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     Foreign Affairs Policy

 

 

The foreign policy of an Islamic nation or collectivity must, of necessity, be rooted in the principles of the religion applied in the context and within the limitations of prevailing circumstances. These principles, laid down in the Qur'an and exemplified in the life of the prophet Muhammad, take precedence over all other considerations; but, at the same time, the example of the prophet himself teaches Muslims to be realists, assessing every situation in a spirit of serene objectivity. It is often said that politics is "the art of the possible", and this is even more true of international and inter-group relations. An Islamic policy does not, from this point of view, differ from any other principled policy, but it operates subject to the fear of God and of His judgment. No distinction can be made between the manner in which a man acts in his private life and the manner in which he acts as a statesman; he will be judged equally on both counts and always in terms of justice.

The guiding principles of an Islamic policy are justice between the nations, justice within the nations, and the security of the Muslims. It must however be understood that the concept of the nation-state is a purely secular concept, and it would be preferable to speak of justice between different communities and within each community. Islam is the religion of unity and relationship. In our human situation this means, in the first place, the intimate and mutually supportive relationships within the family and, closely allied to this, between those who have common interests; then come the relationships within the community of which the family or group is a component, and here too the relationships have a sacred character, finally there are the relationships between different communities, whether we call them nations or not. The Qur'an teaches that the variety of human races and cultures is willed by God and therefore to be respected; unity is not the same as uniformity. The principle of "live and let live" is one that Muslims can adopt without difficulty, but it is impossible for Muslims to regard the secular notion of inviolable "national sovereignty" as sacred. It is not in accordance with Islamic principles to stand aside and wring our hands while we watch a dictator who has usurped power in a particular country slaughter millions of his own people (as in fact happened in Cambodia in the 1970s). When gross injustices are seen to occur it is the Muslim's duty to do whatever may be in his power to correct the situation. If he cannot do so by direct action, then he has a duty to denounce these injustices and, if possible, to persuade others to combine with him in effective action. Man-made barriers between different peoples are not always worthy of respect. According to the Qur'an, we are all the issue of "one single soul", and Muslims cannot ignore their responsibilities to their fellow creatures.

The responsibility of a Muslim government or group is however proportionate to the power at its disposal. If it has the means to put an end to oppression, wherever this may occur, then it has an obligation to do so, if possible by peaceful persuasion, otherwise by such "pressures" (e.g. economic sanctions) as may be available. Military force is a last resort. Whatever the circumstances, and whatever action may be necessary, Muslims who are true to their faith must always keep in mind the fact that the outcome of any and every action is in the hands of God. It follows that they have no excuse either for despair or for panic when faced with seemingly insuperable problems. They are required only to form the right intention and then to do what they can, knowing that there is but a single Will which determines events, including the vicissitudes which occur in the affairs of nations. Muslims are committed to Jihad, which does not, in the first instance, mean war, but simply right effort and right action. According to the teachings of the Qur'an, right action is fertile and productive, and its fruit endures. Wrong action is sterile. In the Muslim view, speech belongs to the category of action, and Islam, more than any other faith, recognises the power of the word. To proclaim righteousness and to denounce oppression, injustice and corruption is a political duty as well as a personal one. Moreover, the Muslims' historical experience suggests to them that righteousness and realism frequently coincide. With hindsight it is evident that statesmen who have acted purely in terms of realpolitik, putting aside all higher principles, have been proved wrong more often than right even on the level of practical politics. Principles are not "ideals"; they provide a framework for effective action.

In the light of these considerations, what could be the function, in the field of foreign relations, of an Islamic Party in a country in which Muslims are only a small minority? Its function is to give a voice to that minority and to its worldwide concerns, while, at the same time, proclaiming principles and values which are of universal validity. It exists also to bring to bear such influence as it may acquire upon those who hold power in the nation and to speak persuasively to men and women of good will in the majority community. It has, at the same time, a right - acting on behalf of the Muslim minority - to seek representation in the "corridors of power".

In exerting such influence as it may have, an Islamic Party has a duty to speak also on behalf of Muslim minorities elsewhere who are suffering oppression. A case in point at the present time is the painful situation of the Muslims in Bulgaria and, though to a lesser extent, in other parts of Eastern Europe. But the overriding concern of such a party, as also of other Muslim organisations, wherever they may be, can only be the brave struggle of the Palestinian people against military occupation. It is on this matter that the Islamic Party would hope to make its voice most effectively heard. Those who believe so strongly in the power of the word must cultivate eloquence and persuasiveness, not only in the interests of their own community but also, more generally, in the cause of peace and justice between the nations. It is time, as we approach the 1990s, for the Muslim voice to be given a hearing in this country and elsewhere in Western Europe. The host communities may find that Islamic principles have much to offer to them in an age of moral uncertainty.

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