As a minimum, every single Muslim is responsible for conveying the message of Islam to those who have not yet received this message (tabligh) and, in the same context, it is obligatory for every Muslim to enjoin and promote what is right and good and prevent evil (amr bi al-ma’ruf wa nahy ‘an al-munkar). This mission of conveying the message of Islam cannot be monopolized by any official authority or by a privileged community. Likewise, amr bi al-ma’ruf wa nahy ‘an al-munkar is a duty on civilians. Everyone tries to perform this duty according to his or her capacity and resources.
Similarly, no one can be deprived of the right or freedom of speaking in his or her own name, on behalf of any Muslim identity s/he has declared to have adopted and also opposing or criticizing other views. The general principle, as it is noted in the 18th verse of Surah al-Zumar, is: “Who, when they hear speech, follow the best of it (in the best way possible, and even seek what is better and straighter).” For the “best of speech” to emerge, we need an environment where all speech can be freely uttered.
In this connection, a Muslim is not entitled to strike a deal with other people on behalf of Muslims -- unless s/he is assigned by Muslims to that capacity. The sole prerequisite for representation is that anyone who is capable of representing Muslims in a proficient manner should be elected through free elections.
Unfortunately, these Islamic principles are not properly implemented and the people who see themselves as capable of speaking on behalf of Islam are doing great harm to Islam, however well-meaning they are. Most of the time, people tend to use Islam as a disguise for their personal disposition or character. Usually, they do this unawares. For instance, a person may be harsh in character, tend to adopt pessimistic views on developments or is not capable of coexisting with other people peacefully or tolerating their errors or flaws, but s/he may repurpose these personal characteristics as though they are religious injunctions. Naturally, in the discourse and rhetoric of such a person, religion is portrayed as a harsh, intolerant system that is not open to dialogue, interactive relations or cooperation.
The political views of the Young Turks and the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), as well as the Kuva-yi Milliye (National Forces) movement which played a major role in the establishment of the Turkish Republic, have influenced Muslims as well. Some Islamists draw on this tradition of using political power as a tool for purging and destruction. Here, we must make clear who is really thinking on behalf of Islam and the Muslim community. We must be aware of this fact as we are assessing the individuals and communities that develop political attitudes on behalf of Muslims. People may conceal their nationalist views with the help of an Islamic rhetoric; they may purport nationalist or sectarian ideas without even being aware of them; they may even translate historic contentions into today’s language.
But if you are a little perceptive, you can discern nationalist or sectarian views or traces of historic hostilities beneath the surface of what they say. They do not advocate these racist, nationalist or sectarian ideas consciously and they even regard any suggestion to this effect as an accusation and deny it with strong language. But as “Islamist Kemalists,” they champion the nation-state’s organization model, Kemalism’s authoritarian and repressive parameters and attempt to justify them with references to Islam. Therefore, they fulminate against secular Kemalists or leftists who do not see Islam as a founding or motivating element of a nation-state. In their universe, the secularists and atheists who do not join in this “Islamic nation-state project” are insisting on their errors on purpose.
Yet, if we, as Muslims, have certain obligations to Islam, they are related only to earning God’s consent and promoting Islam in the same manner as we are openly notified in the following verses: “Say: ‘I am commanded to worship God, sincere in faith in Him and practicing the Religion purely for His sake’,” and “[As for those of you who reject my call,] worship then whatever you will apart from Him [you are forewarned of the consequences]!” (Surah al-Zumar, 39:11 and 15). A religion which is experienced with sincerity (ikhlas) will bring peace, tranquility and security, not only to its practitioners but also to all of humanity. Indeed, the Prophet of this religion was sent as a mercy to all the worlds.