It is hardly any surprise that a recently released poll in US finds that Americans are more than twice as likely to express prejudice against Muslims than they are against Christians, Jews or Buddhists. Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they have little or no knowledge of Islam. Still, a majority dislikes the faith.
Day after day news regarding Islam and Muslims bring new fears to the world. The daily episodes of suicide bombers killing themselves and scores of innocent people have become a staple of the headline news. Recently in Malaysia churches have been firebombed allegedly by angry Muslims who have assumed sole proprietorship of the Arabic word Allah; their violent objection to the use of the Arabic word for God by the local Christians in their liturgy is causing tensions and also headache for the Malaysian government and their judiciary. From Egypt the news of the killing of Egyptian Copts - one of the oldest Christian communities going back to St. Mark - by the Muslims for the usual excuse that we see in similar episodes of periodic violence against minorities in many majority Muslim countries, that of desecrating the Qur'an or insulting Prophet Muhammad. Violent protests in Kenya by Muslim youth over detention of a fiery preacher from Britain, riots between Muslims and others in Nigeria over imposition of Shariah law, is yet another example of how deep the confusion among Muslims themselves about Islam is. This reflects a profound lack of confidence among Muslims who having fallen from ascendancy 200 years back have continued in a downward spiral without the end in sight. It is being increasingly argued that Muslims when they are a majority are oppressive to others and when they are a minority they are troublemakers.
It is no surprise that in the dialectics of history Muslims and Islam have replaced communism as the arch villain against which the battle must be won by an increasingly globalized world community.
The idea that Islamic extremism is rooted in Islamic doctrine is gaining wide currency among non-Muslims and is a constant topic of discussion in the news and in blogsphere.
The fear of Islam is being instrumentalized by different populist parties and "anti-Islamization politics" which are finding resonance within the silent majority of Western countries where Muslims have migrated. This fear of Islam and Muslims is affecting official policies of Western governments. The growing antipathy to Muslims living in the pluralistic West is evident from the recent vote against the minarets in Switzerland and the demand to outlaw the burqa in France, increased air travel scrutiny between the West and a list of countries, mainly Muslim. Virtually all media outlets are discussing whether all Arab Muslims should be profiled.
The binary world view of Muslim masses generated due to many festering historical political and social causes is the driving force leading to violence and extremism in the name of Islam; the Muslim males between ages 17 and 40 seem specially to be affected by this attitude of "Us vs. Them". This idea of "Us vs. Them" by no means is the exclusive domain of the Muslims, but remains a dominant way of how many Muslims understand this world. Muslim especially the Arab societies for long have remained closed to outside influences. It is no surprise that these societies remain least influenced by liberal and secular values and thus least open to new ideas and change. Although the "backwardness" or lack of development of Muslim societies has many historical, political and social reasons, Islam is easily scapegoated by all - the Muslim extremists by their violent actions in the name of Islam and the non-Muslims.
Muslims seem afraid about survival in a secular world; they are afraid of assimilation. Many see "a radical otherness" to their own self-understanding in the world they now live in. From statecraft to aspects of individual daily life, Muslims must live under the pail of Shariah or Islamic law. All rules of conduct, transactions and policies are derived directly from the Qur'an, the example of the Prophet, and interpretive precedents established by the consensus of recognized scholars. Most of the Islamic texts on law, penal codes, civil codes, etc., are based on 14th century law at best - it could be 11th or 12th century. The word of God quite often needs explanation. So far, the explanation comes only from a small group of men who are certainly competent to provide it. The scholars of Islam, the ulema, who claim the rights to say what God means are trained in Islamic methodology rooted in the Qur'an and the Prophet's example codified in Hadith, yet their interpretive or cognitive deliberations suffer because of a lack of understanding of the complexities of modernity. Hence the corporal punishment, the severing of hands for theft, the stoning of women for violation of marital laws, the law of apostasy and other legal formulations in the treatment of minorities, which still are a part of law in many Muslim countries.
All this points to the fact that the religious law hasn't been reformed or advanced to bring it into human rights framework with fresh insights and interpretations of the Shariah. It is interesting to note that Shariah or Islamic law can be applied and enforced only in Muslim majority states. Ironically the control of power in most Muslim states by the rulers, as one sees now, has not been acquired through any Islamic principle or Shariah besides being inconsistent with democratic principles. This has remained a source of persistent unrest and strife throughout Islam's history.
A major issue adding to the present-day problems of Muslims is the fact that Shariah or its rules have hardly been formulated to apply to growing communities of Muslims living as minorities in different parts of an increasingly secular world; also the issue of the rights of the minorities living in Muslim countries needs urgent attention.
It is clear that as a religion formulated during an era of political ascendancy, the mainstream tradition of Islam is struggling to find comfortable moorings in an increasingly globalized world which functions in a secular, pluralistic framework. To find satisfactory ways of institutionalizing Islam within their national polities under the guidance of Shariah but also to make it consistent with the demands of modernity is a task that has remained largely unattended. The argument or the fear expressed by Muslims in this regard is that "God's law or Shariah" would then be subverted to "Human law". This kind of reasoning has narrowed the range of allowable discourse within Islam. The ulema and the state authorities in control of the masses will contend that any compromise with the absolute truth of the Qur'an will lead to the slippery slope to unbelief that so many Christians have taken.
Also part of the confusion is due to the fragmentary and contested nature of Islamic spiritual authority after the dismantling of the Caliphate, in which (with the partial exception of Shiism) no formal priesthood stands between the individual and a God who reveals himself in texts that are subject to a wide variety of interpretations. Historically the concept of Ummah or community has remained fissured on account of the multiple attachments - to languages, ethnic groups, nationalities, and sects - which Muslims have among them. All of these factors have allowed the extremist elements among Muslims to propagate hatred and act out against those who reject their narrow and dangerous worldview.
Unquestionably there is now an urgent need for Muslims to look at the "inclusive" message of the Qur'an, which demands respect and tolerance for others. The dominant literalist understanding of the Qur'an through which extremists like of all other religions make the argument for violence must be rejected in favor of fresh insights and understanding. Muslims must raise their voices and demand that Muslim governments and those in authority act responsibly in bringing about the necessary changes which will ensure that the understanding and ruling based on Shariah is consistent with accepted standards of human rights and civil society. This is also the intent of the Shariah. It need not be pointed out that Islam itself encourages balance between Reason and Theology; the process of Ijtehad - an essential tool in the exercise of reason in seeking solutions to ongoing problem must now be reactivated and vigorously pursued. New educational policies and curricula for schools and also for the imams in control of mosques and large constituencies of people must lead to new hermeneutics. The challenge is to work diligently toward narrowing that gap between the promise of Qur'anic ideals and the reality of the time. Recasting defense of human dignity and upholding civil rights in the Qur'anic framework is an urgent requirement.
For an individual Muslim, the challenge remains - to seek a balance in the struggle between an investment in this life and a longing for the next. Adhering to and performing the five "pillars" or duties in Islam must be coupled with the discharge of higher obligation of doing duty to God by serving humanity. This they can only do with fresh attitude and insights into the challenges they face. A broader understanding of the Qur'anic message without a literalist orientation, and without fear and coercion is necessary.
Islam can reclaim its position within the world community of religions only if Muslims would show their capacity to reclaim Islam for themselves. The Qur'an has the last word on this.
Dr. Nazir Khaja is chairman of Los Angeles-based Islamic Information Service. He can be contacted at: nazir.khaja [at] gmail [dot] com
Since Islam is the religion of all times and all places, I believe that as long as we are within the boundaries of the framework, things will have to be changing according to the dictates of the times and circumstances. However, the boundaries should not be tempered with, else there would be unpleasant consequencies.
The problem is that quite a number of Muslims, including some Ulamas, are yet to comprehend the basic principles and spirit of Islam as a religion (a way of life) of all times; that necessitates continuous development and changes in interpretations and ways things are done as long as they are within the boundaries of the Framework.
Allah knows best.
We should not change the unchangeable Divine Rules for the changing times. One of the ancient Islamic texts (letter to the Corinthians) directs us to rule over everything that exalts against the knowledge of God. The things that change are temporal but the Islamic Principles as depicted in the Holy Bible are unchangeable. The ISLAM I mention here is the Original form, not the later and the deform... the works of counterfeiting and falsehood to confuse with the original.
Now, the system of governments, rulers, societies,communities etc in respect of democracies,humanrights, code of practices etc should instead conformed,reforbished or maintained to the above two books or principal ways of administering the muslim ummah.
Yes , I would agree for the rulers of muslim majority countries, Islamic Scholars...etc to keep themselves uptodate with the changing world(which I think is already a pre-requisit of any leader according to the hadith)in order to maintain the rules of governing their respective societies, countries, communities or families.
The author has carefully balanced the observations and views in the article. There are problems in liberalizing laws as human tend to derive pleasure in doing his own delight while enjoying his rights (human rights) carnally than delighting the heart of God by submitting to and doing His Laws and Ordinances. Christians have fallen in the slippery slope and are become apostates advocating the causes of devil whose works Christ destroyed as per the New Testament of the Bible. We are given the highest of moral codes of conduct to live in peace with fellow mankind and wait for the Son of God from heaven. But ...
But as Adam lost the delegated authority to rule over the earth, so are we Christians (true followers of Original Islam) weaving the aprons of this right and that liberty in breaking away from the Law of Liberty to do the Will of our Heavenly Father. On arrival from heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ will find many Christians naked and unjustified in His sight and suffer denial and shame. But neither will the Mohammedan stoics with religious fervor stand to share glory with the blessed Messiah having denied the Son of God by their religion. The way has to be discovered between denial of the Messiah in conducts (indulging in pleasures of the flesh the Christians are slipping) and denial of the Messiah in principles (abiding with the stoic doctrine that is departure from the original Scriptures that points to the so called Muslims) to meet the Lord clothed and to partake in His glory as His Bride... It is thus the responsibility of the Christians with knowledge of entrusted principles to turn back to their Lord in repentance and reclaim their Islam although the Mohammedans are also welcomed to join the body before the Last Day.