Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Rabi-Ul Akhir / Jamadiul Awwal 1423 H
July 2002
Volume 15-07 No:187

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Islamic Thoughts


Islam and peaceful co-existence
To be a European Muslim


Islam and peaceful co-existence

Every person who calls himself or herself a Muslim should ask the following question:
Do I reject all forms of injustice or is it only when the victims are Muslims?

By Reem Mohammed AlFaisal

We often read in Arabic newspapers such comments as “Had Hitler completed his mission...” or “Hitler was not given the opportunity”. By their comments, they are expressing a wish that Hitler had succeeded in exterminating the Jews. At the same time, they seem to have overlooked the fact that Jews are ‘People of the Book’ and further, that Islam prohibits the extermination of any community or the oppression of any religion.

It is indeed unfortunate to hear or to read such comments and ideas in the Arab and Islamic world. The hallmark of an Islamic state is respect for other people and their religions. The Shariah tells its followers to do justice to the oppressed even if they are non-Muslims. Good dealings with, and respect for, other communities and religions are the fundamental features of an Islamic cultural personality. History is a witness to that as the best example was in Andalus - modern Spain - and it lasted for eight centuries. It was an example for many other civilisations. Andalus - where both Christians and Jews lived peacefully has not been the only example of Islamic co-existence. It has been repeated in other parts of the Islamic world - the Indian subcontinent, Egypt, Morocco, Indonesia. The harmonious relations between the groups resulted in the creation of a rich and innovative culture. For several centuries, this culture made important contributions, which spread over large parts of the world.

This model Islamic society was not one which appeared in a small area in a distant place for a few decades and then disappeared like a mirage. Nor was it one which became a legend, living on in the proud boasts of generations which never saw it. On the contrary, it was a lively and effective society which met and overcame many challenges. If the racist ideas which are now being circulated had been applied to the challenges we have encountered in our history - such as the Crusades or the expulsion of Muslims from Spain or ethnic cleansing in the Balkans - there would have been no Christians in Muslim countries. If we accuse all Jews and demand their extermination for the wrongdoing of some, then why don’t we demand the extermination of all Christians in response to the massacres committed by Christian colonialists from Europe?

Have the colonialists succeeded finally in transforming us to what they were and having us look at people as belonging to different classes and groups? Have they been able to root the Islamic spirit from us? I will not say “the Islamic structure” as we still hold to Islamic patterns. The question is, however, whether we have become Westerners in an Islamic mould. If that is the case, then we Muslims have been defeated by adopting Western racist thinking. Too many Muslims oppose racism only when Muslims are the victims. Every person who calls himself or herself a Muslim should ask the following question: Do I reject all forms of injustice or is it only when the victims are Muslims?

(The writer is a Saudi photographer, based in Jeddah)
Courtesy: Arab News.

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To be a European Muslim

We have got to get away from the idea that scholars in the Islamic world can do our thinking for us.
We need to start thinking for ourselves.

By Nicholas Le Quesne

Tariq Ramadan has the measured delivery of an academic, which is no more than you would expect from a man who used to be a high school principal and wrote his doctoral thesis on Nietzsche. But as the leading Islamic thinker among Europe’s second and third-generation Muslim immigrants, the Geneva-based university lecturer also inspires a good deal of mistrust-from both Arab Muslims for his Western sensibility and Westerners for his controversial Islamic roots. Ramadan, 38, is the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, founder, in 1928, of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic revival movement that spread from Egypt throughout the Arab world, criticising Western decadence and advocating a return to Muslim values. Yet Ramadan says, “I’m a European who has grown up here. I don’t deny my Muslim roots, but I don’t vilify Europe either.” Ramadan’s chosen task is to invent an independent European Islam: “We need to separate Islamic principles from their cultures of origin and anchor them in the cultural reality of Western Europe.” With 15 million Muslims in the Continent, Ramadan believes it’s time to abandon the dichotomy in Muslim thought that has defined Islam in opposition to the West. “I can incorporate everything that’s not opposed to my religion into my identity,” he says, “and that’s a revolution.”

Europe’s Muslims are the product of immigration in the post-war years, when workers were recruited from Turkey, North Africa and the Indian sub-continent to meet the war-shattered continent’s manpower needs. While the first generation jealously guarded their cultural links with their homeland, their children and grandchildren have often felt torn between two cultures. “What I’m saying is, be proud of who you are,” says Ramadan. “We’ve got to get away from the idea that scholars in the Islamic world can do our thinking for us. We need to start thinking for ourselves.”

That means making European mosques independent of foreign funding and influence. It also means re-reading the founding texts and producing a body of Islamic thought in European languages. Ramadan’s recent book, To Be a European Muslim, was written in English, editions in German, Italian and Dutch are all forthcoming. And Ramadan’s message isn’t intended for Muslims alone. “The real question is about spirituality,” he says. “If the presence of Muslims leads Europeans to think about who they are and what they believe in, that has to be positive.” Thanks partly to Ramadan, Islam is on its way to becoming an integral part of Europe’s religious landscape.

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