بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Eritrean Islamic Party for Justice and Development (EIPJD)

The Political Secretariat

EIPJD’s Conception of the Civil State

Overview

The new state of Eritrea is in dire need for deep Inter-Dialogue between its religious, cultural, political and even ethnical constituents in order to remain a place for one nation where diversity will be a source of strength and enrichment in terms of conceptual, spiritual and developmental dimensions to enhance the national unity and build a powerful state.

The culture of denial and rejection of others, which is being imposed by the regime of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF), is only destructive to the trust amongst the nations’ constituents, threatens the national unity and isolates the regime. Once such denial conquers, the result is just wars and confrontations that not only affecting a specific group but will also torn apart the entire country.

Remarkably, our early ancestors and predecessors had practiced a sort of Inter Civilization Dialogue in 1940s to solve their differences around the issue of backing or opposing Eritrea becoming a country independent form, or annexed to, Ethiopia – though a “neonatal” practice at that time with no precedent or model to follow. Such move was merely driven by their awareness to protect the right of public freedom for themselves and for their opponents and support of wide participation in the political system.

In this context, Balata Mohammed Gadi stated in an article written in October 1946, “a political regime in a given country that strive to serve the interest of a minor group will turn into a minority-based regime that focuses on its supporters and avaricious personnel. To the contrary, a regime that allows a wider participation will have sublime goals that extend the benefits for all”.

We are all in need to be ready and open to a sort of dialogue that is tailored to the Eritrean scene without wearing other's shoes. The Socialist Shmuel Eisenstadt pointed out that the cultural model and the structural processes developed in Europe is only one: other cultures and civilizations can develop different cultural programs of modernity.

 

According to Professor Nader Hashemi at Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver there is one model to be applicable for the entire world when it comes to solving the deep-rooted conflict between religion, secularism and democracy.

The Concept of the Civil State - Dilemma of Terminology and the Historical Background

 

It is imperative to give a historical background to highlight the concept of the civil state; in this regard, it is vital to trace the stages and the development of this term in the light of the philosophical understanding and various applications of this term. Certainly, the entire humankind legacy is usable if it leads to co-existence; however, it is unnecessary to draw on the western experience, which has interpreted certain concepts and models to challenge the problems faced by the west.

 

The Idea of Civil State

Philosophers of the Renaissance age made their first attempts to define the idea of modern state. In addition, current and previous eras socialists have had unremitting efforts to design a vision that responds to human beings’ ambition in building a system that is based on sublime humanitarian principles and ethics that were agreed upon by humans, such as justice, equality, and values in ruling, administration and sovereignty.

 

EIPJD’s Concept of Civil State

 

In its political program, EIPJD has declared that the civil state is one of the choices for the political system in Eritrea. Although the party’s political program is clear in its terms and various chapters, some circles are still questioning EIPJD’s viewpoint with regard to the concept of civil state. Therefore, we would like to clarify this area in the following points to re-state the vision of EIPJD.

 

By civil state, we mean a modern state that is based on the principles of justice, security of rights, public and private freedoms and equality under the law. A state that believes in peaceful transition of power, encapsulates the political power to the people by engaging them in making decisions and electing lawmakers. In this context, the state derives its power from the people who have the right to choose or dissolve a government. In theory, this concept is agreed upon by all approaches and philosophies but in actual implementation, it is dominated by social facts in terms of time and place and also controlled by beliefs and established traditions that guide the behavior of the society.

 

The Islamic philosophy, as stated by Sabri M. Khalil, does not contradict with the common notions of civil state as understood by some political theorists, in terms of giving power to the people, or enabling the people to elect a régime as an authorized representative.

 

al-Māwardī, (974- 1058), Muslim jurist who played an important role in formulating orthodox political theory said: “There is a free consent between the ruler and the people and is not enforced or compulsory”. Qadi Abu Bakr al-Bāqillānī (950-1013) also stated that the Imam is designated to assume the rules as the representative of the nation and they can dissolve or replace him if committed any wrong.

 

In the Holy Quran, a tyrant ruler who goes beyond the limits is known as “Taghoot”. The Quran narrated the story of the Pharaoh who exalted himself in the land and oppressed people. The Pharaoh said: “I do but show you what I see, and I do but guide you to wise policy” Surat Ghāfir, verse 29. The Pharaoh assumed owning the truth and the absolute right of legislation and representation. Therefore, Allah (SWT) ordered Prophet Musa and his brother Haroon: “Go, both of you, unto Pharaoh. Lo! he hath transgressed (the bounds), Surat Taha, verse 44.

Because a tyrant ruler exceeds all limits in violating rights, he creates a feeble public opinion that glorifies his viewpoints at all times, oppresses people to blindly obey him in everything and eliminates their own awareness and will. Hence, the Holy Quran gave us an example of how Pharaoh underestimated his own people's minds. Acceptance of this by the public is in fact a disablement of their minds and the free will that Allah gave them {He (Pharaoh) intimidated his nation, so they obeyed him, for they were a sinning nation} Surat Az-Zukhruf, verse 54, so they became partners in the crime of tyranny and transgression (They were a sinning nation). Ironically, the most repeated story in the Holy Qur'an was that of Moses and his conflict with the tyranny of Pharaoh and how he saved the peoples from Pharaoh’s enslavement and intimidation, which is a strong indication and guidance for Muslims to fight tyranny by all means, and never accept or support it.

Prophet Muhammad, Peace be Upon Him, described the situation when Muslim Emirs bequeath authority to their children as being an authority of abuse and tyranny, and the taking over of authority by force as forced authority, both of which are detestable.

It is highly important to point out that all the above meanings of civil state concept such as dignity, justice and opposition to tyranny are but a part of a Muslim's belief through which he or she worships the Almighty God. Some of these meanings come under the collective obligations and some under the individual obligations. Therefore, a Muslim must carry out such obligations, as they are part of his religion, and they are all included in the concept of good work and the call to goodness.

The notions of reform, urbanization of the globe, extension of peace and spreading justice, goodwill and cooperation between all people for the purpose of achieving these values is not just a political choice for the Muslim to adopt or to leave, but is a part of their mission in life. Only this gives meaning to a Muslim's existence, leaving the application up to the circumstances of time, place and conditions of the people. The room for discretionary judgment is so wide and the scope of values and fundamentals is an absolute one and accepts no fragmentation or monopoly for a specific group of people with all others excepted.

 

Genuinely, we can say that the concept of the state in Islam do match that of a civil state as unanimously agreed upon by scholars of political sociology. No misunderstanding by some, misapplication, or distortion thereof, whether genuinely made or come as a reaction to the sort of persecution and alienation that Muslims, in specific, were subjected to, especially in the modern era, may justify anything to the contrary.

 

The Characteristics of the Civil State:

 

  1. 1.The appointment and deposition of the ruler is something within the power of the people. The Holy Quran says, ﴾and their affairs are (run) by consultation among themselves﴿. Look closely at "their affairs" and "among themselves".
  2. 2.It derives its legitimacy from national consensus and contentment.
  3. 3.It applies Law as an authority that is elected by the people through democratic means and maintains the rights of all parties.
  4. 4.It is governed by the general law, the Constitution, which is approved by the majority and through legitimate means. Everyone must respect the constitution because it represents a contract between the nation and the ruler.
  5. 5.Citizenship is the base for all rights and duties, as citizens are one party of the contract and the state is the other party. It is worth noting that the first written constitution was the City Document that lay the groundwork for the state of citizenship, preservation of rights and coexistence. The connection of individuals to the state was a political and legal concept; which is called "nationality" in modern perception. The City Document was written hundreds of years before the Constitution of the United States was issued in 1776, and before the French Constitution, which came into being in the period (1789-1791).

 

The Difference between the Civil, Religious and the Secular States:

How does a civil state differ from the religious (theocratic) state? In the case of the latter, an individual, or a certain category of the people, monopolizes political power in the state claiming that he is the mediator between God and His creatures. He controls legislation, decides what is allowed and what is not, and his views shall prevail at all times. Not only that, but he also controls the conscience of the people in the name of the "divine right". In Islam, there is no such thing as "clergymen" who are infallible and their sayings shall be accepted and taken for granted, but some of their sayings may be accepted and others can be rejected. Only the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) are taken for granted. Muslims never experienced in their history any kind of religious state in the sense known and experienced by the West.

Now, what is the difference between a civil state and a secular one? A secular state aims at full separation between religion and the state, and even some people go too far and make a condition to fully separate religion from the society. They would confine religion to mosques and churches, not allowing for its contributions to have any role in addressing the affairs of the society. They would adopt only materialistic principles and the inclinations and viewpoints of influential people of authority and thought. They would take only such religious directives and constant moral principles as might be in agreement with their interests. In contrast, a civil state respects the rules of the heavenly religions and the fundamentals of ethics preached by these religions as representing established legal norms, which are called, in the science of law, rules of public order.

 

Religion is an integral part of the system of life in its broad sense, and politics is a part of this system because the human being is a "political and social object" as St. Thomas Aquinas says. In demanding commitment thereto, the religion equates between the president and subordinates and between people and their rulers, because religion is a key factor in promoting morality, high integrity as well as achievement and self-censorship.

 

A ruler does not govern in the name of Allah so that he gives holiness to his decisions and opinions, but by his own discretionary judgment and that of the people of good opinion and advice as well as in accordance with the public interests, and his judgments and decisions may be reversed.

When a clerk working for Omar bin al-Khattab (PBUH) wrote (This is what God inspired Omar, the Prince of Believers with), Omar said "No, do not say this, but say this is what the Prince of the Believers Omar bin al-Khattab sees". Likewise, when he wanted to regulate dowries and a woman objected to that, he immediately gave up the idea. The Almighty Says “We have honored the sons of Adam”, and Islam has set all details of the family affairs due the high value of stability and because human lives are at the center of Islam’s interest regardless of their religion or colour, while leaving a room for other political, economic, administrative aspects, and people's judgments and exchange of ideas. The only stipulation is to achieve justice and public interest. It is with this in mind that Ibn al-Qayyim, a Muslim Scholar, said, "Wherever there is public interest, there is the law of God."

“The Islamic State, as brought by Islam and defined by Muslim history, is a civil state”, Yusuf Al Qaradawi said; in which political authority is based on the leaders' obedience, election and consultation (Shura). The ruler should be guardian and employee of the nation. Regarding the rights of the people, as consultant representatives they can account and monitor behavior of the rulers and can urge them to do good and forbid them to do evil.  They can also correct them when they are wrong, even dismiss them”. 

Those who deny any role for religion in power or in politics were influenced by the theocratic state introduced by the medieval West, ruled by clerics who controlled people's minds and consciences through "divine right”, and that time was described by Europeans as a “time of retreat”.

The democracy that we anticipate is the temporary and reasonable means to ruling the civil state, despite any specific shortcomings, in order to achieve consensus, social harmony and peaceful transition of power.

The question to be answered is that: Does democracy contradict with the existence of religious parties that have comprehensive political programs within the general framework? The answer is No. We believe that there are over 100 religious parties in the democratic states.

Margot Lyon stated: “Christian-democratic parties sprang to prominence only after the Second World War, but their ancestry goes back to the Catholic movement of the nineteenth century”. In addition, there are other Christian, Jewish and Buddhist parties and all are involved in the democratic game in a number of states with established democracies. Moreover, the Swedish constitution states that Lutheran Christianity is the official religion in Sweden.

Nevertheless, we never heard of discussions on enacting a law that bans their involvement in the democratic game notwithstanding their fanatical or liberal discourses. It is to our believe the benchmark in this regard should be the extent to which a party advocates the issues of freedom, justice, equality and democratic citizenship, devolution of power and resort to the law, which is adopted by the will of the majority .

Subsequent to the approval of the Tunisian constitution during the rule of al-Nahda Movement, Mr. Rashid Ghannouchi said, "Tunisia today declares to the world and friends that there is no contradiction between Islam and democracy. The Islamists are the forerunners in defending the right of difference and cultural diversity, political pluralism, freedom of conscience, women's rights, and all the universal values that establish freedom, justice and development community ".

We certainly confirm that we are not calling for a Vatican model with the absolute sovereign of clerics, or a model that is governed by Muslims, but a state for all Eritreans, which does not clash with the established religious beliefs, values and traditions, which have ever been recognized in Eritrea.

 

EIPJD’s Political Program

 

The General Political Program approved by the Fifth General Conference with regard to the anticipated Eritrean Constitution stated the following:

“As a new-born state, Eritrea is in need of a constitution that regulates the public affairs, providing that it encompasses all the factors that are conducive to building a modern state. The constitution should take into account Eritrea’s special circumstances with respect to its diversity in religious, cultural and ethnic aspects as it should embody the will of the Eritrean people and serve as a social contract between all its components”.

The constitution should:

-          Confirm the civil nature of the State and the rule of the democratic approach therein”, Paragraph (2) of Chapter 1.

-          “Stipulate that citizenship is the basis for rights and duties, as all citizens are equal with no discrimination between them and they have the right to participate in running and ruling the country in accordance based on legal capacity”. Paragraph (6) of Chapter 1.

With regard to the Political Practice, the party’s Political Program stated that the constitution should:

 

-          “Consolidate the principles of democracy and agreement on the basic rules of the political system, which constitute a common denominator for all political forces” Paragraph (3) of Chapter 3.

-          Adopt the principle of peaceful transfer of authority, and the people’s right to choose their rulers through democratic means, and the right to free and impartial elections to be monitored by the judiciary, political parties and the concerned local and international organizations”, Paragraph (4) of Chapter 3.

-          Adopt the principle of the political and intellectual pluralism, and reject the government interference in the affairs of the political parties and the trade unions.

The Lane to the Civil State

 

The civil state is a not a compulsory ready-made recipe for the nation to be free from dictatorship and backwardness. The civil state is an integrated scheme for renaissance and governance. Indeed the nation has a number of challenges ahead to overcome:

  1. To pave the road for building trust and there is no solution other than to build trust between the political elites that guide the public opinion.
  2. To spread awareness of the rights and duties: for a community, which has been a victim of various types of alienation, spread of illiteracy and poverty, much struggle is needed to rebuild its identity, values, and culture, which all have been subject to distortion.
  3. To contribute in establishing NGOs, a civil state will not exist without civil society organizations (NGOs) which play a role in monitoring and development.
  4. Understand the national scene, a civil state is worthless if it imports the terms and tools that are not based on national circumstances and reality where citizens are deprived of their existence and dignity.

What is the state that we aspire?

A state that:

  1. Believes in the rule of law
  2. Enacts and approve the general law “Constitution” by the parliament.
  3. Believes in separation of the judicial, executive and legislature powers, and freedom of the fourth power (mass media) to monitor the activities of government.
  4. Chooses rulers through democratic means according to their lawful eligibility no matter of their origin, religion and region.
  5. Believes in the binary aspect of culture and language in Eritrea.
  6. Seeks to achieve justice and equality between all citizens.
  7. Respects religious and ethical values as part of the Eritrean society conscience.
  8. Advocates plurality in politics and thoughts and respects peaceful transition of power with no exclusion.
  9. Adopts constitutional decentralization as an administrative system to ruling various districts.

 

 

General Secretariat

November 2014

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