This semester, I’m taking a class called Nature of Politics. We discuss people’s definitions of politics from Aristotle to Adam Smith. Aristotle thinks the point of politics is to achieve the good life, and to achieve it you need virtuous statesmen. You also need to have good citizens and good men who are virtuous and live balanced, moral lives. He believed in having rulers and followers.
Machiavelli believed in something quite different. He believed the point of politics was to achieve greatness. He believed rulers didn’t need to be virtuous. In fact it was better they were not, as long as they appeared to have virtue. He believed in necessary evils and considered virtues and god-fearing rulers unable of committing those necessary evils.
Anyway, why am I giving you a history lesson? Because it made me think of this society, of Islam’s point of view toward politics, and both of them mixed together.
As a Muslim, I strongly believe Islam provides the best type of order in communities. And I strongly believe in following those rules and using them in my everyday life. As an American, I strongly believe in contributing to society and helping society succeed. However, American society has an unspoken set of rules which changes from person to person, which—regardless whether they’re silly or not—are even harder to change.
As an American Muslim, what is my role in society? And how do I go about the contradicting values of both sets of beliefs? When Miley Cyrus recently undertook her transformation with the public eye closely watching, I found it very hard to judge her. I realized I couldn’t judge her, because we believed in different things. I couldn’t look at her the same way I could look at a fellow Muslim sister because I realized she probably—obviously—doesn’t view modesty in the same way we view modesty.
So how do we deal with politics? How do we find a common ground among people with extremely different views? In my recitation for Nature of Politics, a lot of people believed Machiavelli’s ideas to be realistic and correct. How do we, as a Muslim community that believes so strongly in the ways of our religion, disagree and show we think our religion has a better solution in ruling a country without appearing to be pushing an agenda?
I also wonder whether it’s ever possible to assimilate completely in an American society. Or are we even supposed to? As American Muslims who have a role in politics, do we become understanding and work in a way that compromises both American and Muslim values? Or do we work for the values that we believe in?
What do you think? What’s your opinion about the nature of politics?