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Archive for February, 2014

I recently finished a coursera course called, “Constitutional struggles of the Muslim world”. In it we had to write a final essay on our understanding of what was covered in the course. Here is my exposition.

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The constitutional struggles of the Muslim world point primarily to indigestion. The constitution cannot handle the over indulgence of some countries in stark contrast to the severe lack of social, military and economic reform in other parts of the Muslim world. 

For a person’s constitution to be in a state of healthy balance it requires the body and mind to work harmoniously in sync. Similarly the struggles of the underperforming countries in the Muslim world point to gaps in reform that cause desynchronization. An under-performing country is one which lacks a clear state structure, an emphatic, enthusiastic and diplomatic ruler or heads of state and a country in which the people’s values and morals point more towards personal gain than collective progress. These countries struggle because they cannot compromise or find middle ground on religion (Palestine), Politics (Bangladesh), Economics (Pakistan) or social stability (Afghanistan).

In the same way that a tums tablet can ease indigestion of the bodily constitution, an institution which is fair, just and progressive can work wonder for the constitutional struggles of the Muslim countries in the world. The role of such institutions is to enter the societies which in which they seek to make a difference, entrench themselves in the local consciousness (both literally and figuratively through offices and physical presence and figuratively through campaigns, emotional investment and buy in from stakeholders),  and work with the collective society to enact change and empower others to do the same. Such institutions should look to provide services which enhance the self sufficiency of the people and bring stability and harmony to the region through social dialogue, military and rebel compromise and greater empathy between those who disagree.

The reason why a tums tablet or an institution would be unsuccessful in such worthy endeavours would be if the heads of state (Saudi Sheikhs) are swayed by external forces (the US) and extenuating circumstances (9/11 and the ‘war on terror’) to compromise their interest in their own region (assistance to the arab spring) which would have bought about much needed financial and social support, to instead focus on siphoning their resources to worthless causes (the UAE’s hotels, resorts and buildings which are primarily empty and feed the growing middle eastern debt crisis). This kind of extravagance and pandering to western whims leads to a disengagement from the collective consciousness of the region much like what happened to Turkey when Kemal Ataturk sacrificed the social, religious and emotional sentiment of the collective consciousness of the Turkish people to instil in his regime western trends that brainwashed whole generations and caused lasting dissolution of religious and nationalistic zeal for economic reform and cementing of foreign relations with growing superpowers.

The role of political Islam in Muslim countries is varied. In some countries, such as Iran, Islam is used to justify political agendas and political reform that would otherwise be protested by the public. In some countries such as Afghanistan it is used to emphatically marginalise the majority to enforce the wishes of a minority (Taliban’s).  In some countries it is used to enforce gender inequality by enforcing cultural impositions under the guise of religious guidelines (women cannot drive in Saudi Arabia by themselves… why? It is not written in the Quran anywhere that women are not allowed to drive). Such acts of wilful political, social and military hegemony from leaders of Muslim states under the banner of Islam leads to Islamisation campaigns that are successful in pushing forward their agenda but pushing down the collective consciousness of the people who form deep seated resentment to the religion used against them. A religion that promotes peace and harmony is forced upon people as a condition of rule and order to further personal gain. This is how Muslim countries become weak nation states with social and religious factions stewing in the juices of their discontent.

There is however a solution to such problems. Countries like Malaysia and Singapore were highlighted as exceptions from this general trend due to their recipe for relative success. They used a mix of diplomatic, religious, western and secular rules and regulations to form the basis of their constitution, political reforms and relative success. Such countries do not forget their roots in the basic premise of Islam and the laws that should govern them, and build on those foundations with strong secular and diplomatic guidelines and input from institutions to form lasting advancements in social, economic and military reforms which aid to cement their places as thriving countries in a highly globalised modern sphere. This is the recipe for the cure to the constitutional struggles in the Muslim world.

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