Mar 12, 2010 - islam op-eds    16 Comments

Top 10 Problems of the Muslim World We Need to Fix ASAP


Many Muslims in the world consistently blame the “West” for all their problems. No doubt, many of the problems in the Muslim world stem from decisions made in the West. i.e… the arbitrary creation of Israel, the blind unconditional support of Israel in its occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people, sanctions as political punishment regardless of innocent victims, aid as political reward regardless of ethics, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslims throughout the world, the absolute hypocrisy of foreign policy and at times domestic policy… I mean this list is just endless ;)

BUT sometimes we forget that the Muslim world is just as much to blame for the condition of Muslims all over the world as anyone else, if not more so. Unless we fix our own problems we will never be able to step forward and try to change our condition. Leaving these problems out there is also our weakness and they enable others to take advantage of and in the end, oppress us.

So, having lived in the Muslim world for a period of time and a lifetime in the West, these are some things that I see as the major problems or hurdles we need to change in the Muslim world first, before we blame others. I think we really need to look at ourselves objectively and realize the wrongs that go on among us, just as much as we like to analyze ‘the other’.


#1. Doing the world’s dirty work - Sending innocent people to Muslim countries TO GET TORTURED. Why should the world care that Muslims are being tortured in Guantanamo and Bagram when Muslim countries practice torture as a regular interrogation method? When America sends innocent Muslims TO Muslim countries to be tortured! It’s really quite disgusting. Torture is completely antithetical to the principles of Islam. There are just no words. (And still we like to blame the West for everything.)

#2. Racial inequalities - Let’s talk about the status of workers in Muslim countries, such as maids in Saudi or construction workers in the Emirates. These workers are abused freely, by individuals and by society. Underpaid, overworked, they live in hovels, are paid a pittance, have no rights or recourse if abused. They are never allowed to be citizens, they don’t have the same rights as their boss or the citizen down the street. They can’t even send their kids to the same school or go to the same hospital. I mean call America the devil all you want but at least they theoretically have some type of equality and rights for people who live and work in their country. We read stories after stories of abuse and first hand accounts, with very little reform or accountability. Yes, I know these people are poor and need to go to Muslim countries to work. But if the oppressed accept their oppression due to circumstance and we take advantage of it, what does that make us? (And ours is a Deen that always was the first to defend and help the oppressed and emphasized the equality of all peoples.)

#3. Corruption/Bribes - Corruption in Muslim countries is so rife. Why is a Muslim country always #1 or #2 on the list of most corrupt countries, I always have to ask? Corruption is so common that regular bribe amounts are listed in tourist guides. Want to get telephone services? Want to get out of an airport? Want to do anything? This isn’t like a tax or a tip, this is plain corruption. Want to cover up a crime? Want to commit a crime? It seems like Islam has become only form to people. Pray, fast, maybe go to Hajj and that’s it. But what about your character, your morals, your ethics. Cheating other people. Rampant nepotism. Covering up of inequalities and wrongful actions?

#4. Bureaucracy - This is tied to the one before. Have you ever tried to go to a Muslim country and get a visa? Before I left someone sent me a step by step list of how to establish an Iqama (residency visa) in a particular country. It was 6 handwritten pages and no joke, it listed how to go from this office to that office to that building and get this stamp from this person and so on and so on. It was all description because there are no addresses or official ways of doing anything! We are in such a hurry to modernize and be just like the West, why don’t we copy some good organization and efficiency skills eh. This probably goes back to another big problem in the Muslim world:  The rote learning and non-encouragement of any questioning, creativity or innovation in the Muslim world. Also related, where is the work ethic in Muslim countries? Besides “Inshaallah Bokra Mumkin”. Now I know for Muslims we have a different focus on life and it’s not to go to work everyday, make money and consume more Dunya. But somehow I just see this slowly being lost in Muslim countries. Where’s our pride and responsibility in working hard, building, inventing, improving, creating.

#5. Emotional Islam - We Muslims always get upset when we see something wrong or offensive to our religion. Such as… the Danish cartoons or the Salman Rushdie book (or a teddy bear named Muhammad?!) or whatever else. There’s a lot of evil in the world and there are a lot of people that hate Islam. But us becoming emotional or upset about such things does nothing. Nothing constructive or progressive comes from it. Imagine if every Muslim that was offended by the Danish cartoons went out and held one positive event about Islam in their town. Imagine if every Muslim that burned (or like me returned the book to the library thinking it was the dumbest book I ever read) a hateful book on Islam, instead talked to one person about the life of Prophet Muhammad (s). It’s so easy for us to hold protests, hold up signs and yell slogans, even easier to turn to violence. But why aren’t we doing the real work? Working on real Dawah, real programs, on our youth… in so many needed areas?

#6. Opression of women – No Islam does not oppress Muslim women, but Muslims sure do. Or should I say they let others do. How can honor killings be common in certain areas of the Muslim world? Killing innocent girls. Something so vile, that the Quran even asks why a person would do it. And tried and convicted they receive 2 years. Really? A 10 year old sold by her father and forced to marry an 80 year old. Really, that’s acceptable to us? Throwing acid on little girls going to school. Domestic violence against women. I mean there are no words.  We will never even take a step forward if we don’t eradicate these evils.

#7. Copying everything western – The Muslim world loves copying and imitating everything western. They love western clothes, western movies, western architecture, western music, western pop stars. What happened to our values? What happened to our own appreciation of our own beautiful things. Our beautiful clothes, music, people, architecture, rich cultural heritage. Chai, Rumi and Ghazals seem to be more appreciated in the West than anywhere else these days. Why can’t we have pride in and develop our own culture which is more in tune with our values? [And one thing that really bothers me...Why do rich Muslims frequent Parisian fashion houses when it is a crime to dress as a Muslim in France?] (Sigh, and again it’s the West that’s oppressing us.)

#8. Lack of superior media and propaganda – Yes please. We need some. The Muslim world really needs some good PR people. Not to mention journalists, authors, pundits, politically savvy leaders and so on. Why (,when we have right on our side you ask)? Because the Islam haters are much better at this than we are. They are able to turn an innocent victim into a terrorist in a heartbeat. They are able to justify things like racial profiling, torture and extraordinary rendition. They somehow make extreme Islam-haters into “experts on Islam and the Muslim world” on Fox News. Definitely a huge problem.

#9. No viable economic system - Islamic economics is beautiful. It’s fair. It’s sustainable. It has ethics and morals and has a built in system of checks and balances. It protects people from being exploited and it prevents people from doing the exploiting. And yet we aren’t using it. We are using a system of interest and usury that makes the poor poorer and the rich richer. A whole other subject is also how much money is being wasted on extreme luxuries instead of development in Muslim countries. The wealth of certain Muslims is phenomenal… how about spending a little to help other Muslims instead of that new car/clothes/billion dollar mansion. (Did you know that the only buyers of Parisian fashion houses are 1. the nouveau riche of Russia and 2. wealthy Arabs from the Gulf.)

#10. Nationalism and disunity – Can I just say… Algeria vs Egypt :p or let me say Egypt’s refusal to allow Gazans sanctuary. Everyone has pride in their country and background, but it is our faith that unites us all. Divided we are easily picked out by enemies. Divided we will always fall. History shows again and again that the way to attack Muslims is to cause division and disunity. We are then easily defeated.


Yes, it’s painful to look at ourselves this way. How far we have come from practicing our Deen. :( If we could just practice the noble principles of Islam in all aspects of our life, socially, politically, economically, in character, in relations with others, how different we would be! And how different our world would be.

Have we forgotten the words of the Quran that say “Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in their hearts.” What’s in our hearts these days? Is it “hatred of the West”? Is it “love of the Dunya” or is it “love of Islam and our fellow Muslims”? Do we want for them what we want for ourselves?

In conclusion, I contend that if Muslims were to fix these problems and go back to practicing Islam in all realms, inner and outer, form and character, there is no power on earth that could defeat them in any aspect.

Thanks for reading.

The End.

Outtakes: lack of lines!, no dark chocolate, pizza made of ketchup?!, guys who yell ‘u beetiful’


  • Sister Jannah – ma’sha’allah you hit on all the points so well. Points 5 and 6 are the ones that frustrate me the most, but of course, all are just as annoying (for the fact that they exist). It’s so true, we are not united at all and that’s why outside forces can easily manipulate and play with us because we have no concern for the greater community that we are. Actually, point 10 is also one that defies reason for me – I mean, are we going to be judged based on whether we were a good Pakistani, Egyptian, Bangladeshi, etc? Indeed, I do hope more of the youngsters get into filed such as media and journalism (sadly, I myself fit into the old school of being either, doctor or engineer) as this will help bring a true picture of Islam to others and overcome the negative message that is easily propagated by the media at present.
    As just one person, I have to admit I feel so powerless to be able to achieve anything, but as you imply in your conclusion, we have to band together to fix these problems from the inside out and then maybe, just maybe in His Mercy, Allah (swt) will change our condition for the better.

    Great post Sis. 5 stars.

  • Awesome. I’ll be linking this to my blog when I get around to posting again. Utterly, utterly true.

  • Totally agree with this, but I found the outtakes to be my favorite part. ;) FWIW, there is now dark chocolate in Damascus. Not as good as it could be (and some brands have rocks in them… watch your teeth) but it can be good in a pinch. I do still bring my friends really really GOOD dark chocolate every time I go though.

    Standing in line is actually one symptom of some of the problems you mentioned in the body of the post though. I find that when people have lived under a dictatorship for generations where the bribery, bureaucracy, corruption, etc., is the way of life, they eventually lose all sense of civic responsibility. You get things done by being selfish and participating in corruption, and you don’t have any say in the government therefore you have almost no influence over the betterment of your community and your country. So you have no incentive to do things like put your trash in the trash can, stand in line, show up on time, tell the truth, etc. It’s just every man for himself so to speak. I think this is why Iraq is not going to be “fixed” any time soon and why it would be really dangerous if the US tried to regime-change any other country in the Muslim world. You don’t develop a sense of democracy and civil responsibility overnight in a people who have the opposite ingrained into their culture. I think it has to take gradual change over a generation. It’s also ironic that when my dh goes back to his native country (*) he tries to tell people that they should pick up their trash or stand in line or whatever and they scoff at him and tell him he’s been “Americanized”!!! Yes well, in a way I guess it’s true because what has happened is he has lived outside of the corrupt system long enough that he can see why people can and should take responsibility for their own behavior and communities.

    (*) (It’s not “back home” and I hate it when people call it that BTW… sorry but I think Muslim Americans need to accept the fact that they and their families are and will remain Americans for generations to come… seriously, how many of us/the kids are going to live “back there” again, when most of them even don’t speak any language other than English? Sorry for the side rant there…but something to think about.)

  • lol love the outtakes :)

  • Thanx for your comments!

    Wcoastbaba I’m sure ur doing ur part becoming a doctor. There is no doubt we all need good health care!

    Shaari I’m sure you could write your own book on this subject. I’ve read some of what you’ve written about living over there and it definitely looks like it hasn’t changed!

    Mombeam definitely true that it’s ‘every man for himself’. I also think they have a different understanding of what the government’s job is what a citizen’s job is. They definitely don’t feel like they have rights or are full citizens. So they protect only what they feel is theirs like their inner homes. If you go into any house they are so clean and have beautiful furniture and what not, but the roads and stuff they just don’t care they chuck garbage out their front windows that ends up right in front of their house!

    Shaz I’m sure u have outtakes too :p

  • Some great words. I’m sharing the link with friends. Keep up the good work!

    (Oh, and I love the out takes. Pizza made with ketchup! Gaaah!)

  • Excellent points made – as a born American and one who has not lived in an ‘Islamic Country’, it is difficult to converge the idea of living ‘Islam’ only inside one’s home or internal self….does not make sense to me -is my understanding that the Prophet (PBUH) taught and walked a true path on how to live -quite sure corruption and all the other was around -so gets confusing how one can see themself as a Muslim and look the other way or participate in that which does not reflect Islam and in fact goes against Islam — guess if Muslims were a minority would be easier to grasp – is odd -and to top it all off many of those ‘Muslims’ discount those who are 3rd and 4th generational American’s that have chosen Islam -Allah hu allam

  • I wanted to ask that since I didn’t quite get the purpose of the outtakes – were they points that you originally wanted to include or just things you were hoping to mention within the points? Guess I’m not quite cool enough to understand what everyone else did.

  • Outtakes are scenes that are cut from a movie due to length of time or are scenes where the actors messed up and they’re usually very funny. So I would have added those things in but they’re so silly. :) I think all the ppl that found them hilarious were ppl who have lived in the Middle East for some time!

  • Thanks – though I know what outtakes are Sis J!!! Sheesh! haha I’m not that out of the loop! :-P I was just wondering where they would have gone in the post, that’s all. I see, yeah, I didn’t understand what the context might have been for the outtakes, though they are funny on their own of course. Thanks for the clarification on that.

  • Every one of you has spoken their individual view. sometime i feel it would have been better for me to leave at the time of the apostle of God rather than this wicked world of our generation, people of the western sees islam as wicked,terrorism,hardship,corruption,hatred etc. religion but they are very wrong. perhaps islam is a religion of peace. my brothers and sisters, may be the better way to change these bad views of islam as the westernian taught. I urge everyone to do dawwah in their places of work,amusement places,home of the family e.t.c we need to work for the sake of Allah (SWT) and that of the great prophet Muhd (PBUP) we can do it without disturbing our various purify displine, of course we are doing these for the sake of our life after death. May Allah guides us through. kudos 2d monitor of this site God bless u and every one us Amin. Yusuf thanks.

  • Asalamua’alaikum,
    MashAllah great read…
    i don’t get the outtakes part..

    Sooooo many problems in the ummah. I’ve noticed Muslims living in More developed countries, have different array of problems compared to the Muslims in the least developed countries.. shaytan knows where to attack us to break us apart.
    May Allah convert your and all of our efforts straight to gardens and palaces in Jannah!

  • i am very glad to see that at last there is some one who realized and mentioned the above problems of the muslim world and i think this is the best way to guide the people and the way to convence them to open there eyes other wise they will be crushed by the enemies else where.

  • The outside force does not exist.

  • gooooooooood and can u please tell us about afghanistan and iraq current situations

  • I think the problem lies within us. We seem to suffer from an inferiority complex. We see ghosts where none exist.
    We are inheritors of a wonderful Faith and we seem to overlook that most of the time.