By Abdullah Rinat Muhametov
21 June 2012
Today, when it comes to discussing the influence of globalization on the Islamic world in scientific circles and mass-media, only negative aspects of this process are brought into argument.
At the turn of the century, the Islamic world found itself in the centre of globalization processes, evolving on our planet at an increasing rate and consecutively changing their scientifically-technical character to a socially political one. After the 9/11 events it even came to a direct military intervention on part of the US and its allies aiming, as the White House stated, to democratize the Islamic world and shape a "New Middle East.”
And yet the processes of globalization are not limited with the abovementioned. Globalization, being an objective process, stimulates and spawns the most diverse trends in the Islamic world, constructive and perspective ones among them. These transformations are of a special interest, for they are not only seriously changing the map of the Islamic world, but also influencing the international order in its shaping.
Only now the notion of Islamic world has become completely detached from its geographical dimension. It is exactly by the benefit of globalization that the Islamic world has become an extraterritorial international socially-cultural and religiously-political phenomenon that is making a claim for its serious participation in world affairs, after being a community of countries of the Muslim spread zone.
New Transnational Muslim Identity
Under the influence of the globalization processes a new transnational Muslim identity and its ensuing ideology are being shaped.
Under the influence of the globalization processes, a new transnational Muslim identity and its ensuing ideology are being shaped. Nowadays, almost in every corner of the Islamic world one can meet such “new Muslims,” or “new Ulema.”
Their conscience is characterized by the globality and rejection of “folk,” patriarchal, and archaic forms of professing one’s religion. They are oriented towards practical consideration of their own and all-human heritage, being equally well acquainted with both. The task of these people is to reformat the ideological base of Islamic world, having offered original paths for Islamic modernization and renewal. This category of people may bring a significant contribution to change the face of Islamic countries and diasporas in the 21st century.
At the same time, Muslim diasporas of Western countries that are starting to advance to leading positions in the Muslim world, which have emerged and evolved by the benefit of the globalization processes, demonstrate the ability to formulate an adequate response of Islam to modern challenges. By different estimates, Muslim population of Western Europe only is reaching approximately 20 million people. In total, Muslim minorities — diasporas — are making up a quarter of the world’s Muslim Ummah now.
This environment is presented by a significantly large number (at least, compared to the countries of Muslim spread zone) of highly educated — by Western standards — and active Muslims, that are well aware of the realities of Western life and able to critically consider the heritage of Western culture and philosophy from an Islamic point of view. For example, 59% of US Muslims, according to the John Zogby of Zogby International, have at least a bachelor’s degree, which makes them the most highly educated group among the country’s population.
If for the first generation of immigrants economic issues were of the greatest importance, it is common for their sons and grandchildren to have a heightened interest to the issues of faith, identity, language, and cultural heritage. Today these minorities are actively working in the field of education, in local administrations, and own their mass-media. Mosques and prayer rooms, the number of which is constantly increasing, play the role of not only religious, but also political centers, organizing language courses, offering legal assistance, and, most importantly, becoming centers of Muslim communications.
Traditional centers of the Muslim spread zone, represented by some Arab states, Iran, and Pakistan are becoming joined by Islamic countries of South-Eastern Asia (Malaysia can be specially outlined in this regard), that have increased their weight by means of their economic participation in the processes of globalization. Under the effect and as a result of the globalization processes, the launch of regional integration of Arab-Muslim world, the strengthening of Turkic-Muslim world and Russian Islamic community, as well as the general integration of the Islamic world upon new principles, barely discernible today, is not to be excluded.
Here it is important to notice that the new integration of the Muslim spread zone countries may acquire a new ally represented by numerous Muslim diasporas, and those of Western countries in the first place. And this will allow strengthening the role of the entire Muslim world in the general planetary conflict of leading political actors that is shaping the new world order. Potentially the Islamic world has a chance to gain a number of important advantages: it can simultaneously act in the interstate sphere (through Muslim-populated states), in the ideological sphere (through the system of Islamic international NGOs, movements, communities, diasporas, etc.), in spiritual-religious sphere (through a network of mosques and Islamic centers). We can also add here the fact that Islamic diasporas nowadays exist in all countries around the world.
It is obvious that the power centers around the world would like to ensure the support of the Muslim spread zone countries in the growing competition at the international arena, which encourages the creation of the term “Muslims’ friend states.”
The intellectual Islamic revolution is taking place in many parts of the Islamic world … it is carried out not by terrorists, but social activists and preachers.
Under the influence of the globalization processes, the cultural, ideological, and social-economic features of the Muslim World have been strengthened, and the shaping of a new transnational political conscience of Muslims is underway.
Thanks to the quality pan-Arab mass-media that have appeared recently, which utilize the experience and achievements of Western journalism, a new cultural-informational, ideological and even theological (convergence of madhhabs) space has been created. Their influence is not limited by the Arab countries. These mass-media are watched by people all around the Islamic world, for the Arabic language still remains the language of international communication of all Muslims and Islamic elite in particular.
Some of the first to utilize the advantages of globalization were banks and companies that conduct their activities in accordance with the norms of Shari’ah law. The Islamic banking system has joined world’s financial structures without fear of the prohibition of the interest fee by Islam. As of 1997, Islamic finance growth rate grows by 15 percent a year, which significantly exceeds the world GNP growth rate (1998 – 2 percent, 1999 – 2.5 percent) even with inflation rate considered.
Another fact telling of the influence of globalization upon the world’s Muslim community is that an increasing amount of literature, both strictly religious and related to other topics, is published in English — the language of Internet and globalization.
It is also important to notice that the national languages of Muslims under the effect of the globalization processes are starting to stand next to Arabic, Persian and Urdu, which were previously used by Islamic theologians and thinkers. In this connection a well-known Malaysian scholar Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas even introduced a special notion of “Islamic language,” that he understands as the “introduction of a basic dictionary of Islamic terms in the languages of Muslim peoples.”
Globalization stimulates the awakening and modernization of the Muslim world upon the base of its own ideal-theoretical basis, reconsidered within the context of modernity.
Meanwhile, the mass conscience of Muslims still perceives globalization in a very negative way. This deserves serious consideration, for such state of things complicates the perspectives of globalization in the Islamic world.
Globalization is considered to be a “fig leaf” that covers up the desire of ruling circles of the US and other Western countries to force such a world order upon the whole humanity, including Muslims, that will exclusively correspond with their own interests. Different enterprises aimed at the Muslim world, like operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, US support of “Israel,” referring to other Islamic countries as parts of the “Axis of evil,” all, arguably, are considered to be nothing else but a war against Islam, and sometimes, in wide popular circles, as a new crusade.
Many Muslims are especially indignant at the “macdonaldization” and “coca colonization” of culture, that destroys old traditions. Today, local products have to imitate international ones to survive. In this connection even Sufi Pakistani music Quawwali became an ordinary object of mass culture in its modern globalized variant.
Moreover, American influence and big business have brought US-style planning and architecture to the Gulf countries. Traditional architecture, oriental bazaars, and coffee houses have disappeared, their place taken by shopping malls, fast food restaurants, and hotels. Even Makkah, the sacred city of Islam, could not avoid this fate.
In fact, it turned into a usual American city where tunnels, flyovers, and traffic junctions set aside standardized hotels and ubiquitous shops. Sometimes the hatred towards America is connected not with its military presence in Muslim countries, but just with those facts.
In the academic and political circles of the Muslim countries there are many that are convinced that the US is led by the “clash of civilizations” concept in its policies towards the Islamic world. (One should recognize the certain foundation for this kind of sentiment, which, of course, suffers from oversimplification).
But beside the strongly negative reaction of the Muslim world to globalization, there are attempts to critically consider and to give a conceptual answer to it. The intellectual Islamic revolution is taking place in many parts of the Islamic world and in Islamic communities in the West as well. And it is carried out not by terrorists, but social activists and preachers.
In other words, the current controversial globalization, along with the problem of consumption and dissolution of the Muslim world, also possesses a reverse paradoxical effect. It stimulates the awakening and modernization of the Muslim world upon the base of its own ideal-theoretical basis, reconsidered within the context of modernity.
Along with the establishment of a unified cultural and ideological model, tailored to the Western neoliberal standards, globalization, however strange it may seem, stimulates the emergence of a new format of the Islamic world and gives an additional impulse to its awakening process. The latter has serious perspectives of becoming not only a crucially important process for the Islamic world itself in the 21st century, but it will also influence the development of the whole humanity.