Islamic parties should focus on social services, not dictating way of life
22 July,2013 Jahid Razan
After the fall of communism, Islam once again has come to the spot light as a major ideological and political force in the global scenario. Nevertheless, Islamists have a daunting task ahead to adopt with the changed world context in the western as well as Muslim majority countries. Perhaps, they are facing enormous challenges in the political domain and this is due to the fact that, they have long been away from the role of main ruling party. However, the rise of current ruling party-AKP in Turkey, Hamas in Palestine, Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Ennahdha movement in Tunisia has certainly energized the Islamist forces throughout the world with new hopes and aspirations. But, this road of assuming the state power is not without challenges, especially when it comes for the Islamists, as the question of mistrust and Islamophobia is widespread in the national and international domain. This difficulty of situation also holds true in the political context of Bangladesh.
Considering all the current factors it seems that within this existing framework Bangladesh Jamaat e Islami, the largest Islamic political party of the country does not have any significant political future due to their controversial stance in 1971. Apart from Bangladesh Jamaat e Islami all the other Islamic political parties are not yet the best of the organized parties and their activities seems to be confined within few regional and institutional domains. There lie significant mistrusts between these Islamist parties and their political oppositions (e.g. Secularists, leftwing parties and the religious minorities). Islamists are viewed as a force that will impose a certain way of lifestyle in the name of religious values and that will limit the pursuit of freedom in the social and individual level. Their ideological oppositions argue that, political Islam would turn the country to a safe haven for the extremists and make it an unstable country like Pakistan or Afghanistan. Also their Islamic ideology will make the country into a theological state like Iran that is internationally viewed as a state that suppresses the views of minority and citizen do not have the right of freedom of expression there. They consider Islamists having a very patriarchal ideology which is unjust when it comes to the question of women empowerment and their equal rights in various aspects. Islamists have also failed to gain the confidence in addressing how Islamic ethics would be applied in the area of art, culture, philosophy and entertainment. To many, Islamists do not seem to appreciate art and culture much. They view Islamists as a force which believes in demolishing various statues and art that are perceived as a high standard of art and indigenous culture. Apart from the external challenges they are also being confronted by the concepts within. Many a time Islamists are confused whether or how to participate in the democratic process as a mean of assuming the power.
However, the recent political incidents of last few months of Bangladesh followed by the city corporation elections have certainly brought the ‘Islam’ question in the picture as an important factor. It has become obvious for any political party to clarify their stance in the ‘Islam question’. The current ruling party has got the message that people of Bangladesh are not willing to vote for any ultra-secular force. Besides, corruption and lack of good governance over the last decades or so, by the two major political parties of the country has opened the door of opportunity for the Islamists forces of the country to come to the political area with their agenda of reform.
Several contemporary scholars and thinkers like Yusuf Al Qaradawi, Rached Gannuchi, Tariq Ramadan and many others have opined that, there is no contradiction between Democracy and Islam. Some of them have also argued that in the current world’s context the state would not impose a certain way of life on people but its role would be to provide security and services to its people then let them make their own choices with regards to their way of life. In fact, Islamists will have to go through a whole reconciliation process of their ideological and political understanding of Islam with democracy in the changed world context.
As a way forward, a strategic alliance amongst all the Islamic forces would be a very important step. It seems that in order to gain the trust of people, the new generation of Islamists need to come forward with a new platform that has a pragmatic approach in the current social context and is free from of any controversy of 1971. The Islamist’s vision will have to be the development of a pluralistic political culture by wide consensus and address the vital issues of freedom of conscience, the universality of human rights and role of law. They need to engage in dialogue with their political oppositions. The primary Islamic values: transparency, accountability, justice and equal rights for all the citizens would be the underlying theme of their Islamic state, unlike theocracy which is a civil state by any means. Islamists need to be socially relevant by their social service oriented activities in various national needs and crises. Islamists also will have to address the issue of economy as a sector of priority. They will have to bring the agenda of creating new jobs, ensuring high economic growth, bringing new foreign investment in their economic reform policy. The question of women empowerment, equal opportunity for the all citizens including the religious minority and building a system that ensures social justice needs to be dealt with utmost importance.
With appropriate planning and work strategy Islamist should start working to find a way forward to bring a positive change in the politics of the country. If they can work and address the necessities and challenges of the time, perhaps there awaits a good opportunity ahead of them.
Jahid Razan is a student of Electrical Engineering at Technical University of Eindhoven, Netherlands. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org