Election day. The airwaves are full of pundits and politicians making one last desperate push to send their guy across the finish line first. Every four years we go through this with but a brief respite between campaigns. Along with the talking heads of the mainstream media, the Muslim Ummah weighs in on the candidates, for, against, and abstaining.
Every time there’s an election you can be sure the battle lines will be drawn. Not Republican vs Democrat, or Libertarian vs Green. The argument that breaks out again and again is more basic than that. Is it permissible for a Muslim to take part in an election system in a non-Muslim country?
On one side is the ultra-conservative wing that just this morning told me and all my voting friends in no uncertain terms that we were heading for the hellfire. Stepping up to the voting machine is tantamount to stepping out of Islam, giving in to the “kuffaar” and declaring that you prefer the corrupt political system of the disbelievers to the pristine purity of the Islamic Khalifah, the mythical Islamic State that rules according to Islam. The only way to stay on the good side of Allah is to remain on the sidelines and castigate everyone who disagrees with you. So, according to these kind and charitable Muslim brothers and sisters, I’m an infidel now and I’d best take my place in the flames with the likes of Hitler and whoever that guy was who invented infomercials. I don’t know if I’m supposed to just die now and go or live out my normal lifespan and then go to hell, so I’ll have to wait for some more Facebook status updates to clarify the matter.
On the other side are the super-patriotic rah-rah Muslims who volunteer for President Obama’s re-election campaign and who consider voting to be a duty almost as important as the pillars of Islam, like prayer and fasting. Many are first- and second-generation citizens who come from countries with, shall we say, slightly less democratic governments (read: tyrannical regimes). Coming from a country where speaking your mind and voting your conscience can get you a quick trip to a dungeon can make you an enthusiastic advocate for participating in the quirky, messy, imperfect democratic system we have here in the States. These Muslims are active in their communities and can quote voting rules and regs from memory. They are strong and not easily intimidated and are a vital part of the American political scene.
In between are the rest of us. We vote sometimes, and other times we stay home. We wrestle with which of the lesser of two evils to choose. Romney is pretty much a non-starter for most Muslims, but Obama is not an easy choice either. His foreign policy is certainly more enlightened than his predecessor’s, but as Commander in Chief it’s his name that is signed on every bomb dropped by Predator drones that kills innocent men, women, and children. It is his Israel policy that is in lockstep with that of every president before him, a policy that condones the apartheid conditions in Palestine that have made a virtual concentration camp out of Gaza. Yes, he ended the illigitimate war in Iraq and is working to bring our troops home from Afghanistan, but he hasn’t closed Gitmo. So the choice is not easy. There are Muslims who are voting for third-party candidates because they can’t bring themselves to vote for the two men at the top of the ticket.
As you can see, Muslims are definitely not a solid unified group with one voice. Those of us who are practicing Muslims seek out fatwas, religious rulings, to help us make decisions, but that too is a source of division. Some sheikhs say it is forbidden in all cases to participate in non-Islamic political systems. Others say it is disliked in some instances, allowed in others, and even obigatory under some circumstances. So to be honest, there are arguments on both sides of the divide.
I voted today, but I have no issue with my Muslim brothers and sisters who refrained from voting because they felt is it not permissible to do so. They searched their conscience and sought guidance from the scholars they adhere to, and they are following the evidence as they see it. They are still my brothers and sisters in Islam and I love them for the sake of Allah. Even those who curse me and declare me to be a disbeliever. I forgive you in advance for telling me I’m not a Muslim anymore, because to declare a Muslim a “kaafir” is a heavy heavy sin and I don’t want you to have to answer for it on the Day of Judgment. I forgive you, but I may just unfriend you on Facebook because I am a low-drama kinda gal and I don’t want to have to deal with this issue for the rest of my life. Go in peace. I’ll be here watching the news and obsessively tweeting the results.