Vickie's Journey into Political Islam
It has been quite a journey.
Nearly 10 years ago I responded to Waleed Aly’s book People Like Us: How Arrogance is Dividing Islam and the West. Aly claimed to offer a real conversation about Islam in a western context. As this was a conversation my husband Michael and I had actively attempted to engage in with many Australian Muslims, I took the opportunity to respond to Aly via my book Ideological Jihad. I wrote this as an open letter to Aly.
Here I attempted to connect the dots between the Islamic mission we had witnessed in Australia and the growing concern of many Australians about the undermining of core freedoms and human rights which were facilitated through the expression of political Islam. I learnt that religious beliefs have political consequences.
I also learnt through Islamic lectures in Melbourne that dawah (Islamic mission) and jihad (striving, sometimes violently, in the cause of Allah) could be two sides to the same coin. Either way that coin fell, it appeared it was ‘heads up’ for Islamists with Islamic state aspirations. This was the fundamental nature of the Islam we were exposed to in Australia; purely political with a break for prayers.
‘Ideological Jihad’ was the end result of a close friendship with an Egyptian mum who radicalized. After it was published I met a Malaysian woman named Zalifah. She didn’t fit nicely into the framework of Islamic teaching we’d been exposed to but as an individual, Zalifah had also moved from ‘one Islam to another.’ Ie her Islam wasn’t politically motivated at that time, but she confessed, it once had been. There was a time in her youth when a suicide mission would have been something to consider. We are still the deepest of friends.
As a result, I later presented public talks called ‘Two friends, Two Islams.’ And much later I shared a platform with Dr Bernie Power who presented five groups within Islam, classified according to their political stance, which he’d identified through his own research and extensive mission experience.
To state the obvious, the legitimate concern for many is the possibility of individuals moving from one Islam to another in the wrong direction; the direction that culminates in terrorist activity and supremacist caliphate theology. That’s what happened to my Egyptian friend although Zalifah moved in the opposite direction. What seems to be needed is a remedy to radicalization.
It was in the light of this understanding that I chose to make a political stand for core freedoms and values. In this stand, I supported the separation of church and state and understood there must be a legal responsibility to preserve the concepts of freedom, which facilitate human flourishing. This responsibility rests with the government.
I also hold to a personal belief that the church has the responsibility of keeping the ‘spirit of liberty’ alive and the message about the one who brings it. While contemporary conversations about the separation of church and state are few and far between, these are important cultural conversations.
In recent years, some strong Muslim voices for liberty have also emerged. One of those voices is Dr Zuhdi Jasser. Jasser is an American born of Syrian parents, former Lieutenant in the US Navy, Physician, author of ‘Battle for the Soul of Islam’, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, internationally recognized expert on Islamism (political Islam) and co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement.
As a medical physician advocating for liberty, Jasser maintains the remedy for radicalization is to 'inoculate (fellow) Muslims with the ideas of universal freedom within the Islamic consciousness.’ He is a strong public advocate for the separation of mosque and state and I believe his honesty in acknowledging the ideological diversity within Islam and the problem with Islamism is commendable.
Jasser makes a clear distinction between Islam and Islamism offering Muslims a choice. That's freedom.
As I see it, we can either argue about theology and remain divided, or we can stand with reform-minded Muslims who seek a separation of mosque and state, an end to sharia law and caliphate theology and who support universal human rights, secular governance and a better, safer world for all. I hope we can agree to disagree on theology, as we do with other fellow citizens of faith and no faith. As citizens and neighbours, my hope is that we can become friends in freedom by truly embracing the spirit of liberty.
I invite you to participate in this vital cultural conversation by attending the public meetings in Melbourne and Sydney March 2019 where Dr Jasser will engage with Australian Muslims and non-Muslim academics in the field of Islamic studies about the merits of the Muslim Reform Movement.
You can get your tickets and read more about these ground-breaking events here.