Monday, 19 April 2010

Muslim should vote or not to vote

Muslim should vote or NOT to vote

Dr. Mozammel Haque

The long-anticipated general elections in Britain for 6 May 2010 kicked off on 6th of April this year as Prime Minister Gordon Brown, 59, stepped out of Buckingham Palace to ask Queen Elizabeth to dissolve Parliament in preparation for a May 6 vote, the final step before campaigning begins. Queen Elizabeth declared the dissolution of the Parliament. The three main political parties, Labour Party, Conservative Party and Liberal Democrat Party are going to declare their Election Manifestoes. The Prime Minister revealed Labour’s manifesto on Monday, the 12th; the Tories published their manifesto on Tuesday, the 13th, with the Liberal Democrats following today, Wednesday, the 14th of May. There will be election for 650 Parliamentary seats at the 2010 general election. There is a rise of four on the number of seats contested in 2005.

In the last general election in 2005, Labour won 355 seats; the Conservatives won 198, while the Liberal Democrats took 62. 15 MPs were elected at the 2005 general election from an ethnic minority background out of that four were from Muslim community. 61.4 per cent voter turned out at the 2005 election, the figure was up from the 59.5 per cent who voted in 2001 but down drastically from 1997, the year Labour returned to power, when 71.4 per cent turned out to vote.

Vote or not to vote
Like last general elections in 2005, a very tiny minority anti-voting brigade was telling everyone NOT to vote and also distributing anti-vote leaflets, especially after the Friday Jumah prayer near Mosques. Now the question naturally comes to the average people who are confused is whether Muslim will participate in the voting and elect their candidates to take part and participate in the policy making and decision-making process of the country or they will abstain from casting their votes and electing their representatives.

In this connection, I would like to point out that the First Muslim MP, Mohammad Sarwar, being elected entered the British Parliament, House of Commons in 1997. The First Muslim Peer, Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham, being appointed entered into the House of Lords in 1998. The First Muslim Baroness, Lady Manzila Pola Uddin, being appointed, entered the House of Lords in 1998. The First Muslim Privy Councillor, Sadiq Khan, was appointed in 2009 and the First Muslim MP, Sadiq Khan, was promoted to sit in the Cabinet, in 2009.

One must not forget that all these successes were achieved due to the Muslim participation in the voting system and participation in the political process. It must also be remembered that all these First Muslim MP, First Muslim Peer, the First Muslim Baroness, the First Muslim Privy Councillor and the First Cabinet Minister were members of the Labour Party and from the Labour Party. Labour Party opened the doors followed by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. There was no MP from the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons but there was Baroness Warsi from the Conservatives and Lord Hameed from the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords. We are expecting Muslim MPs from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in the 2010 Elections.

Muslims are living in this country as citizens and it is their civic and Islamic responsibility to cast their votes and participate in the political process. Both the Islamic scholars and Muslim leaders and organisations inside the country and around the world expressed their opinion that nothing prevents Muslims Islamically to participate in the political process where they are living.

Islamic Point of View
Followings are the opinions of the Islamic scholars of the Muslim World League, OIC Islamic Fiqh Academy from Saudi Arabia, Dr. Jamal Badawi from Canada, Mufti Ibrahim Desai from South Africa and also the opinions of Islamic scholars, such as Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, Shaykh Suhaib Hasan and Shaykh Abdur Raheen from the United Kingdom.

Shaykh Taha Jabir al-Alwani, Muslim World League, Makkah;
OIC Islamic Fiqh Academy
“ is incumbent upon Muslims to actively participate for the following reasons: 1) In order to protect our rights as citizens, we must be involved in politics. 2) Our involvement can facilitate our support of our fellow Muslims around the world. 3) Our interaction with non-Muslims and our involvement will help to spread Islam's message. 4) It helps to convey the universality of Islam... Our participation is an obligation in Islam, and not merely "a right" that we can choose to forfeit at will. It affords us the opportunity to protect our human rights, guarantee the fulfillment of our needs, and work for the improvement of living conditions for Muslims and non-Muslims in America and abroad... Whatever helps us to achieve these noble goals becomes Islamically obligatory. This includes: ... Supporting (both politically and financially) those non-Muslim candidates whose beliefs and values are most compatible with ours as Muslims, and who most address and support our issues and causes... Registering to vote and then voting. Although separate acts, they are both an essential part of the electoral process. Our participation in that process is mandatory.”

Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari, Dar al-Iftaa;
Darul Uloom; student of Mufti Taqi Usmani
“...In a situation where there is no worthy candidate (as in non-Muslim countries, where at least the ideologies and beliefs of the relevant parties are contrary to the teachings of Shariah), then the vote should be given to the one who is the better and more trust worthy then the other candidates... Vote should be given to the candidate that one believes will give people their rights, prevent oppression, and so on... If it is thought that a particular candidate or party will be of benefit to the general public in their day to day affairs, then the vote should be given to him. And by voting a particular party, it will not be considered that one agrees with all their ideologies and beliefs... At times, voting becomes necessary. Sayyiduna Abu Bakr (rAa) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (sAas) said: "If people see an oppressor and don't prevent him, then it is very likely that Allah will include all of them in the punishment" (Sunan Tirmizi & Sunan Abu Dawud). Therefore, if you see open oppression and transgression, and despite having the capability of preventing this oppression by giving your vote, you don't do so, then in the light of this Hadith you will be sinful...”

Dr. Jamal Badawi, Islamic Society of North America;
Islamic Information Foundation, Halifax, Canada
“I'll just give you one specific example. Suppose you have two candidates for president, for example. Both of them might be not even sympathetic to just Muslim causes, suppose. In most cases that is actually the situation... However, in terms of relative harm and benefit which is a rule of Shariah it may be the collective wisdom, for example, of Muslim voters that one of them would do even greater harm to Muslim causes than the other... Well in that case, obviously, the lesser of the two harms, i.e. electing or voting for someone who will do less harm to Muslims obviously would be much better than sitting on the sidelines and just criticizing both and doing nothing about it... Voting for them and supporting them in elections is not necessarily an agreement with everything that the law, by way of laws and regulations. But at least it would be for that particular, limited purpose.”

Mufti Ibrahim Desai, Darul Ifta, South Africa
“Since seeing that voting is a testimony (giving Shahadah) and being aware that a particular party will be more willing to fulfil our Islamic rights, not to vote for this party will he tantamount to transgression and breach of trust in the eyes of Shariah.”

Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, Graduate of Dar-ul-Uloom, Holcombe
Al-Azhar University; S.O.A.S, London
I consider Muslim political participation, especially in a non-Muslim country, as a form of jihad. This is our country and it would be foolish not to participate in the political processes which eventually shape our future and that of Islam. I support marching in the streets to raise awareness about certain issues. However, if we really want to change the status-quo then we have to influence those who walk the corridors of power. Muslims need not only to vote but put forward Muslim candidates in all the mainstream and serious independent parties. We need to be represented or be present at the tables around which policies are discussed, made and agreed.

Sayyiduna Yusuf (as) put himself forward in the political process of Egypt - the rest is history! [Refer to Quran 12:55]. He saved countless lives, united people with God and showed how rulers ought to rule. Are Muslims in our country saying they do not want to unite people with God and save them from eternal doom? Do we want to remain "slaves" under the dominion of others without power of any sort? Or do we want to become masters; just, caring and merciful? The right to vote is one of Allah's blessings over us which we can use to benefit society. There are many in the world who do not have this blessing.

Allah says in the Quran: "Allah presents an example: a slave (who is) owned and unable to do a thing and he to whom We have provided from Us good provision so he spends from it secretly and publicly. Can they be equal? Praise be to Allah! But most of them do not know." [Quran 16:75]

So get up and use that blessing!”

Shaykh Suhaib Hasan, Secretary, Islamic Sharia Council of Great Britain; Graduate of Islamic University at Madinah
“Looking at the situation of the Muslim community and their need to have their interests met, it becomes advisable for the Muslims to achieve this purpose through the available political system. Through voting, a man can bring to Parliament such candidates who sympathise with the Muslim cause. The vote can be treated either as a good intercession (Ayah 85, Surah An-Nisa), or as Naseehah (hadith narrated by Tamim Ad-Dari in which Naseehah is to be advanced for the betterment of the Muslims in general), or it can be treated as Tawkeel (deputising someone on your behalf to achieve a certain task). Whichever you take, by voting you can bring a better change in the affairs of this country.

Shaykh Abdur Raheem Green
Central Mosque, London

“However, having read and listened to the sayings of many scholars on this issue, and being faced with the reality of a growing Muslim population here in the UK, who for all intents and purposes consider this their home, it has become clear to me that we must participate in every aspect of society as much as possible to ensure our rights and continued existence and well being in this society. This participation most certainly includes voting for whichever party or candidate best serves the needs and interests of the UK and indeed world wide Muslim population.

“This does not mean approval or acceptance of the ideal of democracy, but the intention is to use the means and avenues available to benefit the Muslims. The Prophet (saws) did not approve of the system of tribalism in Arabia, in fact he condemned it, but this did not stop the Prophet (saws) from accepting the protection of his uncle and the tribe of Banu Haashim. In addition to that it seems to me that the evil of participation is far less than the evil that will befall the Muslims if we do not, and the Shariah teaches us always to choose the path of lesser evil. This has been expounded and clarified by the scholars.”

Muslim leaders and organisations in the UK
Following the guidance of Islamic scholars all over the world, the Muslim leaders as well as Muslim organisations in the UK are advising Muslims to exert their civic and Islamic responsibility to cast their votes and participate in the elections. Followings are the messages and advice from Imam Shahid Raza, chairman of MINAB, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, former Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), Dr. Syed Aziz Pasha, General Secretary of the Union of Muslim Organisations of UK & Eire (UMO), Judge Khurshid Drabu and the Muslim Student Community, FOSIS.

Imam Shahid Raza
Chairman MINAB
Imam Shahid Raza, chairman of Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB) said to me in an interview: “I am very very strongly recommending to vote and participate in this general election because through this institution we can exercise our civil power in the best interest of the Muslim community and Britain.”

“Those who are saying not to vote and quoting Qur’an, they are misinterpreting references they are quoting from the Qur’an. In our opinion, voting and elections provide us a mechanism through which we can express our opinion in the form of Mushwara (Shoura),” said Imam Raza.

In reply to another question, Imam Raza said, “Yes, I believe that from the Islamic perspective, it (voting) is permissible and it is the opinion of the vast majority of Muslim scholars and Ulemas in this country and all over the world.”

Sir Iqbal Sacranie
Former Secretary General of MCB

Sir Iqbal Sacranie, former Secretary General of MCB and presently Chairman of Muslim Aid, said to me in an interview: “During this election, Muslim vote will be very crucial in determining who is elected as the MP in more than 50 constituencies around Britain.”

“It is now becoming apparent that the guidance given by prominent Islamic scholars around the country as well as all major Muslim organisations that it is their duty as a responsible citizen who cares for the welfare of the community in which he lives that he exercises his fundamental right to vote in the election,” said Sir Iqbal.

Dr. Syed Aziz Pasha
General Secretary UMO

Dr. Syed Aziz Pasha, General Secretary of UMO said to me in an interview, “Our position in this regard has always been we should participate fully in the mainstream of society and make our contribution for the welfare of the society as a whole retaining our religious and cultural values. Therefore, elections is a good opportunity to express their views on the manifestoes of the political parties and ensure that numbers to the Parliament should be elected who are favourable to the requirements of the Muslim community in terms of all aspects of their day-to-day life, like equality in jobs, housing, financial institutions, society as well as religious needs like planning permission for Mosques, Halal foods in school, workplace, hospital and at all public places and application of Muslim Family Laws.”

“From the Islamic perspective, we are living in this country and we should avail of every opportunity to promote the cause of Islam and eradicate all misunderstandings surrounding our religious practices. Therefore, voting is one of the opportunities Muslims have which they should not abdicate and they should not abdicate their responsibilities,” said Dr. Pasha.

Muslim Association of Britain (MAB)
Muslim Association of Britain has issued a press release on 6th of April, urging Muslim to vote in the UK 2010 general elections and also calling upon the Muslim community to exert its civic and Islamic duty by making sure to come out and vote in the next general elections. MAB President Al-Amin Belhaj said “Muslim voters must give their votes to those best able to serve the British people as a whole without any kind of segregation or alienation towards any section of the society”.

“The Muslim Association of Britain suggests to the Muslim community to vote for the best candidates belonging to the major political parties including the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservative Party and according to the best manifesto serving the social justice, the environment and a more humane policies in fighting poverty, Islamophobia and any kind of occupation of other people countries’.

“MAB is urging the Muslim Community to participate and vote in UK 2010 General Election and inviting Muslim Community to participate in media campaigns and a series of TV adverts being broadcasted on Islam Channel and others,” said the press release.

Judge Khurshid Drabu
Judge Khurshid Drabu said to me in an interview, “We are free to practice our deen, we are free to make a difference; that is the beauty that we have here. The youth of this country, the Muslim youth, have a duty, just as the elderly folk has duty, to engage in the political process and to make sure that our voice are heard.”

“We can not continually keep mourning about the image created by the media. We have to look within ourselves as well and make sure that we give out good stories,” Judge Drabu observed and added, “Of course, there is Islamophobia, we all know that.”

Muslim Student community - FOSIS
FOSIS is calling upon Muslim students, led by Islamic Societies, to make a change. That change can be delivered, with the permission of Allah, this Spring through the general election.

FOSIS said in its message: “The general election presents an awesome opportunity to help shape the future of this country. And it only comes every half a decade. You now decide who the politicans will be and shape what they should stand for. The politics of those who spread fear and difficulty must be overcome, the politics of those who share our common concerns must be promoted, and policies must now be shaped around what we - the electorate - demand. Politics must change.

“We urge you to get involved, firstly for the sake of Allah to gain His pleasure and through that to benefit justice for Muslims and for Britain. We aren’t saying that we can change the world tomorrow, but at the very least we can have a significant impact in a number of local seats as per our calculations,” the FOSIS Message runs.

From the above, it becomes clear that a tiny minority group is trying to dissuade people through their anti-vote brigade from participating in elections which has neither the support nor the backing from the Islamic scholars or Muslim leaders and organisations. Rather the Islamic scholars and Muslim leaders and organisations are urging the Muslim community to exercise their fundamental right to vote in elections because during this election, Muslim vote will be very crucial in determining who is elected as the MP in more than 50 constituencies around Britain.

Islamic scholars also said that as for participation in politics itself, we should consider that if the parliaments and congresses of these countries do not have any Muslim members, then this will pave the way for the opposition to come forth with their harmful views and policies, which will consequently be incorporated into the laws of their countries and bring harm to the Muslims. That’s why, Shaykh Mogra considers Muslim political participation, especially in a non-Muslim country, ‘as a form of Jihad’ and Mufti Desai considers not to vote ‘be tantamount to transgression and breach of trust in the eyes of Shariah’.

So do join in the elections, cast your votes and participate in the political process of the country. In the next issue, I will, Insha Allah, try to give you the clear picture of the candidates, constituencies and the analysis of the manifestoes for your consideration to choose and select whom to vote, whether the candidate or the party.