Islamic and Western Values - Part 3
Incidents of the Voilence Within Muslim History
God Almighty in Quran speaks of his chosen language – the Arabic - in which it was revealed but not of the “Chosen People”. Therefore, Islam does not have any doctrine of people being chosen over the other in the sense that if they go astray from true path. It’s likely that they would be punished and replaced by other people. Hence with power comes responsibility, and selectivity of a group of a people from God Almighty is always conditional. Arabs were told before hand in Surah Muhammad, that is: “...if you turn away He will replace you by some other folk; who will not be like you.” (47:38)
Muslim world witnessed change of guard through centuries as to leading Islamic empires; firstly it were mainly and purely Arab Ummayads, then multi-ethnic Abbasids. Arabs were at last replaced by the Turks: who led Turkish empires of Seljuk in greater Middle East, Safavids in the modern day Iran (Persia), Tamur-lane and finally the greatest of all the Ottomans.
Leadership of the Muslim world was transferred from Arabs to Turks, after the fall of Baghdad in 1258 C.E. However, it has been only Europeans who have been at the forefront to lead Christianity, ever since the conversion of Emperor Constantine-1 in 313 C.E. Because of diversification of leadership of the Muslim world helped it to become racially more balanced, equal, in comparison with Europeanization of the Christian leadership.
Islam’s non racial nature appealed to millions of human beings rather it still is, and if so analyzed historically it did well by embracing similar and often conflicting cultures and civilizations that were totally opposing to one another. And it leads to the conclusion that only Islam as a religion or the civilization has capacity to take varying cultures/civilizations in its fold. It conquers by its simple message of universal brotherhood, of co-optation, of intermarriages between different cultures, of conversion/ and not by extirpation, violence and hate.
The Order of Islam
It is also a fact undeniable as per modern history that Muslim societies unarguably have been producing disproportionate share of terrorists; but here is a great paradox which often has been overlooked. While it may be true that Muslim societies produce more terrorists than their Western counterparts, but latter produce more street violence than the former. An that is something proven with the evidences as there are muggers found many fold amid Western countries; it is something that Western culture has been responsible of.
Street violence in Cairo is a fraction of street violence in Johannesburg, despite former being more populous than latter. Moreover, there is an important question: Is the individual having an average quality of life better off in a liberal Western state or a Muslim state? While it is true that Western state suffers to a bare minimum from a political turmoil; it may be completely absent from most of their societies. However, those societies have started to bear the brunt of social violence, which evidently seem to be crossing all bounds as per their own yardsticks. I believe that Muslim societies are more God fearing than Western ones.
Tehran is city of ten million people - in a city families enjoy picnic until late in night and people being relatively oblivious of mugging, rape, or murder. This is the city which has gone through number of political turmoil in past decades. Nonetheless, street violence of that sort is rare if compared with the mega cities of New York and Washington. Iranians are believed to be under control of, what has been the most maligned state after its revolution in 1979, thus, availability of freedom in Iran a fact which is readily presumed.
But interestingly and quite paradoxically; Iranians feel less at risk from depredations of their fellow citizens. Hence, it is fallacious to think that dictatorial state can control the violence on the streets with relative ease, as Iran may be thought to. If you accept this, then Lagos would have been more peaceful than Tehran, which is not the case here. Therefore, there is something about Islam as a religion that inculcates basic moral values in the hearts of its adherents.
Sheikh Hamza Yusuf On Construction of A Moral Society
How Resistant are Muslim Societies
To answer the challenges posed by postmodernism, Muslim societies are going back to their basic values. Of all the societies ever known to mankind; a Muslim society is most resistant to elements in contradiction with fundamentals of Islam. And, that was why Fascism, Communism, Nationalism, Nazism, Totalitarianism and all those “isms” could not captivate Muslims' mind at any point, despite some of the intellectuals from their societies tried best to find similarities between Islam and those ideologies and tried to convince Muslims to follow those.
By the same token, Muslims saved themselves from destructive human tendencies of twentieth century; of which Aids was one. Prostitution and hard drug use of the lower stratum of any society has aggravated social situation to a point of no return, while the conservative Islamic societies have fewer than average HIV ratios than most of other societies of the world. Such societies suffered lesser number of victims of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) - should not the rest of world learn some lesson from it. Muslim world should transcend itself over the negatives of the globalization and embrace what’s positive and it should moreover, search for post-modern solutions to its political and economic woes, without ever falling for intoxicating brand of the Westernization.
What is the way forward for mankind then? We have seen “good and bad” of human nature, from alcoholism to racism, genocide, from prostitution, materialism to moral relativism, from Fascism, Nazism to Marxism. I think what the world needs a system that can revitalize the best in human nature. It is true that West has transformed this globe for both good and bad, it has enabled human beings to enjoy freedom, liberty, and participatory government, governmental and state accountability.
But at the same time, it is also explicitly clear that Western liberalism has been cause of a breeding ground for exploitation of human mind and body, of sexism etc. There has to be differentiation between democratic and human principles and Muslim world is better off than west in human principles of family stability, security from social violence, and in relatively non-racial nature of religious hierarchies and institutions.
One such example of balancing human and democratic values is Turkey. In past, Ottomans were more humane than what followed them – the Turkish Republic of Mustafa Kamal who under western influence suppressed minority ethnic and religious groups and went on to ban Kurdish language for a considerable time under the forced state policy cultural assimilation. In contrast Ottomans were tolerant of cultural differences of minority groups and hence it was more humane but less democratic than the republic of Turkey. At the core democracy is the system of choosing/selecting ones’ rulers; but humane governance is about how people are treated. Ottoman system was about human governance; whereas, Turkish Republic aspired for the fulfillment of democratic values of freedom and liberty.
Turkey in this age may be struggling with the reconciliation between Ottoman humaneness and ever intoxicating democratic values of the modern day Turkish republic. It is paradoxical that Ottoman empire was historically more humane than Kemalist Republic of Turkey, it is ironical how come so called the democratic state under the Westernizing influence of Kamal Ata Turk be not so much accommodating to minorities. Furthermore, the same Ottoman Empire allowed other languages, such as Kurdish, to be spoken in its empire. However, Turkish Republic outlawed it for much of period and it is continuously believed to be repressive of Kurdish population.
Democracy comes short over many issues, thus, it is system of selecting ones’ rulers but human governance is about treating its citizens with dignity. In comparison with rule of Turkish republic, which is seen to inspire democratic values in its citizenry; the Ottoman empire promoted humane governance. Henceforth, it was the very merger of these two varying forms that Turkish republic sought in the second quarter of twentieth century. The current revival of Islam may very successfully out do some of Kemalist elements of revolution of secularism, but more importantly, it is believed to be consequence of what was an artificial revolution. Perhaps, alien to the culture of turkey, which was forcefully made part of Turkish society.
It in this regard, a parallel can be drawn between democratization of theocracy in England after Henry VIII, and theocratization of democracy in Turkey. But it remains to be seen, if ever the latter scenario emerges. It is probable that secularism may be pushed back due to voters’ support for Islamization. As Hegel would term it, dialectic of history continues, and it is highly likely that a new system may emerge of synthesis of thesis and antithesis.