Muslim Voters: Muslim Electoral Participation In Non-muslim Countries

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Muslim Electoral Participation in Non-Muslim Majority Countries

Veronika Matulova Thesis Fall 2015

Islamic Online University


In the name of Allah Most Gracious and Merciful. All praise and thanks be to Allah without whose blessings and grace this thesis would not be possible. Allah power and might belong to Him, and there is none beside Him who deserves our worship and praise. May the peace and blessings of Allah be on our master Muhammad, his family and companions, and all who follow his blessed footsteps until the last day.

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MUSLIM ELECTORAL PARTICIPATION IN NON-MUSLIM MAJORITY COUNTRIES 1 ABSTRACT This study considered and examined various opinions presented by the Muslim scholars and groups on the issue of elections. There are seven main opinions; three of them prohibit participation in the election. These opinions were further analysed in the light of Islamic principles while not neglecting the reality of elections in the context of 21st century demonstrated by practical electoral campaign examples. Hence, provide readers with theoretical and practical results pertaining to the electoral participation. Through this study, I will prove with practical examples that participation in elections is actually very significant and Muslims, to some extent, have the power to influence the running of the democratic state, or at least, gain some benefits. Votes are the hidden mighty tool that if used properly can change the attitude towards Muslims in a particular state. The electoral systems in Western countries are not like those in countries many immigrants left behind. Muslims must integrate, care, and actively participate in elections because they may improve conditions of present and future Muslim communities; it is their religious responsibility—if they gained the right to do so— and they must choose the lesser evil. Keywords: Elections, campaign, Allah, vote, polls, casting a ballot, power, electoral participation, niqab, hijab, Muslims. Page | 2



Abstract ........................................................................................ 2


Preface ......................................................................................... 5





The Aim of This Thesis .................................................................. 5


Acknowledgements ...................................................................... 5

Introduction ................................................................................... 6 4.1

Background ............................................................................... 6


Research question ....................................................................... 7

Elections........................................................................................ 8 5.1

Definition ................................................................................. 8


History of Democratic Elections ...................................................... 8


Western World ...................................................................... 8


Muslim World ........................................................................ 8

Elections in the Light of Islam .............................................................10 6.1


Summary of Opinions on Electoral Participation ..................................10

Analysis of Arguments against Electoral Participation ................................14 7.1

Elections are Newly Invented Matter ...............................................14


Islamic Election of a Ruler .......................................................14


Exemplary Elections of Early Muslim Leaders ................................14


Participating in elections is an act of disbelief ...................................15


Participating in elections is an act of associating partners with Allah ........16


Voting: The Religious Responsibility .....................................................17


Electoral Campaigns: Quebec, Canada, France, USA .................................18 Page | 3



Quebec 2014: The Hijab Ban .........................................................18


Canada 2015: The Niqab Issue ........................................................18


France Regional 2015: Crackdown on Islamists ...................................19


USA Presidential Election 2016: Muslim Monitoring ..............................19


Quebec, Canada, France, USA Campaign Results Summary .....................20


Voting or Not Voting: The Impact ......................................................21

10.1 Electoral Statistics: The Canadian-Muslim Vote...................................21 10.2 Clarification of removing the niqab for the purpose of identification ........25 11

The Muslim Voice: United & Strong ....................................................26 11.1.1 Power of Vote: Gains of the Canadian-Muslim Community ................28 11.1.2 Power of Vote: New York City ...................................................28 11.1.3 Power of Vote: Changing Europe ...............................................30


Conclusion ..................................................................................31

12.1 Final suggestion .........................................................................33 13

Glossary .....................................................................................34


Works Cited ...............................................................................36

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3 PREFACE This thesis is submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for a Bachelor’s Degree in Islamic Studies from the Islamic Online University (IOU). It contains research conducted from September to January 2016. The supervisor of the thesis has been Sheikh Mukhtar Raban. Solely the author has written the thesis; however, the research, with reference to the sources, is based mainly on the research of others and topic-related contemporary events reported in media from the years of 2013-2015. This thesis has been inspired by recent elections held in the province of Quebec, Canada, in 2014. The agenda of the provincial government, among other points, had wished to follow strict anti-religious policies. The outcome of the elections would directly affect the basic freedom of religion guaranteed by the Part I. of the Canadian Bill of Rights (Justice, 2015). While the rights of Muslims given by the Law Maker, Allah, were threatened, voices forbidding participation in the decisive elections were also getting loud. Hence, the interest to research and analyze the opinions of Islamic scholar on the participation of the election of a non-Muslim government in the light of contemporary issues faced by Muslim minority living in non-Muslim majority countries.

3.1 THE AIM OF THIS THESIS Since this thesis is written as the final thesis of bachelor’s degree in Islamic studies, the opinions are researched and analyzed according to the principles stated in the Islamic law and taught in the Fiqh courses of the Islamic Online University. The emphasis is on the practical application of the Islamic principles in 21. century.

3.2 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to extend my supplication and gratitude to my supervisor, Sheikh Mukhtar Raban, for his guidelines and advice, and IOU fiqh instructors and teachers; especially Sheikh Muhammad Anwar Sahib, Sheikh Mohammad Monzur-E-Elahi, and Dr. Bilal Philips. Page | 5


4 INTRODUCTION The definition and system of the elections evolved throughout the time. Elections were used in ancient Greece and Rome; however, the origins of the elections in the contemporary world gradually emerged from the beginning of the 17th century (Britannica, 2015). Elections provide the wide public with a selection of leaders and contribute to the governance of the state. The Islamic system does not include mass elections of members of the government. Nevertheless, the electoral system exercised by the decision makers, ahl al-hall w’al ‘aqd, is one of the methods a leader of believers, caliph, is selected and this system has played a significant role in the selection of a leader during the era of the first four righteous leaders of the Islamic state (Q&A, Fatwa no: 111836). Hence, we can conclude that the principle of the electoral system was recognized and practised by the best generation (al-Bukhari, 5:57:3) of Muslims, which played an important role in the shaping of Islamic law.

4.1 BACKGROUND Despite warnings and opinions of scholars to the community members to remain in Muslim countries, the large Muslim population has left them, for whatever reason, and settled in the non-Muslim countries. Additionally, the spread of Islam has caused many natives of those non-Muslim countries to embrace Islam. Hence, the Muslim population in various non-Muslim countries has increased significantly and matured over two, three, even four generations. Since a secular government and their laws govern these countries, the clash between religion and secularism was inevitable. Many Western governments are fully aware of the growing and maturing religious attitude of the Muslim community and in order to curb this attitude, diverse new laws have been introduced in various countries all over the world. In France in 2010, face veil has been banned and wearing it in public will bring upon fines (News, 2014). In China, some Muslims were banned from observing the fast of Page | 6


Ramadhan or boarding a public transportation with face veil (Beech, 2014). The question that arises, should Muslims patiently endure discrimination and systematic exclusion from the public life, or simply give up and move to a Muslim country? Understanding the significance of elections in the Western societies, is there a possibility of a third option? Should Muslims residing in secular countries try to change the state dynamics through the existing means of mass elections? And if so, does the Islamic legislative allow Muslims to participate in non-Muslim, non-Shari’ah, democratic political sphere, which by its concept places itself above the laws of the Creator? Will the participation in such elections be viewed as a support of non-Islamic policies against the laws of the Creator?

4.2 RESEARCH QUESTION The clash between Islam and West is ever so present in our times. There are diverse suggestions as to how to deal with this clash. For various reasons, we cannot simply move all the Muslim population to Muslim countries. Hence, should we concentrate on changing the Western countries from within rather than using a force and aggression, which will result in retaliation against Muslims? Should Muslims living in Western countries unite, use wisdom, and tools handed to them by the Western culture to influence the governing system in their favor? Should they use the Western system to their advantage or should they be only the bystanders, insignificant minority and victims of the system? If and what impact can have this unity? Is there a place for mass elections in Islamic legislative?

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5 ELECTIONS 5.1 DEFINITION Elections are a formal process of selecting a person for a public office, or of accepting or rejecting a political proposition by voting (Britannica, 2015). The right to vote is a privilege bestowed upon citizens of a country, where elections are traditionally held. Visitors, temporary or permanent residents do not enjoy such right. Exercising the right to vote is generally seen as a civic duty (King, 2011) through which voices of people are heard. People vote for those, who they feel have their best interests in mind or at least for those, who they see as less evil.

5.2 HISTORY OF DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS 5.2.1 Western World The electoral system has its root in ancient Athens and Rome; however, the origins of the elections in the contemporary world lie in the beginning of the 17th century in the gradual emergence of the representative government in Europe and North America (Britannica, 2015). 5.2.2 Muslim World With the idea of the nomination of Yazid bin Muawiya by his father Amir Muawiya in 670 CE, the tradition of electing a leader died. Abdur Rahman bin Abi Bakr, Abdullah bin Umar, Abdullah bin Zubair and Husain bin Ali expressed great resentment for the nomination of a son by his father. They said, “This selection has been made not for the welfare of the Muslims but for their annihilation because by this way the Islamic Caliphate will resemble the Roman and the Persian empires in which the son succeeds his father to the throne. This selection is against the spirit of Islam” (Najeebabadi, 2001, pp. 37-40). From the beginning of 1970’s, authoritarian leaders in Arab countries like Jordan, Egypt, Morocco and others undertook a series of liberalizing political reforms, which Page | 8


included the introduction of elections (Carolina de Miguel, Amaney A. Jamal, Mark Tessler, 2014, p. 3). Nevertheless, considering the results of the elections of countries such as Egypt or Morocco where the same leaders always won with 99 percent of votes (Scott MacLeod, Amany Radwan, Lindsay Wis, 2005), perhaps the first-ever democratic, real election was held in Tunisia in 2011 (Chrisafis, 2011). Thus, the Muslim world is very young to the concept and system of fair and free election.

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6 ELECTIONS IN THE LIGHT OF ISLAM For many practising Muslims, it is very important to understand clearly the Islamic stance on the electoral participation. Every time there is an election, we find various discussions—not only on social media—about the Islamic ruling on casting a ballot. We will not be able to analyze this issue without comprehensive introduction and summary of all the given opinions no matter where they come from as long as they are significantly loud and influence the opinion of Muslims.

6.1 SUMMARY OF OPINIONS ON ELECTORAL PARTICIPATION When it comes to the issue of the election, scholars are divided. Some divide the issue of voting to elections in a Muslim country, which is not governed by the Islamic law, and a non-Muslim country governed by the democratic system, some make no distinction between them. I have taken into the consideration only those opinions that address the electoral participation in a non-Muslim majority country governed by the democratic system. The justification of opinions, which allow participation, can be summarized as depending on the circumstances and intention, or being an obligation. 1) Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid views elections as an issue that differs according to the circumstances, “This is a matter concerning which rulings may differ according to different circumstances in different times and places. There is no absolute ruling that covers all situations, both real and hypothetical. In some cases, it is wrong to vote, such as when the matter will have no effect on the Muslims, or when the Muslims have no effect on the outcome of the vote. In this case, voting or not voting is all the same. The same applies in cases where all the candidates are equally evil or where they all have the same attitude towards Muslims…” (Q&A, Fatwa no: 3062).

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2) Sheikh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn Baaz, Sheikh ‘Abd al-Razzaaq ‘Afeefi, Sheikh ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Ghadyaan, and Sheikh ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Qa’ood, members of the Fataawa alLajnah al-Daa’imah, issued the following legal opinion, which is based on the intention of the voter and candidate. “It is not permissible for a Muslim to nominate himself in the hope that he can become part of a system, which rules according to something other than that which Allah has revealed and operates according to something other than the Shari’ah of Islam. It is not permissible for a Muslim to vote for him or for anyone else who will work in that government unless the one who nominates himself or those who vote for him hope that by getting involved in that they will be able to change the system to one that operates according to the Shari’ah of Islam, and they are using this as a means to overcome the system of government, provided that the one who nominates himself will not accept any position after being elected except one that does not go against Islamic Shari’ah” (Q&A, Fatwa no: 107166). 3) Sheikh Muhammad ibn Uthaymin, in Liqaa’aat al-Baab al-Maftooh, stated his opinion of elections being actually obligatory, “I think that elections are obligatory; we should appoint the one who we think is good, because if the good people abstain, who will take their place? Evil people will take their place, or neutral people in whom there is neither good nor evil, but they follow everyone who makes noise. So we have no choice but to choose those who we think are fit” (Q&A, Fatwa no: 107166). Additionally, there are those who view elections in general as forbidden and either base their view on elections being an innovation, imitation of the disbelievers, or an association of partners with Allah.

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4) Ash Sheikh Ubayd Al Jaabiree considers elections to be an innovation, which is unlawful and better to stay away from. „Elections are not from the Sunnah (the way of the Prophet) that is known by the Muslims and that which the Salaf traversed upon from the time of the Companions and the Imams of the Taabi‘een, and those who came after them. Rather, it is a newly invented matter in Islam, so it is a bid‘ah (innovation), and if it is a bid‘ah (innovation) then it is muharram (unlawful)” (Talk, 2007). The same opinion was expressed by Sheikh Ahmed bin Yahya An Najmee, „The system of elections is an innovation and it is not permissible for the Muslims to participate in them alongside the disbelievers“ (Talk, 2007). Sheikh Yahya Al Hajoree is of the opinion that they are an imitation; hence, unlawful. “They are from the democratic laws that seek to destroy Allah's true legislation. They are also considered imitation of the disbelievers, and imitating them is not permissible. There is much harm present in them, and there is neither benefit nor gain for the Muslims (in them)” (Talk, 2007). 5) A group called Hizb ut Tahreer is actively warning Muslim not to participate in elections in the West. According to their understanding elections are forbidden, “Participating in presidential, parliamentary and council elections in the West are haram, because they are a type of representation over prohibited actions. In this regard, there is no difference between electing a Muslim or non-Muslim, because the election is related to the prohibited actions that have to be undertaken” (Britain, 2015). 6) Sheikh, ‘Abdul Qadir ibn ‘Abdil ‘Azeez, said that it is disbelief, “As for those amongst the people who vote for them (i.e. Members of Parliament & Congress), they are committing kufr as well, because according to the representative democracy, the Page | 12


voters are in reality delegating them to practice the mastership of shirk – legislating beside Allah – on their behalf. Consequently, taking people as lords beside Allah is a shirk, and a disbelief in Allah, and that is what those who vote for the members of parliament are doing” (Ghurabah, 2013). 7) In April 2015, BBC News reported that in the area around Leicester, UK, anti-voting Islamic stickers, comparing voting to ascribing partners to Allah, have been posted stating, “Voting for Man-Made Laws is Shirk, Associating with Allah” (Parker, 2015).

From the above-mentioned opinions of scholars, we can summarize the opinions on the electoral participation as following:


Obligatory: Elections are obligatory because we need to choose the lesser evil.

2. Recommended: If the vote will influence the outcome, it is better to vote. 3. Permissible: Good intention to change the government. 4. Forbidden: It is a newly invented matter in Islam; hence, unlawful. 5. Not permissible: Imitation of disbelievers; there is much harm present in them,

and there is neither benefit nor gain for the Muslims. 6. Prohibited: Participation in it is an act of disbelief. 7.

Forbidden: Voting for the man-made law is an act of associating partner with Allah.

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7 ANALYSIS OF ARGUMENTS AGAINST ELECTORAL Participation 7.1 ELECTIONS ARE NEWLY INVENTED MATTER Since none of the stated opinions of the scholars is based on the direct rulings contained in the primary sources of the Islamic law such as Qur’an and Sunnah, it is a matter of their own deduction. Yet, considering how the ruler of the Islamic state is being elected, we can demonstrate that opinions stating that election is a newly invented matter is not taking into consideration the concept of the electoral system set by the righteous leaders and examples for the Muslim nation to follow. 7.1.1 Islamic Election of a Ruler There is no dispute that a leader, who will rule his people with justice, is one of the principles well established in Islam. “Indeed, Allah commands you to render trusts to whom they are due and when you judge between people to judge with justice. Excellent is that which Allah instructs you. Indeed, Allah is ever Hearing and Seeing” (Qur'an, 4: 58). There are three methods to appoint a ruler. One of the methods stated in Ahkaam al-Sultaaniyyah; an appointed council of those of power and influence elect the caliph (Al-Maawardi, 1996, p. 12). That appointed council are the decision makers, ahl al-hall w’al ‘aqd, (Q&A, Fatwa no: 111836) who are those qualified to elect or depose a ruler on behalf of the Muslim community (USA, n.d.). 7.1.2 Exemplary Elections of Early Muslim Leaders The Prophet ‫ ﷺ‬said, “I enjoin you to fear Allah, and to hear and obey even if it be an Abyssinian slave, for those of you who live after me will see great disagreement. You must then follow my Sunnah and that of the rightly-guided caliphs. Hold to it and stick fast to it. Avoid novelties, for every novelty, is an innovation, and every innovation is an error (al-Sijistani, 40:4590). He ‫ ﷺ‬also said, “The best of you (people) are my generation, and the second best will be those who will follow them, and then those who will follow the second generation" (al-Bukhari, 8:78:686). This is clear indication that the way of the rightly-guided caliphs is for us to follow. Page | 14


Prophet ‫ ﷺ‬did not appoint any person to be a leader after his passing. Nevertheless, it was not possible for the Muslim society to stay without a leader. Hence, they have implemented the method of election and chosen Abu Bakr to be the first caliph (Najeebabadi, 2000, pp. 273-5). Before Abu Bakr died, he consulted his choice of his successor with a small group of Companions. They have agreed to his selection; thus, Umar ibn Khattab was appointed as a second caliph (Najeebabadi, 2000, pp. 312-5). A third caliph, Uthman bin Affan, was also voted for by a selected group (Najeebabadi, 2000, pp. 381-4). Hence, the principal of election has been known and practised by the best generation. Thus, a claim that this is an innovation is not valid.

7.2 PARTICIPATING IN ELECTIONS IS AN ACT OF DISBELIEF The opinion that participating in elections is an act of disbelief is based on the fact that democratic system governing the Western countries is contrary to Islam (Q&A, Fatwa no: 98134). Hence, the claim stands on participating in such system equals the same result according to the rule “Supporting disbelief is disbelief” (Ghurabah, 2013). While we can agree that democracy according to the Western concept is against the Islamic teachings, participation in such system does not necessarily mean participation in disbelief itself. Among the basic five universal maxims of the Islamic law is “Acts are judged by their goals and purposes” (Kamali, 2008, p. 144). This legal maxim implies, if a person has a good intention, wishes to change the system for the betterment of the country’s Muslim community, and follows the Qur’an command of enjoining good (Qur'an, 3:110), there is nothing wrong with his participation. Above all, abstaining from voting may actually cause more harm than voting itself. In conclusion, calling someone a disbeliever without sufficient proof has a serious consequence. Hence, such accusations should not be uttered lightly. The Messenger

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of Allah ‫ ﷺ‬said, “If a man says to his brother ‘O Disbeliever!’ Then surely one of them is such (i.e., a disbeliever)” (al-Bukhari, 8:73:125).

7.3 PARTICIPATING IN ELECTIONS IS AN ACT OF ASSOCIATING PARTNERS WITH ALLAH The opinion that participating in elections is an act of associating partners with Allah, is based on a claim that a person votes for man-made laws. It can be said that “the democratic system is one of the modern forms of shirk in terms of obedience and following, or legislation, as it denies the sovereignty of the Creator and His absolute right to issue laws, and ascribes that right to human beings” (Q&A, Fatwa no: 107166). However, the electoral process does not represent a choice between the man-made laws and the God-made laws. It is a choice between candidates of the same political system of the country one has chosen to reside in and their election campaign promises. Furthermore, it complies with the basic universal maxim of the Islamic law “A greater harm is eliminated by [tolerating] a lesser one” (Kamali, 2008, p. 147). Hence, abstaining from actively choosing the lesser evil may produce the prevalation of the greater evil.

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8 VOTING: THE RELIGIOUS RESPONSIBILITY When Muslims enjoin right and forbid evil, they are considered to be the best nation, as stated in the Qur’an, “You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah” (Qur'an, 3:110). Muslims should strive to be exemplary citizens. This is part of our religion. The Prophet ‫ ﷺ‬said, "It is obligatory for one to listen to and obey (the ruler's orders) unless these orders involve one disobedience (to Allah); but if an act of disobedience (to Allah) is imposed, he should not listen to or obey it" (al-Bukhari, 4:52:203). If we analyse this hadith, we can conclude that the obedience is general. There is no distinction between a Muslim and a non-Muslim land. Hence, as long as the laws of the country where one resides do no ask for acts of disobedience to Allah, a Muslim should be a law-obedient citizen striving to promote the values of Qur’an and Sunnah according to his available means. “Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded” (Qur'an, 16:90). Once a Muslim has gained the right to vote, which is bestowed on citizens only, he must exercise this right for the good of his religion and society. It is very rare that there will be a situation, where all parties are equally harmful. In today’s world, it is very common to find at least one party, which will strive to suppress the practising and spreading of Islam and use the fear of Muslims for their political gain. Therefore, Muslims should care and actively participate in elections because they may improve conditions of the Muslim community. Furthermore, it is their religious responsibility if they gained the right to do so and they must vote to choose the lesser evil if no benefits are obvious.

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9 ELECTORAL CAMPAIGNS: QUEBEC, CANADA, FRANCE, USA In order to look at other opinions of Muslim scholars such as voting only when votes matter or choosing a lesser evil, we need to analyze examples of actual electoral campaign proposals and promises. We will look closely at four recent electoral campaigns in Quebec, Canada, France, and the USA because, in all the campaigns, Muslim rights of freedom of religion were threatened.

9.1 QUEBEC 2014: THE HIJAB BAN On September 10, 2013, Bernard Drainville, and a Minister responsible for democratic institutions and active citizenship and a member of the Parti Québécois (PQ) (Québec, 2014) under the leadership of Pauline Marois (Québec, 2015), unveiled the Québec values charter (Encyclopedia, 2015). The principal aim of this highly anticipated charter was the creation of a secular society, where religion and state are completely separate. Among the proposals was a ban on the wearing of any visible religious symbols, hijab included, for all public sector employees. Furthermore, it would make it mandatory to have one’s face uncovered while providing or receiving a state service (Assembly, 2013). The PQ had a minority government and needed the support of the opposition, or to win election and gain a majority to pass this charter, which was a key element in party’s election platform (News & Authier, 2013).

9.2 CANADA 2015: THE NIQAB ISSUE Niqab controversy has sparked heated debate in 2015 Canada federal elections. The former prime minister and a leader of the Conservative party, Stephen Harper, described the niqab as “anti-women” (Tonda MacCharles, Ben Spurr, 2015). Among his electoral promises was passing a ban on niqab in the federal civil service. Meaning, if a woman covering her face wants to receive a services from the federal government, she will be required to unveil her face every time. “We do not allow people to cover their faces during citizenship ceremonies. Why would Canadians, Page | 18


contrary to our own values, embrace a practice at that time that is not transparent, that is not open and frankly is rooted in a culture that is anti-women,” Mr. Harper told the Commons. “That is unacceptable to Canadians, unacceptable to Canadian women” (Chase, 2015). Harper’s appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada to hear its case for striking down the lower court rulings that allowed women to wear the niqab at citizenship ceremonies was overturned (Kennedy, 2015).

9.3 FRANCE REGIONAL 2015: CRACKDOWN ON ISLAMISTS Marine Le Pen, the president of the far-right National Front party, was preying on the Syrian-immigration crisis in Europe. She has used the death of 129 people in Paris to spread more fear saying, “France and the French are no longer safe” (Nossiter, 2015). Among proposals of her political campaign are a crackdown on Islamists in France, expulsion of foreigners who preach hatred on the French soil, stripping binational Islamists of citizenship (Nossiter, 2015). She is known to link the Muslims praying outside to Nazi occupiers. "It is an occupation of sections of the territory, of districts in which religious laws apply. It's an occupation," said Le Pen at the Party rally. In addition, she proclaimed in Lyon, "For those who want to talk a lot about World War II, if it's about occupation, then we could also talk about it (Muslim prayers in the streets) because that is the occupation of territory" (Telegraph, 2010). She has stood firmly behind her remarks previously cited at the Lyon court—where she was charged with inciting racial hatred—claiming that she has not committed a crime and that it is her duty as a political leader to address such a fundamental subject (Samuel, 2015).

9.4 USA PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION 2016: MUSLIM MONITORING Donald Trump, the 2016 United States presidential election’s candidate for the Republican Party, is very bold and straightforward in his anti-Muslim aspect of his campaign. He suggested that he would set up a database for Muslim-Americans and

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most likely even mandating that they carry special identification cards that note their faith (Obeidallah, 2015).

9.5 QUEBEC, CANADA, FRANCE, USA CAMPAIGN RESULTS SUMMARY While the USA presidential election is yet to be decided, we know now that all of the above-mentioned political parties lost and their promises will not materialize for now. Pauline Marois stepped down as a party leader after losing seats to the Liberal Party (News, 2014). This put an end to the Québec values charter banning any visible religious symbols, hijab included, for all public sector employees. Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party has lost its election to the Liberal Party and its leader, Justin Trudeau (Schwartz, 2015). There are suggestions that his lost can be attributed to his aggressive campaign on the niqab issue (Braid, 2015). Marine Le Pen has gained a support in the first round of the regionals when about 50 percent of French population voted. However, in the second round where 59 percent went to the polls, her party lost ridings in all regions (Viscusi, 2015).

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10 VOTING OR NOT VOTING: THE IMPACT The Quebec 2014 and Canada 2015 election campaigns have directly threatened Muslim women rights to practise their religion. There is almost no disagreement on the fact that a Muslim woman should abide by the Islamic dress code, which includes head-covering. It is a direct order to the Muslim women from Allah (Qur'an, 33:59). While the scholars are not united on the issue of the niqab, there is a part of the community that considers an obligation of a Muslim woman to cover her face (Q&A, Fatwa no: 11774). Hence, even if one does not agree with that opinion, it is not possible to deny that it exists. France regional 2015 and USA presidential 2016 propaganda has called for crackdown on Islamists and monitoring of Muslims. If such laws were going to be implemented, who is to say who is the “good” and who is the “bad” Muslim? We thank Allah that the three above-mentioned political parties with their proposition did not win. We might not be able to accurately state that the deciding votes were in the hands of Muslims yet we cannot claim that Muslims had no impact on the final results.

10.1 ELECTORAL STATISTICS: THE CANADIAN-MUSLIM VOTE Since the electoral system does not keep track of its voters’ religious beliefs, we cannot accurately assess the voting Muslim participation. Nevertheless, a website The Canadian-Muslim Vote has published results of a countrywide survey on the electoral participation Figure 1. The results provide a valuable insight into the Muslim-Canadian voting participation. Before we analyze the data, it is noteworthy to mention that Canada federal election was highly debated and promoted in local Muslim communities countrywide. The Canadian-Muslim Vote organization has worked tirelessly to increase voter turnout. They have asked leaders of the participating Parties to send them promotional videos Page | 21


to be posted on their website. Posters stating, “I gave up my voice last time. Not this time,” or “You speak loudest when you vote,” were promoted on social media and handed to the community. “We are not here to rally any sort of political agenda or Muslim agenda,” said Muneeza Sheikh, and a volunteer with The Canadian-Muslim Vote, “We are really here to do whatever we can to make it easy for people to shed their concerns, laziness, or apathy, and simply go out to vote” (Javed, 2015). It seems as their efforts were not wasted because the 2015 Muslim voter turnout rate is much higher in comparison to the 46.5 percent in the 2000 federal general election (Javed, 2015). Estimated 79 percent of Canadian Muslims voted in the 2015 Federal election according to a recent post-election poll conducted by Mainstreet Research, which surveyed 802 Muslim Canadians from November 3-5 across five municipalities: London, Ottawa, Greater Toronto Area, Edmonton and Vancouver as well as nine ridings (Vote, n.d.). Estimated 18 percent of Canadian Muslims did not vote and the reason of a 35 percent of them is “Don’t care or does not make a difference,” Figure 2. Figure 1 Muslim Voters Participation in Canadian Federal elections 2015 (Mainstreet Research)

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Figure 2 Top Reasons Muslim Did and Did Not Vote (Mainstreet Research)

If we were to analyze the reasons why people did not vote, we will find only one of them justifiable and reasonable; 36.2 percent of those who did not vote, could not due to the citizenship issues. Thus, even if they wanted to, they were not eligible. The vast majority of non-voters did not know enough, did not have time, or did not care. Here comes a question. What Muslim does not care if a political party that has previously won two election campaigns (Parliament, 2015), changed the peacekeeping image of Canada to active and engaging in physical combat in Muslim countries (MacKinnion, 2015), and currently waging war on the niqab, wins the election again? Islamic Institute of Toronto president Fareed Amin has the possible explanation. In his own words, “"Many of the first-generation immigrants come from countries where whether you participate or not doesn't make a difference, so sometimes there's that skepticism to participate in the political process." Some new Canadian even carry the view that political involvement is potentially dangerous due to the climates experienced in the countries they left behind (Nasser, 2015). Page | 23


Nevertheless, the Prophet ‫ ﷺ‬said, “Muslims are like one body of a person; if the eye is sore, the whole body aches, and if the head aches, the whole body aches” (an-Naysaburi, 32:6261). Hence, it is not possible for a Muslim who has gained the right to vote to abstain from exercising his right and not care about his own community. In such case, the obligation of voting should be stressed as expressed by Sheikh Muhammad ibn Uthaymin in Liqaa’aat al-Baab al-Maftooh. “Evil people will take their place, or neutral people in whom there is neither good nor evil, but they follow everyone who makes noise. So we have no choice but to choose those who we think are fit” (Q&A, Fatwa no: 3062). Furthermore, taking into consideration that election is highly publicized, debated and important event of the country, there is no explanation as to why would 47 percent of Muslim voters not have sufficient information to cast a ballot. All the information and detailed analysis of the various campaigns are easily searchable on the Internet if one possesses neither TV, Radio nor reads local newspapers. To conclude the excuses, everyone who is eligible to vote must have three consecutive hours to cast his or her vote on Election Day by the Canadian law. If their employment does not permit them to have three consecutive hours, the employer must give them time off (Canada, 2015). Additionally, the Canadian electoral system allocates four extra days for advance polls (Canada, 2015). Hence, the 19 percent of Canadian-Muslims, who found no time to vote, had five days to cast their ballots. It is important to remind that our Prophet ‫ ﷺ‬taught us a supplication against laziness, “O Allah! I seek refuge with You from helplessness, laziness, cowardice and feeble old age; I seek refuge with You from afflictions of life and death and seek refuge with You from the punishment in the grave” (al-Bukhari, 4:52:77).

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10.2 CLARIFICATION OF REMOVING THE NIQAB FOR THE PURPOSE OF IDENTIFICATION There was a proposition from the Chief Electoral Officer Marcel Blanchet of Quebec in 2007 Quebec elections that a face-veil-wearing voter would be required to show her face (News, 2015). Marc Mayrand, Canada's chief electoral officer, had announced that voters wearing a face-veil could cast their ballots if they met certain conditions. (News, 2015). Therefore, we need to understand what is the Islamic ruling on removing veil for the purpose of identification. Does that excuse niqabwearing women from participating in elections? Are women prohibited from showing their covered faced in all situations? Can they uncover their face to men outside their families? According to the Islamic law, a woman who covers her face is allowed to remove her veil in front of a male official for the purpose of identification. Such ruling has been indicated in extensive and detail fatwa “When is it permissible for a woman to uncover her face?” from the Hijaab al-Muslimah bayna Intihaal wa Ta’weel alJaahileen, p. 239, listing various situations when a woman is permitted to uncover her face (Q&A, Fatwa no: 2198). Hence, Islam does not restrict the niqab-wearing woman from exercising her right to vote even if the means removing her veil for the purpose of identification.

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11 THE MUSLIM VOICE: UNITED & STRONG The Muslim population, migrating and living in the Western countries for many years now, forms a significant part of many countries today. Table 1 demonstrates an estimation of the Muslim population in 2015 (Mohamed, 2016; Post, 2015) and projection growth in 2030 (Rogers, 2011) in USA, Canada, and France. The projected growth is very significant because whatever influence we have currently on the results of the elections, it will be multiplied in future. In numbers is a strength yet without efficient execution, the numbers will carry no weight. Table 1 Muslim Population 2015, 2030








2015 (million)



2030 Percentage(%)

(million) Canada















In 2011, over half a million (513,000) Muslims were eligible to vote and more have turned 18 years old since then, increasing the number significantly (Hamdani, n.d., p. 18). Unfortunately, historically, the Muslim voter turnout has been very low. In 2004 federal election, only 46.5 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots while the national average is 60.9 percent. This is most likely the scenario of most Western countries. Native-born Muslims made up over a fifth (22.8 percent) of all Muslims in 1991, which has jumped to 28.0 percent in 2001 (Hamdani, n.d., p. 5). With native-born Muslims integrating into society faster than their immigrant parents, it is a possibility that Page | 26


the higher electoral participation in subsequent years may be attributed to the electoral education, integration, and understanding the significance of the vote, since 82 percent of Muslims who voted view their participation as a civic duty (Figure 2). A 26-year-old young professional confirmed that his immigrant parents are not as concerned about the happening in Canada as “back home.” "When it comes to politics, they tend to care more about where they are from versus where they are living," says Umair Ali of his parents' generation. For him, though, what matters is what is happening right here in Canada. It is a sentiment much Muslim youth, either born or raised in Canada, share (Nasser, 2015). In 2015 elections, the voter turnout has risen significantly and an estimation of 79 percent cast their ballots as demonstrated in Figure 1. Daood Hamdani, a faculty member of the Canadian Muslim Leadership Institute, said, “The Muslims can influence the outcome in many ridings particularly when the elections are close, as was the case in several elections before 2009. Their vote carries an enormous weight and could even decide which party forms the government when no party wins the absolute majority in the parliament” (Hamdani, n.d., p. 18). And this is something that Muslims living in the Western countries must realize. Voting is a cornerstone of the democratic system governing the Western countries. The Muslim population in the West is growing rapidly (Table 1). Hence, we must seize the opportunity, and become an active and strong segment of our societies. If Muslim turnout in every election will be strong, the running Parties will have no choice by to acknowledge the strength of their votes and present them with something that will attract their voters’ attention. Nevertheless, we have to understand that politicians are not mind readers. Hence, our desires have to be formulated and propagated clearly and loudly.

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Power of Vote: Gains of the Canadian-Muslim Community

The Canadian federal 2015 elections have seen great Muslim participation. Their main concerns were human rights/civil liberties, foreign policy, healthcare, education, and others. For the complete list, refer to “The Canadian Muslim Vote” website. And this is what they have been in majority voting for (Vote, n.d.). Newly elected MP for Mississauga Center, Omar Alghabra, said, “It was clear that the Muslim community had an impact on the outcome of the election. And it’s a reassuring message to every citizen that their participation through voting and maybe even more has an impact on the outcome” (Javed, 2015). This election was a landmark for the Canadian Muslim community with the election of 11 Canadian Muslims to parliament (Rana, 2015) and the first-ever Muslim minister, 30-year-old, former Afghani refugee, Maryam Monsef (Raj, 2015). The new, Muslim friendly, Liberal Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, is a pleasant change in the leadership that was not very Muslim-friendly. He stresses the values that celebrate the country’s diversity and religious tolerance that make Canada a great country. After an attack on a mosque in Peterborough, he issued the following statement, "To the families who attend the mosque for prayer every week, the Government of Canada and our law enforcement agencies will protect your rights and make every effort to apprehend any perpetrator. I hope your mosque will be open for prayer again very soon” (Trudeau, 2015).


Power of Vote: New York City

There is an estimate 2-3 percent Muslims adult population in New York. (Carnes, 2015) What impact can have such a small group on the election? It might seem small and insignificant. However, do not let the numbers deceive you. We need to take into consideration that not all eligible voters cast their ballots. The 2013 New York City mayoral election Democrat’s candidate, Bill de Blasio, was strategically looking for supporters and he did not overlook the Muslim population Page | 28


because of their significant voting numbers. The Arab American Association of New York and the Islamic Center at New York University sponsored a debate among the mayoral candidates. In answer to a child’s question, all of the candidates presented, including Bill De Blasio, pledged to close the schools for the Muslim holidays (Otterman, 2014). This issue has brought many previously non-involved Muslims. In general, Muslim holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, in the West are normal working and school days. While Muslims get days off on the state, Christian, and some even on the Jewish holidays, in order to celebrate their own, they need to either take a leave, unpaid day off or skip that day at school. Bringing the Muslims holidays to the school calendar is something the local Muslim community has been striving for. When expressing the meaning of such recognition, Ms. Barco’s daughter, Fadila, 15, a 10th grader at Harlem Village Academy, said, “It meant that they understood that our religion was important to us and that they cared about us” (Otterman, 2014). A Columbia University study in 2008 found that about 95 percent of Muslim children in the city attend public schools and about 10 percent of New York City public-school children are Muslim (Otterman, 2014). Many times, important exams are set on the days of the Muslim holiday and children have to choose between celebrating their day of joy or attending an important exam. The Democrat’s candidate, Bill de Blasio, won the election by a landslide and become the New York City mayor (Gabbatt, 2013). It took some time to fulfill that pledge, but in March 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that New York schools have added two Muslim holidays to their calendars for official days off. Meaning, all public schools in the largest US system will close for Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr (McCarthy, 2015).

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Power of Vote: Changing Europe

As Canada see the rise of active voters so is France. The active Muslim population in France continues to rise. They are bringing a very important contribution to the Socialist and left-wing parties. In the last presidential votes, 93 percent of French Muslims voted for François Hollande. The former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has angered the French Muslim population with its ban on niqab (Lichfield, 2011). “[French] Muslims can’t stand it anymore. They are fed up with these debates about national identity, halal meat, the veil or fundamentalism all over the place,” said Francoise Lorcerie, a sociologist with the Institute of Studies on the Arab and Muslim World near Marseille (Barzegar, 2012). In his campaign, François Hollande, the current French president, pledged an amnesty to all of the estimated 400,000 illegal Muslim immigrants currently in France. He also pledged to change French electoral laws so that Muslim residents without French citizenship would be allowed to vote in municipal elections as of 2014 (Kern, 2012). In Britain, during the 2010 elections, Muslims voters were the deciding factor in 82 constituencies (Kern, 2012). With increasing politically active Muslim population in Europe also, we should expect to see the impact of their votes in the near future.

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12 CONCLUSION The system of election has been absent from the Islamic system for over thousand years. Royal families who appoint their successor from within their kin or some kind of power-inheriting system govern most Muslim countries. Recent years have seen some Muslim countries having some type of elections; however, for an election to mean something, ompetitive parties need to be present and voters should have a choice of at least two alternatives. Furthermore, the decision of the election should be final and binding, and no authority should declare them invalid without any sufficient proof. Hence, Muslims are not brought up and accustomed to participate in elections or consider them of any significance. On the other hand, native-born Muslims are being brought up in democratic systems. During their high school/secondary years, they are taught about the importance of the vote. The system of election and its significance is introduced to them. Stateborn Muslims will continue to be the fasted growing segment for decades to come. In Canada, they have already surpassed the Arab Muslim population and are now poised to replace South Asians as the largest group in the country (Hamdani, n.d., p. 27). Thus, they are and continue to be a significant and powerful segment of voting society. It is crucial for the betterment of the Muslim community to recognize this power. One of the basic principles of Islam is the need to actively engage in change. “Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves” (Qur'an, 13:11). Furthermore, this is supported by saying of the Prophet ‫ﷺ‬, “Tie up (your camel) [i.e., take the necessary precautions], and put your trust in Allah” (at-Tirmidhi, 2517).

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Hence, Muslims cannot live in the Western countries, complain about their situation, hope for change in their favor yet do nothing. This is not what makes a Muslim Muslim. The New York City community is the perfect example. They have actively engaged with the mayoral candidates. They have made themselves heard. And once a winning candidate made a pledge, the Muslim community must be determined to push the proposal forward with hope and expectations for the new administration. “To have this implemented, that’s our next step,” said Ahmed Jamil, Muslim American Society (MAS) outreach director in Astoria, Queens. “Until it’s signed, it’s still a promise” (Yu, n.d.). It is time for the Muslim community to unite, stand up, and show whom we are and what we stand for. We must remember that in the Western world, the loudest get their voice heard. We must communicate our desires and conditions effectively in order to be heard. We cannot expect politicians to run after our needs while we cannot even express them. If we want our situation to improve, we have no other choice but to unite, organize, and become politically active. Our faith does not require us to watch from far while others decide our future. Part of being a Muslim is being a responsible citizen. It is Allah’s will that some of the Muslims settled in the non-Muslim countries. By His permission, many of them gained the right to vote. Thus, those Muslims, who have the right to vote in the Western countries, should not abstain from exercising such right. Even though there are voices of certain Muslims groups and individuals, who advocate the prohibition of participation in the election of a non-Muslim government, it is important to understand that not participating in elections may actually be against Islamic principles. What is even more puzzling that the strongest voices against participation are coming from the local community itself. It is not from people living in Muslim countries rather those living within the Western Page | 32


countries. Hence, their opinion is actually close to cutting its own rope. They have decided to reside in the Western countries, criticize the Western governments and policies yet prevent people to become strong voting community by threatening them with a grave sin of associating partners with Allah, by casting their vote, without the backing of Islamic rulings. Such is the example of some UK Muslim communities (Parker, 2015). Those who oppose the power of a vote, clearly underestimate its reality, which is proven to be true by the New York City community and other campaigns. Nevertheless, it is important that the Muslim community does not get mobilized only when it matters. They have to be continuous advocates for the betterment of the community. This constancy will bring them the serious attention of the politicians. Hence, numbers along with steady, strong participation are what will bring weight to their votes. We can conclude that participating in the election is civic and perhaps even religious responsibility of Muslims depending on the consequences of the passive approach. By the will of Allah, some were given the right to vote in a non-Muslim country, and should therefore take the responsibility and actively participate in the government election because abstaining will bring more harm than benefit to the Muslim community.

12.1 FINAL SUGGESTION Throughout the research, it is obvious that Muslim community needs to address the voting issue responsibly and in an organized manner in order to display its strength. I would suggest for all Muslim communities in various non-Muslim majority countries to have their own websites where they publish and conduct various polling surveys in order to promote the active-voter attitude. Furthermore, such data will be useful for analysis of Muslim election participation, which may further attract various Parties. Page | 33


13 GLOSSARY Allah – Arabic translation of the term for One God. This word comprehensively includes that He alone deserves to be worshipped and that He has no partners, spouse, or children. Bid’ah – innovation Caliph – a leader of the entire Muslim community Haram - forbidden Hijab – A scarf used as a head covering of a Muslim woman, which may be of various shapes, colors, and styles. Kufr – disbelieve Imam – an Islamic religious leader Niqab – A piece of cloth that covers a face of a Muslim woman. The general Islamic view on the face-veil divides to three main categories: obligation, recommendation, permissible. Shari’ah – A legal system of Islam Sheikh - an Islamic scholar Shirk – Ascribing partners in worship to Allah. In Islam, this is considered to be one of the major sins. If one dies ascribing partners to Allah, he will never attain eternal piece in Paradise. “Indeed, Allah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with Allah has certainly fabricated a tremendous sin” (Qur'an, 4:48). Sunnah – Tradition of Prophet; actions, sayings, and silent permissions. Taabi’een – 1st generation of Muslims after the Companions of the Prophet ‫ﷺ‬ Qur’an – A scripture from God (Allah) Page | 34



- An Arabic calligraphy meaning, “Peace and blessing be upon Prophet


Additional Note: The titles Prophet or Messenger of Allah refer to Muhammad, the last of the prophets and messengers of One True God.

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