For Muslims, is there an alternative to secular-liberalism in non-Muslim societies?

Maksud Djavadov, the deputy editor of Anti Orientlist, argues that despite its many flaws secular-liberalism is the best scenario for Muslims living in non-Muslim societies in comparison to fascist or populist right-wing rule.

In 1440AH (2019), many Muslims are discussing the negative impact of secular-liberalism upon Muslim societies, Islam and humanity in general.

The suspicion of Liberalism is real and should not be swept under the carpet – it is secular-liberal regimes which are providing military, economic and political assistance to the most brutal and autocratic socio-political forces in the Muslim world and beyond (just take a brief tour of Latin America’s contemporary history).

So the disdain of many Muslims and non-Muslims towards secular-liberalism is rational and real.

But Islam being an all-encompassing lifestyle sees eye to eye on many issues with many ideologies and worldviews. There are some things in socialism, communism, Liberalism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and capitalism which are within Islamic parameters.

Thus, during the Cold War, there was a wave of pro-communist “Islamic” scholars who advocated for the merger with the ideology of the Evil Empire, the USSR. After the collapse of the USSR, as the financial fuel for this promotional campaign dried up, this scholarship disappeared from the public scene.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the far right French National Front

Today, there are strong financial and career incentives for “liberalising” Islam. It will get one published in journals, secure a job at a prestigious think-tank and even make one a puppet ruler of a state.

If you got to this point in the article, you are probably thinking that this is another Muslim critique among many of secular-Liberalism. Well, not really. Why? Because in the opinion of the author, Muslims should help non-Muslim societies to remain or adopt secular-liberalism in some form or shape.

Why? Today the alternative in most non-Muslim societies is bleak. In fact, the alternative to secular-liberalism in most Western societies is not authentic Christianity or Judaism; it is fascism or some form of oxymoron “communism” like in China.

This does not mean that Muslims should not build solid bridges with authentic Judeo-Christian organisations or throw them under a bus. It simply means that on a socio-political level, Muslims should not create an opening for alt-right types often camouflaged as “conservatives” to topple the current secular-liberal order in non-Muslim societies.

Not because we have no philosophical disagreements with secular-liberalism, but because the alternative is far worse.

The Prophetic example

When Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) established an Islamic state in Medina Muslims were in a minority, but the Covenant of Madinah provided everyone with enough socio-political space to accept Islam’s sovereignty.

There were still many things in Medina with which Islam was not in agreement with, but since the alternative was far worse (namely, forceful rule over Medina) Islam and the Last Messenger of God rejected that option.

Muslims must recognise that Liberalism is a regime, and that regime in non-Muslim states offers a better alternative to Muslims and other minorities than any other socio-political order present in Western non-Muslim societies.

So Muslims must make their positive contribution within Islamic parameters to halt the rise of fascism in non-Muslim countries. This does not mean becoming socio-political pawns for the so called Democrats, Republicans, Leftists and so on; it means devising a coherent strategy where on an ad-hoc basis Muslims could form productive and positive alliances.

Far right Italian leader Matteo Salvini

This begins with the recognition that disagreements will exist, and Islam contains a rich intellectual tradition which is logical and with a right dosage of flexibility provides a solid paradigm for cosmopolitan societies.

Centres of Islamic seats of power such as Baghdad, Istanbul, Qom, Cairo, Beirut, and Damascus were and are symbols of cosmopolitanism. It is not by accident that this is the case – Islam is a cosmopolitan religion, it always was.

When Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) concluded a treaty with the polytheists from the port city of Yanbu against the polytheists of Makkah he was not endorsing polytheism, but working for a greater good to limit the bloodshed on the Arabian Peninsula.

The call to work within certain parameters of the secular-liberal order in non-Muslim states where Muslims are a minority is not a manifestation of Liberalism’s superiority or a call to abandon Islam in non-Muslim societies; it’s the opposite.

Contemporary liberalism has done such a poor job that the primary alternative to the secular-liberal order today from Canada to Poland is fascistically-inclined forces who are blatantly racist and have no real socio-economic solutions to liberalism’s economic, political and most importantly philosophical flaws.

The fact that this article has been written just shows what a dismal performance secular-liberal systems have manifested over the past decades. To put it in shallow terms, Donald Trump and Dough Ford are now seen by many as viable political alternatives; if that’s not failure, what is?

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