Sunday, 23 October 2011

ألإسلام هو الحل

WAIT! I am not promoting the Muslim Brotherhood. Read on!

I am just adding my $ 0.02 to the discussion on whether they and others should be allowed to use religion-based slogans in the upcoming elections.

My opinion is YES OF COURSE they should be allowed.

Here's why:

  1. CENSORSHIP: Any form of censorship used to curb slogans by a specific group or party is practically censoring of the people's right to choose freely. Freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom to attract voters should not be limited by law for or against one type of campaigning. Besides who decides what is acceptable and what is not? SCAF?! Isn't this the people's revolution? Aren't these elections for the People's Assembly? Of course they are. Then let the people decide. I am not suggesting a referendum (although I suspect strongly that a referendum would produce 70-something % in favor of allowing religion-based slogans) but I believe the results of the elections will be just as indicative. Should the people end up voting into parliament a party or parties which used religious slogans in their campaigns, then practically the people are saying "Yes, we think it's OK to use these slogans". If on the other hand, the parties which use these slogans fail to get seats in parliament, then it is fair to assume the people were none too pleased with the use of such slogans or at least that these slogans were not a decisive factor.
  2. WHY PICK ON THESE SLOGANS? There is no neutral, logical, rational difference between this slogan and any other. All slogans are designed to represent ideologies. Forbidding "Islam is the Solution", is the same as forbidding "Communism or Capitalism or Liberalism - or any other ism - is the Solution". For a fair and level playing ground, all parties must be allowed to use whatever slogans they want. Anything else would be unfair both to the parties themselves and, at least as importantly, to the voters.
  3. UNFAIR: Specifically in the case of the MB, this has been their slogan for decades, it is associated with them, and forbidding them from using it would be robbing them of a phrase they have built a lot of recognition around. Simply unfair and rationally unsupportable. You may or may not want them in power, but that is irrelevant. The only fair way to ensure they do not get into power is to more successfully present the public with something better.
  4. WHAT IS THE REAL ALTERNATIVE? What would you rather do? Push those who would use religion-based slogans under the rug or into detention camps a la NDP? Do you really want to go there? I don't. Any attempt to regulate through censorship is bound to produce a black market.
Of course there are many arguments against allowing the use of religion-based slogans. Here is why I believe these arguments are weak at best and just plain false at worse:
  1. If we allow "Islam is the Solution", we open the door to "Christianity or Judaism is the Solution": Of course we do, and we should argue just as strongly for allowing any party to use either of these two and let the people pick what they want. And if indeed the people do want the party raising "Christianity is the Solution" or "Judaism is the Solution" then that's what the people should get.
  2. We should not mix religion and politics: That is ONE point of view, maybe yours, maybe mine, but certainly not everybody's. Nobody has the right to decide for everybody what should and should not be allowed into politics. For many Egyptians (we'll find out just how many after the elections) politics and religion SHOULD be mixed, in fact, for many Egyptians, politics is just one more element under the umbrella of religion and religion is an integral component of political belief. Many for example, would not want an atheist president. Who are you and I to decide otherwise for them?
  3. Using religion in politics is like blackmail, vote for me you go to heaven, don't and you go to hell: This argument comes up in various forms including "these parties are fooling people through using religion in their campaigns" or "religion is different, people are sensitive" or "simple people will be drawn towards these parties without thinking" etc.. all of which assume a degree of stupidity and naivety in our population which I reject completely. It is arrogant to assume you and I know what is best for them. People know that there is no party which holds the keys to heaven or can close the gates of hell. 
  4. Nobody has the right to monopolize Islam: I completely agree and in fact this is one of the slightly better arguments, BUT it is still rather weak. Reason being that parties which say "Democracy is the solution" or "Secularism is best" or "Communism is the way out" don't (and don't claim to) have a monopoly on democracy or secularism or communism, do they? Nobody claims they have a monopoly on anything! All they are saying is "This is what we believe", NOT "this is what we believe and we are the only ones who believe it"!
  5. These people are just using this slogan to attract voters, but they have no real programs: IMHO this is a completely different discussion. Whether or not a party has a solid program is irrelevant to the discussion on whether or not they may use religion-based slogans. To the promoters of this argument, I would recommend you challenge parties on their programs, not their slogans!
  6. If they fail, it will be seen as a failure of Islam: Rubbish! Do we all think Saudi Arabia or Iran or the Vatican are successful or unsuccessful BECAUSE they are (ostensibly) religion-based states? NO, of course not! Whether they fail or succeed is related to how they run their programs. Again, the people of Egypt are not so stupid or naive as to believe that should the MB (or other religion-based groups and parties) fail, that means there is something wrong with the religion itself! Does North Korea's failure as a state mean that communism and atheism can never be successful? NO! Does the current world economic crisis mean capitalism is doomed? NO!
So what's my reco?

Let parties use whatever slogans they want, religion-based, ideology-based, even gender-based and social-class based. If someone wants to run as the defender of the poor or the carrier of women's rights or the Jewish candidate or the one who will ensure Christians get their rights, then let them. If they perform, the people will re-elect them, if not, they will be ousted.

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