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From the Blog
Election 2012: an Islamic perspective
If we were to gauge American Muslim opinions about election 2012 by the heated debates on social media such as Facebook, no doubt there is much discord. Two camps are divided bitterly. There are the “Obama supporters,” and the “Obama detractors.” The supporters argue that although the president’s policies towards Muslims have been less than stellar, if not downright antagonistic, the alternative is much worse. On the other hand, the president’s detractors argue that this is not about choosing the “lesser of two evils,” as others claim, it is a question of integrity and principle.
It is no secret that close to 90 percent of American Muslims voted for Obama in 2008. At the time, the choice was unmistakably obvious. This time around, the wheels of fortune have spun for four years, long enough to give many American Muslims pause about voting for President Obama again. The laundry list against the president is long: spying against Muslims has increased manifold. Provisions within the Patriot Act, such as Habeas Corpus and indefinite detentions of suspects, have been upheld. Early this year, the president signed into law a dangerous legislation called the National Defense Authorization Act, which allows the military to detain suspects - including U.S. citizens - indefinitely without trial or access to an attorney. Drone attacks continue to spill Muslim blood in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen, killing many civilians and committing extra judicial assassinations, even against U.S. citizens. Obama’s pro-Israel stance has steadily increased throughout his presidency. And to add insult to injury, American Muslims received a slap in the face during the latest Democratic National Convention when Jerusalem was voted Israel’s undivided capital in a sham floor vote, not only in violation of the UN Charter and International Law, but against U.S. long held policy as well. The list goes on.
Many are wondering, what is the Islamic perspective? What does Islam say about the paradigm American Muslims are in today? A look at history might shed some light on the situation.
There is a concept that is completely alien to today’s politics and politicians. It is called constancy. Remaining steadfast to what is moral and just, regardless of partisan or popular sentiment is the true acid test of politics. The vote on Jerusalem on the floor of the DNC was proof that elected officials are motivated by survival rather than constancy of principle. Selling out to the highest bidder to retain power seems like a principle of convenience many politicians happily espouse, often to the detriment of moral constancy. The voters not only know this but also know that having a say in who rules them somehow makes politics a more tolerable evil. Perhaps, this latter is the argument of the “Obama supporters” among American Muslims.
Before politics became the currency of civilized government, there existed politicians of a different kind: honest, truthful and principled men who truly care about the welfare of the human race. Prophet Ibrahim, or Abraham, was one of them. Ibrahim was a pillar of faith who walked the earth as a nation all by himself. He had one outstanding trait that greatly endeared him to God: constancy. Ibrahim spoke out against idolatry when he was still a child. He marveled how his father and people could prostrate themselves to clay idols they had made with their own hands.
At a time when rebuking family and one’s entire community was the least popular thing and most dangerous thing to do, Ibrahim was fearless in his embrace of principle over popular sentiment of his time. To him, constancy of faith and ideal was subordinate to none, even if death was at hand. In fact, after destroying idols in the temple where his father and townspeople worshipped, Ibrahim was tied to a stake and made to choose between renouncing monotheism or being burned alive.
When Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) came down from his reclusive cave in the Mountain of Light and started preaching in Makkah that God was one, he was alone against the entire humanity. Despite his strong faith, the odds against him were overwhelming.
After his wife Khadijah and close friend Abu Bakr embraced his message, Muhammad faced the toughest political battle of his life. With no funds, no campaign endorsements, no PR machine, and very few volunteers, Muhammad was up against the toughest electorate of his time: the leaders of Makkah, the richest and most powerful men in Arabia. They were also the Custodians of the Holy City, and idolatry for them was both religion and business (sound familiar?) Every year, tribes from the entire Arabian Peninsula flocked to Makkah to pay homage to their idols and trade. The annual pilgrimage brought immense wealth to the city and its leaders.
However, Muhammad never relented or struck a deal for political expediency. For thirteen years, his message was constant, in spite of persecution, physical and verbal assaults, assassination attempts, and, sometimes, rather enticing offers of compromise. The heads of Makkah at one point suggested that if he agreed to worship their gods one year, they would worship his God the following year. Since the balance of power and influence was on their side, any shrewd and astute politician would have accepted the compromise. But Muhammad’s constancy was as unshakable as the mountain from which he walked down. His answer was simple: either you worship my one God or there will be no deal. It was then that the neo-conservative Makkans decided that Muhammad had to be eliminated, physically.
As a direct result of his principled constancy, Ibrahim’s One God came to his help just when the fire was lit underneath his feet. It burned everything but his flesh. The miracle baffled everyone, and Ibrahim was able to walk away a free man. He eventually migrated to the Holy Land to fulfill his covenant with God, who rewarded Ibrahim’s steadfastness by making him the revered father of many nations.
Muhammed fled Makkah and was elected religious, political and civil leader of the city of Madinah. Eventually his monotheism triumphed over idolatry all over the Arabian Peninsula. Makkah was cleansed of its false deities and Muhammad became the most influential man in history.
If there is a lesson to be learned from the pioneers of true politics, it is that power should always be subservient to principle, and not the other way around. Constancy in politics is true politics. Being transparent, moral and just ought to be the motto of every single official seeking civil service. The pulpit of power is a pulpit of service and humility, not of privilege, arrogance and self-righteousness.
Prophets taught that constancy of principle ought to be the driving force behind man’s quest for salvation, no matter how unpopular and opposed. If man is to bring true peace to this world, he must be steadfast in adhering to principles of justice, equality and liberty for all -- written and applied. The choice is clear for American Muslim voters.