused to endorse, drafting and signing an ISLAMIC Human Rights Declaration instead? Muslim apologists contend Islam is compatible with universal human rights. Then why did they need an Islamic twist on that declaration?  

To establish Islam's lust for political dimension, how likely is it that Muslim apologists will re-engage in interpretive rehash to neutralize some pungent Quranic verses, while upholding select other verses that support their faith-based arguments?  

Interpretive differences in Islam have been a sore issue that birthed endless essays from Islamic scholars. Present Islamic traditions in countries that starkly contrast our current, rational notions of equal rights for minorities and women have been interpreted as unIslamic. How do Muslims propose to validate the accuracy of any such interpretation for use in politics, when it seems unlikely typically-absentee Allah will be at hand to confirm it?  

My main reservation against arguments for political dimension of Islam is that, just like other Abrahamic religions, it divisive approach to humanity is based upon little else but faith. Unlike many global Muslims, the majority of modern Christians, Hindus, Jews or Buddhists do not seem as collectively agitated over separation of religion from politics.  

Many moral guidelines based on religion contradict each other--it is a fact. Some Muslims contend religion ought to inform and guide political discourse and debate. It is a fact that the primary basis for moral guidelines in religion is faith. How do Muslims propose to resolve those contradictions if Islam were made part of political discourse, when its main basis is faith and NOT reason and rationality that mark modern political discourses? More pressing seems the question whether Muslims would admit there can be universal guidelines for morality and human rights--women's and minority rights, that global population can agree upon through rational discourse of fairness without invoking fear of hellfire, etc. in afterlife---a mainstay of most religions.  

What moral codes are so exclusive and useful according to Islam that their exclusion from political discourse would undermine fair representation of Muslims? I would like their enumeration from Muslim apologists, for starters.  

While religions may have a 'right' to inform and guide politics, we must also acknowledge their history of creating false social reality by dividing people on the arbitrary basis of faith. In context I'm distinguishing scriptures from the way any religion has been practiced throughout history. In India, for example, there is history of Muslim rulers practicing secularism, allowing each religion to practice its rituals and morality. 

Nonetheless, one can cite verses from both the Bible and the Quran, divisive pungency of which scholarly believers may not interpret away. Before insisting on inclusion of religious morality in politics, apologists must acknowledge the falsity of their morality claims based upon unprovable faith.  

Modern politics is an evolving phenomenon that has its own set of complexities, but use of logic and reason in matters common to us all seems to help not only to contain their scope, but also to approach their resolution via rational discourse.  What might be the gain to devolve to pre-secular days, instead, to include religions to inform and guide politics, birthing futile debates over intra and inter-religious differences in moral guidelines? Let's ask those Muslims that contend inclusion of religion in politics, to explain their vision how such debates might benefit humans in general, and Muslims in particular.  

The argument to let Islam influence politics--not only in Muslim-majority countries but also in secular countries where transplanted Muslims are gaining political foothold--seems to have missed/ignored all political developments beyond theocracy-based systems.  

Dismal failure of religion-based/influenced governments to manage their citizenry, as it is evident in most Islamic countries today, Muslim apologists tend to interpret away as contra-Islamic. All of it, and no less. Other Muslim scholars tag such failure singly to activities of non-Islamic countries, and no less. All based on interpretations when facts that may reveal the opposite are systematically ignored. This however is no surprise and in line with their insistence to alter objective social reality with false reality based on nothing but faith.  

My question to Muslim apologists: What defensible, rational basis beyond the purity of faith will retain a 'political dimension' for Islam, offering not just-as-good an alternative to, but possibly much more 'moral' an outcome than secular alternatives preferred in Western countries? In this regard they may offer reasonable analyses about the net outcome from variants of Islamic theocracies that we have seen in today's world.  

Thinking forward, what might be the timeline for such Islamic alternative to curdle into a first born? I ask because arguments in its support seem pervasive. What are the practical aspects of such alternative? As a secular citizen of the United States, I ask because I'd be happy to lend support to any potential exodus of its Muslims to countries offering such informed and guided alternative--AWAY from the western secular countries where many Islamic apologists in search of a better life now live.  

Global humanity will then have two alternatives for political system: Islamic understanding of modernity, with religion offering information and guidance to government--more moral, at least by faith according to Muslims and also in line with Allah's wishes, versus Western politics that is not good enough for Muslims to endorse AS IS--secular, where faith-based religion does not meddle into reason-based political debates and discourses.  

Quite possibly, such competing alternatives will be more peaceful for Muslims at large and the West will also be able to continue with its secular governments, with a lowered cacophonic boom from Muslim minority groups to revert politics to pre-Enlightenment times, by arguing inclusion of religion. Muslims can thus help usher in global peace that has been hitherto elusive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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