Political Activity can be a Good Deed

Some Muslims ask: Are Muslims allowed to participate in the political process of Canada?

This question can be asked and answered from three different perspectives: Legal, pragmatic and religious. Legally, the Canadian constitution and human rights legislation allow all citizens of Canada including Muslims to fully participate in the political process.

Pragmatically, considering the prevalence of anti-Muslim propaganda, the rise of Islamophobia, and the tragic international events which stimulate such propaganda and phobias, it is very tough for Muslims to successfully assert their right to fully participate in the political process. It will require a lot of hard work to overcome the obstacles and odds, but participate we must. Otherwise, we will be further marginalized and victimized. Other communities who suffered discrimination were able to change things through their involvement.

Religiously, some people think that politics is a dirty game that involves unethical, immoral practices; hence, a religious person should stay away from it. Although some politicians may use unethical practices, a Muslim can stay within the boundaries of Islamic ethics by maintaining sincerity and honesty and by supporting only those people who are ethical.

Some Muslims may contend that because the Canadian political system is not as just, equitable and clean as it should be according to Islamic standards, participation in such a system is not allowed. Participation is tantamount to acceptance of the system as is. They identify a valid danger in careless participation. If the people who are participating are not well educated or committed to Islam, they may accept the current Canadian system as an ideal model of governance, losing their ability or drive to encourage Canadians to adopt better standards. Especially, the next generation may not even know any difference. Although this is a legitimate concern, avoiding participation is not the answer.

Whether people get involved or stay on the sidelines, the subsequent generations of Muslims are not going to have a commitment to Islamic standards of justice, equality, ethics and morality, unless they are properly educated in them. If they are adequately and effectively educated, they will keep the higher ideals in mind even as they continue to fully participate in the current political environment. Thus, this is an issue of proper education and training, not of participation.

In fact, lack of participation is counterproductive. Firstly, it makes people ineffective and marginalized. But most importantly, the opportunity to improve the conditions is completely lost.

In addition, those who have opted to live in Canada have already become part of the system. Whether an immigrant or born here, every resident of Canada is by choice a part of the Canadian social and political system. Islam requires Muslims to improve the society they live in, rather than disassociating or remaining aloof from it.

Another way to look at it is that Islamically, Muslims must do only good deeds and they must avoid bad actions or behaviour. For an action to be considered good, it must be done with good intentions, it must have a noble objective and it must be done in the right way according to Islamic teachings.

Thus, if the political participation is:

  • Undertaken for the objective of establishing balance, justice and peace and with the intention of doing one’s Islamic duty; and
  • Carried out according to Islamic ethics and moral teachings without making any compromises or violating any principle;

Then, it definitely is a good deed.


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