Is the Prophet a founding father?

Mike Huckabee, the conservative former Arkansas governor, this weekend said that he is concerned about Islam’s role in Egypt’s future. … Continued

Mike Huckabee, the conservative former Arkansas governor, this weekend said that he is concerned about Islam’s role in Egypt’s future. As On Faith panelist Reza Aslan this week noted, Huckabee has also called for Americans to “take this nation back for Christ” and, while running for president in 2008, declared that “what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards.”

In America and in Egypt, should a majority religion inspire political life? How will Islam play a role in the struggles for democracy happening now in Egypt and other parts of the Muslim world?

All societies present an entangled mesh of values, with many contradictions that never get sorted out. In America, religion is a particularly tangled strand, and despite the Founding Fathers’ clear intention to provide freedom of religion and the separation of church and state, some Americans insist on re-arguing the point continuously. In their vehemence they contradict another typical value that they hold, an irrational worship of the Constitution. But that’s how society is meant to be when people elect to be free.

The case of Egypt, as it convulses toward becoming a democracy, is similar and at the same time radically different. The sad truth is that a tiny sliver of the rich, privileged, and Westernized — the very people the West thinks are “just like us” — deserve to be overthrown. They took unconscionable advantage of their privileges, imposing repression on the bottom 90% of society. No one seems to dispute that it’s time for Egypt to play catch up with the rest of the world and its long trend toward democracy.

Yet this raises the bugaboo of the Islamist factions, the religious conservatives who see the U.S. as a sworn enemy of their faith. The West was burned by the Iranian revolution and its steady drive toward anti-Western belligerence, along with its support for terrorism and the chimera of a world where every country bows to the Prophet Muhammad. A leading expert of the Arab world, Bernard Lewis, years ago predicted that if popular uprisings succeeded in toppling the dictatorships that span from the top of Africa throughout the Middle East, the new governments would be dominated by religious fundamentalism. It was a dark prophecy, and it remains the most feared prospect as viewed by the U.S. We called for elections in Palestine, only to punish the Palestinians when they chose Hamas as their ruling party. We fled Lebanon in the midst of religious strife. We stood by helplessly as Iran moved in the wrong direction, and now many see the Shiite clerics gaining a strong hold in Iraq, hiding discreetly behind the scene.

This is a long preamble to saying that Muhammad cannot be kept out of Arab politics. The Westward-looking elites in the Arab world are secular — even Saddam was secular — but they hold power by brutal means. Ironically, it was the economic rise of Egypt and Tunisia in recent years that has largely fueled the discontent in the streets, for suddenly, as in India, the poorest people see a glimmer of hope for achieving dignity and economic progress. Even so, religion will be a big part of the mix. On one side, Egypt watchers tell us that the Muslim Brotherhood won’t take over the country; one is reminded of Iraq watchers who assured the neocons that invading Iraq wouldn’t lead to religious strife, given how secular that country was.

The root that runs deepest in every Arab country is Islam, and one of the ideals of the faith is that everything in life — art, politics, law, and daily habits — must revolve around God’s strict rules. Having written a book about the Prophet, my immersion into Islam showed me, with regret, that their is a fine line between what the religious conservatives want, which is religious totalism, and what the Taliban delivered in Afghanistan, which is religious totalitarianism. I have no predictions about Egypt, which was founded by Nasser as a modern secular state on the basis of Arab nationalism. We can only stand by and see how the entangled mesh of values in Egypt unravels. The worst of one system may give way to the worst of its opposite — let’s hope not.

Deepak Chopra
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  • dg901

    Deepak Chopra Couple Corrections1. Muslim do not bow to the prophetYou perception of Islam is as wrong as your spelling, get your brain checked like you should spell check.

  • Mooody

    Great American Freedom History (Full of Genocides & Bloody Massacres)

  • Mooody

    History is witness that it was Muslims in Span who were forcefully converted and in previously Muslim later Russian occupied states or African Muslims who were abducted by europeons and Americans for slavery……. Never in Islamic history, no records there were found which shows non-muslim forced conversion to Islam, whatever bloodshed or battles in past muslims fought, which were even not for the cause of Islam. In fact Jews prospered in Islamic Span rule for more than 700 years. After capturing span Christians went mad making laws like HERITIC killing everyone even their own…aka famous witch hunting….aka famous dark ages…. aka killing jews everywhere as there christ killers. Thats why now a days when they are controlled by jewish lobby, no one can even deny holocaust in whole europe….. if u do…. u r persecuted……madness isn’t it…….in IIWW not only 6 million jews were killed – 60 million other human beings were also killed….infact jews use it as their moral blackmail…now in control telling …they have paid the price and there enough blood was shed by Christians…now if someone even deny the holocaust, he/she will be persecuted….forget about and do not try to remember about killing Christ. And also promote atheism and all other believes and concepts through media for their safeguard being Christ killers as per Christian believes, though Muslims don’t believe in it………. (infact rednecks killed each other fighting over the world they had occupied and ruling…..it was Allah’s Wraith on them)….good for us it brought us our freedom. I wish and InshAllah USA states will run over each other same way and free the whole world again. Ameen!!!!!

  • artistkvip1

    nice points, well thought out.. i would maybe add; when a human being or a entity of any kind is really helping a human being …or a group of human beings… they take them in the direction they want to go… that is what help is… and if help is real there is …no …waiting holding it just out of reach for what… a gift cannot be given until it is released .. it is immediate.. to put off down the road is to put the bit and bridle back on the human head in Egypt maybe ,..or to pull the puppet strings… at least be honest in what you do for all to see…speaking of Egypt, i think the person reicieving the gift can use it or not ..it is no reselection on the giver if they let go..