An Islamic Conscience
Opinions – KSG Citizen, Harvard University
By Shamir Allibhai, MTS
For years, the Western world has watched atrocities committed in Islam’s name from New York to Baghdad, from Kabul to Bali, and the same perplexing questions keep getting asked: “Why can’t Muslims just accept democracy? Why do so many Muslims kill in the name of religion?” A survey of Muslims would surely yield some interesting answers – but no answer would be complete without a discourse on Muslim leadership.
An important, but often misunderstood, form of Muslim leadership is the office of the imam, often stereotyped as a hate-preaching, anti-Western cleric with a prominent beard and the Quran in-hand. While we often see religious figures (not just Muslim ones) being demonized and discredited by the media, what we often misunderstand is the scope of their influence.
In both the Sunni and Shia traditions of Islam, the role of the imam is to interpret the faith to those who refer to him and to do all within his means to improve the quality and security, of their everyday lives. In the same way that a Christian or a Jew might refer problems and anxieties to a priest or rabbi, the Muslim confides in his imam. If a Muslim fears for his life or for the lives of his family, he will refer his fears to his imam. And the imam is obliged to instill faith, hope and courage in his followers and, at the same time, work for their protection and material progress.