Note: First published in 2009 so some references may be out of date. My notes in [ ].
Those who declare elections and voting in the UK to be 'haram', do so due to a fundamental belief they hold, that Muslims do not belong in this society.
They have a 'romantic' idea of a place where a 'khalifah' (supreme leader) will rule using a rigid 7th century system of government, without elections or giving people a choice of leader. In fact, if Husni Mubarak of Egypt followed their warped version of Islam, he would be their ideal leader. Someone who has been in power without any accountability for most of his life! [Mubarak was overthrown in the Arab Spring revolt of 2011]
This narrow understanding not only has little or no support in Muslim scholarship, but is rejected by mainstream Muslim society.
The very same people who talk now proudly about the contribution of the Muslim community in establishing Mosques, schools, madrassas and charities, not very long ago used to stand outside these very institutions and declare their very existence to be 'haram' and a 'waste of time and resource' as according to their narrow understanding, 'it is only the Khilafah' who can establish and run institutions such as these, as he [note, in their worldview, only males can rule] has the 'mandate to do so' from 'God'.
They shout passionately about the evils of the interest based economic system yet all of them use the banks to do their business and insurance to drive their cars.
I still remember, the heckling and shouting of abuse at those who worked hard to establish Muslim schools and charities to help our community progress and develop, now they need schooling for their kids, it is suddenly an achievement of the community and acceptable, what double standards!
It is because of the isolationist and divisive rhetoric of these very same people, we find scores of our young generation over the last two decades finding themselves lost, and confused about where they belong. Developing anti-British sentiments, which have even led a very small twisted minority to go as far as using violence to prove their point.
Issues of halal and haram are very serious issues which should only be tackled by those who are qualified to do so. In this regard, The European Council for Fatwa & Research (ECFR), made up of the most highly eminent Muslim scholars from around the world, gave this verdict regarding voting: 'Muslim participation in elections is a national duty; it falls under co-operation on that which is good and righteous for the society and warding off harms from it'. Indeed the Qur'an commands the believers to co-operate for righteousness and piety.
Digging trenches and ghettos, and alienating ourselves and our communities from the rest of society, is an extreme which will weaken our community, and leave our next generations without identity, and a proper home, destroying the decades of hard work by our elders to fit in, and contribute and be part of mainstream society.
We should shun any ideas which portray our community as 'the other'. That's the job of the BNP and Nazis who would love to see the back of us. We are no longer 'the other'. We are equal citizens and stakeholders in this society. We need to stop acting like perpetual victims and start acting like active citizens and be free to make choices for ourselves and our future here in the UK.
We should not allow narrow-minded and divisive forces to create a division between us and the rest of society.
Engaging in the political process either by simply voting or participating in party politics and electioneering, is a right our forefathers have fought for and a duty our religion enjoins upon us, let us not throw this away based on some half baked ideas from some who have problems with their own identity and sense of belonging.
Our elders have worked hard to make a home for us in this country. We do not want these pretenders within our community driving a wedge between the different hard working communities in our society and inciting hatred, division and mistrust.
In order to create a better life for ourselves and our children, we are encouraged by scholars of all denominations and schools of thought to take pride in our sense of belonging and exercise our right to engage, and argue our case for a just world.
The time to come out of the cold and engage has never been more pressing than now. So those who wish to stand outside and shout and scream, let them, but let them not hinder our resolve and determination to claim our God given right to be free citizens thinking for ourselves and our future!
A H Sufyan
First published in 2009