Is there a role in the world of politics and economics and social movements for spiritual messengers? If so, what should that role be?

National Public Radio has just reported on a Muslim cleric — described as a “slight 61-year-old”— who has been, in the words of the NPR report, “shaking up the political scene.”

“Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri returned to his home country late last year, after spending eight years in Canada. Since coming back, he has ignited a disgruntled electorate,” the report said. Qadri claims that “Pakistan’s oppressed and destitute are with him in his fight against inequality and corruption. His speech touches a nerve for many in the crowd,” NPR said.

In an interview with NPR, Qadri said he wants to enlighten people about their democratic rights. This brought up a question that I have been looking at for many years. As the author of a series of books revolving around what I report to have been conversations with God, what role, if any, is it appropriate to play in the global economic, political, or social arena? For that matter, what role should any spiritual messenger have in these areas of human activity and communal life?

“I am trying to create an awareness of the true concept of democracy, an awareness of human rights, real human rights,” Qadri says in the NPR report. “People here are treated like goats. They don’t have any concept of democracy.” The NPR report goes on to say that “Qadri is taking on Pakistan’s government, saying it has failed to curb militancy or improve the economy. He’s also demanding electoral reforms to prevent corrupt politicians from holding office.”

“I am fighting just to make the electoral and democratic process transparent, free of corrupt practices,” he says.

Well, that is exactly what Conversations with God calls for — not just in politics, but in every area of life: complete transparency. Yet it is the role of spiritual messengers to issue a call for social, economic, and political change? I face this question every time I so much as utter one word about humanity’s political process. “I wish you would just stick to spiritual stuff, and leave politics alone,” people write. “You should not be expressing a political point of view,” others admonish.

I notice that now even the motives of Qadri, a Muslim cleric, are being questioned. In the NPR report a man named Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani general and political commentator, is quoted as saying that Qadri’s message may be good, but he questions the messenger. Masood calls Qadri a demagogue.

“He actually wants to be in the center stage. He wants power, he wants to be in prominence all the time,” the NPR report quoted Masood as saying.

(The full NPR report can be found here: http://www.npr.org/2013/02/20/172416876/controversial-cleric-stirs-protests-upon-return-to-pakistan)

I do not know enough about Mr. Qadri to offer an observation on his motives or his person, but I find it interesting that even in a culture where the Islamic faith is highly honored and Muslim clerics are revered, if you say something that rouses people against the prevailing power structure, you had better be ready to be marginalized — or worse — spiritual messenger or not. Mr. Qadri’s public speeches are made from a bullet-proof enclosure.

So…what is the role of spirituality in day-to-day life “on the ground”? Conversations with God says that the political views of a person or a society are a demonstration of that person’s and that society’s spiritual values. If that is true, does this mean that there is a rightful place in the day-to-day “real world” for spiritual messengers who are addressing political and social issues, as I did in my last entry here? And if so, what would that place be?

In the present case, should Mr. Qadri quiet down, or speak even louder?

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