Faith and politics

Tony Blair avoided talking about his religious views while in office for fear of being labelled “a nutter”, the former prime minister has revealed.

Religion still has importance for many people. Through it they find inspiration and feel secure as there is an almighty that can look after them when their fellow human beings can let them down. Without belief in an ocean of grief or solitude, one can gather one’s strength to face life with all its oddities.

In Morocco, people aren’t asked to identify their religion in their identity documents as they are all considered Muslims. Political parties based on religion alone or ethnicities are banned. Many Moroccan communist or secular politicians are known not to practise religion by for example praying five times a day. When they take official responsibilities, they have to perform prayers at least on religious days like Eid Al Fiter after Ramadan when all important personalities in the country perform this religious rite.

In many countries, political leaders have to show their faith when faith is of paramount importance to the population. In Nigeria for example, leaders are identified as whether Muslims or Christians. In the USA, late president Kennedy was the first president of Catholic confession. US presidents’ speeches end with “God bless America”. In the dollar bill there is the prominent expression, “In God we trust.” So faith is of paramount importance in poor and rich countries alike. The fact that there are strong religious groups in the USA shows that no president can have massive votes if he or she proves atheist. In the run up to the presidential preliminaries, the BBC presented a documentary Panorama on Obama under the title, “Is America ready for a black president”. A section of the show was devoted to Obama’s faith and its influence on his chances to succeed in his presidential campaign. He is facing rumours by his opponents who say that he has Muslim blood in his veins, for the simple reason that his step father is a Muslim. Others were spreading false information about him like he studied in a Madrassa in Indonesia when he was a boy. Others nicknamed his Obama Osama. So in the USA, to take it just as an example, the question is not to have faith or not but which faith.

In multicultural and multi-faith societies, faith should be set apart. Secular approach is the best as politicians are seen for how they perform and not what they believe. Politicians who go too much public about their faith can just offend people of other faiths in such societies. It’s better to point out to a leader as socialist or liberal and to attribute their failure or success to their religious affiliation.

Blair was right in keeping his faith secret at least to avoid the embarrassment of being seen as taking decisions based on his faith. In the UK, the Queen is the Commander of the Faithful. It’s better to leave this official responsibility in her hands. There are other religious leaders who can guide the faithful. A Prime Minister or whoever other politicians seeking guidance from the religious leaders will put in jeopardy the separation of state and church. As such, politicians can talk about their faith in their memoirs after leaving office and not to contain it in their public statements or to make it the basis of their decision making to the dismay of people of other faiths, the atheists, the seculars and the agnostics.


  1. Looney said,

    November 26, 2007 at 11:08 pm

    I remember a comment that what president Reagan appreciated most after leaving office was that he could go to church and worship without things turning into a circus.

    Blair was certainly right to keep things low key. If you do talk about your religion as a politician, everyone will be suspicious about your motives.

  2. Abdelilah Boukili said,

    November 27, 2007 at 12:16 am

    You are right Looney. Private matters should be kept private when it comes to public and political officials.

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