As we publish our May/June issue the political establishment in Britain is firing its last shots in an effort to attract the last few unconvinced and undecided voters. With the nation becoming more and more disillusioned with politics and politicians, it is not going to be an easy task to get people to the polling stations. As for the British Muslim electorate, the dilemma is no longer about voting or not voting. The Muslim presence in the political arena is too important to disregard. However sceptical one may be, the idea that Muslims are active voters may be a sufficient reason for the political establishment to consider them and to listen to their requests. Disappointment with party politics over the years has turned Muslim voters into a floating electorate which understands the concept of strategic voting and is no longer associated with a particular party. While all major parties have tried to play the ‘Muslim card’ by putting up Muslim candidates in constituencies with significant Muslim populations, the reality is that this no longer works, and Muslim grass roots political activists have been asking the communities to base their decisions on candidates who are willing to commit themselves to at least a few pledges put forward by Muslim community manifestos. The growing political maturity of the Muslim community goes hand in hand with an increasing Muslim presence within the political life of this nation, which is not only about general elections but illustrated by the many community engagements at local levels.
The history of Muslims has many examples of peaceful integration in areas where they migrated as merchants to establish economic ventures with commercial outposts. From South East Africa to South East Asia the story of the Islamic presence tells us of communities of Muslims that had successfully integrated with the local population and contributed to their growth in many ways. Muslim traders provided the link between new areas of commerce and the great expanse of the Islamic world with its rich cultural and technological resources.
In the cover story of this issue Yasser Ahmed discusses the role of Islam as a world system builder and of its ability to respond to the challenges of time and place. He argues that far from being a rigid system it was Islam’s flexibility to adapt to circumstances that enabled it to continue its peaceful expansion. Islam has been successful in establishing new polities and enabled the Islamic civilisation to continue to expand even after the collapse of imperial power structures to which it remained marginally subordinated throughout history. Yasser Ahmed encourages us to reflect on our past but above all to focus on what helped Islam to establish a world system that rose above national boundaries. To this I would add that for an active and confident participation in the society in which we live and to face up to the challenges for the sake of ourselves, future generations and society at large, we must start to believe in our abilities as individuals and as communities. We must fulfil our role and responsibility towards other religious communities, cultures and fellow citizens, enriching ourselves with new experiences with an open mind and, above all, spiritual integrity.
And on the note of spirituality let me take the opportunity to wish you all a spiritually fruitful season during the remaining days of the auspicious month of Shaban and the much awaited holy month of Ramadhan.