Unfortunately, no matter how significant the election there will always be a large percentage of eligible voters who will believe that voting doesn’t matter or that their votes will not count.
This has often been the mantra of many minority communities and the Muslim community is no exception. When you combine the lack of democratic experience of the immigrant population with the apathy of the American minority population the result is extremely low voter participation. Top that off with the religious belief of many Muslims that we should not be involved in a political system that ignores the will of Allah in favor of the whims of the majority and the consequence is a Muslim ummah whose political influence is practically nil.
Yet is this the understanding of the ulemah? Have the scholars of Islam advised the Muslims worldwide to remain indifferent and uninvolved with the political forces that govern them? What is the advice of the scholars to Muslims living in non-Muslim lands?
Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) was asked about the ruling on elections, and he replied:
“I think that elections are obligatory; we should appoint the one who we think is good, because if the good people abstain, who will take their place? Evil people will take their place, or neutral people in whom there is neither good nor evil, but they follow everyone who makes noise. So we have no choice but to choose those who we think are fit.”
Shaykh Waseeullaah `Abbaas was asked a question from an American about voting for those it is believed will benefit the Muslims. A segment of his response was as follows (the full response is too long to print but further supports the below):
“That which appears correct to me, insha'Allah, is that if some good is anticipated as a result of voting, then we vote. We vote for the candidate as long as he is presently benefiting the Muslims or promises to benefit the Muslims in the future, even if he is not a Muslim. It would be inappropriate for the Muslims to refrain from voting for this individual, especially if the leader of the Muslims can dictate terms, conditions, and other stipulations on him as a result of the Muslims voting. For example, the leader of the Muslims says, "We will vote for you on the condition that you support our interests, mention them to your superiors, etc." And this applies in any country where the Muslims are a minority, not just in America.
Similar statements have been made by Shaykh Muhammad Naasiruddeen al-Albaanee and Shaykh Abdul-Muhsin al-`Abbaad.
Armed with this understanding the Prince George’s County Muslim Council (PGCMC) has engaged in a voter registration and education drive at the county masajids in the hope of increasing Muslim voter participation in the November 6 elections. The first drive was held at Prince George’s Muslim Association on August 31st where 27 new or relocated individuals were registered to vote. The next effort took place on September 14th at Masjid Ibn Taymiyyah in Glennarden . Additional drives are planned for September 21st at Islamic Community Center of Laurel and Avondale Masjid in Mt. Rainier. Other Prince George’s masajid that are interested in having a voter registration drive should send an email to President@pgcmcmd.org to discuss arrangements. Maryland residents can also register online at https://voterservices.elections.state.md.us/OnlineVoterRegistration. The last day to register to vote in Maryland for the November 6, 2012 election is October 16, 2012.
Muslims in Maryland have the opportunity to not only support those candidates which are of greater benefit to the needs of Muslims, but to also engage in the Quranic injunction of “enjoining that which is good, and forbidding that which is evil”. In this election there will be seven ballot questions of which the last two have proven to be of concern to the Muslim community. Question 6 is the Civil Marriage Protection Act which will allow gay couples in Maryland to legally marry. This spring the Maryland State legislature passed a bill that will legally recognize the marriages of gay couples. One caveat in the bill was that Maryland residents would have an opportunity to make the legality of gay marriages a referendum on the November ballot if at least 56,000 registered Maryland voters signed a petition calling for it. At least 113,000 signatures were filed. Question 7 is the Gaming Expansion Referendum which will allow for slots and gaming tables in Prince George’s County. A “yes“ vote on these questions means you are in favor of the referendums. A “no” vote means that you oppose them. The only way to cast a vote on these referendums is to be registered by October 16th.
Individuals who wished to be kept informed about election issues or other PGCMC activities should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the PGCMC website at www.pgcmcmd.org.
Jameel Alim-Johnson is the president of the Prince George’s County Muslim Council