The problem with our politics

INsights 046, Friday 5th July 2024

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I write in a British context because this is where I was born, where I live, and where I will probably be buried. So it’s where my experience, primary concern and principal accountability lie. But I do believe the key points here apply to communities of believers anywhere, especially those living as minorities.

So what’s the problem?

For far too long, our social and political engagement has been characterised by complaint and an acutely internalised victim mentality.

Owing to several local and international occurrences in recent decades, we feel otherised, maligned and oppressed. 

We have taken on a rights-based narrative, constantly and almost exclusively making the case for what we need so that we are treated equally and respectfully, both here and around the world. 

We are angry. We are frustrated. 

Because little seems to have changed, or it seems to be getting even worse, we are starting to become despondent. 

It’s all understandable.

But it’s inexcusable. 

Firstly, where we are right now in terms of our pessimistic collective psyche and our inward-looking strategy is exactly where our enemies and detractors want us to be. 

Secondly, this self-centred approach will never work. For as long as we are disproportionately consumed with ourselves, what we’re supposed to stand for will never truly be understood or take hold. If you’re wondering what it is that are we supposed to stand for instead, keep reading.

Thirdly, as well as being ineffective, this approach is inauthentic. It lacks a sound basis in scripture or prophetic example. 

For almost fifteen years, I have closely observed the trajectory of our public narratives and engaged with countless leaders of national and local community organisations, including mosques, as well as those who are considered to be scholars and who are therefore supposed to guide us.

Sadly, from this experience, I know that the negative, narrow-minded mentality is very deeply engrained across the board.  

I am not questioning anyone’s intentions. Who am I to do that? But sincerity is not an excuse for ignorance or malpractice when it comes to leadership. Let's not forget the old adage that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Nor am I saying the situation is hopeless. I'm not writing off the inherent potential of our existing and emerging leaders or organisations. Not at all. I’m a raving optimist who believes that we can do so much better with all the resources and talent that we have at our disposal. 

But right now we have a big problem which I'll summarise as follows: at the heart of our current “Muslim community approach” to public engagement is an implicit assumption that the lines between us as “Muslims” and everyone else as “non-Muslims” are firmly and permanently drawn. 

They are hosts, we are guests. They are incumbents, we are on the sidelines. We believe, and they will never believe.

So the best we can do is present ourselves as just another underserved minority community, fight for our equality and push against the prejudices that we face.

To hell with everyone else!

The alternative approach

Instead of this unproductive and uninspiring route that has dominated our attitude so far, there is a much better way forward. Rather than being driven by the darkness of our hurt egos, it involves being inspired by the light of revelation.

A fundamental principle that should inform our true concern, our narrative, and our public engagement is as follows:

Our ultimate role is not to serve, defend or advocate for “the Muslim community” in society.

Our ultimate role is to serve, defend and advocate for God in society. 

There is some overlap between the two, but there is also a big difference. 

Fulfilling the former doesn’t guarantee the latter at all. 

But fulfil the latter, and it’s a win-win situation. 

Note this critical and final verse at the end of Chapter 22 of The Final Testament – yes, that’s the Qur’an  which explains why we even have the title of “muslim” in the first place:

Strive hard for God as is His due: He has chosen you and placed no hardship in your religion, the faith of your forefather Abraham. God has called you those who submit (al-muslimin) — both in the past and in this [message] — so that the Messenger can bear witness amongst you and so that you can bear witness amongst other people. So keep up the prayer, give the prescribed alms, and seek refuge in God: He is your protector — an excellent protector and an excellent helper. (22:78)

So the net result of our efforts, as those who submit to God (al-muslimin), should be that everyone around us has been given the opportunity to witness, and hopefully appreciate, the irresistible power and beauty of our worldview and way of life. 

Right now, this is not happening anywhere near as much as it could be. Often, where it is taking place, it’s despite, not because of, our efforts. For as long as we are consumed almost entirely with ourselves, we will never truly bear witness.

What could be more against the prophetic example than to pursue our own social, political and material needs as our primary objectives, in a way that is disjointed from - and seen as more important than - conveying the message of faith effectively and compellingly to those amongst whom we live?

The Prophet, peace be upon him, was courageous and compassionate, with a deep, universal concern. He wasn’t cowardly and bitter, and he certainly wasn't insular. 

He had a deep sense of belonging to his people, praying for them sincerely, even when they shunned him. Other than in exceptional circumstances, he didn’t alienate them nor did he write them off as being forever misguided. 

He was the prophet of mercy, not the prophet of doom. 

Adopting his blessed example, the alternative to the “Muslim community approach” to public engagement outlined above is what I’ll call the “universal God-first approach” – this is based on the idea that we should see the society in which we live as the one to which we fully belong and are fully committed, to see “non-Muslims” as “not yet Muslims”, to see them as our people, even if they don’t see us the same away. 

It necessitates that any advocacy for our own rights must be complemented, rather superseded, by our dual advocacy for monotheism and effective solutions that are of benefit to society at large. 

To this end, I would propose an overarching vision to unite believers in any land as follows: a prosperous and harmonious society built on a unifying foundation of a profoundly simple and deeply faithful monotheism.

Working towards this outcome is what I understand to be the meaning of striving for God’s cause, the most noble of endeavours in which we are all invited to participate by our Lord. 

This is the vision we should be communicating both internally and in public, and then substantiating it every single day with our individual and collective actions. 

We can do this together!

My comrade in faith, start getting used to the idea that – in a British context as an example – instead of being a majority non-white minority community in a majority white country, we can one day be a majority white majority community. 

Not because white is better or right, and not because numbers should be sought for the sake of numbers, but because this is the natural outcome that would be reflective of our social reality and which would suggest that we’ve done the job God wants us to do: successfully conveying a compelling and relevant message of faith, with a sense of genuine belonging to our country and a real concern for our people. 

Instead of being 4 million out of 70 million in Britain today, why can’t we be 20 out of 80 million by 2050, and 80 out of 100 million by 2100?

Hardly any of our leaders talk about this exciting possibility as an aspirational goal to inspire our efforts. 

But this is all we should be talking about and losing sleep over.

Yes, guidance is in the hands of God. But it's our job to facilitate it. 

We need to stop relying on our birthrate for our future growth. 

We need to stop functioning in survival mode. 

We need to stop being defeatist. 

We have something – the only thing – to offer that can heal and transform our societies. 

For God’s sake, let’s start offering it. 

Because when He asks us why we didn’t, we’ll have no excuses whatsoever. 

“Don’t lose heart and don’t despair; you will have the upper hand if you are true believers.” (3:139)

Until next time.




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