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Liberals vs. Conservatives: Where do Muslims Stand?

SIA Chai-Chat
November 2, 2012 Notes from the interactive discussion

Liberals vs. Conservatives: Where do Muslims Stand?

Popular Impressions of Liberals

Obama Non-religious Gay rights Abortion Progressive Caring Hipster Tolerant/permissive Keynesian

Popular Impressions of Conservatives

Orthodox Traditional Hawish/Pro-war Pro-life Pro-gun Religious Limited government Anti-Islam/Clash of Civilizations Bigotry Pro-Israel Reagan/Bush Ayn Rand

Popular Understanding

The topic and its focus

Whereas Muslims share many social values with the conservatives, they often align their politics with the liberals in this country. This chai-chat seeks to unpack this paradox and its implications. It will take a critical look at the liberal and conservative positions on several social issues from an Islamic perspective including abortion, sex-ed programs, school prayer, gay marriage, social welfare, hyper consumerism, and obscenity and other problems in pop culture. This chai-chat will allow us a space to share our thoughts on these issues and think about ways to construct our Muslim stance and politics between and beyond the social agendas of the above two camps.

A major concern: principle based politics vs. pragmatic politics Another major concern: we start internalizing the grammar and principles of other political ideologies that we sometimes pragmatically align with such as my body is my own business Need to be conscious of the Islamic ideology/framework and how it may be different from other positions/ideologies

A discussion on constructing our Muslim stance and politics should start with having our Islamic framework thought through

Islamic Framework


God Soul Journey (Maad)/Hereafter/Progress Spiritual Knowledge/Guidance/Prophecy

Life and seerat of noble personalities

Values and Principles/Axioms

Justice Seeking the truth/knowledge Human Life/Dignity Suffering (immediate and long term) Obligation/Solidarity with Ummah/Human Beings Emphasis on Community/Family Servitude Creating a just society


Liberal Framework


Skepticism/Relativist vs. Humanist Pragmatic [Tension between the following two]

Non-interference Collective good/Progress

Values, Principles, Axioms

Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness (individualistic) Harm principles Choice Collective good



Like liberals, conservatives have different strands and come from (even more) diverse orientations Catholic Muslim Evangelical Amish Need to distinguish

Political ideology: American Conservatism Political Party: Republicans

Beyond Two or Three Camps: Muslim Concerns

Conservative parallels

Moral issues
Tolerance Environmentalism Critique of Capitalism

Liberal parallels

Socialist Parallels


Occupy Wall Street Environmentalism

Cant fit Islam neatly into how we understand Conservative/Principlist/Absolutist/Progressi ve within liberal/leftist/conservative traditions, even when there are parallel in values and standpoints

Thinking beyond binaries

We do not need to subscribe to one or the other camp in the national politics

Issue-based politics on the national level or community/local level (such as, mobilization for school) They come for gays today, tomorrow they will come for us

Pragmatic politics

It cannot be a yes or no answer. Rather, we need to develop a nuanced perspective on specific social issues Pragmatic/Realistic/liberal politics within the American context, should it also become our Islamic principle? [internationalization problem] We need informed discussion in our communities Rather than taking a defensive or parochial position, we should ask: What Islam can offer to this society? Different avenues of activism

National Codification Local community/schools/environmental and other movements Advocacy

What Islam Can Offer to America? Advocacy/Dialogue I

Different avenues of activism (not just presidential voting)

National Codification Local community/schools/environmental and other movements Advocacy Learn, self-building, have an informed opinion Process of engagement/dialogue is learning itself

Not two step, but could be simultaneous:

Similarly, we can work on generating awareness and building activism in our communities and simultaneously work outside of our communities and bridging the gap between our communities and outside society (but not to assimilate in the mainstream politics, but rather with the concern of what Islam can offer to America) Its not necessarily imposing through law, through dialogue and cultural and social change

We should not adopt a minority mentality Grassroots?

Focus on systematic change

What Islam Can Offer to America? Advocacy/Dialogue II

Inform and engage our communities too Identify the roots of the problem, choose our battles wisely and spend our energies smartly

Look at the movement of the Prophets they focused on the root cause-s in their movement (instead of picking identity/parochialistic politics, or particular causes). They focused on reforming the hearts, minds, and social system (starting with the hearts and minds). The implication is that Muslims must not just concern themselves with matters of socio-economic concerns, but also moral and ideological concerns (including whats presented in pop culture, how history is taught in textbooks, or science for that matter, etc.)

Matrix of Success

Principle-oriented vs. end-oriented Long-term perspective of hereafter/Maad