“Religion should not be allowed to come into politics…religion is simply a matter between man and God.” ~ Muhammad Ali Jinnah
“Those who believe religion and politics aren’t connected don’t understand either.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
These two opposing views, generated by two of the biggest social and political influences in the South Asian subcontinent, are something I have been faced with for years.
Should politics be led by faith?
Should my faith effect my political views and opinions?
Recently, I was asked if my faith is going to play a role in who I will be voting for in the upcoming election on 8th June. I immediately responded with a vehement shaking of my head in disapproval. As a history graduate, I have studied and read years of how religion has divided nations causing in the most extreme cases bloodshed and violence. Gandhi and Jinnah each willingly utilised the representation of two of the biggest religions in India, Hinduism and Islam, to voice their political stance. Of course we all know the aftermath, the largest and most violent land migration in history, the partition of India.
As a historian, I understand that there were several factors that contributed to the partition, but I would like to shed a light on the role of religion in this context due to its intertwined nature with the politics of the time. Religion, in its simplest form, was packaged and sold to local communities by political brokers that promised citizens a better life if they aligned their religious beliefs with their political party. Thus, those who actively voted and participated in politics did so with their faith and religion at the forefront of their agenda. Faith and politics were two sides of the same coin.
Whilst the political climate in Britain today is unlike that of colonial India, politics and faith still go hand in hand for several people and will play an important role in who they decide to vote for this summer. Growing up as an Indian and having this historical knowledge of religion being used as a divisive tool, my faith has always seemed to me a matter of my own personal and private affairs rather than one that must match my political allegiances.
In an attempt to try and understand why personal faith would affect anyone’s political decisions, I decided to ask a friend what they thought.
“As a Sikh, I identify as a learner. Our core principles advocating equality, humility, selflessness and honest work are what I try to live by more and more accurately throughout each day. These values are intertwined into every conscious thought, which means my politics and religion are connected because my religion is linked to everything I do. So when I vote as myself, I simultaneously vote as a Sikh because that’s who I am.”
Religion as an identity was not something that had occurred to me. I always believed my faith was a part of my identity, but simply a small percentage. For many people their faith plays an important role in their political beliefs, perhaps not from a religious stand point but increasingly so from a moral and ethical stance. There’s no right answer to whether we should link our faith to our politics, the importance lies in the fact that everyone should be politically active and vote for a future they want to see, whether your faith influences this or not.
So please remember to vote and make your voice heard on 8th June.
Next month’s Interfaith Voices is on the theme of ‘Brexit, Belief and Identity’. How do you feel Brexit has impacted communal relations in the past year? If you would like to contribute, send your thoughts on the topic to us in an email with the subject line ‘Interfaith Voices’.