When dealing with the subject of social reform and justice, it can’t be denied that promotion of the good and preventing evil are essential parts of the Islamic ethos.
At the same time, many Muslims have developed an understanding that maintaining even oppressive rulers can prevent the even greater evil of instability and anarchy along with all the problems that come with it.
Of course, Islam does value order when it is done in service of what is right but the power of rulers is by no means considered self-justifying and therefore should be spared no criticism when it airs.
When addressing dealings with rulers, it is important we differentiate between merely dealing with them and actually promoting them. Any person who lives in society will inevitably have to deal with its ruler, and there is no problem with it as it is an essential part of life.
In fact, there are times in which such dealings are needed to promote the general good such as preventing crime and preventing invasion by its enemies. There is no problem in this, but there is a clear difference between such actions for the public good and backing their oppression.
This is especially the case with people who live outside of the particular countries with no family connections there yet still bend over backward to praise them despite their manifest evil. Such people should carefully consider whether their actions are actually done in the service of good or actually have the effect of rubber-stamping the evil regularly perpetrated by these governments. Sadly, such actions are justified with the empty rhetoric of peace and stability.
One of the oft-repeated fallacies of those who defend the perpetuation of oppressive governments is that somehow these governments provide the greater virtue of stability despite their faults. To begin, it is understandable why many who have endured the pain of war would prefer even oppression to such a state, and no one should try to detract from those experiences. At the same time, it is important that we do not let the experiences of those who have suffered from the realities of war blind us to the fact that despotic governments are anything but peaceful.
To begin, the concentration of power in one to a few individuals naturally lends itself to violence since there is no meaningful check to the use of military force in such circumstances. This is the case for violence both foreign and domestic. Oppressors feel free to rein to eliminate those whom they do not like within their countries and often attack those outside whom they deem to be a threat to their rule. Countries wishing to escape this vicious cycle ought to allow a meaningful public discourse in which their people may criticize them without automatically being treated as enemies.
To begin, it is important to understand that Muslims have a sacred duty to oppose injustice at all levels raining from the personal to the political. The implication of this is that not even rulers are exempt from criticisms when they commit wrong.
While some may be reluctant to do so out of the fear of potential instability, one must understand that unchecked political power of an individual is a far more dangerous or destabilizing force than any criticisms leveled against that power.
This leads to situations in which tyrants will sanction violence against those who do not conform to their narrow and cynical agenda. Such dynamics facilitate the very instability they purport to protect against.
Thankfully, a third way exists in which people are allowed to freely express their grievances and pursue reform through legitimate channels. This is the space which must be opened up in Muslim countries to make them more stable.