Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Mauritius: Politics and the Muslim

Political theory privileges democratic form of governance. A democracy works on the edifice of rule of law coupled with constitutional checks and balances and effectively functioning public institutions, manned by people who do their duties without fear or favour. Periodic elections ensure people's participation in the governance process in a democracy, nudging the rulers to listen to the aspirations and will of the people; formulate accomodative and  inclusive policies that adjust or settle diverging interests and specific claims of several communities and social groups inhabiting the land. In a progressive democracy, the interests and rights of all peoples/ social communities- including ethnic, racial, religious and linguistic minorities- find political accommodation and social recognition within the framework of national law and policy. 

It is against this ideal of a multicultural and multi-ethnic society reflecting the diversity of its peoples and respecting the equal rights of all communities that we can examine the lived reality of our nation-States. In his Friday Sermon of 25 October 2019~ 26 Safar 1441 AH, Imam- Jamaat Ul Sahih Al Islam Hadhrat Muhyi-ud-Din Al Khalifatullah Munir Ahmad Azim Saheb (atba) takes a closer look at the state of national politics in his home country, Mauritius, at a time when the Island-nation is gearing up for the general elections in the coming week. As responsible citizens, it is the duty of everyone to participate in the electoral process to ensure that good and just representatives are elected to  serve the larger cause of the nation and the people, reminds Hadhrat Khalifatullah (atba)

The forthcoming elections are also a time for  soul- searching for the Muslim community of Mauritius. Representation in all levels of government, including the civil services, is critical for ensuring that the legitimate interests and rights of the community are not overlooked. However, in the absence of prudential interventions to protect its identity, the minority community continues to see erosion of its political space and identity-related group rights, including the right to exercise its religious freedoms under the Shariah. 

Setting the agenda for discussion, Hadhrat Khalifatullah (atba) highlights a number of social justice issues that need urgent political attention at this point of time. In a cultural environment where every community's sacred festivals are acknowledged and celebrated, it is scandalous that the country does not observe Eid-ul-Adha Holiday, the biggest festival day of the Muslims. One can only agree that the situation does indicate an appalling neglect and cultural insensitivity towards a minority community. Likewise, Hadhrat Khalifatullah (atba) also calls attention to the anomalous situation created by the virtual abandonment of Muslim Personal Law in the country, especially for the Mauritian women- those of them who are in religious marriages are deprived of the legal sanctity of a civil marriage. 

Since 1987, Mauritian women in religious marriages have been left without clearly-defined rights, which has often meant they had no enforceable rights in court. The roots of the current set of issues can be traced to legislative changes introduced in the early 1980's. Chapter 5, Art.150 of the Mauritian Civil Code now reads: ”One cannot contract in a second marriage before dissolving the first". Correspondingly, the Section 257 of the Criminal Code provides as follows for anyone committing Bigamy: "Any person who, being married, marries another person before the dissolution of the first marriage, shall be punished by penal servitude for a term not exceeding 20 years"The blanket prohibition of bigamy (without an exception for any community to accommodate specific social practices) and the stringent punishment attached to the offence in the criminal code, along with the lack of rules on registration of religious marriages create a situation where such marriages are not presently validated by law. 

Rather than empowering women with enforceable rights in their apparently vulnerable social setting, including through prescription of protective rights in the context of religious marriages; the current (lack of) rules on registration will only help to undermine the legal standing of a specific class of married women to claim their basic rights such as rights of survival in case of death of one spouse; the recognition of children born of such marriage, etc. The Muslim women are particularly disempowered in the absence of a clear legal framework that protects rights in the context of religious marriages. As a recent UN Report on the subject notes, "couples who do not register their religious marriage, or who do not wish for their marriage to be governed by the Civil Code for religious reasons, are not subject to any legal rights protection. The only exception occurred in the period between 1982-1987, when the government enacted temporary measures to require registration and provide basic rights for parties in religious marriages. These measures are no longer in effect." 

Since the relationship is seen as voluntary, the women in religious marriages are treated as  “concubines,” defined as women living with men without a legal relationship. It is unfortunate and regrettable that the Supreme Court of Mauritius betrayed a grossly insensitive  attitude towards women in religious marriages by endorsing a long-discredited degrading terminology that assaults a woman's dignity, agency and choicesIt is a sad day for women's rights, minority group rights and pluralist conception of democracy when the highest court of the land fails to strike a blow to uphold the inherent dignity of women in religious marriages. That the judiciary simply panders to our 'codified' social prejudices leaves a disquieting feeling, more so when the consequence of its decision is  to stigmatize a specific cultural practice of a minority community in 'a rainbow nation'.

It is also a searing irony that whereas the national laws in the past were reflective of its pluralistic culture, respecting and accommodating its different minority groups- the Indian Marriage Act of 1912, for instance, recognized religious marriages that occurred in India prior to the spouses’ arriving in Mauritius-, the current laws in the country seek uniformity at the cost of the dignity and rights of its minority women and their way of life. The leaders in Mauritius, including those from the Muslim community, would do well to listen and heed the advice of Hadhrat Saheb (atba) on the dangers of the current trajectory in national life. They need to robustly engage with the progressive forces in the country to bring the social order back to an even keel, ensuring a fair deal for all. Clearly, processual reforms are urgently required in restoring the rights of women in religious marriages, and also to address the other grievances and lawful claims of the minority community in its quest for equity and justice in the nation.  

Read the Friday Sermon Below

Muslims in Politics

Muslims do not have the right to order evil, but they must not also condone (support/ approve) it. After seeing what is happening around us, we should NEVER vote for a Muslim woman who does not really reflect the Deen-i-Islam in her [It is not absolutely condemnable if the Muslim woman abides strictly by the laws of Islam in her way of behaving, clothing and speaking and knowing and respecting her limits]. By her ignorance of the Deen, she will do things that will draw Allah’s wrath upon her, and those who voted her will have an account to Allah for that.

A Muslim is one who does neither harm nor condone evil. As long as this sister [in Islam] remains in disobedience to Allah, we have a share of responsibility in this matter for We have put her there [in the government]. Who will accept the burden of the sins of others? For five years she will remain in power. Think ten times before going to vote. A Muslim does not fall twice in the same hole.

The Muslim Community has never mandated Muslim deputies [women, as well as men] to defend it. Almost all Muslims in this country know how much this present government is anti-Muslim, except of course for someone who has received his share of the pie with him, and at all times there is this class of people who are fighting for their own interest instead of the interest of the Ummah and that of their country. You saw how many Muslims there were in that majority party in power, with the alliance that he [the PM] had made, and you saw how little by little he got rid of the Muslims around him! But on the other hand in his own party and government, there are other people belonging to the majority [religious] community, whom despite having committed various blameworthy actions, but nothing has been done to punish them! What is falling on the Muslim Community in Mauritius is the same policy that the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) is applying in India [against the Muslims].

Until now, the Muslim Community has never mandated that a Muslim woman become its spokesperson in parliament or government. In the realm of Islam, the Muslim woman does not have the right to be at the head of a state because it is up to man, the superior creature [in the eyes of Allah and as established in the Holy Quran] to take this responsibility. Moreover, the Muslim woman in any political party is far from Shariah. Her dress code and her participation in anti-Islamic activities [as for Muslim men for that matter] do not allow them to become the representatives of the Muslim Community.

The Muslim Community is going through difficult times in its history, but we hope that Allah will help us and that in the future we will have sincere people who will have the interest of this suffering community at heart – such a community who is suffering so much and is abandoned – and who will really defend its interests. In this current government, the only community that does not have a spokesperson is the Muslim Community. Even those who have used this community to come to power have ignored us, but let it be clear [keep in mind] that Allah will never forsake His servants. As for those who declare themselves nationalists after they have been elected through the votes of the people of this community, their days in power will soon be over, Insha-Allah, Ameen.

We are waiting for them firmly in the midst of the [electoral] campaign when they shall come to beg for votes. So, they have to think carefully before coming to get votes from this community [The Muslim Community]. Many Muslim politicians declare themselves loyal to their respective parties. There are many parties whose regulations are even against the Shariah. These Muslims become yes-men/ women of their so-called leader. There are even those who went against the Islamic teachings by voting anti-Islamic laws. To make their party happy, there are those who voted against the Muslim Personal Law. But they forget that Allah has differentiated between the Kafir (unbeliever), Mushriq (polytheist) and Mumin (believer). They took the Kuffar (unbelievers) for friends to the detriment of the believers. They did not dare raise their voices in favour of their own community.

I give you an example of how Muslim politicians have become yes-men/ yes-women. Nobody had the courage to send an appeal in favour of the Muslim Community to have a public holiday on the day of Eid-ul-Adha (Bakr-Eid). This is our greatest festival; the Eid of Sacrifice which we celebrate for three days. Even if for each of the three days it is not possible to have public holidays, but at least for the first day [which is crucial], they should discussed it so that we have this day as public holiday, but instead they did not have the courage to do all that.

Many of our brothers and sisters are forced to work that day [the first day of Bakr-Eid]. This is an injustice against Muslims, and I say all this without criticizing the other religious denominations for their holidays, because they have more than two or three days of public holidays! Total injustice! After that we say, one people, one nation? Knowingly, Muslims [in the various political parties] know that our community is being trampled upon, but this does not make any difference to them. What matters to them is to work for their own gain. To take advantage of their work to help do justice and make their community’s voice heard, there is no way they are doing it! But they rather prefer to fight for their own interest: money and worldly honour.

Many of these politicians with Muslim names often do not enjoy these two things. And history is there to prove what we are saying for Allah is Just. And suddenly when these Muslim politicians are repelled with humiliation by their [political] party, it is only then that they turn to their community (The Muslim Community). They are like those who do not think of Allah, and have fun and it is only when finding themselves in great difficulty that they call to Allah, crying out: “O Allah, O Allah!” These Muslim politicians look like these people and cry out, “O Ummah, O Ummah!” Too late, because their political mandate is over, and their false leader will NEVER take them again because he has a hidden agenda.

Politically they are dead but at least spiritually they must wake up now. They must learn from the past. Shawl [Orni/ Hijab] on the head, the road to Arafat, guides for Hajjis, etc. They have the ability to do all that, but are they doing it, and if they doing it, how are they doing it? Thinking about the mundane to bribe the spiritual, or do they now perceive that they must repent and reform their lives as true Muslims who have the fear of God (Taqwa)?

We leave the new generation of Muslim politicians to learn from what happened in the past because history is a mirror. And think that these people shall NEVER EVER fight in your favour. Think about it and you will see that we are right. After all, we do not say that, but it is the CREATOR who says it all.

An advice: Those who have been fired / rejected by their party, do not go back to them!

When we look at the behaviour of some ministers towards the people, it is unfortunate that once they are in power, they forget those people. There are poor people who never begged in their lives and died with honour, but how many ministers there were who had to leave their ministerial chairs with shame! And they forget how many times they have begged by going door-to-door so that they can sit back on the ministerial chair [that is, to come back to power]. Once elected, they take themselves as masters for the five years in power. And in this country, where every minister [of a certain religious faith] protects his fellow people of the same faith, it is only the Muslim community that becomes the poor child in any regime that comes to power in this country that stinks with communalism in its every nook and cranny. Muslims who sit in ministerial offices cannot contradict what we say.

So saying, every time a member of the Muslim Community falls victim of an injustice coming from the power, the state turns a deaf ear. This person struggles to make his voice heard.

Alhamdulillah, there are private radios, otherwise even Allah (swt) knows how much the minorities would suffer in this country. And here again, when private radio stations are doing their job properly, the current Prime Minister and his government [the outgoing MPs] are threatening them. Even in this electoral campaign, there are a lot of insults that have been publicly launched against a private radio station, some very serious defamatory insults from a prime minister who says he is educated – and he uses such kind of bad language – when the radio in question began to denounce his wrong deeds, and therefore, if it returns to power, it will never give the green light to launch private television.

The MBC TV is the king’s tool, and the king always belongs to one community. Yet we all pay our electricity bills, where we pay a [mandatory] fee of Rs. 150-200 for MBC TV. On the other hand, private radio is free. The list is too long to say how the minorities and especially the Muslim Community [the Muslims] are suffering a lot in all sectors. If we have to enumerate injustices against our Muslim Community and its suffering, the list will be too long.

That’s why I ask all our brothers and sisters of the Muslim Community, let’s forget our differences on certain things. Let us think of uniting ourselves as Muslims [one body], and all of us, as Muslims, we perform Salat (prayer) for Allah and firmly believe in the five pillars of Islam. And we firmly establish ourselves on: Laa-Ilaaha Illallah Muhammadur Rassullullah. This is the main and fundamental thing and let us unite as one Ummah, one family, where our belief in the unicity of Allah is firm and let us not divide ourselves [because others seek to divide us and identify ourselves as terrorists] and let us not tear ourselves apart. That’s what others want. They do everything to divide us, because they know that if we are united, no one will be able to have victory over us. Verily, unity is strength, and at the head of the Muslim Community there will be a spiritual leader, an elect of Allah with the Ruh’il Quddus [the Holy Spirit] who comes from Allah and there will be peace and unanimous obedience for the progress of the Muslim Community both in material and spiritual terms. Insha-Allah.

Do not put your trust in creature, but place your trust and hope in your Creator. And now especially when all of you know about the misdeeds of this regime, where [formerly] it had had the Muslim Personal Law (MPL) removed and even nowadays, those who were married under the MPL, their marital status is no more valid [as legally married]. To be recognized as legally married, they must marry under the Napoleonic code. To marry according to the system of unbelievers [non-believers in the Muslim faith]. It is unfortunate that no Muslim minister or deputy has been able to correct this injustice to the Muslim community. 

So, our great weapon [it’s not guns or swords but] it’s our duahs [invocations] to our Creator. He is the best Judge and the Almighty.

Innallaaha ma-as Saabiriin.
Allah is with those who are steadfast.

May Allah establish His Justice on earth, such justice that no man can undo, for it is by Allah’s grace that the Muslim community can flourish and prosper and that humanity can be saved without hatred, and revenge, but with love and justice from Allah, and like our master, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) taught us. Insha-Allah, Ameen.