God, gold and Islam

Category: Europe, World Affairs Topics: United States Of America Channel: Opinion Views: 8678
8678

One of the things that strikes visitors to the British capital are the countless signs of its magnificence. The grandeur of the Big Ben or the Westminster Abbey, the elegance of The National Gallery or the Tate, along with all the handsome avenues and eye-catching monuments of central London seem to be testament to the majesty of the British Empire, which was, until just a half century ago, the world's preeminent superpower. 

For the British, this splendor must be a source of pride. For the foreigner, though, it raises an important question: What made the British so successful? When one recalls that the world's current superpower, the United States, owes a lot to its British origins, the question becomes even more significant. There is a very evident Anglo-Saxon success story and what made it possible seems to be a very exciting topic to think about. 

The Anglo-Saxon story: 

American scholar Walter Russell Mead, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, just recently published a book which addresses that issue and offers insightful answers. As the book's name, "God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World," implies, Mead thinks that religion has a very important role in the creation of the Anglo-Saxon ascendancy. "19th-century Britain and the United States today," he notes, "are the countries that are in most respects the most thoroughly modernized by any definition". Yet, he adds, they are also "significantly more religious than most." According to Mead, that's not an accident. He actually argues that religion acted as a driving force in the progress of Britain and the United States.

The idea that religiosity can motivate modernization was developed before by towering intellectual figures such as Max Weber or Alexis de Tocqueville. Weber explained how the Protestant work ethic fostered capitalist production, and Tocqueville showed how religion in America enhanced democracy. 

Mead posits a similar yet updated argument. After the British Reformation, he argues, "The English-speaking world... reached a new kind of religious equilibrium in which capitalism and social change came to be accepted as good things." And hence came the religious drive for "progress." He defines this perception as "dynamic religion," which, unlike "static religion," regards social change as not the corruption but the evolution of divine order. 

Mead also emphasizes the pluralism of Anglo-Saxon societies, and contrasts them with other modern ones that believe in homogeneity. Elites in such countries have carried out bloody experiments to re-construct their societies according to "science and reason." The French Revolutionaries and the communists, according to Mead, were good examples of such "reason nuts" and they all ended up in destroying the open society. Yet "human society must be torn between strongly felt ideals, because no one ideal can hold all the answers," Mead asserts. "Open society must be secular and religious, dogmatic and free."

What about Islam?: 

Well, good for the Anglo-Saxons to have realized all that. But what does all this mean for other societies and civilizations? 

Islam is, of course, the hot topic here. Because unlike modern Europe, which is thoroughly secular, most Islamic nations are quite religious and considerably pre-modern. How to modernize them has been a crucial question for their elites since the 19th century. Many of those elites chose the way of the "reason nuts" and tried to reconstruct their societies by authoritarian tools and secularist goals. In return, they have faced strong reactions from those who remained loyal to their faith. 

However the Anglo-Saxon story shows that modernization can come within a religious, not necessarily a secular, medium, if the religion in question is "dynamic," not "static."

But is Islam open to being a dynamic religion? There are many who would rush to say "no"- and the most zealous of them would be the secularists within Islamic societies - but the Islamic golden age of medieval times defy their arguments. Moreover there are many fine Islamic thinkers who theorize modernist interpretations of Islam. Of course an "Islamic modernization" which is only in history and on paper would not be terribly impressive. But there are also living and evolving examples - such as Turkey's new Muslim-hood which is in favor of liberal democracy, not an "Islamic state."

The event which took me to London this time, the conference titled "Muslim World in Transition: The Contributions of the Gulen Movement", was addressing one of the leading actors of this saga, Fethullah Gulen. As Turkey's most popular Islamic scholar and sage, he has inspired a mass movement based on the deepest values of Islam articulated by Sufism. Gulen's millions of followers are not only preaching a message of peace and tolerance, but also leading an impressive effort of education and interfaith dialogue. One of the key features of this movement is their pro-business and entrepreneurial spirit, and it very much reminiscent of the Anglo-Saxon way of piety. The fact that the conference was hosted by the British House of Lords was, thus, quite symbolic. 

Alas, if the Islamic world will be able to breed a "dynamic" interpretation of its faith, then Turkey, it seems, will be one of its main architects. So, keep watching.


  Category: Europe, World Affairs
  Topics: United States Of America  Channel: Opinion
Views: 8678

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Older Comments:
NABIL FROM UNITED STATES said:
Islam does not need to be "interpreted" dynamically. Rather it is in
itself dynamic. If we practice it correctly then we could reach the
golden age that has long passed us in the Islamic world. This
author should use that time as an example.
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BEDRETTIN IBRAHIMOGLU FROM US said:
First of all, Gulen movement is a fishy one. It is designed to
dilute Islam to a certain rituals. This movement was listed by
RAND to be a positive movemet. That by itself is very troubling!
When you read the RAND report this movement makes more
sense. It is another design to divide muslim ummah and make
them fight each other. It is the same old trick.
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ALI FROM USA said:
The author seems to suffer from the inferiority complex of people affected by the material power of the west. It is totally un-acceptable that a Muslim would look to Protestanism for Inspiration. They are the people who sanctioned the exterminations of native peoples in the America an the exploitations of millions of other people's throughout the world. It goes against everything that Islam, the primordial religion stands for. The author's Ideas are a perfect Illistration of the "CAlF" incident of the Bani Israel when they asked the Samiri to fashion a god for them Like the Egyptians gods because having been slave to the egyptians the Banu Israel were suffering from an inferiority complex. just like the author an people like. I applaud the author for looking to the Sufis for leadership of the Ummah because that is their rightful place. although I suspect that he might have read distortions of Sufi works by orientalists. wa salaam
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ZINEDINE FROM MOROCCO said:
Forget the Sufis, the Salafis. First, we must clean up our deen from Sufis & Salafi bida's. Most salafis have done a lots of damage to Islam by their rigid, stuck in old Arabian & Jewish barbaric tradition. Stoning people to death is a barbaric Jewish tradition. It's not in the Quran so why the Salafis in the KSA still practise it???They froze in time and space. They shut the door of scientific progress, knowledge & Ijtihaad. They feed the orientalist stereotype of statism & fatalism. They must also know that they are the followers of Muawiya, murderer of the grand son of prophet Muhammad (pbuh) Imam Hassan. Most Sufis have fallen into bida some even went as far as sleeping with the enemy, some are Muslim leaders some are non-Muslims & became Zanadiqat Al-istishraq, wa holool wal ittihad . They are just as bad; Salafis pray Taraweeh knowing well that it is bida too. To cover up, they call it Bida hassana. Bida are found among the Sunnis and the Shia. We must clean up our ahadeeth & only keep those that make sense and are not in conflict with nossos alQuran. If a hadeeth conflicts with an ayat from the Quran, throw it the garbage bin. Let's clean up alkutub asitta; that includes ahadeeth imam Bukhaari and imam Muslim as well. For Shia, come on brothers wake up & use AQL that you claim to cherish & since you say that Sunnis are followers of NAQL & don't use reason, does it make sense to you that the 12th Imam is hidding in the sirdaab & hybernating somewhere in this world for over 900 years??? Is this reasonable to you? You say that follow Abul Hassan Albasri, Mu'tazili AQL (reason) but isn't this hocus pocus superstition crap? !!!
The only way out is thru the hard work of logical and pious Muslim scholars that are inspired by Imam Ali interpretation of the Quran. He is the true follower of the Quran and Sunna. Muslims must know that the messenger of Allah is sent with the tanzeel and Imam Ali is sent with the ta'aweel. Hadeeth sahih.
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ZEYNEB FROM TURKEY said:
I am from Turkey and quite familiar with the Gulen movement. I admire his personality as a great scholar and a faithful Muslim. And I appreciate his followers' sincere efforts to serve Islam all around the world. However, I don't think that the author, although claimed to be part of this movement, understood the core of Fethullah Gulen's teaching. Islam is the only alternative to the modernism which is based on the denial of the Divine authority and it is the only cure for the evils and the tribulation we face today. Gulen is perfectly aware of this, unlike this author. We have everything we need for revival in Islamic tradition. Don't be so fascinated by the false ornaments of the modern world.
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SHAHNAZ FROM US said:
islam itself is a "dynamic" religion it does not need to follow anyone or anything other than allah&his prophets to be dynamic just follow it &see peace mercy&beuty in the word inshaallah
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ABDUL MUMIN FROM USA said:
THE REASON I AM AGAINST THIS The Contributions of the Gulen Movement", was addressing one of the leading actors of this saga, Fethullah Gulen IS SUFISM AND THE BACKING OF THE BRITISH GOVERMENT AND WHILE MOST MUSLIMS WHO ARE CHILDREN OF MUSLIM WHO MIGRATED FOR WORLDLY GAINS WOULD CRY IN PROTEST, THIS IS WHAT THE TEACHING OF THE QURAN AND THE SALAF IS WARNING AGAINST, IN SIMPLE TERMS THE BRITISH AND WHITE AMERICA WOULD LOOK TO SEE US DISTRACTED BY WORLDLY GAINS INSTEAD OF UNITING ON AQEEDA AND DOING BUSINESS BY THE WAY OF THE SHARIAH, THE BRITISH HAS ALWAYS USE GUILE TO CONQUER etc ON BRITISH COLONIES - THE ENGLIS LANGUAGE, IN ARABIA,BRIBERY AND MISINFORMATION, IN INDIA -DIVISION AND SUPPORT OF HIZBEE/BIDAH GROUPS OF MUSLIMS, THE SENDING OF THEIR CHILDREN TO BRITISH SCHOOLS, SO THIS JUST ANOTHER PLOY TO DIVIDE US AND DISTRACT US FROM THE WAY OF THE SALAF, MAY ALLAH PROTECT THOSE ARE STRIVING TO STAY ON THE STRAIGHT AND NARROW PATH OF THE SALAF AND PUNISH THOSE KNOWING FOLLOWING FOLLOW THESE KINDS OF DEVIANT PLOYS FOR WORLDLY GAIN.
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SALIM CHISHTI FROM USA said:
Aside from being historically innacurate (IE Britain was the major superpower in the 1950's? hardly) in many respects, this article is very poorly written. The author comes to conclusions that are not easily justified given the source material used. I am surprised that Islaimicity would put up an article of this low caliber.
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ABDUL YAMMI IBN BARAKA FROM MEXICO said:
The magnificence that the author admires has been built upon the shoulders of exploited peoples all over the world. Religion has nothing to do with the advancement of Anglo-Saxon countries, but rampage and looting. True Islam will never follow the "protestant ethic", nor savage capitalism, which is responsible for so many of the problems we face as hUMMAnity. I'm sad to read this kind of articles in Islamicity.
As salam wa aleykum, and may Allah guide the author to a more reflexive and informed position, inshalla.
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ZINEDINE FROM MOROCCO said:
Salaamu alaikum,

If there is any hope of reform for the Muslim World, it will come from Morocco. The military in Turkey still declared war on Islam & this is the case since the days of Kamal Attaturk. I am not sure if Turkey is a Muslim country or not & that is also the case of Tunisia. Morocco is gradully becoming democratic & I believe Morocco not Turkey can lead the way to an Islamic (Tajdid) reformation.

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MUHAMMAD ALI PERVAIZ FROM USA said:
The author needs to reread history rather than get impressed by the glitz and glamour of London. The exploitation of India and other colonies by the British is what gave the socio-economic ascendency. There so-called religiosity gave them the right pretence in front of there home crowds to decimate whole populations. The same goes for US and its westward expansion as 'manifest destiny'. Ever heard about the book 'orientalism' by edward said. I would suggest that it be read before an article of such poot scholarship is written or Islamicity tried to publish it.
Salam
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