Islam – societal and cultural changes
In order to understand how cultural and societal changes influence any religion, we must first know the definition of religion. Religion is a relation with God which human beings regard as sacred, divine, spiritual, holy and worthy of respect. It consists of the ways to deal with different concerns of human life. Religious influences are rooted in all aspects of human life. Religions evolve and change with time. Religions consist of ideas, values, practices and stories that are embedded in culture and are not separable. It is not possible to understand a religion without its cultural dimensions How Islam has adapted cultural and societal changes as it has spread throughout the globe is an interesting and complex phenomenon.
Islam traveled in many ways through different regions. The history of Islam is full of events that led to Islam’s spread across the globe. Sometimes it was transferred through military conquests, it was also carried through trade caravans that travelled over vast distances or through the missionaries. When Islamic ideas came into contact with new societies, they evolved in unique ways and took on diverse forms. That’s why these societies have multiple different interpretations of Islam. The spread of Islam across different regions involved some prominent factors such as inter-marriages, trade, influencers etc . Spreading of Islam is a complex phenomenon and to say that it travelled merely through sword is not justified. Muslim culture developed from the ninth century to the twelfth century, and crystallized into what we currently know as Islam. The military expansion of the early centuries facilitated the spread of Islam in name only and it was later that Islam spread in true meaning, as a number of citizens started converting to Islam. Expansion of Islamic culture was carried out by missionaries and political convoys, it also expanded through trade. Group of travelers (caravans) used camels to transport goods and themselves across different regions, they played the most important role in the spread of Islam. These caravans helped in expanding Islamic civilization and culture by connecting different provinces (with the Islamic empires) which were far apart. Merchants carried out trades across different regions. These trades were equally influential in expanding culture and created a sense of multiculturalism or internationalism. These new cultural relationships led to the transfer of technology, science and other forms of culture. This was the start of globalization. But at that time it was just known by multiple names like multiculturalism or internationalism. Cultural globalization is a multidimensional process which leads to different impacts and consequences and makes possible the coexistence of different values with Islamic symbols , values and discourses. Islamic culture does not consist of merely a group of a combination of rituals rather it is a complete way of life prescribed by the Quran.
“The human history is the graveyard of great cultures that the disastrous end of them has been due to this matter that they couldn’t present a planned, rational and volitional reaction against the challenges.” -Erich Fromm
When Islam encountered globalization:
During the time of prophet Muhammad (SAW) there wasn’t much expansion of Islam to other parts of the world. Only a small group of people went to Abissynia during the early days of Islam for the purpose of seeking shelter. The actual age of Islamic globalization has begun when in Medina the Prophet (SAW) founded an Islamic State in 622. From that time, Islam started to spread around the globe. The teachings of the Qur’an and the prophet (SAW) inspired the Muslims not only to learn but also to illumine their souls by knowledge. Despite mastering modern information and technical skills, Muslims had an open mind in understanding all that’s good and helpful . They were willing to grasp knowledge and ideas from the Persians, Indians and Greeks in order to enrich their civilization. They had a welcoming attitude towards the changing world.
In assessing the Muslim time of globalization, one could come to realize that the growth of Islam and its civilization to overseas territories took place because of its dynamic nature as disclosed by God. The Book of Islam conveyed messages associated with faith and additionally recommended Muslims to gather know-how of science and equip themselves with modern knowledge. When Muslims took Islam to overseas lands there has been no compulsion for human beings to comply with Islam. Many western scholars made the claims that Islam became unfold on the factor of the sword which are groundless. Islam was promoted with stunning preaching and desirable examples proven through the Prophet (SAW) and early Muslims at some stage in their age of globalization.(‘N e w s l e t t e r 1 0 Muslim Responses to Globalization’, 2002)
Globalization has begun without being acknowledged by a huge area of the Islamic Ummah. Since the tsunamis of globalization began to contact the shores of the Islamic nations, but it shouldn’t affect the faith of Muslims and Islamic lifestyle. As it has been comprehended from the former conversation that globalization is irreversible and The Muslims, inevitably, have no choice but to prepare and protect themselves. Realizing that Malaysia needs to do something Former Prime Minister Mahathir stated in one of the His addresses on the issue of globalization to the Islamic Ummah:
“Muslim countries and Muslim government have a duty to ensure that globalization will not result in the marginalization of their countries as happened with the Industrial Revolution and Industrial Age. We cannot afford it this time. If once again we miss this opportunity to keep pace with the radical and rapid advances now being made with technology and the sciences, and the changes they cause to the world’s perceptions of things, the new ideas and concepts in human and international relations; if we miss all these and fail to handle them, then we will not only be marginalized, but be dominated and hegemonised permanently”
Mahatir’s statement is a reminder to the Muslims not to Ignore the events and progress that take place, and stay away In the fields of Information Technology, Multimedia, e-Study, e-commerce, etc If Muslims choose to remain isolated in this era of globalization then Muslims will be one who will be left alone and loser in comparison with the rest of the world. A sensible thing for the Muslims to do is to be active in mastering and utilizing the new technology for a good purpose that could deliver progress, development and economic benefits to themselves and to the rest of mankind. Now if one looks at the modern period, as far as politics and government go, Muslims have absorbed a great deal from the West, especially in relation to democracy, human rights, democratic forms of governance. There’s been as great deal of absorption on the part of Muslims from the West. Any Muslim society today including those which have remained closed and cloistered cannot ignore the force of democracy and the wave of modernity and globalization.
Globalization, modernity and Islam
Through its name, the idea of globalization is very much clear. The word global provides the central idea, it mainly comprises economy, society, culture and politics. People from different countries with different cultural backgrounds are connected through globalization, they make a homogenous culture and thus become globalised. Globalization has made the world interconnected, such that local events may come to have global consequences. Now we proceed to how globalization and modernity which is a very intensified phenomenon, influenced the message of Islam. (m.miasami, no date) As it has been mentioned in a research article the relationship between Islam and globalization has been subjected to considerable speculation and sarcastic discussion. The belief that Islam opposes globalization has been the essence of the debate. Islam calls for adequate responses to the constant challenges posed by the fluctuating time and space factors and for the prospect of their comprehension and implementation to be revitalized and revamped from within in order to combat the possible shortcomings of the Muslim mind and the cultural and civilizational degeneration of Islamic societies This article emphasizes that the current debate of Islam and globalization is more focused on westernization than globalization. It has been argued that the tension is due to the westernization process rather than globalization. Since the mere terminology surrounding the debate has created considerable misunderstanding, the terms of reference need to be defined properly. Globalization is a very intense phenomenon which involves worldwide exchange of goods, people and ideas. Globalization has captured growing intensity of worldwide interconnectedness. Globalization has been a part of human life since its inception. This refers to the inherent human nature and the propensity of man to be a social animal. It is, in fact the propensity with which god has created human beings to exchange his resources with others in order to get better chances at life. Though globalization is related to the idea of comparative advantage, free trade and open economy , its origins can be traced back to long before such ideas came to life. To establish a more detailed view of the so called ‘Islam-Globalization’ controversy, it is important to differentiate between the globalization cycle in its original context and other comparatively more recent mechanisms, such as westernization that are veiled as globalization and yet are so distinct.
Globalization aims to narrow the gaps that separate the various communities. This is achieved by sharing advantages of cultural , social, science and political governance in all facets of life. That is, they share knowledge, they recognize the principles and codes of ethics of one another, and they establish a common ground. Westernization, by contrast, does not consider such an understanding or building of such a common ground as worthwhile enterprises. Globalization is a mechanism in which the entire planet is like a global town. Globalization is a dynamic process which has different effects on various religions around the world. It breaks the cultural barriers and spread different ideologies and values around the globe. Westernization, on the other side, appears to be a one-way path, implying that in the name of globalization, one country seeks to conquer and influence other areas. In addition, while globalization takes place through the free will of various communities, Westernization is characteristically imposed on other regions. Having explained the distinction between globalization and westernization, the discussion regarding Islam-globalization can be more adequately measured. Islam is not, in its original context, anti-globalization (or modernity, deemed a by-product of globalization), but Muslims also have a concern with Westernization. While there is criticism of Westernization of culture, modernization is accepted as a timely phenomenon.(Achmad and Hamzani, 2016)
Modernity in its political and social forms refers to increasingly specializing isolation from religion in societal institutions such as political systems, law, economic management and education. Unlike social life in the pre-modern period, these roles are conducted in modernity, free from the overarching influence of religion. In this viewpoint, religious fundamentalism-in the sense of a return to a purist past-is a issue in all its complexity and cultural hybridity created by the interaction between modernity and the Muslim ummah.
Modernity is a process in which society becomes modern. It implies social mobility , industrialization, trade. Modernization has been accelerated and accentuated with globalization in the past two decades. Islam, like all other religions, has felt and reacted to the effects of and responded to the impingement of modernity in Muslim society, the multiple forces of modern intellectual, scientific and socio-political life. There’s hardly a facet of Muslim society ‘s life that has been left untouched. Contrary to common belief, the bulk of the ideas of justice, equality prescribed by Islam are in accordance with those inherent in the modernization process. Islam has always promoted ideas such as peaceful coexistence, the acceptance of other religions, democratic governance and women’s rights. Indeed, Islam and modernization need not be at odds with one another. Muslims need not have any excessive aversion to Islamic tradition since Islam has never been a cause of any chapters of darkness or ignorance in Muslim history. Islamic culture was without dark ages. Such a thing would be an anomaly for mankind as Islam is in a religion of supreme light, reality, and guidance. Islam, on the contrary, was the root cause of all goodness which emerged in Islamic civilization and benefitted not only Muslims but also non-Muslims. (Kohler and Krueger, 1952)
Islam is both traditional and modern, as the universal and final revelation to mankind. While it speaks of the infinity, permanence and inviolability of its divinely prescribed truth, and thus of continued compliance with and following its authorities, as well as of the valuation and conformity with the legacies and traditions spawned by such dynamic historical processes, Islam also calls for appropriate responses to the constant challenges posed by the fluctuating time and space.
According to an article, (Bicer, 2013)Islamic responses to the globalization phase are very complex. Islamic understanding, social circumstances and interaction with modernity are the reasons for this. Discrete experiences form independent Islamist thoughts, expectations, critiques, strategies, and their modern or non-modern commitments. Where political , economic or cultural deprivation slowly impedes the fulfillment of desires without pressure or inequality, Muslims may follow a committed, private and a political Islamism consistent with western rationalization, also entangled with it. Muslims should take a personal, general, cooperative, and systematic approach and strive toward a compromised modern Islamic public sphere. Globalization should be acknowledged for providing a suitable arena for exchange of ideas and thoughts.
Globalization in the light of Quran
Globalization is socially, historically and politically powerful, and is prevalent in the world. Whatever the dominant political and cultural influence geographically, the ideology takes priority over others. In our times the U.S. is the world’s dominant power. American culture is the power house worldwide. The Qur’an says the balance of power passes to other hands, “We bring these days to men by turns, and that Allah may know those who believe and take witnesses from among you. And Allah loveth not those that do wrong” (Qur’an 3/140). This verse means, “Allah has turned those glories around, Some days are in favour of people and some are against them”. In this Qur’anic verse, the word dawla (mubadala) means going back and forth. That exchange of primacy among cultures has some causes hidden. We must accept globalization as a reality in principle. It is a power cycle and can change thereby from person to person, community to community, State to State, continent to continent. Globalization is in essence neutral rather than demonic nor divine. It shifts the role of client, and room utilized. There are, therefore, many articles about globalization, for and against religion.
Religious and cultural values have been affected by the influence of globalization’s dominance. Globalization is seen as a cause of religious diversity and its threat to traditional values. It is also seen as a polarization factor defining religious identity and its internal practice. Evaluating the substance of religious scriptures and religious history challenges us with this underlined reality that Islam is a global faith and has sought to become globalized through its historical context. Islam has also addressed the question of globalization and the development of a global culture and democracy. To prove that topic, we can state the following Quranic verses.
Many verses of Quran have spoken about the globalization of Islam and lack of its limitation to definite place or time directly or indirectly. Also, they have narrated and characterized the global view of Islam.:
- «قل يا ايها الناس اني رسول الله اليكم جميعاً»
Say: O people! surely I am the Messenger of God to you all.
- «يا ايها الناس اعبدوا ربكم الذي خلقكم و الذين من قبلكم لعلكم تتقون»
O men! serve your Lord who created you and those before you so that you
may guard against evil.
- «ان الله اصطفي آدم و نوحاً و ال ابراهيم و ال عمران علي العالمين»
“Surely God chose Adam and Nuh and the descendants of Ibrahim and the
descandents of Imran above the nation.
- «هو الذي ارسل رسوله بالهدي و دين الحق ليظهره علي الدين كله.
“He it is who sent His messenger with guidance and the religion of truth, that
he might cause it to prevail over all religions, though the polytheists may be
- «وعد الله الذين آمنوا منكم وعملو صالحات ليستخلفنكم في الارض كما استخلف الذين من قبلهم و ليمكنن لهم دينهم الذي ارتضي لهم و ليبد لنهم من بعد خوفهم امنا.
“God has promised to those of you who believe and do good that He will most certainly make them rulers in the earth as He made rulers those before them, and that He will most certainly establish for them their religion which He has chosen for them, and that He will most certainly, after their fear, give them security in exchange; they shall serve Me, not associating aught with me; and whoever is ungrateful after this, these it is who are the transgressors.”
- «يا ايها الذين آمنوا ادخلوا في السلم كافه و لاتتبعوا خطوات الشيطان»
“O you who believe! enter into submission one and all and do not follow the footsteps of shaitan; surely he is your open enemy “
It has been pointed in above verses that Holy Prophet of Islam (Peace be Upon Him) has announced His Quranic message, the divine revelation, with the characteristic of eternity for all human beings. Also, the aforesaid verses imply the world’s inclusion of Islam legal system and this matter that the mission of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon Him) is global and for all human beings.
Islam is not in conflict with the issue of globalization and modernity, but the features of globalization, from the Islamic point of view, are distinct from the present idiomatic element. Reviewing the quality of religious texts and religious history presents us with this obvious reality that religion of Islam is a global religion and in its historical experience has always sought to become worldwide. Islam has always addressed the question of globalization, liberal culture system and global governance. We believe that Islam has broad-based and national thought and theoretical principles that, if extracted and clarified in the modern language, can be as a shining lamp before the present human way. Of course, other holy books, such as the New and Old Testaments, claim to present this principle, but the comparison of Islam’s foundation of thought with other holy religions proves that Islam and the Quran are unquestionably superior. So we can conclude that whatever is described as the globalization phase today is not in line with Islam ‘s view given the presence of similarity and parallels such as the elimination of geographical borders, but it is apparent that Islam does not oppose globalization and render Islam global, but the characteristics of globalization vary from today’s idiomatic features.
From this point of view, globalization should be seen as a possibility for the growth and advancement of human good principles, as it has transformed communicative technologies and enabled citizens across the world with swift and unified connectivity. According to this approach, globalization is an appropriate opportunity to develop the exalted Islamic instructions and is a ground for the fulfillment of the global government of Islam, as promised in the verses of the Glorious Qur’an.
As a result, it can be said that while Western and especially America dominated communicative technologies, the growth and development of these technologies , particularly internet and satellite, created an atmosphere that this situation can be used well. It is also easy for the active addressees of the media to accept the exalted messages of Islamic religion which are in harmony with human instincts that the dust of negligence has been touched on their pure human nature, and this matter requires the conscience and acuity of Islamic world thinkers that they can better use this condition and prove this principle that Islam is in agreement with globalization.
Achmad, D. and Hamzani, U. (2016) ‘Globalization in the Perspective of Islam and Economic Experts’, Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 219, pp. 41–46. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2016.04.030.
Bicer, R. (2013) ‘Globalization in the Context of Islamic Theology’, The Journal of Rotterdam Islamic and Social Sciences, 3(1), pp. 1–12. doi: 10.2478/jriss-2013-0001.
Kohler, W. and Krueger, F. (1952) ‘T H E Impact of the German Immigration on T H E’, 2(May), pp. 207–229.
m.miasami (no date) ‘Islam and Globalization’, fountain magazine.
‘N e w s l e t t e r 1 0 Muslim Responses to Globalization’ (2002) Religion, (July).
Islamophobia and Western World
“How Islamophobia developed in west and how it built track towards influencing life of common man?”
In this research paper we are going to conduct a research on Islamophobia, its causes, its impact. First aim is to define and explain phobia. Define and explain Islamophobia. Its main causes. How attacks of 9/11 influenced the lives of Muslims. Caricatures of Holy Prophet displayed in a school of France and magazine “Charlie Hebdo”. Consequences of Islamophobia are the main topics. In this paper I’ve brightened the aspects leading to Islamophobia, change of policies for Muslims in France.
WHAT IS PHOBIA?
A Phobia is an extreme fear of something. It may be an anxiety disorder in which fear of something is expressed. There are many factors that trigger a phobia, these factors may be environmental or genetic. But here we are talking about worldly phobia.
WHAT WE CALL, “ISLAMOPHOBIA”
There is a great debate on Islamophobia. If we talk about Islamophobia which is a very considerable phobia or fear for the west. Islamophobia according to western people is hatred and prejudice against Muslims. Islamophobia is a phrase used to describe baseless malice and agitation or hatred towards Islam, Muslims, and Islamic culture. It also throws light on discrimination that is faced by Muslims. Muslims face violence on daily bases. Circadian, they are victimized. Examples may vary from region to region, the way Muslims are treated and how arduous it is for them to face all the pessimism.
Commonplace, Muslims are attacked, their properties are attacked, their rights are violated, they face threats of violence. Muslims are blackmailed. Muslims face biased attitude at schools, workplaceand they also go through religion bigotry. Despite of all the endowment of Muslims, they are denounced and stigmatized. In a few recent years the terminology of Islamophobia gained vast popularity in west. Muslim minorities colonizing Europe face many issues on daily basis. This term spread widely in European countries in 2007. It was the after shock of economic crisis of 2007. They terrorists Muslims ( Muslim extremists) which proved to be fuel to the fire.
Muslim minorities in Europe have always been manifested in a wrong order. It is portrayed that Muslims want to isolate themselves. Due to this wrong image of Muslims that is being portrayed, they are not given indistinguishable rights at work places, school and other business sites.
About 20 million Muslims live in Europe. These Muslims are viewed as a threat to European culture and their ways of spending life. The word Islamophobia has become a part of political discourse due is all because of researches and citations of British and western think tanks. This term gains a number of critics. Western concept of Islam is only one-way street. Western people and leaders criticize Islamic values openly but they pay no consideration to frame of mind of Muslims.
ATTACKS OF 9/11
The 9/11 arsonist attacks exceptionally altered slant of public towards Muslims. Thenceforth, arsonist acts, the attacks by deadly jihadists in London, Paris, Brussels, and Barcelona have escalated trepidation. Aftermath of all these attacks by Muslim extremists, Muslims are regarded as terrorists by Europeans and they view Islam as a threat. The attack of 9/11 on twin tower was considered as an attack by Muslims, since then, Muslims are considered to bean ultimatum. Many changes were felt following these attacks. These terrible attacks left a horrific effect on Muslims. Muslims were considered as pessimists. President of the time Mr. George Bush launched “war on terror” which affected Muslim world badly. Muslims were the prey of this war. Countries like Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan became the pivot of American forces. Sadly, Afghanistan and Iraq also have masses of American troops.
9/11 made Islamophobia more acceptable. Muslims are considered as terrorists and attacks of 9/11 were scrutinized to be done by Muslim extremists such as Al-Qaeda.
ISLAMOPHOBIA AND FRANCE
Recently, a French school teacher Samuel Paty displayed the lampoons of our Holy Prophet (pbuh) upon which a Muslim student Abdullah. He waited for his teacher to come out of his home and he shot him down with an air gun. Abdullah was living there with status of a refugee. After that French policies started to slap down on Muslims. French President said:
“Islam in French needs Enlightenment.”
Further, he mentioned that we need to fight Islamist separatism.
He took measures and implemented new policies on Muslims which includes financing of mosques on French territory. Ban can be imposed on anyone visiting mosque.
On the other hand, Turkey which is also a western a country stood in front of France and retorted aggressively following the caricatures.
This is not the first time, such thing has also happened in France before in 2015. When a French magazine “Charlie Hebdo” published the mimics of our Holy Prophet(pbuh). Muslim extremists invaded the offices of Charlie Hebdo and killed 12 persons and injured 11. According to a report the killers were two Muslim brothers belonging to extremist group Al-Qaeda.
Charlie Hebdo, a publication that has always quoted controversy with satirical attacks on political and non-secular leaders. It published cartoons of Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) in 2012, following which France temporarily closed embassies and schools amid fears of reprisals. Its offices had been bombed in November 2011 after publishing a caricature of Muhammad on its cover.
CONSEQUENCES OF ISLAMOPHOBIA
Islam is criticized by infidels in very tough words through out the world. Muslims are held responsible for incendiary activities because of hatred and prejudices towards Islam. New policies are being implemented on Muslims. French policies started to slap down on Muslims. Muslims are most exposed to hate speech, racism, discrimination, bigotry at work place, educational institutes and mosques are ambushed by fascists. In India Muslims are being killed because they eat meat of cows and cow is a sanctified animal for Hindus. They are whipped and canned when they go to mosques. Kashmir has become a detention center as was Germany during the reign of Hitler for Jews.
Industry of islamophobia is on rise. In the U.S., about one-half of nationally representative samples of Mormons, Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, and Jews agree that in general, most Americans are prejudiced toward Muslim Americans. Specifically, 66% of Jewish Americans and 60% of Muslim Americans say that Americans in general are prejudiced toward Muslim Americans. Muslims(48%) have been through religious discrimination. It is always felt that Muslims will overtake the society and they will spread violence, hatred and bigotry in society. It is in people’s perception that Muslim’s will create problems. Well, it is not their fault up to major extent. It is due to extremist groups like Al-Qaeda which conveys terror in hearts of people. Another aspect is the role of the Media which tries to aggrandize every issue for commercial gain. The recent acts of certain so-called Muslim terrorists in America and other parts of the world added much more fuel to the fire which was already burning and the image of bad or evil which was already used by certain Western governments about Muslims got a stamp of approval for many people who are not aware of the true aspects of Islam.
ISLAMOPHOBIA, A FORM OF RACISM
Most scholars agree that Islamophobia is a form of racism. It is anti-Muslim racism. This type of racism stirs up hatred and prejudices on religious beliefs and ethnic backgrounds. Islam is baselessly labeled as treacherous to western civilization. They feel inferior in front of Islamic values. And they are always trying to prove Islam inferior and themselves, superior.
Islamophobia is illustrated as manifestation of cultural racism. Many people go through discrimination because they are perceived as Muslims. Western identities are created within white racialists.15 March, a gunman walked into the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand and opened fire. During the course of his killing spree there, and at the Linwood Islamic Centre, 51 people were slaughtered in their place of worship for no other reason than their Murderer wanted to decide their faith by himself. the racists in Northern Ireland who left a pig’s head on the door of the mosque . If this is not racism, then what it is? The motorists demanding £1,000 more to insure their car if their name is Muhammad, then what it is, called religious racism. Then how is it possible for native Muslims of those countries to spend a life of tranquility in those countries, where there not even minor rights of Muslims are protected. Where Muslims face troubles to go to their places of worships. This is not what they call freedom of speech. There is wide variability between freedom of speech and religious racism.
HOW TO ERADICATE ISLAMOPHOBIA?
It should be the first duty of teachers to exterminate such convictions from intellects of the young students and children. Islam is a peace loving religion. Muslims can not harm even an animal without any rationale. Media must also alter the way they present Muslims. Media must show things that are free from any kind of hatred towards religion. Politicians must also acknowledge ways to prevent Islamophobia. It would aid in preventing crimes. Differences in religious beliefs are basis of prejudices. These divergences take place in intellects of young children.
Islamophobia is rooted in minds of western people and other non-Muslims. Islamophobia is a slang which deteriorates the tranquility of human mind. Islamophobia is unbearable for Muslims and acts related to it. Such as exhibiting caricatures and lampoons of Holy Prophet Muhammad and then calling it freedom of speech. People are visually impaired to metamorphose among freedom of speech and hate speech. Hate speech, then escorts to ferocity. In retaliation of hate speech Muslim extremists pursuit anarchism. This anarchism ushers to Islamophobia and hence the cycle continues. Western states are chauvinists. Chauvinism has deeply rooted in intellect of people. Despicable oratory bestows people with license to treat Muslims preferentially. Muslims, in many parts of the world are conventionalized as arsonists and terrorists. They consider immigrants as foreign in their lands. Even the natives of those lands are prejudiced as foreigners. Muslim students and teachers are bullied. Together, we can flotsam bigotry and preconception and make world which is full of respect for religions.
Islamophobia: A fungible prop for Muslim religious soft power
Think the Muslim world is united in opposing Islamophobia? Think twice.
Rising anti-Muslim sentiment in countries like China, Myanmar, and India as well as the West against the backdrop of increased support for anti-migration and extreme nationalist groups, and far-right populist parties is proving to be a boost for contenders for religious soft power in and leadership of the Muslim world.
For Turkey, Iran and Pakistan, supporters of different expressions of political Islam, Islamophobia provides the backdrop for attempts to position themselves as defenders of Muslim causes such as Palestinian rights in Jerusalem, the third holiest city in Islam, the plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar, and conflict in predominantly Muslim Kashmir.
Absent from the contenders’ list is China’s brutal crackdown on Turkic Muslims in its troubled north-western province of Xinjiang. China, which aggressively has sought repatriation of Turkic Muslims, recently ratified an extradition treaty that Turkey, home to the largest Xinjiang exile community, insists will not put Uighurs at risk.
By the same token, Islamophobia has proven a useful tool to influence efforts by men like French President Emmanuel Macron and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz to crack down on political Islam and shape the faith in the mould of Turkey & Co’s Middle Eastern rivals for religious soft power, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The Gulf monarchies advocate a vague notion of ‘moderate’ Islam that preaches absolute obedience to the ruler and is quietist and non-political. The two Gulf states have gone as far as legitimizing China’s crackdown and persuading the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to endorse Chinese policy as an effective way of countering political extremism and violence.
Economics and trade are powerful drivers for the Muslim world’s refusal to hold China accountable. But so are the brownie points that major Muslim-majority contenders for religious soft power garner in Beijing. Muslim criticism of the crackdown potentially could make the difference in pressuring China to change its policy.
Saudi and Emirati rejection of and campaigning against political Islam bolsters the rationale of not only China’s crackdown but also Russian efforts to control Moscow’s potentially restive Muslim minority. China may not like the propagation of political Islam by the Gulf states’ religious soft power rivals but values their silence.
Chinese Turkic Muslims is not the only issue over which contenders, including Asian states like Indonesia, irrespective of what notion of Islam they promote, stumble in their quest for religious soft power.
So is another litmus test of claims of a majority of the contenders to embrace religious tolerance and inter-faith dialogue that raises the question of whether contenders should clean up their own house first to give credibility to their often-opportunistic embrace of ‘moderate’ Islam.
Among the rivals, the UAE, populated in majority by non-nationals, is one of only two contenders to start acknowledging changing attitudes and demographic realities.
Authorities in November lifted the ban on consumption of alcohol and cohabitation among unmarried couples. This week, the UAE opened the door to the naturalization of foreign nationals.
The other contender, Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s largest Muslim movement, has begun tackling legal and theological reform of Islam with the encouragement of the government. The movement offered in October a platform for then US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to lash out at China’s treatment of Turkic Muslims.
By contrast, Pakistan, in an act of overreach modelled on US insistence on extra-territorial abidance by some of its laws, recently laid down a gauntlet in the struggle to define religious freedom by seeking to block and shut down a US-based website associated with Ahmadis on charges of blasphemy.
Ahmadis are a minority sect viewed as heretics by many Muslims that have been targeted in Indonesia and elsewhere but nowhere more so than in Pakistan where they have been constitutionally classified as non-Muslims. Blasphemy is potentially punishable in Pakistan with a death sentence.
The Pakistani effort was launched at a moment that anti-Ahmadi and anti-Shiite sentiment in Pakistan, home to the world’s largest Shia Muslim minority, is on the rise. Recent mass demonstrations denounced Shiites as “blasphemers” and “infidels” and called for their beheading as the number of blasphemy cases being filed against Shiites in the courts mushrooms.
Pakistan’s rivals in the competition for religious soft power have largely remained silent about the worrying trend, raising questions about the integrity of their commitment to religious freedom and tolerance as well as their rejection of Islamophobia.
Newly appointed Indonesian religious affairs minister, Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, a senior Nahdlatul Ulama official, is proving to be the exception that confirms the rule. Mr. Qoumas pledged in one of his first statements as a minister during a visit to a Protestant church to protect the rights of Shiites and Ahmadis.
Said Indonesia scholar Alexander R Arifianto: “Qoumas’ new initiatives as Religious Affairs Minister are a welcome move to counter the influence of radical Islamists and address long-standing injustices against religious minorities. He now has to prove these are not empty slogans, but an earnest attempt at promoting equal citizenship for all Indonesians irrespective of their religious beliefs.”
Custodians of Islam, changing their Avatar
If we peek into the historical traces, it could be seen that the world has fought more wars on religion or for their state’s dignity and integrity than any other reason. It is mainly because accepting others ideologies either its religious or national, it’s hard to accept and this is at present the prevailing issue if someone looks deeper into the complex picture of geo-politics.
United Arab Emirates has passed new laws that have shocked the entire Muslim world. The Arab World has also been perceived as the “custodians of Islam” and other Muslim countries have look towards for the perfect implementation of misinterpreted “Islamic values”, ignoring the fact that mainly the values followed in the Arab world are Arabic not Islamic. There is huge difference among two interpretations.
UAE has recently relaxed its social constraints. These constraints that served as a shield from adopting the un-Islamic practices and pro-western values. UAE has allowed couples to cohabit; it has allowed drinking without fear of punishment. Lastly it has also it put off the honor crime from its menu means; they have criminalized the act of honor killing. The decision of UAE to revamp its policies depicts that UAE has chosen a “new” avatar, a more pro-western avatar, leaving the Islamic values behind. The broadening of personal freedoms reflects that UAE is on its new journey to change its society at home.
After the announcement of new laws it seems as if United Arab Emirates is more focus on shifting their oil dependent economy or other industries. This includes inviting the high-flow of Israel and Western investments into their country at the cost of anything. They are aiming to boost UAE is the skyscraper tourist destination for Western tourists and fortune seekers, businesses regardless of its “legal hard-line Islamic System.”
Moreover, the major revamps came particularly right after the historic U.S brokered deal to normalize relations between UAE and Israel. The future will reveal but it can be foreseen that the days of monarchy are coming to end. It won’t happen in few years; it will take time but is surely going to happen. The decades old filthy rich monarchy will be replaced by “Democracy” for sure.
Other than the UAE, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is also on the same journey. The new monarch King Muhammad Bin Salman is also tilted towards “Western culture” and more “Liberalist thoughts and values”. He is also more inclined to bring on more liberal structures in their country, for examples recently Saudi Arabia has given more freedom to women for driving and is allowed to work with men at offices or any other workplaces. These drastic changes were considered as an impossible task to do but things are changing rapidly.
The question to ask is, now where would Pakistan tilt? Whose society would Pakistan look upon as the guardian and custodians of Islam and its Islamic values? The Arab countries have also had massive influence upon the Pakistani society particularly in religious terms. Pakistan has to bear the cost of “Wahabbism” clashing with “Shiaism” and other Islamic sects that were mainly brought by the Arabs into the country.
Many Pakistanis have considered the Arabs as their ideal and the Arabian society as an ideal society to live in. I have also heard people giving examples of “Islamic system of Saudi Arabia” and how loyal they are to the “Islamic values”. They are also perceived as the “Guardians” and “Custodians” of Islamic values. But now as they are inclined or totally moving towards Western system, would Pakistan also opt for liberalism in their country?
As there has always been an environment of confusion in the Pakistani society. This confusion is, wither to opt for democracy or go for an Islamic system. This has created a sharp separation in the Pakistani society, the one struggling to go totally Western (far-left), and the others trying to preserve the Islamic system (far-right).
After United Arab Emirates new laws, this question is becoming more complex. The transformation of United Arab Emirates adoption of Westernized values shows that it is only the Muslim world leaving its values behind and moving towards a borrowed baggage of cultures and values. The future will disclose that who will sit on the throne of “Custodian of Islam”. Till now the changing geo-political situation shows that it is Turkey that is striving to go for this throne.
On the current politics of Arab powers I would say, “A tree’s beauty lies in its branches, but its strength lies in its roots,” rightly said by Matshona Dhliwayo.
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