It wont be easy, but Moslems can do it [Archives:2004/786/Opinion]

November 1 2004

It is clear that the Moslem World is facing a formidable challenge both from within and from the outside. From within, Moslems must overcome the obvious slack in the development process, and must find ways for Moslem countries to overcome poverty, illiteracy and poor institutional development politically, economically and culturally. In addition, again speaking about the internal aspects, Moslems must contend with a clear increase in radical persuasions among many of the Moslems, especially the youth, who may have a clear and genuine appetite for advocating for Islamic causes, and advancing the legitimate aspirations of their brethren throughout the Moslem World, but nevertheless are falling into the trap of extremism. Often this has provided the impetus for such advocates of radical approaches to meeting the challenges confronting the Moslem World through the adoption of spontaneous measures, including the reliance on unorthodox means of violence. In many cases, this belief that only violence will free the Moslems from their sorry plight and return them to the days of the Prophet Mohammed and the Orthodox Caliphs (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon them all). This orientation is worthy of praise, if viewed from a conceptual standpoint (i.e., moral and ethical implications), but otherwise has been at times interpreted to a rigid interpretation of how Moslems should conduct their lives that is bound to stall any hopes for real concrete development from a scientific and social standpoint. Certainly, Moslems would find it extremely difficult to face the modern enemies of Islam with a reliance on outdated social and political structure, while these enemies have developed dramatically in so many fields and are able to keep themselves far ahead of most Moslem states, while the Moslems are seeking to reestablish outdated systems of government and management of their political and social affairs. It is obvious that such outdated systems could not last beyond the period of history that launched Islam as a dynamic new world force, which then introduced these systems, and were somewhat effective in helping to advance the cause of Islam and bring prosperity and strength to the entire Moslem World that was envied by most of the other competing cultures.
Thus, like the Japanese did over 150 years ago, Moslems are going to have to realize that a more fundamental change of thinking must be adopted in seeking to catch up with the advances mankind have mind, not only scientifically, but socially and in particular politically as well. We must not forget that Europe and the West did the same centuries ago, when realizing that that they are going to have to adopt what the Moslems have achieved in so many fields over the Middle Ages, if they are to free themselves from the feudal system that literally froze most of Europe in the darkness and misery of an oppressive social structure and exaggerated fealty to a Church that insisted that the feudal system provided the guarantee for maintaining its temporal power over the Christian constituencies it created by the sheer power of the sword.
This may mean that some westernization of our cultures may be called for, especially in the areas of running public affairs and managing the abundant resources that God has endowed the Moslem countries with. One only has to look at the sorry state of our political affairs and economic conditions to judge that there is an obvious need for instituting fundamental changes in our systems of government and economic interaction. The need for such fundamental changes need necessarily have to be at the cost of our religious affiliation, and in fact will work to serve the interests of Islam than any outdated system of public and economic affairs management that has outlived its effectiveness. The Taliban example in Afghanistan has clearly shown that rigid interpretations of Islamic dogma actually works against the interests of an Islamic state and leads to miscalculated strategic and tactical approaches that fail advance the cause of Islam and in fact work against it.
When calling for instituting fundamental changes in our ways of thinking, this does not mean capitulation to the West by any means. Moslems are too proud and dignified to believe that to advance themselves they must relinquish their allegiance to Islam. Islam is a dynamic spiritual and social force that is capable of assimilating with modern culture. All one has to do is study the history of modern Western culture to find that most of the developments in this culture actually emanate from an assimilation of Islamic social doctrine, especially in the areas of government and social interaction that were adapted to suit the less rigid spiritual inclinations that modernization requires, since the Church basically stood against any radical changes that limited its authority. For Moslems the assimilation to modern culture is made the more easier because Islam is not dominated by a powerful Church that stands in the way of people deciding the course that their lives should take freely, as Islam clearly ordains. On the contrary, Islam contests the establishment of any clerical order that stands in the way of guaranteeing the freedom and rights of Moslems and others who live in Islamic domains. This is why the Taliban model was found to be ineffective and unsuccessful in harnessing mass public appeal. We have already seen some Moslem states show that indeed Moslems can find their path to modernization and progress and fundamental social and political development. Two prime examples are to be found in Malaysia and Iran. While the latter may be viewed erroneously by the West as a threat, the fact of the matter is that Iran's revolution has provided a successful approach to economic and social development with a government that is transparent and democratic, and an achiever of great strides in several areas of development. Just look at the Human Development reports and the significant improvement in the economic and social development indicators of Iran and compare them to those of most Moslem states including the oil rich states.