Muslims in Western Politics

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Chapter 2: Religion and Politics

In some countries, Muslims who pray several times a day are more likely than those who pray less often to say religious leaders should influence political matters. In most countries where the question was asked at least half of Muslims rate Islamic parties as better than, or about the same, as other political parties. Elsewhere, at least one-in-five rate Islamic and other political parties the same. Relatively few Muslims consider Islamic parties to be worse than other political parties.

In many countries, favorable assessments of Islamic political parties track with support for religious leaders having an influence on politics.

Political aspects of Islam

In 15 of the other countries surveyed, similar double-digit gaps emerge over the question of Islamic parties, with those who support a role for religious leaders in politics consistently more favorable toward Islamic political parties. Views on the role of religion in politics may not be the only factor affecting attitudes toward Islamic parties.

Local political circumstances may also influence opinions on this question. Both Tunisia and Egypt, for example, experienced major political upheavals in , with Islamic parties emerging as the dominant political blocs. At least half of Muslims in 22 of the 36 countries where the question was asked say they are at least somewhat concerned about religious extremist groups in their country.

In most countries, Muslims are much more worried about Islamic extremists than Christian extremists. Substantial proportions in some countries, including countries surveyed in the Middle East and North Africa, express concern about both Muslim and Christian extremist groups. In nearly every country surveyed in these regions, at least half of Muslims say they are very concerned or somewhat concerned about extremist groups. In the Middle East-North Africa region, on balance, Muslims are more concerned about Islamic than Christian extremist groups, but more than one-in-five in most countries surveyed in the region are worried about both Islamic and Christian groups.

At least half in nine of the 16 countries surveyed in sub-Saharan Africa also say they are concerned about religious extremism. And in most countries, Islamic extremism rather than Christian extremism is the principal worry. In most of the countries surveyed in the region, worries about Islamic extremists are more common than are concerns about Christian extremists, although one-in-five in Kyrgyzstan are concerned about extremists of both faiths.

In most of the 21 countries where the question was asked few Muslims endorse suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets as a means of defending Islam against its enemies.

American Muslims and American Politics | Department of Religion | The George Washington University

But in a few countries, substantial minorities believe suicide bombing can be often justified or sometimes justified. Muslims in some countries surveyed in South Asia and the Middle East-North Africa region are more likely than Muslims elsewhere to consider suicide bombing justified. Elsewhere in these two regions, even fewer say this tactic can be justified. Parliamentary elections were held in November through January , and the Islamist Freedom and Justice Party was declared the winner of a plurality of seats in January The survey in Tunisia was conducted Nov.


The Islamist party Ennahda won a plurality of seats in the Constituent Assembly elections in October , and the Constituent Assembly met for the first time in November About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research.

Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts. Religious Freedom Muslims generally say they are very free to practice their religion. Islamic Political Parties In most countries where the question was asked at least half of Muslims rate Islamic parties as better than, or about the same, as other political parties.

Suicide Bombing In most of the 21 countries where the question was asked few Muslims endorse suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets as a means of defending Islam against its enemies. Footnotes: 20 The survey in Egypt was conducted Nov.

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Western scholar of Islam, Fred Donner , [22] argues that the standard Arabian practice during the early Caliphates was for the prominent men of a kinship group, or tribe, to gather after a leader's death and elect a leader from amongst themselves, although there was no specified procedure for this shura , or consultative assembly.

Candidates were usually from the same lineage as the deceased leader but they were not necessarily his sons. Capable men who would lead well were preferred over an ineffectual direct heir, as there was no basis in the majority Sunni view that the head of state or governor should be chosen based on lineage alone. Deliberations of the Caliphates , most notably Rashidun Caliphate were not democratic in the modern sense rather, decision-making power lay with a council of notable and trusted companions of Mohammad and representatives of different tribes most of them selected or elected within their tribes.

Traditional Sunni Islamic lawyers agree that shura , loosely translated as 'consultation of the people', is a function of the caliphate.

The Majlis ash-Shura advise the caliph. The importance of this is premised by the following verses of the Quran:. Then when you have taken a decision from them , put your trust in Allah" [ ]. The majlis is also the means to elect a new caliph. Al-Mawardi has written that members of the majlis should satisfy three conditions: they must be just, they must have enough knowledge to distinguish a good caliph from a bad one, and must have sufficient wisdom and judgment to select the best caliph.

Al-Mawardi also said in emergencies when there is no caliphate and no majlis, the people themselves should create a majlis, select a list of candidates for caliph, then the majlis should select from the list of candidates.

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  • In an analysis of the shura chapter of the Quran, Qutb argued Islam requires only that the ruler consult with at least some of the ruled usually the elite , within the general context of God-made laws that the ruler must execute. Taqiuddin al-Nabhani , writes that Shura is important and part of "the ruling structure" of the Islamic caliphate, "but not one of its pillars," and may be neglected without the Caliphate's rule becoming un-Islamic.

    However, These interpretations of Shura by Qutb and al-Nabhani are not universally accepted and Islamic democrats consider Shura to be an integral part and important pillar of Islamic political system. In the early Islamic Caliphate , the head of state, the Caliph , had a position based on the notion of a successor to Muhammad's political authority, who, according to Sunnis , were ideally elected by the people or their representatives, [24] as was the case for the election of Abu Bakar , Uthman and Ali as Caliph.

    After the Rashidun Caliphs, later Caliphates during the Islamic Golden Age had a much lesser degree of democratic participation, but since "no one was superior to anyone else except on the basis of piety and virtue" in Islam, and following the example of Muhammad, later Islamic rulers often held public consultations with the people in their affairs. The legislative power of the Caliph or later, the Sultan was always restricted by the scholarly class, the ulama , a group regarded as the guardians of Islamic law.

    Since the law came from the legal scholars, this prevented the Caliph from dictating legal results. Sharia rulings were established as authoritative based on the ijma consensus of legal scholars, who theoretically acted as representatives of the Ummah Muslim community. Practically, for hundreds of years after Rashidun Caliphate and until the twentieth century, Islamic states followed a system of government based on the coexistence of sultan and ulama following the rules of the sharia.

    Números em texto integral

    This system resembled to some extent some Western governments in possessing an unwritten constitution like the United Kingdom , and possessing separate, countervailing branches of government like the United States — which provided Separation of powers in governance. While the United States and some other systems of government has three branches of government — executive, legislative and judicial — Islamic monarchies had two — the sultan and ulama. According to Olivier Roy this "defacto separation between political power" of sultans and emirs and religious power of the caliph was "created and institutionalized The state was instrument to enable Muslims to live as good Muslims and Muslims were to obey the sultan if he did so.

    The legitimacy of the ruler was "symbolized by the right to coin money and to have the Friday prayer Jumu'ah khutba said in his name. Sadakat Kadri argues that a large "degree of deference" was shown to the caliphate by the ulama and this was at least at times "counterproductive". When Caliph Al-Mutawakkil had been killed in , jurists had retroactively validated his murder with a fatwa. Eight years later, they had testified to the lawful abdication of a successor, after he had been dragged from a toilet, beaten unconscious, and thrown into a vault to die.

    By the middle of the tenth century, judges were solemnly confirming that the onset of blindness had disqualified a caliph, without mentioning that they had just been assembled to witness the gouging of his eyes. According to Noah Feldman, a law professor at Harvard University , the legal scholars and jurists lost their control over Islamic law due to the codification of Sharia by the Ottoman Empire in the early 19th century: [31]. How the scholars lost their exalted status as keepers of the law is a complex story, but it can be summed up in the adage that partial reforms are sometimes worse than none at all.

    In the early 19th century, the Ottoman empire responded to military setbacks with an internal reform movement. The most important reform was the attempt to codify Shariah. This Westernizing process, foreign to the Islamic legal tradition, sought to transform Shariah from a body of doctrines and principles to be discovered by the human efforts of the scholars into a set of rules that could be looked up in a book.

    Codification took from the scholars their all-important claim to have the final say over the content of the law and transferred that power to the state. According to scholar Moojan Momen, "One of the key statements in the Qur'an around which much of the exegesis" on the issue of what Islamic doctrine says about who is in charge is based on the verse. Obey God and obey the Apostle and those who have been given authority [ uulaa al-amr ] among you" Qur'an For Sunnis, uulaa al-amr are the rulers Caliphs and kings but for Shi'is this expression refers to the Imams.

    But there are also sayings that put strict limits on the duty of obedience. Two dicta attributed to the Prophet and universally accepted as authentic are indicative. One says, "there is no obedience in sin"; in other words, if the ruler orders something contrary to the divine law, not only is there no duty of obedience, but there is a duty of disobedience.

    This is more than the right of revolution that appears in Western political thought. It is a duty of revolution, or at least of disobedience and opposition to authority. The other pronouncement, "do not obey a creature against his creator," again clearly limits the authority of the ruler, whatever form of ruler that may be. However, Ibn Taymiyyah — an important 14th century scholar of the Hanbali school — says in Tafseer for this verse "there is no obedience in sin"; that people should ignore the order of the ruler if it would disobey the divine law and shouldn't use this as excuse for revolution because it will spell Muslims bloods.

    Starting from the late medieval period, Sunni fiqh elaborated the doctrine of siyasa shar'iyya , which literally means governance according to sharia , and is sometimes called the political dimension of Islamic law.


    Its goal was to harmonize Islamic law with the practical demands of statecraft. It first emerged in response to the difficulties raised by the strict procedural requirements of Islamic law. The law rejected circumstantial evidence and insisted on witness testimony, making criminal convictions difficult to obtain in courts presided over by qadis sharia judges. In response, Islamic jurists permitted greater procedural latitude in limited circumstances, such as adjudicating grievances against state officials in the mazalim courts administered by the ruler's council and application of "corrective" discretionary punishments for petty offenses.

    However, under the Mamluk sultanate , non-qadi courts expanded their jurisdiction to commercial and family law, running in parallel with sharia courts and dispensing with some formalities prescribed by fiqh. Further developments of the doctrine attempted to resolve this tension between statecraft and jurisprudence. In later times the doctrine has been employed to justify legal changes made by the state in consideration of public interest , as long as they were deemed not to be contrary to sharia.

    It was, for example, invoked by the Ottoman rulers who promulgated a body of administrative, criminal, and economic laws known as qanun. In Shia Islam, three attitudes towards rulers predominated — political cooperation with the ruler, political activism challenging the ruler, and aloofness from politics — with "writings of Shi'i ulama through the ages" showing "elements of all three of these attitudes.

    Political aspects of Islam

    According to some Muslim authors, extremism within Islam goes back to the 7th century to the Kharijites. The Kharijites were particularly noted for adopting a radical approach to Takfir , whereby they declared other Muslims to be unbelievers and therefore deemed them worthy of death. In the 19th century, European colonization of the Muslim world coincided with the retreat of the Ottoman Empire , the French conquest of Algeria , the disappearance of the Moghul Empire in India , the Russian incursions into the Caucasus and Central Asia.

    The first Muslim reaction to European colonization was of "peasant and religious", not urban origin. Sharia in defiance of local common law was imposed to unify tribes.

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