With presidential elections coming up this November in the United States, Muslims, for the most part, have divided into two groups: those who agree that Muslims should vote and those that don't. This is an old disagreement.
But the key in all of this is to maintain respect and decency amongst Muslims, with no breakdown of relations. Here are some tips.
1. Avoid the "K" word
"Kaffir" (disbeliever) has been on the tip of the tongues of a number of Muslims who excommunicate Muslims from Islam over differences of opinion that are minor.
In an interview with Sound Vision on Muslims and participation in the North American political process, Jamal Badawi, an Islamic scholar based in Canada noted the danger of Muslims falling into extremism.
He stressed that differences of opinion, if they do not relate to the basic beliefs of Islam, are not a legitimate reason for Muslims to label each other disbelievers.
"Whether it (participating in the political process) is permissible or not, is an area where there is room for different interpretations," says Badawi.
We also need to keep in mind that no scholar, even those who are against Muslim political participation, have called Muslims who do vote and encourage others to do so, disbelievers.
2. Respond calmly in public
For instance at Friday prayer, if the Imam is giving a sermon on this topic and you disagree with his opinion, do not jump up and start accusing him. Wait until the Khutbah is over and schedule an appointment to talk to him about the issue in detail.
3. Listen without interruption
When you do encounter a different opinion on this issue, make sure that you take the time to listen carefully to what is being said before jumping to conclusions. If you listen carefully, you will find that in most cases, the other person will also be willing to listen to your point of view.
4. Use this as a Dawa opportunity
You may have noticed that a number of the Muslims involved in political causes have a deep concern and attachment to Islam. You may also have noticed that a number of them are perhaps not as conscious of things like prayer, fasting, etc.
Use this election as an opportunity to dialogue with them. Even if you don't agree to participate in politics, be willing to discuss with them and to bring them closer to Islam through your good relations and openness towards them.
5. Remember the intention behind it
Whatever your opinion on the issue, whether for or against, keep in mind one thing: both sides have the benefit of Islam and Muslims in their minds when discussing this issue. That means neither side should mock the other. An honest, calm discussion on the issue is fine. Mockery and insults are not. By remembering the intentions motivating individuals, we can better respond to our differences.
Photo Attribution: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abdul_Aziz_al-Hakim_at_Iraqi_election,_2005Jan30.jpg