What is Islam ?

Muslims and Globalization

Muslims and Globalization 1

Generally, when we speak of “Muslims” in the context of “Globalization”, many Muslims and non-Muslims tend to consider this phenomenon from the point of how Muslims might fit into the general scheme of things.Those I have spoken to, when asked for their thoughts on

“Muslims and globalization” tend to speak on how Muslims might embrace “moderation”, how they might ‘fit in’, how they might be “more open to Western perspectives” or “culture”, or how they might “integrate”, amongst others.

Whilst they do, later, speak on the need to maintain their culture, the “fitting-in complex” seems to be predominant. They are, in other words, “assimilationist” in their approach.

This is to be expected considering the post-colonial dominance of the West in the global socio-economic-cultural milieu West (one could say that we are living not in the ‘post-colonial world’, but the “modern phase of colonialism” that seeks to ossify in institutional and perspectival form the generic perspectives that inspired colonialism).

In other words, the world is fast becoming little more than a puddle reflecting the moon that is the West. Pop-stars, celebrities, writers, artists, teenagers, amongst a host of others, are increasingly taking their perspectival and attitudinal cue from the West.

And where it is not, a siege mentality emerges along with cultural enclaves that basically reject everything Western. When global issues are spoken about amongst Muslims, it is generally in relation to Muslims or the Islamic world. Thus, like much of the rest of the world, the Islamic world is generally focused on its own issues, or defensive or discursive when it comes to Western views of them.

And like much of the rest of the world, Muslims are failing to see the relevance and potency of their own culturally-inherited perspectives in actually aiding in the address and resolution of global and Western problems.

In my perusal of blogs, editorials, magazines, and so on, I rarely come across articles written by Muslims from an Islamic perspective that address, for instance, Western issues from an advisory approach. When they do speak on non-Islamic related matters, they simply reiterate viewpoints that emerge from a western view of things.

When they write, they write in a ‘Western way’, dispassionate, un-poetic, informative as opposed to charismatic, with little use of rhymes, proverbs, analogies, amongst others, that they might be accustomed to using their own languages and which elevates the use of language as a mere tool of communication to one of inspiration.
In other words, together, this plausibly indicates a subconscious acceptance of the irrelevance of their own cultural perspectives in the global scheme of things.

The perspectives, emotive and communicative styles emerging from, for instance, Islamic universalism or Indian metaphysicalism are discarded for not having a ‘goodness-of-fit’ with the English language.

The Western mindset is unwittingly confounded with its linguistic corollary and adopted to a significant degree whilst their own cultural perspectives are discarded to make their respective treatises more Western-like.

But what is the Islamic perspective? What is the African or Indian perspective? And how can these be used in a formulaic fashion to help the West, amongst others, solve their problems?

The Islamic world has for too long been understandably preoccupied with fending off allegations, or attempting to assimilate to Western standards in almost every arena comprising the phenomenon of Life that they have gradually began to confine their culturally-endowed perspectives to their own homes and communities.

In other words, the Muslim, when in the world, “do as the Westerners do”, whilst “doing as the Muslim do” is confined to their communities or festival and cultural observances.

Thus, their own cultural assets and perspectives do not see growth in terms of its global relevance and its being of potential aid to the west and the rest of the world. We forget that a perspective applied in one arena is further developed when applied in others.

I’m not saying that the Islamic perspective in its archetypal form is enriched by application in other situations, but that its full potential is not discovered by specific application only in Muslim matters.

Analogically, the archetypal value of the “plus” and “minus” symbols is not discovered only by using it with the numbers 1 and 2. Again, the value of fire as a provider of light is not enriched but further discovered when one experiences winter.

Applying Islamic perspectives only in Muslim concerns does not provide us the opportunity to further discover its potential by application in the global context in non-Muslim related matters. It is only when it is applied empathetically and universally that we will begin to recognize its true value. It is then that the term, “Islamic perspective”, begins to mean much more than we currently recognize.

Muslims and Globalization 2We know of Islamic universalism by way of many Muslims recognizing and empathizing with other Muslims despite their nationality. How about, for instance, Islamic Global Universalism that sees Muslims developing a similar perspective that emphasizes empathy for all of humanity despite their nationality? (In the West, such universalism has been confined to ‘nation-states’ and from which oxymoronic phrases such as “universal suffrage” emerge.) Or how about Islamic Ecological Universalism, where, in the true sense of the Universal spirit of Islam, empathy is extended to all sentient creatures?

These are just some of the perspectives that could have, or can emerge, once the Muslim begins to truly embrace Globalization and see themselves, for a change, as part of The Solution.

Just as the democratic impulse in the West gradually led to the enfranchisement of the non-whites and women, the universal spirit of the Islamic world could very well provide the West, and the world, with solutions that can take that which has thus far been achieved by the west a hundred steps further.

Thus, in view of Muslims and Globalization, it would be prudent to complement the question, “What is Islam in view of the World”, with, “What can the world be in view of Islam.”

It’s time for Muslims, amongst others, to awaken to their potential as a part of The Solution.

Edwin Anthony
Written from an Islamic perspective.