Local Islamic groups encouraged Muslims to vote in Tuesday’s elections, ignoring the message of and working against a fringe Islamist group that had distributed bulletins telling Chicago Muslims that voting is a sin.
Mary Ali, director of the Institute of Islamic Information and Education, in Irving Park, said that even though that belief is inaccurate “a lot of people are afraid to vote.”
The organization, Hizb ut-Tahrir, is an international political party with a local affiliate, says on its website that its goal is “establishing an Islamic State.”
On the Hizb ut-Tahrir America website, their message about voting, titled “Sincere Advice to the Muslims,” is laid out.
It says, “Participation in elections is one of the tools used to assimilate Muslims, to dilute their Islamic identity.”
“Voting is giving a candidate the power of attorney to rule on your behalf,” the statement reads. It says participating in a secular government contradicts the Quran’s message that only Allah has the authority to make laws.
Gerald Hankerson, outreach coordinator for the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called this message “alarming,” and well out of the Muslim-American mainstream.
While CAIR-Chicago believes that Hizb ut-Tahrir has a right to their views, the organization says that American Muslims must be civically engaged, from voting to running for office.
Hankerson specifically objected to the organizations point that even though Muslims have voted in the United States and around the world, it’s done them little good.
Fawad Saeed, a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, said, “The fact that less than 40 percent of eligible voters who actually vote should be a clear sign for the Muslims not to fall into the voting trap.”
He said it’s clear to anyone who understands the American political system—which, according to him, is fed by money and capitalistic competition as opposed to by God’s moral word—can see that it is ineffective.
He said that voting is obviously ineffective to anyone who understands the American political system. A government, he said, that is fed by money and capitalistic competition as opposed to by God’s moral word.
Even with more Muslims voting, “the domestic situation has digressed greatly for Muslims,” Saeed said.
He gave examples: the burnt Quran sent to the Muslim Community Center in Albany Park and national controversies over where masjids, or Islamic places of worship, can be built.
Hankerson said issues like these are exactly why Muslims should vote. The current election, he said, “was fueled by Islamophobia” and Muslims need to stand up for themselves and their issues.
He cited an Islamic hadith, or teaching of the Prophet Muhammad, as part of a Muslim’s impetus to be engaged with government and lawmaking. According to the teaching, a Muslim should respond to injustice with their hands, voices and hearts when possible.
Hankerson said Muslims should be “more visible” in American politics and should weigh in on “how society should be governed,” as American Muslims are affected by issues like education, healthcare and the economy.
Even though many Muslims know it’s okay to vote, Ali said “most of them don’t bother with it.”
Only 64 percent of American-Muslims are even registered to vote, the lowest of any religious subgroup, according to 2009 research conducted by Gallup.
Ali added that many Muslims in her community cannot vote because they are not citizens.
Mohammad Aleemuddin, president of the Muslim Community Center, echoed Ali when he said that many of his masjid’s members cannot vote yet. The center’s website, however, encouraged its members who are citizens to vote.
Having seen the Hizb ut-Tahrir bulletin, Aleemuddin dismissed the idea that Muslims should not vote.
At the ballot box, he said Muslims should vote to promote the good of humanity and local democratic values.
“Unless we speak, someone will speak for us,” he said.