Editor's Note: This 2008 interview is highlighted for its relevancy to the 2012 US presidential elections.
Dr. Salah El-Deen Soltan has been described as "one of America's most-noted Muslim scholars." Scrolling through his twelve-page CV, one would be astonished at the amount of positions, publications, activities, researches, and workshops he held, led, or was part of.
As the founder of several US Muslim organizations, including the American Center for Islamic Research, the Sultan Publishing Company, and the Islamic American University, Dr. Soltan has proved that his insight of the American Muslim community is worth digging into.
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It is obvious that the American-Muslim community needs change, needs to be more active in the US politics, and needs to change the policies of its country that has changed and continues to change the lives of a lot of Muslims all around the world. And it appears that Dr. Soltan is well-suited for the talk about this arduous mission.
"To achieve Allah's consent and Paradise through the reformation of the soul, the family, the society, and the nation according to the methodology of the Qur'an and the Sunnah," this is how he sees his mission in life, and it shows in this interview.
OnIslam.net (OI): Why should Muslims participate in the US elections?
Salah Soltan:I believe that such participation is not only permissible, but obligatory as well when it comes to the US elections; and the Islamic text proves that.
Allah — Subhanahu Wattaala ("Glorious and exalted is He") — says: [Hide not testimony] (Al-Baqarah 2: 283) and elections is a witness according to the agreement of many of the Ummah scholars. [Hide not testimony. He who hideth it, verily his heart is sinful] (Al-Baqarah 2:283) such scripture, along with many others, signifies that nonparticipation leads to the sinning of the heart.
Through research, collecting opinions of credible Sheikhs and Fatwa councils, arguing the doubts that some of the respectable brothers and Sheikhs rouse about the participation in elections, all of that made me end up with a firm believe that participation in the US elections from the juridical angle is an obligation.
Circumstantially, it is an obligation too. According to the constitution, the American system makes everything goes through elections. I believe that for every Muslim who lives there commanding what is right and forbidding what is wrong goes through elections.
|The participation of Muslims in the US elections is a judicial obligation and a circumstantial necessity.|
The last elections before I left America was about smoking in public places in Ohio. Voters went to vote and Muslims were mobilized to vote against smoking in public, especially in restaurants.
Even the police has a board that is elected by cities' citizens. Mayors, governors, board electricity companies, and educational councils are all elected.
Another example there is a fierce debate between the elected educational councils in different parts of America on whether to consider homosexual boys and girls pervert or not. If people vote that they are normal not pervert, they would assign big number of social counselors, not to guide those boys and girls, but to guide their parents and teach them to accept their homosexual children and that it is normal, as statistics show that 70% of those who leave school and home are homosexual, who are not accepted by their parents and tend to leave their parents which makes them drop out of school in order to work to earn their living. If Muslims were present in such debate, and demonstrate both logically and religiously that such homosexuality is prohibited pervert in all religions not just in Islam, the results would be very satisfactory.
I have an issue with brothers' nonparticipation in elections, the duty of participation in election is put forth only when there is a presidential elections. But presidential elections are part of a long chain in the structure of the American society. Thus, I would like our brothers who have Fiqh of reality to give attention to every elections that occurs in any state not just to the presidential ones; I think this issue is really important.
The American congress is composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives and these are the most supreme powers after the president, and they give the needed legitimacy for the latter. The Congress can litigate the President and dismiss him. Thus, nonparticipation means the continuation of their crimes in our countries.
Jews are certainly less in numbers than Muslims now in the US. Our number is between 8 to 10 millions, yet although American Jews are no more than 6 million they have vision, plan, determination of whom to vote for and whom to ignore, and in some cases they support two candidates at the same time so that whomever wins becomes accountable to them. This is done in the Congress or the presidential elections. Jews in the US spend massive amount of money ion elections' publicity campaign.
The average sum of money spent on publicity for a Senate candidate is $5 million and for the House of Representatives candidate is $1 million, yet the US presidential candidate exceeds by far this amount. The most expensive presidential campaign was that of President Bush in year 2004; it reached billions of US dollars.
|If it was a presidential election [...] then there has to be formed a Shura council from all US states that will assemble and take one decision.|
Such exorbitant expenditure on US elections by Jewish-owned mega-businesses and organizations is not done in philanthropy.
I will mention an example that Muslims in the US and Europe should be well aware of. Mr. Paul Findley's book "Silent No More" says that President Kennedy in his second elections had a shaky stand, and accordingly a man responsible for 300 Jewish organizations proposing to fund all his campaign on one condition which was to place the keys of foreign policy in his hands, and Kennedy refused such proposal. The result was the assassination of John Kennedy.
These facts, supported with incidents and numbers, prove that the participation of Muslims in the US elections is a judicial obligation and a circumstantial necessity. I hope that Muslims stop yelling at the Islamic centers and Masjids justifying not participating in elections with claims of widespread scandals in the US, especially in the municipality elections.
OI: Put between two choices of personal benefits — related to candidates' internal agenda — and the US foreign policy that affects the Muslims world, which choice do you think the US Muslims should ideally go for?
Soltan:In this case I would put methodology instead of a solution. The methodology in such case would be the presence of a Shura council according to the nature of the elections. If it was a local election, then the Shura council would be a local one that would decide which candidate is more appropriate. If it was a presidential election [...] then there has to be formed a Shura council from all US states that will assemble and take one decision. But for one US Muslim to sit alone and start making a judgment of who fits and who does not that is not correct.
|Two conditions have to be satisfied in a good candidate: does not be notorious for attacking Islam and to be qualified enough to the positions he is running for.|
Thus, I propose two methodologies, one about decision making through the Muslim Shura councils that will work according to the municipality, state, or the US levels. The second is to value issues according to the best out of two goods, and then judging among the goods and evils, or judging the lesser of two evils concerning Muslims. This is the methodology and US Muslims can solve problems accordingly.
OI: What should the US Muslims look for in a presidential candidate?
Soltan:In my book "Muslims Participation in the American Elections: Its Obligation and its Islamic Guidelines," Sultan Publishing, 2005, I said that such conditions that determines an acceptable candidate should include that he does not be notorious for attacking Islam and to be qualified enough to the positions he is running for. If such candidate was not against Islam yet was not qualified enough, then he should not be chosen. If the two mentioned conditions were satisfied a Muslim can accordingly vote for such candidate.
OI: How do you see the future of the Muslim community in the US? Is it going for a better or worse one?
|We do not want to get into a competition and end up with a weak politician that would do more harm than benefit to Muslims.|
Soltan:I imagine that the future of the US Muslims is tied up to a number of factors. First is giving more attention to the internal development more than moving and extending outwards in the Da'wah activity. Muslims in the US need much more internal treatment than external one; US and European Muslim communities need to bring up leaders and calibers much more than it is in the rest of the Muslim world.
Secondly, those Muslims must have the abilities to unite themselves behind one cause and say. The Muslim influence is conditioned with unity. As an example, in Birmingham, UK, where there is a high Muslim density, six Muslims ran into elections against each others and the other non-Muslim candidate won the elections because votes were wasted in the competition among the six Muslim candidates. Thus, the nomination of more than one Muslim candidate stood against the success of Muslims. We are facing an actual crisis because we are exerting some real efforts yet such efforts are wasted by disunity.
The third factor that will act towards a better future for the Muslim community is to foster political figures. Most Muslims in the US want to bring up their children to be either a medical doctor or an engineer; there are no Muslim Congressman except for only one who is a doctor and the others are lawyers. We have to direct Muslim youth since high school towards the study of law, but the mentality and culture of the immigrant Muslim community tend to put the study of medicine and engineering ahead of any other field.
Youth have to be directed to the study of political science and law, Allah Almighty said [If they had intended to come out, they would certainly have made some preparation therefore] (At-Tawbah 9: 46). We do not want to get into a competition and end up with a weak politician that would do more harm than benefit to Muslims. The Muslim politician should have strength, distinction, ability to deliver strong speeches, and good argumentative powers so that he can command what is right and forbid what is wrong in the correct way.
On the bright side, there is a sister who studied Shari'ah in Zaitouna University and then travelled to Stockholm, Sweden to study the Swedish language and post-graduate degrees. She ran in elections as a member of the municipal council and won; she is an excellent example that should be followed.
Forth, we have to teach the native American people and not only Muslims that acquired the nationality. Till now there are many Americans that have a negative look to non-native immigrants; Native American, white, and African American Muslims have to be taught and trained well to become distinguished lawyers political activists, and I confirm that they can be trained from the Zakah money.
|Not only training and education is needed, there have to be leadership positions that such Muslims must be placed in.|
Not only training and education is needed, there have to be leadership positions that such Muslims must be placed in. Such practical experience is extremely important so that they can be lively, effective, and powerful leaders that would impress other Americans making them feel that Muslim Americans are also caring for the common interests and not only that of the Muslim community. In my book, I mentioned as the first condition for the participation in the US elections is that the Muslim candidates should observe the welfare of the US society first and then the US Muslims community. When the American common person finds that the Muslim candidate keen on his security, economic wellbeing, cleanliness of streets, the quality of education, the absence of drugs, raping crimes, and violence, this will be the best way to convince Americans that Muslims are different from what Zionists and Islam-enemies are spreading and accusing them of being.
These are the factors that I see determining the future of Muslims in the US. Always I am optimist and I see the future of US Muslims to be more pleasant than now by Allah's willing.
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