Voting is a macro-level act of societal inclusion, citizen engagement and further community development. On a micro-level (individually), voting is the practice of freedom of speech and the preservation and value of each individual’s right to suggest how and in what direction society should progress. There are various reasons why voting will only benefit and contribute to the healthy development of our Muslim community here in our Edmonton.
“O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female and have made you into nations and tribes for you to know one another. Truly, the noblest of you with God is the most pious. Truly, God is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” (Quran, 49:13)
We exist in a world where social belonging is a rarity given that our Canadian society contains a wealth of intersectional (and increasingly hybridized) political, social, cultural, economic and religious diversities. However, voting provides the platform for all citizens to have their say on who should be elected into various government-oriented political parties. When your completed ballot is cast (be it by yourself or through some sort of helpful communication accommodation for diverse abilities), it’s your input (opinions on who should and should not enter positions of power and influence) that then influences the local, provincial or national voice on who should be elected. Casting a ballot isn’t contingent upon your ethnic background, social status, etc. Your valid concern and attention towards the security of your home, local community, city, province and country of Canada (protection from various forms of terrorism: White supremacy, Islamophobia, hate crimes, Mosque shootings, those cruelly misrepresenting Islam, etc) is an obligation and right that you have as a Canadian citizen. By voting, you will contribute to the slow but fruitful process of positive social change.
“…And let not the hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety….” (Quran, 5:8)
On a different note, it is likely safe to say that our Muslim community here in Edmonton is not a perfect community (nor is any other) and would always benefit from more paradigm shifts, structural changes and improvements, structural innovations, resource reallocations, grants and various other forms of supports from the government and tailored social support agencies and associations. On an interpersonal (socio-behavioural) level, intergenerational racism and prejudice are quite alive inside our Muslim community, for example from Arab Muslims towards non-Arab Muslims and from non-black Muslims towards our strong (but relentlessly oppressed and unfairly discriminated upon) Black Muslim sisters and brothers. Voting is a way for our Muslim community to re-develop partnerships and alliances with one another both inside the community and also outside the community, with interfaith initiatives and organizations. Voting gives you the chance to go out into your broader community, move past your comfort zone and ultimately, meet and possibly even bond with (and build lasting relationships) with a diverse array of people who are voting for the same person or similar political party as you. Conversely, under good circumstances, you may end up striking up a peaceful and civil conversation with those with different views than you, perhaps out of your own curiosity. The beauty of politics, elections and voting is that it all transcends the boundaries of religions, cultures, and even social status. Your participation in politics is a beautiful acknowledgement of your open-mindedness towards religions, cultures, languages and social statuses different than your own, which is exactly what our religion (Islam) preaches. How open-minded you are to those different to you (a fellow Muslim and not), as an adult, will surely impact how open-minded the youth and children of our Muslim community and Ummah become or are towards people different than them in appearance, mannerisms or name.
Voting is also an act of cooperation and teamwork because it requires that you do very thorough research and personal analysis (by yourself or as a family) to pinpoint who you believe is the truest to their words and who you believe will walk the talk on their promises. It’s one thing to hastily vote for a politician based on face value (i.e. a politician who has simple or catchy logo expressing how much they love diversity) but it’s another to do your own research, meet the politician in-person (face-to-face) or by phone to ensure you are voting for someone who has extensive knowledge, reliable rapport and transparent passion working with and assisting in empowering diverse, marginalized and underrepresented populations. If you don’t protect your own rights, chances are others will violate your rights knowing you won’t respond and take notice. If you protect your rights, you are then also able to protect the rights of those around you; to vouch and advocate for your community’s rights.
“Truly God commands you to give back trusts to those to whom they are due, and when you judge between people, to judge with justice….” (Quran, 4:58)
Voting is also a personal act of self-expression and a recognition that your voice matters. It’s easy for any of us to say we are apolitical and that politics doesn’t matter but in reality, our existence as individuals is a political act; our wish to put aside some time for self-care every day is a political act. You have lived experiences, you have most likely faced microaggressions by various systems of oppression in our society and you have hardships that you likely did not deserve to go through at all upon settling or growing in Canada. If you think it’s too late for your vote to make a difference in your life, think of how your vote may make a difference in the lives of the younger generations around you.
Last but not least, voting is an act of soulful liberation from the dangers of indifference, unwarranted fear and negative thinking. “Indeed, to Allah we belong and to Allah we shall return (Quran 2:156; Surah Al Baqarah). But surely we also have a moral obligation, as Muslims, to try to contribute to improving this transient Dunya as best we can before we depart for the afterlife. This Dunya may be transient and not a permanent abode for your souls, but the good you do in this world will surely influence how you’ll fare in the next world.
As said by Desmond Tutu: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
Let us all encourage each other to take the time and effort to vote during the upcoming federal, provincial and local elections. No good faith effort or deed on our part, as Muslims, ever goes unnoticed by Allah (swt).