The silly season in this country, that is to say, the general elections of 2015, is upon us. Though the different contesting parties have not yet taken to the hustings in earnest, we can expect the tempo of the different campaigns to pick up pace very quickly as the date for the elections is announced by the Prime Minister. Many of us are already bracing ourselves for a most vile and vicious round of political mudslinging, made worse by the fact that the stakes are very high for the two main parties – the UNC and the PNM – in terms of their political stock should they lose this particular election. In the confusion of the melee that will be visited upon us in a few months, it will be instructive to pay attention to the behaviour of the Muslims during it all.
The expression “the Muslim community” has been much used so as to become almost completely clichéd. As with all such expressions, the words they contain lose their force of meaning with us and are bandied about mindlessly without much consideration for their implications in how we understand things. Community is a weighty word. It conveys the meaning of a group of people that “commune” on certain qualities or values they hold in “common” and with which they firmly identify with. The highest expression of this “commonness” without doubt is in a common purpose, and hence common interests of the collective. This is also a sign of strength and resilience.
Allah has said in the Quran, in the verse which we all know, while addressing the believers, “Hold on (all of you) to the book of Allah together, and do not be divided among yourselves.” [3:103] The Prophet Muhammad has instructed us in a similar vein saying “The believer to the believer is like a solid structure, one part of it supports the other.” [Bukhari & Muslim] From now until the ballots are counted, can we say with confidence that we shall see Muslims holding to this ideal in how they conduct themselves during the politicking? No one who has even a casual understanding of how our Muslim “community” operates would risk his reputation by asserting something so manifestly improbable.
This has nothing to do with which party one ought to support, and it surely does not venture to say anything about whether one should or should not participate in the electoral process. Rather, this is about putting some of our latent assumptions and ‘taken-for-granted’s’ in how we look at ourselves under a sterner scrutiny and asking us not only to lend our tongues, but more so our actions in demonstrating the “commonness” that makes us a true community.
If we were really as we purport to be, one might expect to see an approach to politics by Muslims based on a clear and coherent understanding of our interests as a collective, rather than on individual ambitions and even more obscenely, the matter of race.
We will not hold our breaths in the expectation of seeing something like this materialise in the near future, but we do hope that some of us have the good fortune of living to see such a time when the Muslims stood as a community when it mattered most.