Writing at Asharq Alawsat, Mshari Al-Zaydi points out the obvious, but something that appears to be missed by the multitudes: If all sides are claiming that “God is on our side”, how can that be when the ‘sides’ are in direct opposition. And rather than attempting to read the mind of God, perhaps it would be better to simply take religion out of what are political arguments. In this, he extols Saudi King Abdullah for his Ramadan message warning that religion and politics do not mix. Now all that remains to be done is to see that they do not. A good start might be in separating the realms of ‘sin’ and ‘crime’. While they may overlap, how they are met by society and law need to be handled discretely, not all thrown into a mass.

Opinion: What’s more important, religion or politics?
Mshari Al-Zaydi

If you were to look for a common denominator between all the crises that the Arab world is currently witnessing, you would find it in the phenomenon of religious slogans. Different parties, movements, and organizations that are fighting—from Libya and the Sahara in the West to Iraq in the East, and passing through Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon—all use religious slogans, claiming to be the “true” representative and defender of religion against their enemies.

Shi’ites, Sunnis and even Christians are raising the banners of religion in a truly demeaning and harmful manner. The problem is that these slogans are not interpreted into practical and pragmatic results on the ground. Human beings, after all, are concerned about the search for their daily bread, not to mention fuel and electricity; such things cannot be politicized. Amid this ruthless exploitation of religious feelings in the political arena, the danger lies in religion itself, particularly as those who oppose this will have no choice but to hold those who promote such false slogans to account.

In fact, religion is one’s profound identity, memory, culture and belief, not to mention a potential catalyst—and antidote—for atrocities. In brief, religion is the essence of identity, particularly in the Middle East. Therefore, religion is above political beliefs and ideology, or at least that is how it should be. Many scholars and jurists take this view and dread religion being used in politics, particularly as the failure of these politicized religious parties could be seen as a failure of the religion itself, at least in the eyes of their enemies.


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