Balsam Obeid, Dr. Omar Alibi, Waleed Zoabi, Shabaan Abusamak, Raheel Qureshi, Ali Nour, Arshad Shums, Moqeet Khan, Dr. Masood Khan

A very pleasant and intellectually vibrant meeting took place on February 4th, 2023.

1. Islam and Western Democracy: The debate relating to Islam and western democracy and how these two interact, was brought to the table.

Bassam explained that Islam and democracy are not incompatible. He pointed out that Quran and the tradition of the Prophet had left the political structure or the style of governance open for Muslims so that it could be adapted and tailored to the needs of the time. He mentioned that the system of Khilafah that was established after the Prophet, had varied approaches to its establishment that included mutual consultation and pledge of allegiance which could be understood as a primitive version of the modern system of voting. However, he elaborated Muslims needed to understand the differing points between present day western-style democracy and Islam-based democracy. The latter, though unfortunately non-existent in Muslim world, has enough   merit to be presented to the world today as a challenge to western liberal democracy.

These differing points relate to an understanding that sovereignty belongs to God and as such it should be constitution of any Islam-based democracy. Secondly the Mahkamat – the clearly defined divine injunctions given in Quran should be out of the scope of amendable legislation. The legislation should limit itself to what is interpretable the Mutafarriqat which could be freely debated, discussed, and voted inthe Parliament in order to make them the law.

Masood said that though any country has the right to make its own constitution and also make the divine injunctions non amendable for the legislative body, one of the fundamental ingredients of democracy in today’s world relates to ‘human rights’ and demands equal rights to all the citizens. So, what is the position of Islam for non-Muslims living as a minority in a Muslim country? Islam claims it does give them total freedom to practice their faith and the protection to live in the country safely and peacefully. That is well and good but is that enough. Will these safeguards for the non-Muslims be made a part of the constitution? And if so any discrimination or denial of equal rights based upon their personal beliefs will have to be against the constitution. Can non- Muslims living in a Muslim country and subscribing to the constitution while retaining their personal beliefs and faith, become citizens with equal rights at par with citizens belonging to majority class. A litmus test for this would be if a non-Muslim would qualify for certain sensitive and highly responsible offices like ministers, military commanders and for that matter eligible to be elected President or Prime Minister of the country?

Unfortunately majority of the participants in the discussion said NO to this question including Bassam who said except the supreme leader of the country all other positions are available and accessible to non-Muslims.

Masood said the world then will not be convinced with such standing on this matter. Muslims will fail in their claim that Islam is compatible with democracy and equal rights that it gives to its people. He said Islam needs to be reinterpreted on this issue and any person who subscribes to the constitution of the country should get equal rights, including his or her eligibility to be the supreme leader of the country with no conditions attached.

2. What constitutes a ‘NATION’?

Ref: an article in The Spark titled “Are All Muslims of the World One Nation?”. Fall 2019 Issue.

An incisive discussion took place as to what makes a ‘Nation’. Do the organic and natural ingredients like, common history, language, geography, ethnicity & race, culture and faith (in various combinations) make a “Nation”, or it is solely based upon a single ingredient of faith? The example of the latter is seen in the history of the freedom struggle of the subcontinent when Muslim League, a political party comprising exclusively of Muslims advocated its demand for Pakistan, a separate country for Muslims, based upon the concept that all Muslims of the subcontinent, with their shared faith constituted a separate nation within India, what is called as “Two Nation Theory”.

The opinion was divided as to faith alone is enough to make a ‘Nation’. In a democratic free world the emergence of “Nation States” , that has divided Muslim world into different countries is a proof that faith alone cannot be the determining ingredient of a ‘Nation’. The Ottoman Empire which transcended geographical boundaries and differences of race, language and ethnicities gave a sham appearance that Muslims globally belonged to one nation. This was only possible under compulsion of an all powerful autocratic rule. When that was gone Muslims freely rearranged themselves into different ‘Nation States’ negating “one faith one nation” theory.