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In Defence of Political Islam

In Defence of Political Islam
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Tayab Banaa*

History has important lessons for us – the best one is not to be despondent. Empires rise and fall as do ideological paradigms with regularity

Islam is not just a religion but a complete way of life. It deals as much with the social and political nature of man as much as it deals with his spiritual needs. However the political message of Islam has been confounded, confused and badly maligned. Political Islam has been so derided that even many Muslims consider it as an anathema. Some believe it is a perversion of Islam, while others believe that it cannot be implemented-despite its positive aspects. From their point of view, secular democracy is seen as a better alternative for the Muslim world.

However the fact remains that there is not a single true democratic set up in the world.  What we have instead is different power elites ruling in different countries using democracy as a facade. Take India, for example, power has passed from Congress elites to hard-line Hindutva elites. Interestingly, even Modi didn’t get more than 40% votes. More Americans voted against Trump than in his favour. Is that democratic procedurally? I need not comment on substantive aspect. In the EU again, we see circulation of elites and rule by the deep state. Take the economic aspect, 25 persons have more wealth than 50% of humanity- so much for democratic equality. Power lies in the hands of a few powerful and wealthy ones. Even the lone superpower USA doesn’t have much control over its foreign policy. The stronghold of AIPAC (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee), over the American foreign policy is well acknowledged. The whole world saw how Obama was humbled by Netanyahu in the American senate. This kleptocracy has been sold as liberal democracy for long. It badly needs an alternative.

Communism has completely failed to provide one. If anything, the single party communist states have only proved to be more corrupt, authoritarian, brutal and unjust than the liberal democracy.

For Muslims Islam is the complete code of life given by the Creator. We accept its normative, spiritual and moral greatness but are loathe pondering over its practical and political implementation. A system based on God’s revelation is the best system for humanity. The true face of liberal democracy and communist utopia has only increased its attraction. Yes this system need not be dogmatic or literal.

We need to debate what aspects are to be interpreted and implemented in what manner in the modern environs, but there is no getting away from the fact that- Islam is the solution- a practical one and not just a spiritual utopia.

The communist Utopia of Marx could never be implemented- not even for a day-the dictatorship of proletariat was replaced by dictatorship of communist party. Similarly, the ideal form of true democracy has never been implemented. Instead of directly participating in decision making, people have been relegated to a five yearly ritual of choosing amongst power elites to act as their so called representatives. Even where direct democracy has been tried, it has been corroded by the gross social and economic inequalities. The latest bane of democracy is Propaganda and falsehood. We are now living in a post truth world. Demagogues and charlatans are twisting facts and using utter falsehoods to appeal to the basest emotions of people. This has led to the triumph of right across a wide spectrum of democratic countries.

The Islamic political system on the other hand was implemented in full, yes in full, during and after the life of the Prophet (s.a.w) by his successors. Yes it got replaced by Arab monarchy and Arab imperialism but it can and should be revived. A system where the ruler is just the first among equals. A system marked by true accountability, responsibility, empathy, plurality, tolerance and yes spirituality.

The abhorrent rise of the ISIL monster has made the Islamic political system look very bad. ISIL has unfortunately steeped its sectarian and barbarian outlook in Islamic terms, much like the power elites have steeped their kleptocracy in democratic terms.

History has important lessons for us – the best one is not to be despondent. Empires rise and fall as do ideological paradigms with regularity. We need to work on two fronts – to put across to the oppressed people of the world and their well wishers of all faiths and inclinations the true nature of Islamic political system- Remember Gandhi had asked the rulers of modern India to emulate Umar ra. Secondly we need to work by word and deed against the dogmatic, literal and exclusivist interpretations of Islam by the extremists among Muslims. The mainstream Islamic way of life political or otherwise needs to be reclaimed from a vocal minority within and from the narratives outside which have painted political Islam.

Some people tend to believe that a political system based on religion will lead to exclusion of religious minorities. However the fact is that there will always be differentiation in any system- say between those who believe in that system and those who don’t. In an Islamic political system, it may be on the basis of one’s faith. In a secular democracy it can be on the basis of one’s ideology- secular or non-secular. In a secular democracy, all faiths are theoretically equal.  What about ideologies?.We have multifarious identities- secularism equalizes one or may be two.

The solution is not an artificial and theoretical equality but rule of law in practice and not just on books.No matter what the system is based on, it must treat fairly and lawfully all people of all identities even those who are of an identity different from the one the system is based on. Rewind back to the Islamic political system where an ordinary man – Muslim or non-Muslim could drag the ruler of the day to the court for any transgression of law and have his justice there and then.Examples abound if we look for them.

*Author can be reached at tayabbanna@gmail.com

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