The right to choose

With the recent American elections, it seems politics is at the forefront of everyone’s minds at the moment. Locally, we’ve got our own political hype over the split of the ruling party. And with voter registration happening this weekend, it brings into question the political involvement of Muslims locally – whether political candidates or ordinary citizens as voters.


So, the question has been asked: in these times of trials and afflictions, who do Muslims vote for in South Africa?


While some may look to the opinions and fatwas issued over the American elections, there are bound to be differing views over Muslim political participation in South Africa.


Do we vote for the currently-ruling party, if we think they’ve done a reasonable job since 1994? Or do we vote for the strongest opposition, in an attempt to show the ruling party that they shouldn’t take their power for granted – something especially important if we look at what happened in Zimbabwe, with one party dominating politics for so long, and ultimately driving the country into the ground.


Generally, politics do not interest me; and I do not aspire to be a commentator on things political.


But a few thoughts come to mind with regard to voting in the 2009 general election, which I’d like to put forward in this post.


If we think that the ruling party – and its current president – is not the best choice to lead this country over the next few years, we certainly cannot vote for them. But then, who do we vote for?

  1. Firstly, you could choose the option of not voting at all, in protest of not having anyone you actually want to vote for. I disagree with this action – because while it is justified – in that you don’t have someone you really want to vote for – it also doesn’t make any impact at all in the election. You basically forfeit your right to vote– which means you have no say in who runs your country.As I outline below, there are other options – even if you don’t like any of the parties. 


  2. You could vote for the strongest opposition party, and hope that the final results reflect a strong threat to ANC dominance. And while this may seem logical, it’s not so black and white, in my view: any party has their own policies and ideas on issues that affect us all, including controversial issues that Islam has a definite stance on.For example: abortion, gay marriage, and prostitution.You may want the opposition to threaten the political stranglehold that the ruling party has – but if the opposition is overly-liberal, finding no problems with allowing and promoting such things – labelling these things as ‘freedoms of our democratic nation’ – then are you not supporting those very sins? Are you not saying that: ‘I agree that these things are ok’ – simply because you’re voting for a party that sees no problem with it?



  3. In light of this, one other way to weaken the dominant party in the mathematical sense is to vote – but to spoil your vote. That way, you don’t support the ruling party, but because you don’t like what the opposition stands for either, you don’t vote for them.So, instead of just not voting at all – which means you have no say in who runs your country, you make a calculated move to ruin your vote.Mathematically, this doesn’t strengthen the opposition – but it does weaken the margin by which the ruling party wins (if indeed they do win). So your vote does impact the result, even though it’s in a small way. (However, the more people choose this route, the bigger the impact this strategy can have).



  4. Voting for a Muslim party: there’s 2 Muslim parties who hope to run. On the surface, that seems the best option for getting Islamic morals into government.But there’s a big condition to that:We should know the policies and character of these Muslim parties – the people in them, and the party as a whole.

    Political power is not something to be given lightly – and definitely not to be given to a person just because they fall into the same religious or ethnic group as you.

    Just because a person is Muslim, it doesn’t mean they genuinely want to run their party Islamically. We must examine the policies of these parties, who their leaders and members are, how they conduct themselves, and what strategies they use in attracting voters.

    Do they build their campaign on Islamic ideals? Or do they simply attack the unIslamic values of other, non-Muslim parties? (e.g. Saying that the other party supports abortion – but we do not. So if you vote for the other party, you are supporting abortion. But if you vote for us, you are standing up against abortion).



My point is that we should select leaders on their character and values – not their colour or religion or any other characteristic that matches ours.
After all, the noblest of people in the eyes of Allah are those who are best in conduct (Surah Al-Hujarat, verse 13).

A true Muslim brings real Islamic values, conduct and knowledge to their position of power. Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) is one of the greatest examples of a Muslim ruler who ruled by Islam; whose values and morals were rooted in this deen. His political success was a result of his righteousness and accountability – and this is something that all leaders today can learn from  – whether Muslim or non-Muslim.



May Allah raise great leaders from among us.


But we should know that we have to strive first to better ourselves – we can’t wait for a saviour to come and fix this world, while we do nothing. Remember that Allah doesn’t change the condition of a people until they change themselves.


Feel free to add your thoughts on the issue. After all, whether you care about politics or not, next year’s elections affect every single person in this country.


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