There is some misunderstanding within some sections of our community that discourage voting or running for elected positions. The general focus of their argument is whether getting into these positions will place a person in a position where they will “rule” by something other than what Allah had decreed.
Voting and democracy go far wider than “rule”. In our Australian context of governance for example,“compulsory” voting forces citizens to make some input, even if it be in some cases a blank ballot.
Humans by nature are opinionated, different societies have different ways of expressing their opinions and these can range from violent imposition of a person’s will over others all the way to the debate and manipulation of views to lead a majority of people to support one perspective over another.
There is no escaping the fact that if you live with others, you will be negotiating points of views through one medium or another. People do not always see matters from the same perspective and generally, people prefer their own over others unless they can be convinced through some form of process that there is a better perspective.
Human failings aside, we all aspire to live in accordance with the guidance of our Creator
Depending on our level of knowledge and faith-adherence, we will continue to argue unless we recognise someone as an authority to provide guidance for us. We have seen people take a clear “teaching” and attempt to spin a meaning or an interpretation that is not accorded by the context or the general body of teachings.
It is through these unlearned opinions that people either intentionally or inadvertently mislead each other, quite often, against their best interest. As this topic is about voting, any example that I might give here is likely to offend those who ascribe to that “interpretation”. I will refrain from that tangent.
The issue at hand is electoral participation, what it means to participate and what it means to abstain.
In our system of governance, the general public understand that participation is a means of protecting their interests and “improving” society, sometimes, but not always, through change. To not participate is to marginalise oneself and to abstain as a group is to effectively marginalise the entire group. This is why we see successful lobby groups doing far more than voting in order to “participate”. We see some volunteer to distribute leaflets for their favourite candidate at polling booths.
We see them exert all sorts of efforts to ensure that they have regular contact with aspirants as well as serving politicians to make sure that their concerns are not forgotten. They see this level of participation as a means of supporting their own values and or goals.
Voting vs Ruling
Voting is not “rule” and it is definitely not “ruling” by other than what Allah, Ta’ala, has revealed.
Voting is one of the forms of broadcasting your opinion. Rather than abstaining en-masse, voting as a group will show everyone that our participation can make a difference. Abstention in this case is the weakest form of protest and the weakest stand to take. Participation can be the difference between the success or failure of many candidates in many electorates.
Concentration of Power
Muslims do not live in ghettoes and we are not suggesting for this to change. However, some electorates have a healthier concentration of Muslim voters than others. It is these healthy concentrations that can contribute greatly for the improvement of our nation.
It is these healthy concentrations that can influence the political machinery into protecting what is most important to us, starting with our children and their education continuing to protect our families and going all the way to our broader domestic and foreign policies.
We keep arguing that our Islam is a way of life and we are convinced that it is the salvation of humanity. This salvation cannot be imposed from the margins. It has only ever succeeded when it was put into practice through Muslims being integral members of society, members who experience the pain and hardship of their fellow citizens and who at the same time celebrate the same joyful blessings that affect the nation.
The margins are there as a temporary abode until the person who crosses that sideline recovers and is able to participate. Being alive is about participating. We participate in the workforce, we pay our taxes, we contribute to the economy, all this participation is under the umbrella of a system that is constantly “improved” by elected representatives. We have accepted this system to dictate aspects of our livelihood, we must participate in deciding who will be best suited to protect this livelihood and uphold the best interests of our nation.
The Time is Now
There is no doubt that we see ourselves as a people who can improve the lives of those around us.
We certainly believe that we should be better informed in order to make a better decision for our future and the future of our children. We might see so many potential improvements form the margins.
However, we cannot do anything with these ideas until we “roll up our sleeves” and put these ideas to the test. The Australian System of Governance allows us to do this and more.
This year, PM Morrison and former PM Rudd along with a few ministers and candidates attended the Eid prayers held by the Parramatta Mosque. Clearly both felt that the Muslim vote in that electorate can make a difference. At the same time, the NSW Premier and Leader of the Opposition attended the iconic Lakemba Mosque and others attended various mosques and prayer spaces throughout the country.
Their participation in our celebration allowed us to discuss some of our concerns with them, we had an opportunity to tell them what is important to us. We had the opportunity to tell them what will motivate a Muslim to give them his or her vote. Imagine if we followed the directions of the groups that I mentioned at the start of the article? Imagine if we were a group that made no difference at the polls, a group that did not matter?
Again, whilst not the focus of this article, there are those in our community who resent the
involvement of political leaders in our celebrations. How can this resentment or sentiment be Islamic
when Islam tells us to give the charity of a smile in the face of others, when Islam tells us to be hospitable and to share food and to be welcoming and to reach out and engage with others in the hope that a fellow human can be guided (or saved) through us.
Our faith teaches us to rely on Allah after we take all the means that are available to us. Islam does not say, rely and do nothing else. Take all the means, then pray to Allah for your success. In our case, the means are not prohibited by our faith, they are both legal under law and permissible under Sharia. Take them and rely on Allah.
Be realistic when taking the means.
We have a huge wish list as Muslims. We are losing ground in every nation where we are a majority. We don’t have any other nation that seeks to protect the rights of our minorities. The reality is that we have an Australian politician who is championing the rights of Rohingyas internationally and far more successfully than any leader of any Muslim nation. We have one or two foreign Muslim leaders who raise the plight of Palestinians, Kashmiris, Rohingya and even less who dare to mention the plight of the Uyghur Muslims.
Under cover of these atrocities, Muslims in Lebanon and Sudan are allowed to starve through horrific external policies. Can Australia do anything about this? Can Australia change its foreign policy to help Muslims? Does Australia have the international clout to have an independent foreign policy? This is a question that is worth repeating? Even if every Australian wanted to change Australia’s foreign policy, will Australia be in a position to make a difference, or will it end up no different to Sudan or Lebanon?
Some changes require long term planning and implementation on a different playing field, just like one cannot successfully play soccer on a concrete basketball court, nor bounce a basketball on a grass soccer field, we need to pursue what we can improve in our reality and take on the other game in the reality where we can make a difference. Another question to keep in mind: what does it mean to have a candidate or a party tout an unachievable foreign policy whilst having a domestic policy that breaks down our families or distorts the minds of our children? Surely the domestic must take the higher priority.