By Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
There have never been so many faces of Islam; that is true both literally and figuratively. Literally in the sense that there have never been so many Muslims in the world, and figuratively because there has never been such a confusion about matters of faith and practice both within the community of believers and outside.
This change has been brought about by a number of rapid historical reconstructions of the Ummah; the body of believers that is joined by a common thread – the Book of Allah and the life of His Messenger, upon him blessings and peace.
This historic change took place at a time when both Islam and Muslims were supposed to have become a "spent force". But out of the ashes of a conquered, devastated, and degraded polity there arose a sudden new dynamic and traumatising experience: shortly after the second World War, the political map of the entire traditional land of Islam was forcefully changed.
There emerged some 57 so-called independent states, each with its own peculiar set of problems but nevertheless Muslim states which were by and large governed and ruled by secularised dictators, military generals, and heroes of independence movements, all of whom had little or no understanding of the volcanic changes just about to take place.
In addition, a very large number of Muslims started to immigrate to the lands of their former colonisers and within a few decades France and England – and later Germany with several other European countries – found themselves caught in a strange dilemma.
The spent force, which they had conquered and ruthlessly ruled for a century and more was exerting itself at the very heart of their own polity: London, Paris, Hamburg, Berlin, New York, Chicago and all the other major and minor cities of Europe and North America suddenly had numerous mosques, halal meat shops, and all the other things which come with that particular mode of being which is called Islam.
Then, there arose a new generation of converts who found spiritual, intellectual, and emotional resonance in Islam. These new Muslims added yet another dimension to the new faces of Islam. Some of them were highly gifted. They not only accepted the religion which until recently was considered to be almost of no consequence to their polity, they became its spokespersons. They went and studied the various sciences of Islam at the feet of truly gifted scholars who belonged to another time, another era, in places like Damascus, Cairo and remote regions of Yemen and Mauritania.
These new converts used their considerable personal abilities and skills to speak about the religion of their choice with the enthusiasm, veracity, and strength of a true believer who knows why he or she believes what he or she believes in.
All of this formed what is now Islam's new face on the globe – that is to say, the manifestation of religion in blood and flesh, in the form of real human beings who walk and talk, and who are seen as representatives of Islam. This is an utterly new process in Muslim history. Never before has there been such a situation during the last fourteen hundred years when such a large number of human beings from outside the traditional lands of Islam became spokespersons for Islam.
The new situation is simply fascinating in its totality: We have a very large number of Muslims who have been uprooted from their religion to such an extent that there is utter confusion in their minds and deeds about matters of basic belief and practice.
Then we have a small minority of converts who have studied deeply what they believe in and whose articulate discourse is attracting thousands of young, educated Muslims. In addition, there has appeared a very large number of translations of classical Islamic works, as well as translations of those texts which were never translated before.
As a natural consequence, Islam and Muslims are now in a dynamic situation of interacting with the world in which there is a great deal of animosity against both of them. But this new interaction is fascinating because we have a situation where disbelievers of all kinds simply have no option left but to react to the expanding realms of Islam, both in real life and in intellectual thought. There is no choice because Islam has become their obsession.
Most Westerners cannot understand what it is in Islam that is so irresistible to their sons and daughters who embrace it; most Western politicians simply do not know what to do with the millions of Muslims who now live in their countries and who refuse to live like them – that is, they do not "integrate" and dissolve; no matter how much these politicians wish them to do so. Thus the latest tirade from the German Chancellor Angela Merkel is neither surprising nor unexpected.
She told her party's youth-wing at a conference on October 16, 2010: "The approach of saying, 'Well, let's just go for a multicultural society, let's coexist and enjoy each other,' this very approach has failed, absolutely failed," she said, meaning thereby that Germany's roughly 4 million Muslims, who make up the largest Muslim population in western Europe, are a headache for her and other politicians who simply do not know what to do with these Muslims.
German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger had already admitted last month that Islamophobia has become a serious problem in the country as a result of deepening popular anti-Muslim sentiments. Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said there was a growing tendency among the public to view 'Muslims and their religion as a threat.'
Of course, the greatest question at present is the following: Now that the German government has openly acknowledged the existence of Islamophobia in Germany, shall we be looking for a situation faced by the Jewish community in Germany during the time of Hitler?
The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: email@example.com
Source: The News, Pakistan