Why Muslims should vote

2008-10-16 00:00

Elections have become a means through which people choose governments, representatives and office bearers in the contemporary world.

Islam commands every Muslim to be explicitly committed to social justice. Community commitment may well be the most effective way to fulfil that command in a democracy. Our collective involvement with the electoral process allows us as a community to express our views and influence the laws and policies which govern South Africa.

On the other hand, our lack of interest in participating in the political process makes us vulnerable to laws, policies and politicians that may undermine our rights.

In recent years, many evils were legalised in South Africa —abortion, same-sex marriages, gambling and shebeens.

There are many other issues such as health care, education, crime, poverty, equal opportunities for all and jobs, which require our urgent attention. The only way we can make a difference on these issues is by registering to vote and voting in the coming elections.

Every Muslim living in a majority non-Muslim country has a role to play in the process of establishing a better life for all the people living together as members of the society, regardless of race, colour or religion.

Islam encourages Muslims to be active and pro-active in any society in which they reside. Muslims have to be constructive and have to participate in public life in a way that enjoins what is good and forbids what is evil.

This participation is essential, as long as it is not motivated by egocentric desires and individual opportunism.

Therefore, a Muslim’s purpose in voting is to bring about a positive change in all of society.

I believe that it is Muslims’ duty to vote because of the following:

• Voting in a democratic structure is one of the few ways to effect social changes, and as Muslims it is our Islamic duty to endeavour to move society forward as closely as possible to the principles of justice, equality, morality, religiousness and compassion for all.

• Muslims are commanded to strive to remove injustice, discrimination and xenophobia in our societies. Islam calls for universalism and inclusiveness.

• Muslims are increasingly becoming targets of racial profiling and discrimination. Unless we stand united to ensure that those who directly or indirectly approve such policies are restrained, the situation will only get worse.

• Muslims have a duty to ensure that our universal and community liberties are not eroded. We must unite with the democratic process in this country and work to ensure that those seeking to bring South Africa closer to countries where civil liberties and human rights are being systematically undermined are stopped.

The state of Muslims in South Africa and in other parts of the world will only go from bad to worse if we remain indifferent and allow politicians to decide policies and laws that may endanger our interests locally and at a global level. While we like to vote for progressive change the presence of some people in the party list is discouraging. “The electoral and party-list system means that voters have no influence on the political system. Power is concentrated in the hands of the party.” However, the iniquity of participation is far less than the harm that will befall Muslims if we do not and Islam teaches us always to choose the middle path. Muslims should not approach the 2009 elections based on identity politics, but should think wisely and make the best choice based on service delivery, accountability, honesty and development. We cannot effect change unless we ensure that those who are committed to justice, integrity and ethics are voted to positions of power.

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