With the UK general election taking place on 12th December following the Brexit fiasco, some Muslims are turning to the Labour Party to resist the onslaught of anti-Islamic sentiments that has been fanned by the current government. Boris Johnson’s description of Muslim women as “letter boxes” and the 25 sitting and former Conservative councillors being exposed for posting anti-Islamic material on social media has galvanised some Muslims to do what it takes to stop the Conservatives getting into power.
But are Muslims falling into a trap?
Should we indulge in a political process designed to suppress meaningful change or endorse the divine Islamic alternative that will lift society out of its hollow existence? Will socialist politics help Muslims improve their current plight or inadvertently, make things worse? The aim is not to single out Jeremy Corbyn but to demonstrate that even a principled man in British politics is handicapped by a false ideology and its institutions.
The problem is very simply that global capitalism confronts us, with a series of antagonisms that cannot be controlled or even contained within a democracy. For those who still have faith in the established political process or a variant of capitalism, here are five key issues to contend with and only the Islamic system promoted through political activism is equipped to deal with these problems.
1. An Inherent Democratic Problem
Democratic systems have an intrinsic relationship with money. In democracies, the concentration of wealth inevitably leads to a concentration of power – if one man equals one vote, how much power does one wield if you can buy and influence other people to change how they vote? Particularly as the cost of elections skyrocket to mega-campaigns which only the privileged can afford or fund.
This financial requirement forces political parties into the pockets of major corporations and this political power quickly translates into legislation which further increases the concentration of wealth via fiscal policy! Is it any wonder political parties favour the elite and special interests over the needs of the people?
In the US, a study by Gilens and Page analysed 1779 policy outcomes over a period of more than 20 years. They concluded that “economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.” The study of relations between public attitudes and public policy showed 70% of the population had no way of influencing policy!
Unfortunately, this isn’t a system gone wrong but one that is successfully serving its purpose. The system is designed to serve those with massive amounts of wealth under the guise of the ‘will of the people’.
In the UK people believe they will be voting for a new parliament in the upcoming general election. Other people think they can buy a new government before that date. In a democratic system, he who pays the piper gets to call the tune – and probably write the manifesto and draft the policies as well! Lubov Chernukhin, the wife of a former minister for Russian President Vladimir Putin, gave the Conservative Party £200,000. The trade union ‘Unite’ gave Labour £62,000. The polarising opinions in the current campaign demonstrates that people are tired of policies designed by any interest group, whether it’s the 1% or trade unions that can stifle business.
The Islamic system is very clear in its position – sovereignty lies with the Creator and all legislation is derived from the divine texts – it does not lie with elite nor the people. No amount of votes or money can change what has already been revealed in the texts and it is restricted to that. In this system, human interests are defined by the Creator rather than defined by the interests of powerful men.
2. Legal and Illegal – A Matter of Interpretation
If the leak of the Panama Papers in 2016 revealed one thing, it was the all embracing solidarity of the participants. In the shadowy world of global capitalism, the West, Putin, Chinese President Xi, Iran, Korea, Arab princes, Israelis, UAE sheikhs, Pakistani industrialists – they’re all brothers. Despite their differences, siphoning capital to offshore accounts and avoiding tax is something they all share.
In the UK alone, six members of the House of Lords, three former Conservative MPs and “dozens” of donors to UK political parties across the spectrum have been shown to have had offshore assets.
Rightist reactions to the Panama Papers put the blame on the excesses of welfare states (or what remains of them): since wealth is so heavily taxed, no wonder owners try to move it to places with lower taxes, which is ultimately nothing illegal.
As ridiculous as this excuse was, this argument does have a kernel of truth. The line that separates legal from illegal transactions in democratic states is getting more and more blurred, and is often reduced to a matter of interpretation. It is argued that the owners of wealth who move it to offshore accounts are not greedy monsters but individuals who simply act like rational subjects trying to safeguard their wealth.
As much as democratic socialists believe they can clean up capitalism, you cannot throw out the dirty water of financial speculation and keep the baby of the real economy: the dirty water effectively is the blood of the healthy baby.
What the right thinks is legal and productive (low taxes for higher earners) is a type of corruption to the left – and these issues aren’t resolved in a capitalist system. The global capitalist legal system is, in its most fundamental dimension, corruption legalised.
In Islam, we don’t have that problem because we just look to derive from divine text.
This blurring of the truth based on interests is much more difficult in Islam. Islamic texts provide a fixed framework using a juristic process called ijtihad for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. This means that rules are not allowed to be understood in any way that people may seem fit but only a limited scope of interpretation may exist based on evidences that contextualise scripture. This ensures that people cannot debate and change what has already been revealed to be illegal based on false arguments that benefits big business.
3. The Establishment Strikes Back
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) were a series of trade negotiations being carried out mostly in secret between the EU and US. It was about reducing the regulatory barriers to trade for big business, things like food safety law, environmental legislation, banking regulations and the sovereign powers of individual nations. It is, as John Hilary, Executive Director of campaign group War on Want, said: “An assault on European and US societies by transnational corporations.” The NHS was one of the first institutions in the firing line for radical privatisation. In the post-Brexit atmosphere, opposition to TTIP and foreign policies exploded all around Europe.
Even if TTIP is shelved, people often forget that it was simply one expression of a general tendency towards capitalist policies that works like Hydra – when its head is cut off, a new head grows up immediately. Already, the name of the new head is CETA, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, a deal between the EU and Canada that threatens to lock in privatisation of railways and public services.
It has led British writer George Monbiot to a rather sad conclusion where he states that the struggle, ‘will continue throughout your life. We have to succeed every time; they have to succeed only once. Never drop your guard. Never let them win.’
No matter what rules and policies are enacted, the establishment will have the resources to manipulate politicians and policy since they are not restricted to a fixed framework of detailed legislation such as the Islamic texts. You can vote in whoever you want, the establishment remains the same. It’s why it is said do not look at the one who is sat on the throne but the ones who are holding it. A victory for Jeremy Corbyn cannot change the partisan unelected civil service. North West Durham Labour MP Laura Pidcock stated the Labour Party was “in doubt” that senior civil servants would behave professionally if the party formed a government because they oppose Labour’s policies. Their leaked briefing against Jeremy Corbyn has been condemned as a ‘a real threat to democracy’. What use are radical policies when institutions are designed to undermine it?
In Islam, the perpetual struggle to fight one evil policy after another cannot exist as man is not the legislator. This makes it difficult for anyone in the Islamic system to enrich themselves via the legal system. The endless legal wrangling we see in Western courts is precisely due to the bloated legal system which allows new precedents and never-ending amendments. All of this gives rise to new avenues which allow people to usher in policies which benefit the powerful. Islamic rules are much more restricted and simplified, any legal proposals must have as Islamic basis as the Messenger of God stated:
“Whoever innovates into this matter of ours that which does not belong to it, it will be rejected.” [Al-Bukhari]
4. Unplugging the State from the Global Financial System
Back in the early 1970s, in a note to the CIA advising them how to undermine the democratically elected Chilean government of Salvador Allende, US advisor Henry Kissinger wrote succinctly: ‘Make the economy scream.’
The economic difficulties faced by the Chavista government were not only the result of the ineptness of its own economic politics. Here, we come to a key political point, difficult to swallow for those committed to liberalism; we are clearly not dealing with blind market processes and reactions (say, shop owners trying to make more profit by keeping some products off the shelves), but with an elaborate and fully planned strategy.
Similarly, the election of the socialist Syriza government in Greece in 2015 resulted in extremely harsh conditions imposed on it from the EU and global banking institutions. Greek finances were in an even greater disorder and the country’s debt rose from €120b to €180b. Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varafoukis, couldn’t help but point out that as a punishment for electing the wrong government, Greece was sentenced to an extra measure of extreme-austerity. Today, the Labour Party is proposing reforms that threatens to undermine big business with plans for nationalisation and higher taxes for high earners. However, we live in a global system – with some Muslims and the left leaning electorate looking to vote for Jeremy Corbyn, they never make it clear how they will prevent their politics from triggering catastrophe after catastrophe at the hands of global institutions that will be looking to punish such measures.
The Islamic system from its onset is designed to unplug the state from the capitalist world order. It does away with the fiat currency and switches to the bi-metallic currency and is therefore able to protect itself from market forces and inflation. It has a policy that is geared towards complete self-sufficiency and has no regard for false metrics such as GDP that do not provide a true picture of how prosperous a society is.
5. Subversive Work Is an Illusion
There are many socialists and groups of other inclinations who sincerely believe they are doing profoundly subversive work within governments, “superficially” obeying orders but simultaneously using every opportunity to control the damage, to save what can be saved, to enforce progressive changes, and to organise forces for the inevitable moment when the crisis strikes again.
However, what they are effectively doing is faithfully enforcing orders, which amount to a de facto ceding of sovereignty; what if this is the truth of their activity, and the profound inner awareness of their resistance is an illusion enabling them to do what they are doing? How far does one go in compromise?
In Islamic activism, this type of subversive work is not acceptable. The work to promote the Islamic system, the Khilafah, and its model for society is done openly and intellectually by challenging debilitating norms and beliefs held by democratic and capitalist states today. This ensures effective change where it matters without falling into the deception of the established political process. Unlike the French, American and Bolshevik revolutions, Islam invites mankind towards the bloodless revolution as demonstrated by the Messenger of Allah (saw) with the consent of the society towards real change.
For a true shift from democratic and capitalist institutions, it would require a fundamentally different form of politics than the deception of incremental change within existing systems.
When the majority of Muslims arrived in Britain, instead of advocating a divine, Islamic message that intellectually critiqued the established political process and the liberal ideology, some chose to split along mainly Labour and Tory lines and inadvertently, endorse a system (and secular beliefs) that has been rocked from one crisis to another. Muslims and socialists have been incorrectly led to believe that only by participating in a secular process and ‘voting tactically’ can we create incremental change and achieve our goals.
Unlike the failed experiment of communism and the crisis of capitalism today, Islam’s application as a political system eradicated much misery from the world for 1400 years prior to its abolishment in 1924. Islam’s light is much needed for both the Muslims and non-Muslims throughout the world. And only once we stop clinging to a wrecked system, can this begin.
اللَّهُ نُورُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۚ مَثَلُ نُورِهِ كَمِشْكَاةٍ فِيهَا مِصْبَاحٌ ۖ الْمِصْبَاحُ فِي زُجَاجَةٍ ۖ الزُّجَاجَةُ كَأَنَّهَا كَوْكَبٌ دُرِّيٌّ يُوقَدُ مِن شَجَرَةٍ مُّبَارَكَةٍ زَيْتُونَةٍ لَّا شَرْقِيَّةٍ وَلَا غَرْبِيَّةٍ يَكَادُ زَيْتُهَا يُضِيءُ وَلَوْ لَمْ تَمْسَسْهُ نَارٌ ۚ نُّورٌ عَلَىٰ نُورٍ ۗ يَهْدِي اللَّهُ لِنُورِهِ مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَيَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ
“Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp, the lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a pearly [white] star lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire. Light upon light. Allah guides to His light whom He wills. And Allah presents examples for the people, and Allah is Knowing of all things.” [An-Noor(24):35]