When two people speak together a useful exchange of views requires that both adopt the same language and recognize similar meanings of words; otherwise discourse is meaningless and neither will understand the other. This requirement unfortunately is the reason Muslims and non Muslims cannot achieve a rational common understanding of issues critical to their existence together.
Of all social concepts perhaps freedom, liberty and democracy are the most important. Freedom and liberty go together but democracy is in the eye of the beholder; which is to say to some democracy is a prelude to freedom and liberty and to others it is a way to impose, solidify and entrench their philosophy on a "democratic" population for all time. The Middle East and Communist states are prime examples of emplacement of unchangeable autocratic regimes short of a bloody revolution. Indeed, the American Civil War is also an example of a bloody revolution to ensure one philosophy prevailed over another, even in a presumed "Democracy".
But with Islam these truths take on global ramifications because Islamists believe and expect their philosophy to rule the world and freedom and liberty, as known in western civilization, is at risk for survival.
Islam is a way of life, not merely a unique religion, where the life in this world gets its prescribed share of importance. It is neither belittled nor denied or exhaulted as in other religions, nor is it accorded all the significance to the exclusion of the Hereafter as in secularism. The importance of this world is described by the Quranic supplication, "O our Lord! Give us in this world that which is good and in the Hereafter that which is good, and save us from the torment of the Fire" (Qur’an, 2:201). This verse of the Qur’an describes the balance in life that has to be sought if Muslims, "the best of God’s creations," are to survive the "moral and spiritual crisis created by man’s ingratitude to his creator."
Islam as a complete code of life is seen by Muslims the only hope in the pathetic state of affairs that mankind finds itself today. Muslims believe they have heard God’s proclamation "This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion (way of life)" (Qur’an 5:3).
The Islamic Shariah is a complete scheme of life and an all-embracing social order where nothing is superfluous and nothing is lacking. Therefore there is no separation between state and church. This artificial separation, from an Islamic perspective, destroys the transcendence of all moral values. In Qur’anic words "those who forget God eventually forget themselves" (Qur'an 59:19) and their individual and communal personalities disintegrate. Thus, Islam is considered the religion in which, through voluntary submission to God, human beings find peace with themselves and their environment. A Muslim seeks God’s guidance in all matters all the time.
For Muslims there is no contradiction between the divine rights of the individual, as anchored in the Qur'an, and the core right as embodied in universal human rights declarations. Muslims believe in a way foreign to the thinking of non Muslims that they actually support fundamental human-rights, the rule of law, and division of power with accountability and transparency, universal suffrage and eligibility, freedom of speech and conscious, as long as these concepts are defined by Shariah law.
Islamic Shariah law commands its followers to observe the local legal order and participate fully in community matters on the principals of general welfare of humanity and seeking the common good. Muslims can live anywhere in the world, provided they can fulfill their fundamental religious duties, while also respecting and abiding by all the regulations of the land; and if this means using democracy to do that, so be it. After all, in sufficient numbers, Muslims can democratically vote themselves into power and then decree Shariah law will prevail.
Election and voting is approved in Islam from the way in which the first "Khalifa" (caliph), Abu Bakr(ra), and the third Khalifa, Uthman ibn ‘Affan(ra), were chosen or elected by the Muslims in Medina during the first century of Islam in the first Islamic state. There was a consensus, i.e. majority vote, which is found in authentic literature and is therefore an example of approval of voting as a part of Islamism.
To Muslims, forming ties of cooperation with non-Muslims in worldly affairs is permissible as long as that will bring benefits to Muslims and the wider community while also helping establishing their idea of justice and to avoid whatever Muslims consider unjust to them. Therefore, there is nothing wrong about Muslims' participating in elections run in non Muslim countries, especially when such participation accrues benefits to Muslims or wards off harm.
For those like me who were unaware, there is something called "the European Council for Fatwa and Research" and they issued a "Fatwa" to shed light on Muslims use of voting in democratic elections; it involves loyalty and religious cohesiveness.
The first is loyalty concerns religious matters. It refers to creedal loyalty, which lays in believing in Allah and shunning other beliefs that run counter to the "Oneness of Allah" (you probably have to be a Muslim to understand this one). According to the text, "Almighty Allah Says: ‘Your friend can be only Allah; and His messenger and those who believe, who establish worship and pay the poor due, and bow down (in prayer)’ (Surah Al-Ma’dah: 55)."
The second loyalty concerns worldly matters: This refers to transactions between people living in the same society or between different societies, regardless of distance and religion. It is permissible for Muslims to engage with non Muslims in commercial transactions, peace treaties and covenants according to the rules and conditions prevalent in those countries, but Muslims retain the right to abrogate any commitments to non Muslims if adherence to the words of Allah as announced by Mohammad in the Koran so require. Books of Islamic jurisprudence contain many references to such dealings.
The third admonition is the "Prophet's Response to Calls for Aid". Muslims believe "The humanitarian gestures of the Prophet towards the people of Mecca were not confined to the period he spent with them. This noble attitude continued even after he emigrated from Mecca to Medina and established the Islamic state there. He nevertheless rushed to lend the hand of support when calamities befell the people of Mecca.”One of the main goals of Islamic law is to achieve benefits and ward off harms to Muslims, whether at the individual level or the Muslim society as a whole. Muslims’ participation in elections is a religious duty. It is a type of mutual cooperation with those whom Muslims think as prospective candidates, will bring benefits for society in general and Muslims in particular.
Sheikh Abdul Muhsin al-Abbaad of Saudi Arabia was asked whether it is permissible for Muslim minorities to vote in local elections if they believe that one of the candidates can benefit Muslims and the community. He replied:
"There is no harm in voting for candidates who will be of more benefit to Muslims and the community more than the others. In this instance, voting for them is an example of doing the lesser of two evils to avoid the greater evil. The candidate who is less harmful to Muslims is better than the candidate whose harm is far greater.
I consider Muslim political participation, especially in a non-Muslim country, as a form of jihad. This is our country and it would be foolish not to participate in the political processes which eventually shape our future and that of Islam. I support marching in the streets to raise awareness about certain issues. However, if we really want to change the status-quo then we have to influence those who walk the corridors of power. Muslims need not only to vote but put forward Muslim candidates in all the mainstream and serious independent parties. We need to be represented or be present at the tables around which policies are discussed, made and agreed."
Looking at the situation of the Muslim community and their need to have their interests met, it is not unlike those of liberals and conservatives in that it becomes advisable for the Muslims to achieve this purpose through the available political system. Through voting, a person can be elected to office who sympathizes with the "Muslim cause." The problem is that the "Muslim cause" is antithetical to a free society and secular democracy. Muslims want the world to follow Shariah law and with it the subjugation of women, human rights, tolerance of all others and their right to believe as they wish; all of which are necessary foundations of freedom and liberty, and what we call, foolishly, Democracy.
We must recognize Islam for what it is, failure to do so will assure western civilization as we know it will not survive. Freedom and Islam cannot live together, regardless what too many believe. Liberty and justice for all are not part of the Islamic lexicon; it is not possible to communicate with someone who doesn’t use the same language.