Muslims and Modern Western World

muslims-and-modern-western-world

The events of the past few years connected with the terrorist attacks, wars and development or radicalism and nationalism are in any way related to Islam. The fear of global Islamization that was spread purportedly has changed the fact that Islam is already adopted in the Western countries. Nevertheless, sometimes the other interpretation and undefined optimal variant of Western Islam causes dilemmas between Muslims, especially in regard to their attitude to the Westerners and vice versa. The current paper will provide an explanation of the Muslim process in the West based on S. R. Arjana’s book Muslims in the Western Imagination and personal research, which shows that modern policy and social model escalate the conflict.

General Issues and Historical Retrospection

Muslims are unconditionally related to Europe: since they established a connection with the Christian states, they had both wars and peaceful times. The armies of Muhammad’s disciples reached Loire and the Alps. For many centuries, the Arabs inhabited Spain, the Medieval See islands and few more European territories. Some years ago, the situation has changed and until the twentieth century the majority of European Muslims was concentrated in Bosnia, Albania, Turkish European part – Rumania, and in few enclaves in Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. It is important to note that in the mentioned European countries, the Muslims had quantitative majority, hence, they could live according to their own laws and traditions. In the rest of the European countries, North and South America, there were communities of Muslims of Asian origin. It all seemed usual and did not bother native Europeans-Christians: there were only a few persons belonging to their religion who behaved properly. S. R. Arjana in her book Muslims in the Western Imagination provides a historical retrospection of that period and uses religious images, which help to explain some processes in relation to Muslims in the West. According to Arjana, “The history of Muslim monsters is distinguished from what we think of as “Islamophobia”, the particularistic attitude towards Muslims that scholars have often described as an aversion to or “anxiety of Islam” (2).

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The situation has radically changed after the World War II. The economic condition of the third world countries was low. It was characterized by the deficit of the industrial infrastructure and the agriculture was also poor. Lack of access to education and healthcare system, as well as unemployment led to mass migration from the inhabited states of Asia and Africa to Europe. Among the migrants, the majority was Muslims. It is important to mention that the previous metropolis was interested in this process. The British government accepted the immigrants from their ex-colonies so they would obey. The French government evacuated thousands of Algerians together with their families who were fighting for France during the Independence war. Later on, the Europeans felt lack of working labor especially those of the low qualification; hence, they broadly invited migrants.

After all, the family reunions changed the usual labor migration and it elevated the number of foreigners from the Muslim countries. The presence of Muslims became more perceptible. They built cult establishments, religious schools, and charity houses. In addition, the traditional Muslin clothing was not exotic anymore – vice versa, more frequently it dominated in separate streets and areas. Meanwhile, the West became automatized and computerized; hence, there was no need in thousands of low qualified migrants.

Consequently, the Westerners developed xenophobic attitude towards Muslims and some political powers used it while proclaiming hate and intolerance towards Muslims. S. R. Arjana shares this opinion: “When unrestrained violence against Muslims is promoted and sanctioned by governments, it makes more public abuses acceptable” (3). The international situation has also influenced the situation because of the escalation of conflict in the Middle East. The wars in Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Iraq led to radicalization of the sentiments among the Muslim majority across the world, especially the ones living in the West. Sophia Rose Arjana mentioned that: “It is not simply a result of September 11, 2011, Madrid 2004, or London, 2005, nor a culmination of events of the past decade or the past century” (2). It is important that provocative actions such as activities of the American neo conservators fastened radicalization of Muslims in Europe. Using the slogans about freedom of word, they humiliated and abused all Muslims: from the revolutionists to liberal and just religious people. The two brightest examples are caricatures on the Muhammad in Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten and French magazine Charlie Hebdo.

There are challenges of the civilization nature. Europe, the US and Canada exist in the conditions of secularization and frequently in atheism. Muslims were not ready to accept this situation. The Westerners convince that Muslims must accept those broadly approved values, but there is a question of who and when defines and approves them. Muslims and the representatives of other civilizations (Confucians, Buddhists) believe that Westerners purportedly try to impose the lifestyle that is opposite to their religious beliefs and traditions. Besides, this issue is not about dogmatic dilemmas, but about difficulties of daily life of people who are willing to defend and support their ethnic and confessional identity. Islam is a universal religion, and theoretically, it should not stand against globalization, but Muslims see that in practice globalization develops westernization with its selfishness, atheism and moral degradation.

Cultural Resistance

One of the main mistakes of the Western politicians was their reliance on the so-called acculturation, which means acceptance by the new coming immigrants after arrival local culture and traditions. They supposed that the best effect would be achieved by the policy of absorption and assimilation to eliminate the Islamic identity by the local ethnos. In theory, this process called for cultural integration. Muslims keep their belief and traditions, and singular attempts (especially in Europe) to forbid wearing hijab in schools or burka escalates the conflict and causes protests in Muslim countries. As a response, S. R. Arjana mentioned that, “Ethnogenesis organized social boundaries, offering categories by which one might assert who belongs and who does not” (24).

For example, the United Kingdom and Germany provided the policy of polyculture, but even this did not exclude ghettoization and discrimination of Muslims. Nowadays, it is obvious that such Western policy is not effective. Under the conditions of globalization, Islam became a powerful factor of consolidation and identity salvation. Muslims require satisfaction of their rights applying to the principles of democracy and constitutional norms in their countries, as most of them already have the citizenship in the West. The new vision helps to implement the so-called European Islam that would satisfy both interests and keep the conflict controlled through neutralization of the influence of radical branches.

In their attitude to Christians, European Muslims are far more friendly and tolerant than their representatives in the East. The ones living in Spain and Germany have a more positive position towards Christians than the native citizens. Definitely, this argument contains average information, because as a religion Islam has many branches following different life principles. Thus, Islam contains ancient studies of six specific law schools that are different in terms of their radicalism and tolerance towards modernity, social life and ceremonies.

Muslims – Westerners Dilemma

The European Muslims are a middle link between the way the Asian/Middle East and European Muslims accept each other. Hence, European and American Muslims see less threat and clash of civilizations than both Europeans and Middle East and Asian ones. However, the major part of public in Spain and Germany believe that modern society cannot create proper conditions for the existence of devout Muslims. This attitude creates hate and facilitates a need to eliminate physically anti-Islam activities through attacks on behalf of religion. In many respects, this threat is objective. For example, the majority of Nigeria Muslim population supposes that the defense of Islam truly requires all possible methods, including suicide bombing and killing people.

Some European Muslim minorities suppose that killing for the sake of Islam is not a sin, so they visit radical groups and stay aside of their peers. The majority of people from Turkey, Egypt, India, Jordan, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia do not believe that the Arabs committed the terrorist attacks of 9/11. This fact is not limited to Muslims from the Middle East and Asia, but is popular among European and American Muslims as well.

Possible Dialogue and Resolutions

It is very important that Muslim religious and legal authorities – ulemas concentrate on the issue of Muslims in the Western world. The largest authority is possessed by sheikh Yusuf al-Karadavi, a man of Egyptian origin living in Qatar. In 1997, he founded the European Council for Fêtes and Researches, which gained a valuable authority among the Muslims all over Western world. Simultaneously, some Muslims criticized him for traditionalism, while others opposed him for leaving aside the norms of Sharia. The resolution of the actual challenges for Muslims in the West looks like the middle way and stands for slow, but not radical changes in Muslim interpretation of the modern realities. In the globalized world, Muslims have virtual Uma (community) that will be ruled by liberal and acceptable laws.

Sheikh al-Karadavi published fatwas (decisions, interpretations) that would make the life of Muslims easier in the secular surrounding. For example, it allows: a) to eat at one table with the Christians, but only if the food is halal; b) to watch movies, but not pornography; c) participate in the holidays along with Christians, but not in the religious ones (such as Christmas) etc. He did not support Taliban when they ruined the statue of Buddha in Afghanistan. Simultaneously, he proclaimed an opportunity of financial jihad, which means keeping donations for the fight for rights and freedoms of Muslims. However, such approach provoked critics from Israel and a few more countries.

The imam of Bordeaux Tarek Ubru convinced that in the Western countries the Sharia of minority ought to exist. This kind of Sharia is suitable for the conditions when Muslims belong to the minority in the country they stay in. His speeches refer to the request not to break the principles of Islam, but simultaneously accommodate to the new conditions of life in Europe, Northern and Southern America. There are some changed accents from the legal to religious and ethical norms of Sharia (for example, it is not necessary to cut one’s hand for stealing things). Muslims can keep their religion and ethical norms anywhere, even within secular surrounding. Among the ethical norms are pray, fasting, payment of zakat (religious tax). The argument against the Sharia of minority is that it may divide Muslim and Christian communities and make the positions of Islam weaker.

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Compared to other religions, Islam gives the most exact instructions for practical life. This refers to  the social problems, equality issues, economy, and politics. It contains conceptions of the Islamic state and economy. It has a Sharia, which is a multivolume list of religious recommendations. It forms the principles of creation of the state and establishment of a society. It describes how the world should look like and how people should behave in their daily life. Sharia explains forbidden and allowed things for humans (with all details such as hygiene, thoughts, relationships, food, intimacy etc.).

Conclusion

The historical approach and several centuries of irrational policy of Western empires that welcomed coming of Muslims to Europe solved the problem of mass migration. However, all political attempts to rein in Muslim communities escalated the conflict of previously poor relationships between Muslims and Westerners. Hence, today’s model should be changed and adopted to the modern Western world, which should not perceive Islam as an absolute threat.

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