Contemporary Challenges to Muslim World: Dialogue Opportunities, way forward

The values and ideas of West are penetrating into Muslim societies and they are picking them up like a wildfire without realizing their harmful effects

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The Westernization has affected the Islamic culture negatively. Muslims tend to forget about their own culture. This can be seen in the way they dress, the way they socialize and the way they eat and to name a few. Now we are living in the age of globalization and through media these influences have reached the Muslim society. Islam requires everyone to wear decent and dignified clothing. The Western world, however, does not consider decency in their fashion and style very much. That is why they, special women, wear revealing clothes. But they don’t allow Muslim women to wear scarves. This is the freedom that they talk about always. We are suffering from inferiority complex which eventually has led us to think of them being superior.

The values and ideas of West are penetrating into Muslim societies and they are picking them up like a wildfire without realizing their harmful effects. Muslims today feel that in order to be civilized, one has to be westernized in mind and manner.
Therefore, it has become important that the Muslims, especially the youth, are informed about the Muslim culture and the Islamic way of life so that the generation of today and the future generations do not lose their cultural identity. Muslim youths can be both Muslim and modern at the same time. They can compete in many fields with the Westerners such as education, technology and many more. Dressing is not the only standard of being modern and civilized. A lot has to be done for the development and progress of Muslims. So, instead of changing in appearance, Muslims should focus on their own issues and problems and everyone ought to play his/her part in the building of this great Ummah. Above all, the media should play a key role in a situation of crisis that may occur anywhere in the world.

There is a desperate need to identify cultural experts in the Muslim world and for the Muslim world to take a proactive role in celebrating and communicating its own cultures.  Muslims World should create religious and cultural enclaves using Latest Technologies and the Internet, as well as traditional channels. Some Islamic leaders do promote the goal of internationalization and globalization. Such designs have been circulating in the Islamic world at least since the days of early Islamic modernists Jamal Al-Din Al-Afghani (1839–97) and Mohamed Abdu (1849–1905). More recently, Egypt’s Sunni leader or Mufti, Nasr Fareed Wasil, affirmed that Islam should not be reticent in developing its case for globalization. He argued that Muslims should not fear globalization and should seek to benefit from all the means of progress in science, economics and wealth. In his opinion, Muslims should be careful to protect themselves from the negative effects of this kind of expansion, remaining aware of the danger of being dissolved in the world and losing their identity. Violence and Islam cannot come together since Islam means peace. Western media should be more sensitive to the beliefs and traditions of Muslim community. At the same time, Islamic community should take more scientific approach to deal with its own internal problems. Social psychologists, psychiatrists, historians, theologians and other intellectuals should gather to discuss about how to convert the contemporary Muslims from emotionally driven people to rational thinking community. Therefore, all Muslims should work together to defend the sovereignty of our nations. What we are doing is actually defending our own independence. No less than that. Do remember, those who created the economic, political and social problems that we are facing now are just like the colonists who once colonized us. Do not ever think that their behaviors have changed. As the Malay proverb says, “Tigers will always have their stripes.”

Perhaps, it is too much to expect that our Muslim Ummah would awake and fight all the challenges discussed above. But, still, we need to fight because it is a duty towards our religion. If we learn from the Islamic Civilization of the past, it will tell us that how a great faithful Ummah can lead to greatness and establishment of one of the greatest, if not the greatest ever, civilization on earth. What has been done once by Muslims can be done again, and perhaps the second one will be everlasting. It is for us, Muslims, to decide. The sense of threat to the Muslim cultural identity is enhanced by a predominant feeling that a secular and powerful West imposes its values upon the Muslim world. When asked the open-ended question, “In your own words, what do you resent most about the West?” the most frequent response across all Islamic countries for both moderates and political radicals was “sexual and cultural promiscuity”; followed by “ethical and moral corruption” and “hatred of Muslims”. Another source of resentment comes from the depiction of Muslims in the Western media. A survey by Jack Shaheen in his book, Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People found that the vast majority of Arab characters in 900 American films were outright racist characters. Images of common day life and ordinary Muslims in their countries are almost non-existent or distorted in the western media. Moreover, the western media which are most popular in the Muslim world encourage emulation of Western fashion, personalities and values. Muslims will never be able to improve their image in the world if they fail to appear as a nation of culture and civilization. Effective initiatives must also be undertaken to educate non-Muslims concerning correct Islamic concepts of peace and tolerance and to clarify the incorrect views of Islam held by some.

In that respect, we need to educate non-Muslims about Islam and Muslims about other faiths to establish mutual understanding and tolerance. To achieve this end, we invite and encourage sharing of various perspectives, partnership with other religious and cultural organizations and we organize educational activities such as seminars, lectures and discussion panels, all of which inspire and illuminate us in our endeavor to fulfill our mission.

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