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Politics of Religion

By Wazhma Frogh,
July 2007
Our global village is plagued with perpetual clash of humanity and one humanity is facing millions of threats in most parts of this village. Many of the countries and even regions are in constant crisis and conflict for various political, religious and economical power struggles. We usually hear that “its all political game” that has created tension and chaos among these countries, but the painful part of this political game is that religion too has been mixed in politics for power. I understand that most of us reading this will not like to hear that we are all somehow part of this religious politics, but in the coming paragraphs I am going to prove this hypothesis as a matter of fact.

In parts of the world, where countries state politics are rooted in religious beliefs, there are growing versions of interpretations by political leaders to get to power. Particularly, countries where majority of population are Muslims and the country is called “Islamic Republic of XX”, state politics are also based on Islamic Sharia or Islamic jurisprudence. But the main question is whether we have a common and most of all “true” interpretation of Islamic jurisprudence in these countries or if needed we “interpret” Islam as per our own subjectivity or the biased objectivity. But before religion becomes part of politics, it’s important to understand how it evolves at various levels of institutions like family, community and societal.

Growing up in Islamic environments, I have always heard that Islam is an original religion and has been continuously being implemented and acted upon by Muslims since the times of Prophet (P.B.U.H) with no additions or omissions. But why is it that Muslims enforce the Islamic laws on arbitrary basis which are different for themselves and for others. Muslims condemn killing and brutal inhumane acts against any human beings but they kill and exterminate another human being because another human being relates to another sect of Shia or Sunni or any other sect forgetting that Islam is religion of unity and hasn’t been disaggregated as Shia’s Islam or Sunni’s Islam.

I am sure that some of us would say that actually it’s other political movements that manipulate Muslims against each other and there are great games behind dividing Muslims, but my question is again that is it that we are weak in our faith in Islam? Is it that we are so weak in our faith that we are more susceptible to manipulation and games and go against our beliefs? Or Are we sure that we actually believe our beliefs? My main argument in this last question is that since for most of us religion has been part of the patriarchal culture, we haven’t been able to explore religion in relation to our firm beliefs. I mean that religion has come to us but we haven’t gone to religion. One day I asked my mother that how do we know that our children are Muslims and understand their religion because I haven’t seen us teaching our generations about the religion. She said actually Islam gets to our children through parenthood blood and even when a child is newly born we deliver a prayer anthem (Azaan) to his/her ears and that way we are sure that our child is a Muslim and will behave and comply with Islamic laws.

We can also argue that because we live in Islamic society so our socialization process is fully Islamic and our children learn to be “good Muslims”, however, I would again question that if our society interprets religion quiet differently for different purposes, and establish segregation between Shia and Sunni and other sects, then are we sure that our children are in the right track of Islamic socialization? It’s not only segregation of Shia and Sunni but actually a lot more than that. We are compromising humanity for self interest, we believe that our religion actually commands us to get education but do not let our daughters to get education, we believe that usage of any intoxication is not allowed in Islam but we grow poppy in our lands. We believe that only superior to Allah is the pious of us but we usually make women inferior that men and give Islamic justifications. I have heard from many Islamic scholars that Quran Says” Al Rijal Qawamun alanisa” which according to them means men are superior to women. But we ignore the contextual reasons for this verse and the actual meaning of “ Qawamun” that is related to financial responsibility and financial guardianship of men for their families but we interpret this verse for the social interaction with women and say that women are inferior than women because Quran says so.

As the world is witness of the growing conflict and crisis in many parts of the world and one of the main causes is that religious groups want to rule the countries as per their own interpretations of religion. In such circumstances, I think in such critical conditions, the governments and the United Nations need to come up with solutions to decrease the tensions and crisis in these parts of the world. One way would be for states to define governance and state building efforts as per a common definition of justice and efficiency for people. By a common definition of justice I mean a “justice system which can guarantee human rights as a global need rather than being limited to one religion”. Here comes the question of how to form a common definition of justice in a country? National commissions of people representatives and great assemblies of people can be sources to come up with such a definition, which is mainly based on people’s religious and traditional values but by common I mean that all kinds of religious values of all kinds of people should be considered within a constitution of a country.

When I talk about social justice for people, I mean that all people with different religious beliefs should be treated same within a legal framework of justice in a country. This means that the legal framework of a country should be able to address the justice needs of all religions within their national justice unitary systems. It is important to have the justice system based on a national consensus on human rights and social justice because if that system is based on a single religion, not only that other religions can not be treated equally and fair but also there is a lot of different interpretations of religion by different scholars and clerics as per their own values and beliefs. Most often people’s religious beliefs are mixed with their traditional values and therefore their judgments and perceptions of justice are not purely religious and can not be just to other people who do not belong to their circle.

It has also been seen that justice systems in a country that has limited its laws and regulations to one religion, as arbitrary justice which means case by case dealing of justice as per people’s religious beliefs. Afghanistan saw a recent example of such arbitrary justice, with governments dealing with a convert of religion who was put to capital punishment. In contrast, when war lords proposed their amnesty bill that was favoring their bale in spite of killing innocent people during 1992 civil war and damaging the national interest but it was considered religious because it means for peace and reconciliation. Although the religion does not support such mentality, but since this was some powerful group’s interpretations of religion, it was approved by the government justice system as well so they looked at the process of reconciliation without analyzing its massacre of human rights.

At the same time, it is important for the governments to have a governance system that all religions can be practiced freely and without any barriers, and the government should be also having national programs on providing educational and awareness raising programs for people to know their religion rather than interpreting as per their traditional values. If the governments are not able to adapt their governance system freely for all religions and not favoring one religion, it is likely that various opposition groups will be formed against the government who are the victim or want to rule a country as per their own values.

We need to learn that religion is a spiritual need and should not have political dimensions and we can only secure humanity if we nurture our religion spiritually not through our political ambitions.

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