Due to the pervasiveness of negative stereotypes about Islam, many people in the West consider Islam to be incompatible with the ideas of the modern world. While this is without a doubt an ugly stereotype, it can be defended if one looks at the barbarous actions of certain governments claiming to be Islamic, like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. However, one should note that there are more than one billion Muslims around the world and that the vast majority of these live in secular governments and are very much against the action s of extremist Islamists. However, there are stereotypes on both sides. Muslims cannot escape their own brand of prejudice and for many Muslims; their vision of Western culture is somewhat detached from reality since it comes from the greatly exaggerated stories of television, movies, and fictional publications. A view of the West through this kind of perspective necessarily carries with it an erroneous perception of the roles of sin, sex, and violence in Western culture – aspects which are often the center of most stories on television and the movies.
One of the greatest struggles that Islam will have in the following decades is breaking the hold that extremist Islamists have taken on the religion, starting from the middle of the twentieth century. For many Muslims, the return of the ethics and way of doing things in the Mecca and the Medina of the Prophet's time should be the way Islam should follow. This, of course, including modern technology and scientific advancements. While for Westerners this may be a somewhat strange idea, one must understand that Muslim culture was vastly more liberal centuries ago than it is today. In many aspects, mainly the way in which Islam interacts with followers of other religions and its treatment of women, a change to those ideals of the past is preferable to the barbarous and ignorant traditions that many of today's Arab leaders have embraced.
There is quite a lot of hope for the future, regardless of what has happened in the past. Due to many factors, both economic and cultural, Islam is in a position to play a very important part in the future. While an ugly aspect of Islam that has worried many westerners is present in the politics and way of doing things of many governments of Islamic nations, the younger generation has embraced a form of practicing Islam that is more in line with the original teachings of the Prophet and the text in the Qur'an. While it is unfortunate that this change in the status quo has had to come about through acts of violence, especially the revolts and protests in Muslim nations during recent months, it is a strong sign that Islam is changing and getting ready to embrace modernity and become a leading force of progress in the future.
-- Al Arabiya Digital