This past Friday, leaving Jumu’ah prayer, I was greeted by a brother who was distributing his organization’s regular bulletins reminding Muslim Americans that we should be wary of our place here in the U.S. This time however, with reasons supposedly substantiated by the Qur’an and a hadith, the explicit message was voting in Tuesday’s mid-term elections is haram, or Islamically impermissible.
The argument was that the election process and political system would have Muslim Americans, through assimilation and the luring promise of fair representation and equal rights, contribute to greed for power. It assumes that every politician, including Muslim Americans in public office, are tied to elite corporations and lead us to accept moral wrongs.
The group also claims that the Muslim vote in elections since September 11th have done little to bring any good to our community; it has actually done more harm by eroding the progress and visibility of Muslim Americans, while having us sacrifice our Islam.
While the Qur’an is never in error, the group’s premise is gravely erroneous in its logic. Its sacred references are limited in scope in regards to Muslims’ rights and responsibilities as citizens. We live in a society where Islam is neither the prevalent religion nor the rule of law.
Corruption and vile dealings have been exposed in major government offices entrusted to represent Americans. Disrespect, disregard, and propaganda, including Islamophobic propaganda, have been tools used to secure voting blocs of certain demographic groups. And when these problems surface, what do we do? We chastise the wrong and protest the misguided. We depend on a certain few to fix it, or turn away to ignore it.
While these choices are each individual’s prerogative, we lose more by not individually acting with what legitimate tools are deemed good by Islam first, and then the respective lands we live in. Not taking the initiative to share with our fellow Americans what Islam entails in the current rule of law is just as egregious to support candidates, officials and policies that are not aligned with Islam.
The idea that Muslim Americans should have no involvement in our political process negates an unshakable truth that if we do not work toward a solution to societal ills then we are in effect contributing to them. Muslim Americans are not immune to violence, lack of quality health care, faulty school systems, discrimination, a poor environment, and other civil and human rights violations.
We are the most diverse religious community in this nation, representing people different needs and interests, who grow in complexity and variance. However, we are not only responsible for ourselves but each of our fellow citizens who we live with side by side.
We all pay taxes to maintain our neighborhoods and its institutions. We all buy and sell goods that help us function at our best. We all learn in centers of education and organizations that help determine our future paths. We all pray that our lives will be rewarded for the best of our deeds and our progeny will be among the best of those who do good deeds. We all share the air, land and waters to supply our sustenance. We are God’s best and most beloved creation, and we are subjected to the very laws that will govern us whether we vote or not. Would Allah deem the Muslim vote as misguided sin if we exercise our rights as seen by our faith of Islam?
Democracy is not new or foreign to Islam, and America is not the only land where Muslims are a minority faith. And dare we forget, the many governments of Muslim nations violate our Muslim brothers and sisters democratic rights granted to all in Islam.
Indeed, a voice unspoken won’t be heard. This also means that another voice could speak up and misrepresent us. This “evil” election process or government will not turn itself around with Muslim Americans refusing to see themselves not a part of the solution. Your voice is relevant because Allah placed us in this nation at this time. Therefore we must look out for every man, woman and child’s future in this country—it is our responsibility, too. Our decision not to vote because Muslims have not benefited from previous elections, puts us in more peril and disregard. But we do have a choice to make our voice count—we can, and should vote.
Every decision will be judged according to our intentions and merit, so make the intention to serve God and to correct the issues affecting all Americans in every community. You must also make the best choice possible with your knowledge and understanding in accordance to Islam. We can be a part of the solution, doing a halal (good) deed as Muslim Americans. Decide…and vote!