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Do Muslims Believe in Democracy?

According to three Muslim advocacy groups, more than half of all Muslim-American candidates for public office won their respective races. The individuals ran in competitions that spanned 24 states and Washington, D.C. According to The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Jetpac, and MPower Change, of the 110 Muslim-Americans who ran for various posts, 57 emerged victoriously. If we include primary elections that weed out weaker candidates from any given party, roughly 170 candidates ran for office. That figure is approximately 30 more than the previous high of 134 Muslim-American candidates who ran in 2018.


Mohammad Missouri, executive director of Jetpac, released a statement: “Increasing our political representation is a critical part of defeating the violent rise of Islamophobia here and around the world because it forces elected officials and the media to include our perspective in the narrative on healthcare, the economy, criminal legal system, and every other issue impacting American life.”


Mr. Missouri makes a legitimate claim until you understand the details behind the Muslim vote. Two unique conditions make his statement dubious and unreliable. In my unpublished manuscript, Jefferson Must Be Spinning in His Grave, I cover both conditions. First, fundamental Muslims disdain democracy. Muslims believe that sovereignty belongs to Allah alone. This belief in Allah’s sovereignty undercuts Western democracy. Muslim scholars maintain that the laws of the United States were written by men and not by God. According to Muslim fundamentalists, democracy smacks of secularism and borders on blasphemy. However, there is a little rule that Muslims can justify their participation. The general agreement by which Muslims can justify their inclusion in the American political process is summed up as the “lesser of two evils.” Action that brings more benefits than harm is allowed. For example, it is acceptable to vote on behalf of a political candidate trying to establish Islamic principles rather than a secular candidate. The next step of running for office would also be allowable if it keeps a secular candidate out of office. Thus, Mr. Missouri’s statement makes sense.


In Islam’s early years, it was not uncommon for tribal elders to select the next caliph. It was a form of democracy. Even today, most Islamic countries use elections to pick their representatives. However, when their representatives get elected, the laws they pass must meet within the bounds of sharia. Democracy practiced in Islamic countries is wildly different from liberal democracy practiced in the United States.


The second condition is the one which makes Mr. Missouri’s quote rather dubious. Groups such as CAIR and Jetpac use terms like “Muslim-Americans” to insinuate that the people they represent are like us, Americans at heart but with a different creed. Mr. Missouri may not realize that less than half of Muslim-Americans do not even consider themselves American. According to a Pew Research Survey, about half of Muslims think of themselves first as Muslims while only a quarter see themselves first as Americans. Only one-fifth of Muslims see themselves as American Muslims. The point here is that public officials that think of themselves first as Muslims will NOT make public policy decisions beneficial to America if they think the American way of life is immoral and ungodly as Muslims do in dominant Islamic countries.


An illustrative example of this is the recent tweet Rep. Ilhan Omar made about herself. She wrote, “I am, Hijabi, Muslim, Black, Foreign-born, Refugee, Somali.” Many commentators on social media, including an opposition candidate, noted that she had left off that she was an American.


The U.S. Constitution is the law of the land. While it is a man-made set of laws, it was divinely inspired and has endured for over two centuries. If those representatives elected can work within the boundaries of the Constitution, I say more power to them. It was Thomas Jefferson who fought for Muslims and other minorities to be allowed to participate in our government. If Jefferson knew today how legislators like Rep. Omar had goals to undermine our system of law with another sovereign, he would be spinning in his grave.

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