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Islam and Politics

September 25, 2007

Despite my ongoing class on religion and politics, I still don’t feel like I understand the main relationship between Islam and politics. Someone tell me if I’m way off base here. Traditionally, there is no separation between din and dawla, or religion and the state. Secularism is impossible. There is debate as to whether the Qur’an offers explicit instructions on how to run a society or only general guidelines as to what a society should be based upon. Either way, Muslims within Islamic countries/states is the rule rather than the exception. Surprisingly, this does not play out in expected ways, though. Instead of a religious head of state who dictates orthodoxy and orthopraxy, there is some separation. Muslims see the state as a necessary evil; it is required in order to maintain peace and order, but doesn’t rule in the name of God. An Islamic state is better than a non-Islamic state, but still does not have the right to declare itself a religious expert or God-proxy. So, what we have are political systems that try to run the country based on the Qur’an, and a religious citizenry that tries to keep the political system in check.Am I on the right track?

For my paper, I think that I want to look at how the Muslim attitude towards politics has changed with the current trends towards deterritorialization. Muslims now live all over the world, many in places where they are the minority. How can you keep din and dawla together when the political system is not of your own making? What do Muslim immigrants think of the political systems of their host countries? I don’t know, though. Is this even a valid question? I just feel like I don’t know enough about Islam and politics, or about how to write a paper for a poli-sci class, to do this. I guess I’ll have to go talk to the prof.

edit: I just got back from talking to my prof.  I feel like an idiot when I talk to him – I don’t think I come across well, and I don’t understand him.  Sigh.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. lmw permalink
    September 26, 2007 1:51 pm

    The feeling like an idiot is why I tend to avoid them…I should work on that.

  2. maffersalmon permalink
    September 26, 2007 6:07 pm

    Natasha,
    I like where your questions are taking you. I wish I could say I am some sort of Islam expert (some day, some day), but I sure as heck am not one now. However, I happen to disagree with much of what has been taught in this class so far, especially with the oversimplifications and generalizations of Browns book. There are all sorts of historical evidence that supports the separation of din and dawla, from early Hadith, to Caliphates, to self sustained communities. The presence of the modern Ulama in Sunni, and Imamate in Shi’a traditions in contemporary times has skewered the views of “traditional historical” references. However, there seems to be, surprise surprise, more then one approach to the modern Islamic state. Or even for modern states inhabiting areas, which were once predominantly Islamic Empires.
    I love the questioning you are undertaking of the self-understanding of the communities in a form of Diaspora. I look forward to reading your finished work.

  3. September 26, 2007 7:28 pm

    You and Erika and I should get together and talk about this stuff, Matt. I’m floundering and don’t quite know what to do. You seem to have a pretty good grip on it – you must, in order to be able to critique it intelligently.

    I’ve been hovering around, but diligently avoiding the word “diaspora.” I want to use it to describe the deterritorialization of Islam, but I don’t quite know if it applies, since there isn’t a singular Muslim community which scattered. I don’t know. I’ve ordered book called “The Muslim Diaspora,” I’ll see what the author has to say on the topic.

  4. maffersalmon permalink
    September 26, 2007 8:59 pm

    Personally, I have to say the term Diaspora is a difficult one, since it has for so very long been one used exclusivly for the Jews. However, the displaced, chosen or not, communities of Buddhists in America are beginning to be titled under the title of a Diasporic People. So perhaps it is time to extend this term across boarders.

  5. September 26, 2007 9:14 pm

    That’s true, but with the word diaspora isn’t there a sense of a coherent community being driven from a place? I understand that Muslims in non-Muslim countries might face a lot of the same problems as diasporic peoples, but there is an important distinction in that most Muslim immigrants to Canada are here because they chose to immigrate here, not because they came as refugees.

  6. maffersalmon permalink
    September 26, 2007 9:54 pm

    Well, i don’t know about that. Most are displaced people. Be they Iranian fleeing the revolution, North or West Africans fleeing the Regime Changes over there, or others who fled economic slavery in their home lands. Most muslims are content in their new home, but that doesn’t mean that they are not displaced

  7. September 27, 2007 2:55 am

    Good point.

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