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Mazin Abdul-Adhim. Photo: screenshot YouTube Mazin Abdul-Adhim

Canadian Muslim scholar explains the Islamic perspective on democracy

Mazin AbdulAdhim is a prominent Canadian Muslim scholar and Imam of Iraqi descent who is affiliated with the pro-Caliphate Islamic global movement of Hizb ut-Tahrir.

On May 17, 2018 Hizb ut-Tahrir Canada posted a short clip of an interview with London, Ontario based Mazin Abdul-Adhim whi discussed the Islamic perspective on democracy. The following is the transcription of the video:

Mohammed Ibrahim: Peace and blessings be upon you brothers and sisters. My name is Mohammed Ibrahim and here we have brother Mazin Abduladhim. Today we’ll be having a frank discussion on the issue of voting, elections and what this all means in Islam and how we might fit into it. So our brother here, first question I would like to start with is, if you just give us a brief rundown on what parliamentary system is?

Mazin Abduladhim: So a lot of people often consider that the parliamentary system is kind of like a shura. Some people might think that it’s like a system where people get together and represent the people because it’s considered like a representative democracy. And really what it is it’s, because it’s a representative democracy what you’re doing is, the parliament that has MPs, which are members of parliament, and those members of parliament are chosen by the people to go to Parliament and act on the people’s behalf. Whoever elected them they’re your voice in Parliament, and therefore that’s what they do. They just basically sit there and there’s one additional element that has to be understood. They don’t go there as individuals they go there as a party member. So they’re bound by the rules of a particular party. So you might like a particular person who represents you, but that person is bound by the party line and they are required to vote for example often according to what the party demands. So it’s very important to understand that they’re not really independent. There are some people who are independent but they’re they have no or have a very little influence in Parliament. The real concern is those who are members of a particular party such as the liberals or the conservatives or the NDP They are bound by the party, the party line or whatever direction the party wants to go.

Mohammed Ibrahim: Now speaking of those MPs, can you give us a little bit more context on who they are, what they do, what they were all is in the system?

Mazin Abduladhim: So there’s obviously a mix of MPs. You’ll find a lot of MPs are really in there because they want to do good for people. They really want to represent the voice of the people. They want to bring about a positive change. I know personally a lot of people who ran to be MPs Muslims and non Muslims who, they really had this almost idealistic view of – we’re going to bring about change and bring about good and so on. But again the first problem that they realized an actual lot of people that I knew ended up just quitting, because they realize that they’re actually bound by a party line. So that’s the thing. So when you have a member of parliament the real issue that we have to look at as Muslims is that what we’re doing is we’re not selecting a person that we like. We’re not selecting a person who’s going to represent us as in, like he’s going to give us a voice and say that, well, you know, my friend, you know, Mazin, or my friend whoever is he, he really wants to have a few more trees in the park across the street. When you vote for an MP you’re voting for a person to act as a legislator for you in parliament, and that’s we suddenly start crossing a really big red line according to Islam, because now suddenly you’re choosing somebody who is acting as a legislator of laws, not only on his behalf or his party’s behalf, he’s acting as a legislator on your behalf, because you elected him, because it’s a representative democracy, and so the people in parliament they are essentially they’re your delegates. You delegated for them to legislate the law. So therefore you’re responsible for what they do. And that’s a major issue. So then the really big question that pops up at this point in time is the question of is it permissible for a Muslim to delegate somebody to legislate man-made laws on your behalf? Right? That’s aside the question – are you allowed to choose a non-Muslim to legislate laws based on secular liberal laws. But the first question initially is – are Muslims allowed to delegate anybody to go and legislate laws in the place of Allah, Glorified and Exalted be He, in a parliament of any sort.

Mohammed Ibrahim: So in essence the issue here is about individual responsibility and how we delegate that responsibility when it comes to legislation.

Mazin Abduladhim: Yeah, exactly. The real issue is that because for us as Muslims, one of the things that we notice is that due to the fact that we’ve been living in a world, really, that is completely dominated by secularism, and secularism says that when it comes to political affairs, when it comes to anything related to religion, it’s to be separated from matters of politics. So the real problem is that we’ve been raised in an environment that has taught us when you deal with politics you go by whatever is considered quote unquote practical or whatever is considered. You could you go through maybe a cost benefit analysis, you go by whatever is possible. In Arabic they have a principle called ‘khoud wa-taleb’, which is – take what you can and then try to get more. Right? Everything is by gradualism, it’s about meeting people half way, diplomacy, all these sorts of ideas. And so the problem is that for us as Muslims we’ve been taught, we’ve never been taught any other way, really. We’ve lost our understanding of how to approach politics in the Islamic perspective and therefore when we approach these types of politics, we first need to stop and say: well, how does Islam teach us to look at politics? How does Islam teach us to look at a legislative procedure? Once we do that, we start by defining the Islamic viewpoint, and then we look at anything conflicts, and then we of course must insist as Muslims at minimum of believing in the viewpoint of Islam, and on top of that working towards implementing it of course in the Muslim lands, but that’s all point is that it’s what we’ve done is whenever we look at solutions that exist or political processes or any sort of political solutions in the world today, we are all, almost entirely, almost exclusively Muslims around the world, where we are acting based on a cost benefit analysis, the principles of necessity, the principle of the ideals of Islam ‘maqasid al-Shariah’ [مقاصد الشريعة], the ideals that Islam aims to achieve and protect. So what we’re doing is we’re really taking the secular cost benefit analysis by saying, you know, is it harmful? Is it beneficial? Is it taking freedoms away? Is it preserving the freedoms? and so on and then we’re kind of trying to find excuses from Islam to justify this thinking, and that’s essentially what was happening. So we need to realize that, we need to take a step back and first of all ask – what is the viewpoint of Islam on these things? How does Islam teach us to approach politics, and then we’re able to take steps from that and start trying to form Islamic viewpoints on what we should do and we shouldn’t do while living in the West and while living in the east.


About Rachel Ehrenfeld

Rachel Ehrenfeld
Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld is Founder and President of the New York-based American Center for Democracy, and the Economic Warfare Institute. Dr. Ehrenfeld has authored academic and policy papers and more than one thousand articles. Her books include FUNDING EVIL: How Terrorism is Financed – and How to Stop Ii (2011) • EVIL MONEY (HarperCollins, 1992,1994). Her latest book project is on The Economic Warfare against the U.S. from Within and Without. • NARCOTERRORISM (Basic Books, 1990, 1992).

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