Distinguishing between the many different kinds of Islam that is being practiced in today's world.
21 Aug 2011 02:19 GMT
When we talk about Islam's global perspective it is important to distinguish between the many different kinds of Islam that is being practiced in today's world. This is not in reference to the different religious sects, such as shiah and sunni, but to the global perspectives depending on the particular socioeconomic circumstances and the surroundings of particular groups of Muslims.

As it stands, Islamic society can be categorized into three main groups: the great Muslim urban centers and cities, those Muslims living in rural areas, and Muslims that live as minorities in Western society. Each of these groups has an extremely different view of progress and a radically differing global perspective.

One would think that those Muslims living in the great Muslim cities, mainly the capitals of Islamic nations, would have the most progressive global perspective. This is simply not true. As it stands, urbanized Muslims, lacking a clear identity or cultural center, have turned to orthodoxy and traditionalism as a way to find themselves in the modern world. Urban Muslims have gained an “us versus them” mentality that is not as present in the two other groups. It seems that the most open and progressive Islamic global perspective lies in those Muslims living in rural areas and those Muslims living as minorities in Western society. To understand why that is, it is important to look back historically at the origins of Islam and the Arab society of the times.

What Islam does best is adapt to changing circumstances. In its beginnings, as it was heavily persecuted Islam necessarily had to find ways to integrate its traditions into an Arab society that was radically opposed in every way to the philosophies of the religion. Later, when conquering the countries that later made up the great Arab caliphates, it was necessary to integrate Islam into societies that were mostly Sabian, Christian or Jewish rather than Islamic. Muslims have learned to have an open global perspective for centuries by adapting their religious traditions through the Prophet Muhammad's example. As it stands, those Muslims living in rural areas are more concerned with the practical everyday matters of securing food and shelter and getting along with one another to engage in religious orthodoxy for the its sake.

In the same way, Muslims living among Westerners in small communities have also learned to adapt their traditions and religious identity while at the same time maintaining their own perspective and cultural identity. This is not something foreign to Islam or something to be avoided. The Qur'an exhorts tolerance and acceptance and it accepts Christianity and Judaism as religions that have in common with Islam that they all worship the same one true God.

Thanks to social media and the gigantic growth of the Internet in recent decades, even Muslims living in the most remote areas of the world have access to an amazing volume of information as well as the capacity to communicate with people from all over the world, with people from all different walks of life and with all possible perspectives on the future of the globe. As access to the international community is no longer restricted to the elite, to those Muslims living in the large cities (that, as was mentioned before, tend to be much more conservative,) it is quite possible that the Islamic global perspective will become more modern and progressive. As the opinions of the Muslim community living in the West, the more practical and Sufi minded rural Muslims and the Islamic youth get a larger voice in the affairs of their respective nations, it is probable that in the future the official positions of the Muslim leadership will be more in line with Western thought in key issues.

For this to happen, it is important for several things to happen. For one, the governments of the different Muslim nations must be given legitimacy. As the recent uprisings in the Middle East attest, legitimacy is a huge problem for the governors of many Islamic nations. Due to greed and external intervention, many of these nations have been left with dictatorships or monarchies that are not conductive to a progressive perspective. One other thing that must happen to truly integrate Islam into the global community is the final resolution of the many armed conflicts and perceived attacks on the Muslim community, particularly that of the situation between Israel and the Palestinians. For decades this conflict has fed the extremists with a steady diet of outrage, justification for their deeds, and young people willing to sacrifice their lives on the altar of terrorism and fundamentalist Islam. Finally, it is important for Islam to integrate those sectors of Islamic society that have successfully integrated into Western communities in the past decades. In their practices and in the way they live Islam everyday is the key to realizing a progressive Islamic global perspective in the future.

-- Al Arabiya Digital

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