Importance of Political Awareness

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Importance of Political Awareness

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Whether one likes it or not, politics plays a significant role in everyone’s life. Decisions taken by the elected representatives in a democracy or by the rulers in a kingdom have an important bearing on society and can even change the course of history. Therefore, it is imperative that every citizen should have political awareness and should keep abreast of the political happenings, not only in one’s own country but also about the developments in the world. You may say: what difference can a single individual like me make to the polity? But history reveals that on different occasions, a single politically aware zealous person has been able to bring about radical changes in the body politic. More commonly, in a democracy, it is the collective voice of politically aware people that determines the way forward for the government.

Political Awareness in a Democracy
Many people have aversion towards politics and politicians because of the perception of rampant corruption and lack of principles among many of the politicians. However, not everyone can be painted with the same brush and also the underlying compulsions have to be taken into consideration. Foregoing your political role on this pretext alone is no excuse. But, let me clarify that direct participation in politics and political awareness are two entirely different issues. It is not obligatory for every politically aware person to actively participate in politics. But a citizen has to keep himself or herself informed of the political happenings around him. In a democracy, every individual has the right to vote and hence a politically well-informed person can cast his vote prudently. An ill-informed person faces the prospect of getting carried away by false propaganda, false promises, and false slogans. A politically aware person can detect the hidden agenda of every political party.

Political Awareness Among Women
By casting their votes in large numbers during the parliamentary elections and in the assembly elections, women have shown that they do not lag behind men in exercising their franchise. However studies have shown that a majority of Muslim women are not aware of the intricacies of the politics and the historical background of many issues. Very few read political news in the newspapers. The limited participation of Muslim women in politics stems from factors like lack of education, lack of political consciousness, cultural values, economic backwardness, obstacles from family, and more involvement in family issues. Very few women participate in political discussions about local, national, or even international issues. Studies have shown that political awareness is directly proportional to the level of educational qualification of women. An increase in education does result in an increase in political awareness among them.

Political Awareness Among the Youth
Every democracy seeks citizen participation to ensure its continuous development and existence. Politically aware societies contribute to building a healthy democracy by being aware of the government’s actions, initiatives, and policies. Political consciousness among youth appears to be low, although it has to be conceded that their political interest is high. Young people criticize the government for failing to maintain law and order, causing political conflicts, price rises, unemployment, and many other problems. But many of them do not dynamically contribute to politics.

To contribute to politics, the youth should have political insight and know the nuts and bolts of the government’s functioning. Such incisive knowledge is not entirely gained by merely watching TV debates and social media posts, although they do contribute to highlighting some specific issues. Political knowledge, political wisdom, political values, political perceptions, and political consciousness are developed by reading the varied political articles written by expert political analysts on the editorial page of the newspaper and in current affairs magazines. Without such a comprehensive knowledge of the political history, political events, political machinations, and political undercurrents, the youth cannot be in the forefront as a responsible citizen. This is the reason why, many times we see Muslim youth reacting emotionally. They succumb to deliberate incitement rush to the streets and become victims of illegal acts done by miscreants. It should be drilled into the minds of the Muslim youth that even under any kind of provocation, they should not react emotionally. They should talk to responsible elders and should not react individually.

Role of Ngo’s
Most of the Muslim NGO’s deal with socio-economic and educational issues and only a few among them are dedicated to political issues. A few jamaaths organize debates and discussions on political issues by involving political experts and experts on a specific subject that is appreciable. On the other hand, some NGOs arrange seminars, conferences, and get-togethers, but in such gatherings, a few persons who have the gift of the gab will steal the limelight without making any worthwhile contribution. At frequent intervals, we rake up the issue of the necessity to have a Think Tank. Although such moves are laudable, sadly, the members selected for this highly cerebral post are almost always not of that stature and are incapable of debating issues in depth. It is seen that a few enlightened intellectuals who join the Think Tank to contribute something substantial feel frustrated and quit the organization in due course.

The Way Forward
There is a need to discuss issues behind closed doors and across the table instead of rushing to conduct programmes in an auditorium with all the paraphernalia like speeches by VIP’s, ‘gul poshi’ and ‘shawl poshi’. Erudite thinkers, subject experts, and political activists should deliberate on a chosen issue armed with relevant data, specific statistics, historical background, facts, and figures. People attending meetings without any preparation and who just speak on the spur of the moment will only be wasting the time of others.

There should be NGOs who deliberate on any new policy or any new enactment mooted by the government that is perceived to be detrimental to the interest of the citizens. Violation of human rights should also receive particular attention. Some Acts and Rules enacted by the government may require changes and amendments and the NGO should lobby for achieving this objective. The NGOs should campaign for genuine issues by undertaking letter-writing campaigns, peaceful demonstrations (with due permission of the authorities), social media campaigns, etc. without violating any rules. Meeting the Minister in charge and the officers concerned will solve many issues which may have appeared very complicated.

As a general rule, NGOs should stick to one or two areas of specialization and not put their fingers on multiple issues. We have seen NGOs speaking today on a municipal issue and then speaking on a national issue on the next day. They should stick to a field of activity and gain expertise in that field, instead of becoming jack of all and master of none. NGOs who have established their influence and importance in society could also function as Pressure Groups to make the government listen to their demands. “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”, said Mahatma Gandhi.

Prophet Muhammad (Saw) as a Politician
We also have the example of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who was a prophet, a family man, a moral/spiritual teacher, and also a statesman/political leader. He unified the Arabian peninsula, established a great state whose capital was Madinah, defeated his enemies, and had the most successful military expeditions. Apart from these contributions, Prophet Muhammad (saw) drafted a written Constitution for the first time in history (622 AD), after his migration from Makkah to Madinah. This charter had 47 clauses that set the foundation of a sovereign nation-state and which gave Muslims, Jews, and Pagans equal rights and responsibilities under a common or unified citizenship.

Political awareness is one of the main pillars on which the social and political system is set up and we will be paying a huge price by neglecting it. By developing a healthy political consciousness and political activism, individuals and NGOs will be contributing their mite towards nation-building and rendering yeoman service to society at large.

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