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Islam and the West ( 5 Dec 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Muslims In The Western World Must Realize That Ways Of Interpreting And Understating Islamic Teaching Need A Radical Overhaul

By Ali Rashid Al Nuaimi

 December 1, 2020

The Western world continues to battle the challenge of disenchanted young Muslims, rooted in a “home country” that in many cases they’ve never visited, and to which they have no real ties. Yet they remain feeling like outsiders in the countries that have allowed them to take refuge within their states. The fact is, the ways of interpreting and understating Islamic teaching need a radical overhaul. We have a responsibility to ensure Islam is no longer hijacked by extremist and outdated ideologies that keep the religion bound to history rather than taking it into the present and guiding its progress into the future, in turn, disconnecting young Muslims from the countries in which they are living.


Muslim Women recite sunset prayers outside ICE’s New York field office in New York City in 2018. (Photo Credit: Amr Alfiky/ Reuters)


The answer, simply and without prejudice, is that most contemporary Muslim immigrants cannot differentiate between religion and culture. They do not know the difference between Islam and the traditions, customs and habits of the societies from which they migrated. They do not realize that culture is not the same as religion, and that they must not adhere to culture and die for its sake. Religion has thus become synonymous with culture, and customs have been turned into doctrine.

The Muslim world must now realize that we live in a different time from that of our ancestors. There are no more empires or caliphates, and there is no open, unclaimed geographic space. We live in a global world in which the movements and actions of humans – regardless of culture and religion – are controlled according to standards using tools such as nationality, identity and passports.

Undoubtedly, in our time, what the global Muslim communities need the most are brave scholars who can meet the demands of the challenges that face us and who can show the Muslims around the world, especially the youth, the sharp and subtle differences between religious constants and historical variables. This process entails determining the differences between religious revelations, historical applications and solutions that emerged at a certain historical moment to address matters specific to that particular society, whose circumstances differ from those of our society, and may even contradict them.


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Muslims have left their homelands bearing heavy cultural burdens. They carried this weight to their new homes, and they shaped their communities according to the model of their countries of origin. They convinced themselves that these customs and traditions were Islam itself, and that if they were to abandon these traditions, they would lose their precious connection to their religion. They tightly gripped the culture of the society they had left and rejected the culture of their new society.

Thus, culture remained a considerable barrier between them and their new homes, even though they would go on to become naturalized citizens of their new communities, live out the rest of their lives and be buried there. Paradoxically, these immigrants have remained committed to the culture of their original homeland, though they know that they will not return.

THE QUESTION here is, why have there been no European, US or Australian versions of Islam? Why are Muslim communities in these areas keen to live as they used to do in the communities they have left? Why do they think that preserving the culture of their societies of origin is equivalent to the preservation of Islam itself? Why do we still see hundreds or thousands of young Muslims from the likes of Europe happy to leave for terrorist training camps in the name of Islam?

The emergence of violent terrorist organizations was neither a transient event nor a natural phenomenon. It was a logical outcome of an educational system that has focused on teaching the past. That system has produced generations of lost people who live deep in the past, are absent from the present and have no expectations for the future. These generations joined various terrorist groups in which they learned about the past and attempted to live in it. They wanted to revive and repeat the past because, in their view, it represented pure Islam.

Education is a planned process used to design the future. Its aim is to produce people who carry their culture, identity, religion and values forward into that future. Education may borrow certain beliefs, values and cultural identifications from the past, but it cannot borrow actual historical events, outdated behaviors or ways of dress and appearance.

Our societies will not develop unless they realize that education is a future-oriented process and project, not just a way to recreate history and squeeze ourselves into past glories that we can no longer replicate. In this context, the process of renewal must be carried out by competent authorities – namely, professional experts in theology, pedagogy, sociology, anthropology and psychology. We must have a variety of task groups and subject matter experts in all necessary fields who will cooperate closely to accomplish their mission. We must not leave the reform process to the theologians or religious scholars alone.


Dr. Al Rashid Al Nuaimi is the author of National State: Reimagining a World without Hateful and Narrow Nation States, released this month by Bloomsbury. He is a member of the UAE Federal National Council for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, and chairman of the council’s Defense, Interior and Foreign Affairs Committee. He was previously chancellor of the United Arab Emirates University and is currently the first chairman of Hedayah, the Centre for Countering Violent Extremism, based in Abu Dhabi.


Original Headline: How to overcome the disconnect of Muslims in the Western world

Source:  The Jakarta Post


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