Exploiting religion for political gain won’t bode well for any faith, says scholar

Ahmet T Kuru says mixing religion and politics could lead to a sarcastic view of the faith, especially among young people.

(FMT) – Turkish-American scholar Ahmet T Kuru says exploiting religion for political mileage will not bode well for any faith and could be detrimental to a country’s well being in the long run.

Kuru, author of “Islam, Authoritarianism, and Underdevelopment: A Global and Historical Comparison”, said Islamic parties tend to use religion for political purposes in countries where the voters give credit to religious discourses.

He said this “was not good for Islam” as the public would view the religion as a political instrument, rather than a moral source.

“As a result, people, especially the young, become sarcastic about religion and prefer to avoid religious practices,” he told FMT.

He said that the politicisation of religion also contradicted the Islamic concept of “ihlas (sincerity) because hypocrisy is often a mixture of religion and politics.”

Kuru was commenting on a Malaysiakini report which quoted PAS deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man’s claim that a victory for Islam in elections could absolve “past and future sins”.

Tuan Ibrahim said a new administration would correct vices allowed by previous governments in the past, including gambling.

The claim was reported by Harakah Daily, the Islamist party’s official mouthpiece. The article was subsequently removed.

Kuru went on to say that mixing religion and politics was also bad for politics, as it would lead to “unqualified politicians” in the form of religious demagogues elected to power.

“When they come to power their incompetence can cause an economic crisis, for example.”

Mixing politics and religion may also result in politicians deciding what is, or is not, Islamic to suit their political purposes.

“They may also label their opponents as ‘anti-Islam,’ similar to Israeli politicians who label their critics as ‘antisemitic’.”

Kuru however said that such problems were not endemic to Muslim-majority countries only.

He cited the alliance between the evangelicals and the Republican Party in the US, saying it has brought many incompetent politicians into public office.

“This is bad for religion, as the number of Americans without religion has increased. It is also bad for politics as we have a political crisis in the US now.”