The global Muslim Brotherhood often cites its willingness to participate in Western politics as a sign of moderation. However, the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), a U.K. global Muslim Brotherhood organization, has posted a link to the “Guide To Voting In Islam” which contains numerous examples of how the Brotherhood actually views politics. For example, the guide opens by explaining that there is no distinction between Church and State within Islam:
Islam is a comprehensive system where worship (`ibadah) and legislation (Shari`ah) are merged. The distinction between the secular and religious or spiritual realms is nothing new to Christianity, but is alien to Islam and Muslims…The Islamic Shariah is a complete scheme of life and an all-embracing social order where nothing is superfluous and nothing lacking. Therefore there is no separation between state and church. This artificial separation, from an Islamic perspective, destroys the transcendence of all moral values.
After reviewing a fatwa on the subject by the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR), the theological body headed by global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi, the guide proclaims a somewhat less than whole-hearted statement about the role of Muslims in a Western society:
Considering the issue of Al-Walaa’, it is evident that there’s nothing wrong Islamically in having some sort of cooperation between Muslims and non-Muslim as regards worldly affairs.
The guide then goes on to cite the remarks of various scholars who encourage Muslims to view their political participation solely though from the perspective of their Islamic identity. For example, here a Saudi scholar states that it is permissible to vote only if the candidates involved can benefit Muslims:
Shaykh Abdul Muhsin al-Abbaad of Saudi Arabia was asked whether it is permissible for Muslim minorities to vote in local elections if they believe that one of the candidates can benefit Muslims and the community. He replied,’ There is no harm in voting for candidates who will be of more benefit to Muslims and the cmmunity more than the others. In this instance, voting for them is an example of doing the lesser of two evils to avoid the greater evil. The candidate who is less harmful to Muslims is better than the candidate whose harm is far greater.
A local U.K. scholar associated with the Muslim Council of Britain, dominated by Muslim Brotherhood groups, states that he views political participation as a “form of jihad”:
I consider Muslim political participation, especially in a non-Muslim country, as a form of jihad. This is our country and it would be foolish not to participate in the political processes which eventually shape our future and that of Islam. I support marching in the streets to raise awareness about certain issues. However, if we really want to change the status-quo then we have to influence those who walk the corridors of power. Muslims need not only to vote but put forward Muslim candidates in all the mainstream and serious independent parties. We need to be represented or be present at the tables around which policies are discussed, made and agreed.
Another Brotherhood-linked scholar advises Muslims to vote for candidates who “sympathise with the Muslim cause”:
Looking at the situation of the Muslim community and their need to have their interests met, it becomes advisable for the Muslims to achieve this purpose through the available political system. Through voting, a man can bring to Parliament such candidates who sympathise with the Muslim cause.
The head of London’s Central Mosque also encourages Muslims to “use the means and avenues available to benefit Muslims” and says that “democracy is antithetical to Islam”:
It has long been my position that any type of participation in democracy is a type of approval of that system. I have no doubt that democracy is antithetical to Islam. However, having read and listened to the sayings of many scholars on this issue, and being faced with the reality of a growing Muslim population here in the UK, who for all intents and purposes consider this their home, it has become clear to me that we must participate in every aspect of society as much as possible to ensure our rights and continued existence and well being in this society. This participation most certainly includes voting for whichever party or candidate best serves the needs and interests of the UK and indeed world wide Muslim population. This does not mean approval or acceptance of the ideal of secular democracy, but the intention is to use the means and avenues available to benefit Muslims and the communities we reside in.
Jamal Badawi, an important leader in the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood, provides a practical example of the above themes:
I’ll just give you one specific example. Suppose you have two candidates for president. Both of them might be be sympathetic to Muslim causes. In today’s world this is unlikely… however, in terms of relative harm and benefit which is a rule of Shariah it may be the collective wisdom, for example, of Muslim voters that one of them would do even greater harm to Muslim causes than the other… Well in that case, obviously, the lesser of the two harms, i.e. electing or voting for someone who will do less harm to Muslims obviously would be much better than sitting on the sidelines and just criticizing both and doing nothing about it… Voting for them and supporting them in elections is not necessarily an agreement with everything legislated. But at least it would be for that particular, limited purpose.”
Finally, another local Muslim Leader says:
One should consider carefully who has been supporting their Islâmic rights most and is promising the most benefit for Muslims on the whole.
Strikingly absent in this guide is any semblance of understanding of what citizenship is all about for a citizen of a modern democracy. Instead the guide encourages Muslims to view their political participation only as a way to advance “Muslim interests” and even as a form of “jihad.” Fundamentalism has been defined by German scholar Bassem Tibi as the “politicization of religion” and this guide set forth by the U.K. Muslim Brotherhood serves as a useful example of the fundamentalism espoused by the Brotherhood.