With prospects of assuming power looking brighter in the aftermath of the Islamic Awakening sweeping the region, Islamic activists are engaged in a debate about the future political order in the Muslim East. There is near consensus that Islamic parties enjoy broad support, are well organized and will do well whenever elections are held.
With prospects of assuming power looking brighter in the aftermath of the Islamic Awakening sweeping the region, Islamic activists are engaged in a debate about the future political order in the Muslim East. There is near consensus that Islamic parties enjoy broad support, are well organized and will do well whenever elections are held. Efforts, however, are afoot to steer these societies toward a Western model dressed in Islamic garb. Turkey’s secular constitution is being touted as the ideal. There is also no shortage of westerners offering free advice: Tom Friedman (“Macdonalization”), Charles Krauthammer (“we always supported democracy”), Jim Hoagland (“America should remain engaged”) and a host of other commentators. All claim to be champions of democracy and friends of the masses in the Muslim East.
Egypt, where the Islamic pulse is strongest, has become the real battleground. The debate, however, is no longer between the secularists and Islamic thinkers — Islamists in the contemptuous characterization of the West — but between different strands of Islamic thought about the kind of Islamic order they want. The West and its secular puppets are pushing for the “Turkish” or even the “Malaysian” model for Egypt insisting that Islam should assume a subservient role under the secular order. Interestingly, the US is also quietly backing the more extreme Salafi Saudi model. This is designed to turn Muslims away from Islam by projecting it through the narrow intolerant lens of the Wahhabis. After remaining in the shadows for decades, the Salafis have suddenly come to the fore in Egypt.
What is most intriguing is that instead of uniting the different strands of thought in the Islamic movement, the debate has created fissures among them. Ikhwan al-Muslimeen (the Muslim Brotherhood), Egypt’s best organized political party that was banned by the Hosni Mubarak regime for decades, offers the best example. It survived decades of oppression by keeping its head low or operating under the banner of other political parties to run for the rubberstamp parliament. Now that the long-entrenched Western-backed dictator is gone and there is relative freedom, the Ikhwan is beginning to fracture.
True, decades of oppression and Western influence have deeply affected many Islamic activists as well and led some of their leaders and thinkers to begin to formulate responses in Western terms but it would be a pity if they were to emulate Western models of political organization. The West itself is gripped by turmoil; their system no longer serves the needs of the people. Why should Muslims fall for a discredited model that thrives only through exploitation and depriving the majority of its fundamental rights?
The basic issue Muslim activists and thinkers ought to be debating is not whether to follow the Turkish, Malaysian or any other man-made model, but how best to apply the prophetic model in their societies. This is not mere rhetoric; the Prophet’s (pbuh) Seerah offers the best example for Muslims at all times and in all ages. This is also what the Qur’an emphatically states (33:21). The noble Messenger (pbuh) transformed the jahili society of Arabia in the relatively short period of 23 years. He never once thought about emulating the Romans or any other people. Why then do some Muslims feel obliged to tailor their policies to appease the West? Muslims are answerable to Allah (swt) alone; no one else.
Muslims that believe they have to appease the West either suffer from an inferiority complex or are gripped by confusion. This is precisely what led them into the wilderness for so long. It is imperative for Islamic scholars and activists to formulate policies based on the teachings of the Qur’an, and the Sunnah and Seerah of His noble Messenger (pbuh). This is the only model for Muslims; there is no other model; none. All other attempts are bound to fail and will only add to their misery.
The Muslims’ recent past also offers important lessons. Whenever Muslims struggling for their rights rejected one Western imposed system, the West was there to offer another. We witnessed this in Muslim societies being offered capitalism, communism, socialism, Arabism, Ba‘athism, nationalism and a whole array of other isms that were all meant to keep Islam at bay. After all these futile experiments failed, the only option left for Muslims is Islam. It has been successfully implemented in the Islamic Republic of Iran. True, it is not perfect but it is far better than any other systems on offer. If people in the West themselves are rejecting the systems in their societies, why should Muslims accept them?
Islam offers all the freedoms and rights as well as protections that the Muslims need. No other system comes close. Anyone who claims otherwise is either ignorant or an agent of the West. Such people cannot represent the Muslims and should not be allowed anywhere near the levers of power.