OPINION

Islam and the West

March 19, 2006
Jamal
"In the West they underestimate how deep Muhammad is in the heart of every Muslim," al-Suweidan said. "We demand respect, like you have given the Jews respect. ... Be fair, that is all we're asking."

This was the essence of the statements brought forward at a recent conference hosted in Denmark aimed at improving ties with the Muslim world, after the uproar over cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad. The importance of reconciliation between the West and the Muslim world was stressed, to build bridges and stop the "clash and conflict".

The double standards must cease, and not just regarding 'freedom of speech' but also in the many areas of policy in which Western nations hold themselves to one standard and Muslim countries to another. For example, the EU threatens to cut Palestinian aid because Hamas refuses to recognise Israel, while it ignores that Israeli building in occupied Palestinian territories violated international law as far back as 1967. Regardless of this, the British government helped Israel build the atom bomb! USA can use nuclear warfare in destroying Hiroshima, invading Vietnam and devastating Iraq, while Iran cannot have nuclear energy. We were told of the 'need' to enact regime change in the 'land of oil' (Iraq), while Sudan was left to the slaughter.

Furthermore, reports of Islamic extremism and oppression must be correlated with reports on positive issues to inform both Muslims and non-Muslims that Islam is a religion of peace, and that any transgression of this is evidently un-Islamic.

Some say a dialogue between East and West is counter-productive due to a lack of common-ground, while others call for deconstruction of the opposition between the West and Islam. The reality is that there is NO clear boundary between the West and Islam, but there IS the common-ground of humanity. The pace of change in the last 50 years has put constant pressure on traditional beliefs, habits and cultures to adapt as the central structural systems of society are diluted by the increasing number of sub-systems and the decreasing number of boundaries. Production, trade finance and even religion can now be organised and affected at a global level, which has subsequently widened ecological damage, political repression, overpopulation, civil unrest and nuclear and biochemical disaster.

In response to the advocates of fundamentalism, Islam should not be used or considered as a response to globalisation, but as a stabilising force to combat the negative effects. But this can only be successfully achieved if we strive to represent Islam as in its true light, enjoining the good and condemning the bad. The solution is with deconstruction of the negative opposition held by/between BOTH East and West by/between Muslims and non-Muslims, so that through discourse we can ALL become objective champions of freedom and justice and seek to build a more peaceful and culturally/racially/religiously interactive world. Until this can be achieved we must be impervious to the actions of those

In both the western and the Islamic worlds, who, for their own nefarious reasons, want the tension to escalate; we should not allow ourselves to play into their hands.

This also means for people to stop listening to the likes of Wafa Sultan that make their fame and fortune through slandering Islam. While she is correct that Muslims can learn from others both individually and collectively, this is nothing we have not heard before, even from Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi. Many of the remaining points from Wafa Sultan are incorrect and achieved by stating lines of the Qur'an in isolation and out of context, a strategy used by terrorists also. Let us ignore those that seek to feather their nests by slandering Islam and encouraging apostasy. While the "West" should truly strive to promote multiculturalism, the Muslims therein must promote the logic of Dr Farish A. Noor:

"Struggling for the Victory of Islam would entail an outright, unapologetic challenge to this global hegemon, though this struggle cannot and will not be secured unless and until Muslims learn to work with other communities. Here lies the truth that many of us have failed to realise or have not been able to admit: The Victory of Islam's universal values untimately depends on humanity as a whole, and not Muslims alone. WE are, all of us, the bearers and custodians of this terrible yet noble responsibility."

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#1
sanman
March 19, 2006
02:00 AM

[EDITED] As someone whose forefathers survived Islamic colonialism, I think what Islam needs most of all is self-criticism rather than this whitewash of its history. Muslims need to see the warts in Islam, and not just see their history as a garden of roses. Islamism has simply cultivated a mutual admiration society among Muslims.

Islamists asks "why are suicide bombings unfair when the other side is bombing with F16s?"

I think they need to ask deeper questions like "How come our holy utopia is so backward that it can't build any F16s?"
"How come we're absolutely on the bottom of scientific literacy?"
"How come we're focused on cartoons, but we have so few Nobel Prize winners?"
"How come we're all proud of being able to read the Koran, but hardly anybody can do any higher calculus or physics?"

I find that Jamal is asking all the wrong questions. How unsurprising.

#2
Anil
URL
March 19, 2006
04:45 AM

It is sad to see one sided articles blaming either the west or the Islamic world. In truth the blame lies in the middle. The West is guilty of supporting dictators and religious despots in the middle east until it suited it's purposes. Till 9/11 the west did not even pay lip service to democratic movements in the Muslim world and after 9/11 they have simply become bigoted.

The muslim world is not any better either. With it's disdain for human rights and fundamental freedom the muslim world is not helping it's cause of better understanding. While muslims criticize Wafa Sultan for misrepresenting Islam they themselves are not stepping forward to explain the tenets of Islam to wider world. We don't see muslims condemn fatwas. We don't see muslims condemn suicide bombings.

Overall the situation is getting worse and this can only mean more hatred on both sides.

#3
mrinalini
March 19, 2006
08:32 AM

respect is earned, not demanded

the way Israelis have made a garden out of a desert is admirable

they do not blow their own trumpet

they simply set about creating a home and an ordinary life which other nations take for granted

#4
Rohan Venkat
URL
March 19, 2006
10:45 AM

The recent Alliance of Civilizations and people like Shayk Hamza Yusuf are attempting to do exactly this.

Sanman, as much as I agree with the fact that Muslims must accept that there are faults in their society as in every, be it religious or cultural, I'd also like to point out that all the benchmarks you've set are the ones set by other (including western) societies, and why should Islam as a culture try to achieve these?

#5
temporal
URL
March 19, 2006
11:17 AM

Jamal:

welcome to DC

Many of the remaining points from Wafa Sultan are incorrect and achieved by stating lines of the Qur'an in isolation and out of context, a strategy used by terrorists also.

a very good point!

please continue to expose the hijacking of islam by these terrorists...and don't rest at that...continue to expose and rid islam of all the individual and state backers of these terrorists and misguided fundamentalists

everyone of us ...particularly muslims ...should learn and abide by live and let live peacefully

salam (as in peace)

#6
Nachiketa
URL
March 19, 2006
12:04 PM

It is commendable that the inaccuracies of Wafa Sultan are being so proactively pointed out by scholars who have read the Qu'ran.

...it would be so much better if the same energy was expended on rebutting OBL's and other extremists' statements.

#7
sanman
March 19, 2006
12:40 PM

Rohan, Islam as a culture doesn't have to achieve those things -- there's no obligation under laws of nature, only Darwinian selection. ie. Either change or perish.

So if Muslims wish to shun modern social/intellectual freedom and openness, which are the basis for modern scientific, technological and economic competitiveness, then by all means let them go ahead and cling to the 7th century.

Just don't expect everyone else to stay stagnant and stuck in that same century. The rest of the world will be making F16s, aircraft carriers, and trips to the moon, rather than howling over cartoons and baying at the moon.

If some don't wish to choose higher paths to preserve their survival and quality of life, and instead wish to wallow in backwardness and self-pity, then certainly it's their freedom to do so. But don't come crying to the rest of us when you reap the consequences you've sewn.

#8
jamal
URL
March 19, 2006
07:37 PM

Contrary to popular opinion (sanman) Muslims have contributed much to history, science and technology. I have read that even much of Europe would not be as it is if it were not for the spread of Islam. Many agree with this but minimise it as innovations of the past. However, with all the modern day advances, many could not occur without the inventions of the past. Additionally, the world is now so diverse that many modern advancements that do occur are by organisations which will include those of Muslim heritage. "The rest of the world" includes Muslims also, that is unless you live in a bubble.

Regarding Wafa Sultan and OBL, both scholars and ordinary folk alike point out the inaccrucies regarding both. However, many do not want to accept this as then they will be unable to further their weak arguements that generalise a billion Muslims.

#9
Rahul Bose
March 19, 2006
10:33 PM

Your Muslim brethen don't treat you fairly, Jamal, a Muslim can get his hand chopped off in Saudi-Arabia - but not in the US, or India.

In India, the richest Indian - Azim Premji happens to be an Muslim. Our President is a Muslim, there are many Muslims in our cricket team - the most ruthless meritocracy of all.

Of course the US should stop supporting the Muslim rulers who suppress their own people.

As mrinalini said, don't clamor for respect out of a sense of false-entitlement; nobody owes you anything. If you get rid of your Muslim persecution-complex, you might nobody wants to marginalise you. In fact many Hindus, will stand up for your rights.

While we protect your rights here, it saddens us to see you doing nothing about our rights in Middle-Eastern countries.

#10
Arjun
March 20, 2006
06:23 PM

They won't speak for us against their ummah.

#11
sanman
March 21, 2006
01:29 AM

Jamal, I was waiting to hear this stereotypical reply. Again, rather than wallowing in some "long lost glory" -- why not look at the dismal present?

Is it because the present state of technology in the Islamic world is so awful -- whatever modern technology they possess is bought from outside, while scientific innovation is very low -- that there is an aversion to looking at the present, and an inclination to look at the "glorious past"?

Anyone remember the junk about how "the Mahabharata depicted the laser and the atom bomb", etc, etc? Only losers revel in those kinds of civilizationally masturbatory fantasies. Indians are big experts at this. You'll also see some African-American revisionist groups who insist that the Pharaonic Egyptian and Islamic civilizations were exclusively a product of Black sub-saharan Africa, later "hijacked" by lighter coloured people who now falsely claim it as their own.

Hey, everybody needs their comforting fantasy when their self-esteem is paramount to them. Everybody wants to claim they invented the atom bomb 5,000 years ago. Especially when their present is dominated by dismal underachievement.

Relative to the 7th Century, Islam may have been advanced. But relative to the modern practices of the 20th and 21st Centuries it's way behind. If the developing countries want to get competitive, they need to stop looking backward into the past, and start looking forward into the future and embracing change. India is already doing this, as it strives to liberalize its markets and reap the benefits of free market competition in goods and services. But the Islamic countries are still bogged down in looking for ways to practice finance without charging interest. Perpetuating gender segregation while locking women under the veil is no way to energize intellectual dynamism, that's for sure. They need to get out of the prison of the past, and out into the fresh air and sunshine of the future. Obsessive dogma and reflexive ritualism are not the way to stay competitive in the modern era.

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