I was discussing religion and politics with a colleague recently and he asked that I change my description of Islam from political to religious. Here was my reply:
Religion, for Americans, is considered apolitical. Not so in the Middle East. Islam believes religion and politics cannot and should not be separated. I agree with this point of view to the extent that one cannot separate law from morality, government from ideas, politics from worldview.
Instead of relegating Islam to the intellectual ghetto of “religion,” it is better to consider that one cannot simply dismiss Islam as “religious” in the sense that Americans consider religion.
Islam is a politic, moral, ideological and legal force — Muslim’s ought not apologize for that. (Rather, they should abandon it.)
Christianity is a philosophy but in the West it is so weak that Americans considered this condition normal for a “religion.” Islam does not have this weakness within its adherents.
Breaking down the barriers in how one considers ideas yields insight. At the end of the day, Islam is a very comprehensive set of ideas. That’s why I am comparing it to another comprehensive worldview like Communism. Calling it a “religion” isn’t really helpful in understanding it — it’s like calling a train a motor vehicle. While technically correct, it just doesn’t convey the power inherent in what one is really taking about.