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|When Cultures Collide|
|06/20/02 at 09:01:42|
When Cultures Collide - Part One
By Sherry and Mahmoud El-Hefnawi
The mosque I attended looked like the citadel from the outside; a solid,
impressive structure. Inside, I found the structures even more solid; religion, family, and culture. I sat in the corner, uncovered, listened to the adhaan for the first time, and cried. It sounded like a call home to me. After the message, which was a strong one on faith, I talked to some of the women, but not many. Then I made the long drive home. This was my first visit to a mosque.
Islam is a religion that provides a strong family basis and promotes rich
relationships between friends. For this reason, those raised Muslim have a much stronger and broader spectrum of support in comparison to the other religions. Culturally speaking, in America, the breakdown of the family and the cut and run ideology that has soaked the society makes Islam shine brightly. In short, muslims generally have strong roots. During the time of my first visit to the mosque, my roots were waning. I was actually a disjoined seedling looking for a home. Sometimes, it is necessary for the Ummah to embrace new seedlings, just as we 'embrace' this beautiful Deen, realizing that this can be a discomfort to the community.
However, it is more of a discomfort for the seedlings. Let me explain,
using my own history as an example. When I came to Islam, I essentially had to break ties with my family. My family could not understand at the time the choice I was making, and even gave me ultimatums in regards to Islam. It became an “it’s either us, or Islam” choice, which forced me to choose. Letting my family know that I was choosing Allah, yet at the same time not choosing to lose them, wasn't effective. I lost my family connections and entered into a religion that promotes family. It was extremely difficult. I would go to the masjid alone, and watch strong families connect with God and with each other.
I felt like a pork chop at a Muslim wedding party...completely out of place!
On top of this, comes the language and cultural barriers. Many times during those first visits, I would introduce myself, and they would introduce themselves, and after “As salaamu alaikum” we would just kind of smile at each other, and walk away. I couldn’t speak the language. My smile was all I had. New believers in Islam are joining a faith that has its foundation set, when all of their foundations have been shaken to the core. I don’t think 'raised Muslims' understand the choice reverts are actually making. I didn’t just choose Islam. I had to be willing from the start to accept the possibility of losing my family, job, house, and life.
Imagine experiencing changes such as this: Your family is angry and wants you to leave, you lose your home and job; your neighbors are no longer friendly and you lose your friends for your belief in God. Then, when you try to celebrate this with those you now share this belief with, you discover they may not have the time to celebrate, or may not understand the significance of the event......because they are very happy in their houses, jobs, and families.. and on top of it, you may even look different, and could very well end up celebrating alone.
Understandably, it takes time to develop relationships. However, it's not the congregation that is pressed for time; it's the revert who is. The revert really does not have time to waste waiting for relationships to naturally develop; by the time they do, he or she may have withered away. If Islam is going to continue to have a steady growth in this country, something must be done to integrate these reverts. Gatherings are alright, but are actually just a band-aid for a more serious situation. They are good to bring reverts together, but.. you are actually introducing people to each other that have the same needs. New Muslims need to be introduced to experienced Muslims. More than that, new Muslims need to be taken under the wing of experienced Muslims and made secure in their religion and in their new society. I heard of one masjid that had a specific “new American revert’s” class. I feel this is not productive because of the labeling. It is separating the new believers from the body in two ways: Nationality and Revert.
What is needed is not for all American reverts to get together and start a new club, us and them; what is needed is for the body to unify. The revert is a believer. He or she is now the Ummah. What I am proposing is not a new reverts group. I am proposing something perhaps slightly more difficult and in the long run, InshaAllah, a lot more productive and beneficial. Not only for the revert, but for the community as well. What I am proposing is education in integration. Perhaps it is not just the revert that needs education, but the Muslim body at large! If a revert comes to a masjid where they feel a sense of belonging, then there will be a security to fall back on, when their worlds may be falling apart. Also, I cannot overestimate that the revert is already facing much difficulty in their adjustment to Islam. Adding to this upon the back of a new believer, is the responsibility of establishing new relationships and integrating into what he or she may consider a closed community. The revert is carrying probably as much as he or she can. In short, the burden of responsibility for the integration of the revert should rest upon Muslims.
What can be done? How are Muslims to interact with new believers? How can the experienced Muslims work together to help settle the revert? What DO we do with these new seedlings? First of all, as stated before, there needs to be education. The cultural gap should be bridged, and quickly. If the body could see the differences in culture as rays of color on a flower, the differences adding to the beauty of the whole, then much would be accomplished in accepting the new believer more effectively.
For example, sometimes it is assumed that because I became a Muslim, I automatically stopped being an American. Whereas I did turn my back on much of American ideology, I remained an American in many ways. I was born and raised in Indiana and have a thick Hoosier accent. No matter how hard I try to speak with the Rocky Balboa New Jersey twist, it’s contrived, and before long, I am back to speaking like a Hoosier. Its just there.
Americans, for example, are taught in grade school to look a person in the eye when speaking. Muslims cast away their gaze. Whereas new believers should be taught how to cast their gaze, in the beginning, I think its important to remember the cultural difference. New believers may be extremely hurt and insulted if a Muslim would accuse them of improperly staring, when in fact they believe their actions are normal. This is just one small example of cultural barriers. It may appear rude to Muslims the way an American will stare, in actuality, to them, they are simply addressing you.
A little understanding goes a long way, and a little gentle instruction
too will go a long way. Something else that must be remembered in dealing with reverts is that this is an individualistic society, and the melting pot of the world. We Americans are already accustomed to dealing with many different races and ideologies, and we HAD no choice but to get along. Therefore many Americans have an “I do my thing you do your thing and lets all be happy” attitude. Although this may be frowned upon, we must remember this is the culture in America and without this pressure valve, this society as we know it could virtually boil over. If you look into the history of this country, where this attitude does NOT prevail, bigotry does. The lesson to be learned is that when cultures collide, WITHOUT A COMMON BELIEF, what ensues is either a hands-off 'you stay on your side and I stay on mine' attitude, or bigotry and control. Islam provides the bond that can tie cultures together.
I propose that everyone reading this give serious thought to the struggles and isolation a new believer may be facing, and reach out to them. Perhaps they are different but keep in mind... rays of color on a flower. Masjids need to take immediate and thoughtful action. Band-aid programs will not work in the long run. I propose that every masjid hand-pick serious, dedicated and strong Muslims for the work of sheltering a new believer. These individuals should be knowledgeable of cultural differences, with personalities that are welcoming; they should be able to take the new believer through the stages of growth, from learning the principles of prayer to Ramadan to what to do on a bad day. In short, these should be people that take the Ummah.. and being a member of a family seriously. Dedicated to the belief that one new believer today, may be a warrior of faith tomorrow.
Something to think about.
And by the way .. don’t forget American cheeseburgers are pretty good too ( With Halal Meat )
|Re: When Cultures Collide|
|06/20/02 at 09:08:52|
(i think you might want to move this to al-manar......? hee heeee i see you just did while i was in the middle of replying.....)
thanks for putting this article up - it's one of the very best i've ever read here. it speaks of many of my own concerns as i continue to progress, ever so slowly, toward a grasp on god and your religion. it's hard enough being an alien in american society for your whole life without making a committment to a different way of life and then finding oneself considered just as alien and fringe there also. i sincerely hope that every muslim who reads this article takes these thoughts deep to heart and recognizes the family role they must take on toward all the aliens who join their communities.
on my recent trip through airports ;) travelling with people i had never met before, we had lots of discussions about many aspects of islam. (and yep, i had a number of people spend time asking me about my lack of belief and offering their suggestions for guidance..) i told a lot of them about the madina and the discussions that go on here - maybe some of them will turn up here..! of course we talked about many of the same things we discuss here - such as the ethnic divisions in masaajid (ok, is THAT the right plural??) physically during prayer, and socially in interactions, as well as the question of how best to integrate those who choose islam rather than are born into it. one brother from the LA area told me about how he has worked within his community to try to create a "welcoming" structure, including some of the ideas i just read in this article.
|Re: When Cultures Collide|
|06/21/02 at 00:58:04|
I echo your thoughts and concerns completely!
I cannot claim to be an expert on this problem but as i see, it's a due to the enormous mistake Muslims in this country have made. Living in their arab, paki, etc social circles and thinking that true communitarism is to stick together in their ethnic communities. It was a result of the intellectual bankruptcy of muslims about their religion and its principles. Sadly
these are the notions that exist in the Muslim world, and immigrants bring them to this country, i.e. excess cultural baggage. I guess everyone has biases and it's only natural to guard your culture and nationality, but Islam elevates humanity from such stereotypes. Once somebody asked the Prophet [saw] if being proud of one's tribe or nationality is prejudice, the Prophet Muhammad [saw] replied that it is prejudice if you oppress someone due to that pride. Islam recognizes the unique cultural and tribal characteristics everyone has, but on the grander scale, it is and should be a non-issue.
I was reading 'forgotten roots' an excellent book comprising essays on African American History, and sidi hamza yusuf in his article quotes an incident which gives us an insight that inspite of the unparalleled brotherhood forged by Prophet Muhammad [saw] , there are always people who carry their cultural biases into Islam and even have the audacity to express it.
"When three companions of the Prophet Muhammad [saw], all former slaves, Bilal from Africa, Suhayb from Europe and Salman al-Farisi from Persia, were invited to a party, a hypocrite objected as they were not "Arab." The Prophet [saw] arose and, with the power of one in Divine presence, spoke these words: "Your father is Adam and your mother is Eve, and all of you are from dust. There is no man who is an Arab from his father or his mother, but Arabic is a tongue, and whoever speaks it is an Arab."
Forgotten Roots, page 28
This is an amazing incident to ponder on. It shatters the myth of superiority , all the notions like 'bell curve' that are ought to prove the inferiority of others.
We can go on and on to prove the egalitarian nature of islam but it should go beyond the passionate speeches emanating from the masajid or lectures. Now how can Muslims create such a community of first believers in this country?. This should be the concern of Muslims living in the west. I strongly feel that the issue of seclusion of reverts from immigrant cultures is a direct reflection of the inability of Muslims to develop the concept of an 'American Muslim'. All praise is due to Allah, that finally there is a growing chorus of voices in US and Europe talking about the need for an indigenous culture of Islam where Muslims do not ask an opinion from a scholar thousands of miles away living in a totally different environment. The early scholars were cognizant of the fact. Example, Imam Shafiee (May Allah have mercy on his soul), founded the science of 'Principles of Methodology' in Islam and one of the four schools of islam is named after him. When he moved from madina to egypt he revised one third of his rulings (Fatawas) becauses he realized that different nations/communities have a different way of looking at things and it is imperative to develop a local approach. The advent of Islam in India was made possible by sufis, who literally settled in India forgetting where they come from cuz they understood that the real purpose was to give life to the earth (As Allah says in Quran) and not sticking to their cultural norms!! Only when such an American Muslim community is formed, the dream of a coherent and brotherly community can be realized. I would highly recommend to you and everyone to read Tariq Ramadan's thoughts. I personally feel that he and scholars like Imam Zaid can contribute towards this goal which will only strengthen the Muslims in general but also help this world to be a better place. Ofcourse this will require us muslims to first accept that we have to drastically adapt to new realities and conditions which does not mean that we forget who we are? but we just have to answer the the question 'where are we?' in the light of realities of this part of the world.
mwishka, read dr tariq ramadan's interview and you can get to know the discourse going on across the channel but it certainly has the same lessons on this side of the channel. I am pretty confident that God Willing these thoughts will propel the Muslims in the west to get out of the mental impasse we are in. This really is an excellent article!!
(i did not post this interview before cuz it could have broken the madina rules)
Also if you get a chance , read his two books
1. To be a European Muslim
2. Islam, the West and the challenges of Modernity
i am also posting some of his other thoughts in this thread for the benefit of everyone!
mwishka, You can borrow these books from me if you wanna read! no problem:) free shipping..lol
Another good voice is Shaykh Rashid al Ghanuchi. Read his thoughts in the article i am posting in this thread.
Alhumdulillah, There is no hope lost and you can see the difference in the second generation of young Muslims in this country. They have vowed to change and they are doing amazing work and hopefully it will bridge the gap rendered by cultural biases and forge a community that can have no problem assimilating reverts. After all we all have to revert to Allah the Almighty, where there will be no seclusion!
Insha'Allah if the younger generation of Muslims in this country keeps the balance between soul and body, i am really excited at the possibility of them leading the Muslim world out of the dismal abyss. Muslim Spain led this world out of the dark ages!! and gave life to the earth so why can't Muslims in the west?
I apologize for going off on a tangent but i feel that the problem can only be solved by looking at the bigger picture. Rumi has an awesome story on looking at the bigger picture. Insha'Allah if we move to work on setting our priorities straight, it will help us get rid of our problems.
A mule said to a camel, "Good friend, in the hill and valley and on difficult paths you do not fall on your head but go happily along, while I tumble on my head, like one who has lost his way. At every moment I fall on my face, whether in a dry or in a wet place. Tell me what causes this, so that I may know how to live."
The camel said, " My sight is clearer than yours; furthermore, I also look from higher up. When I arrive at the top of a high hill, I look attentively towards the end of way in front of me. Then too Allah shows me all the low and high parts of the way, and so I take every step with clear sight and am saved from tripping and falling. However, you do not see even as much as two or three steps in front of you; you see the bait put in the trap to catch the wild animal and you desire it, but you do not see the pain of being caught in the trap to catch the wild animal and you desire it, but you do not see the pain of being caught in the trap. Are the blind and those who see equal (Surah Rad, Quran) in your opinion, in their living in a place and their touching down and in their travelling.
Everything good comes from Allah and everything bad comes from the devil. I ask forgiveness from Allah! There are a lot more learned ppl on this board and insha'allah they can help us
|06/21/02 at 00:59:53|
|Re: When Cultures Collide|
|06/21/02 at 01:00:45|
|Islamic Movements Self-Criticism and Reconsideration|
By Shaykh Rashid al Ghanuchi
Head of the Al-Nahda Islamic movement of Tunis
Looking at the Islamic revival worldwide today - a revival aiming to rebuild the individual and society and recompose the nation's thought and politics based on Islam - we find it making progress. It is making victories that no other ideology is making in today's world.
The progress is not limited to the idea, because the idea itself is improving. The Islamic movement has been able to discover new areas of Islam, and the discoveries continue along the path forged by men of the last century like Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and continued by men like Hasan al-Banna and Abu Al-A'la al-Maududi. The ideas of these men gave birth to modern Islamic movements which rediscovered the Islamic basis upon which to build life. Islam is not a group of individual beliefs, rituals, or mannerisms.
It is a comprehensive way of life. Islam was around before the modern Islamic movement, but it had been thought of as a preparation for one to get to heaven, not a system to mold society.
Today Islam is progressing forcefully while secularism is falling rapidly. While Islam attracts people who are looking for justice, secularism is loosing major footholds and has lost its ability to defend itself except by violence. When you see a secular state using more and more violence, know that it is bankrupt. The secular state has lost its legitimacy. Instead of being based on popular support, these states are based on international support and on violence. Meanwhile, Islam is progressing vertically and horizontally. Its idea deepens daily while spreading from fields such as politics and economics to art, human resource development (including women), and institution-building. Despite this remarkable progress, however, I must make some negative remarks, emphasize some shortcomings in the performance of the Islamic movement, and warn against some pitfalls, because we cannot always focus on the positive side of things.
One of the elements of repentance is reconsideration. We must reconsider our actions every day. Are we really on the truth path, or can we be described by the Qur'anic verse: "We found our forefathers doing something and here we are doing the same" (Zukhruf: 23). This verse was intended to describe the polytheists, but Muslims should learn to understand the meaning of continuous evaluation. So repentance is not something limited to our relationship to God; it includes reconsideration of the self at every step in life. This is why self-criticism is so important. The Prophet (PBUH) says, "Hold yourself accountable before you are held accountable."
It is imperative that every movement correct its performance. It should ask: is our plan fulfilled? Why were we late in fulfilling it? What can we do to avoid delays next time? If a movement has 20 members in the parliament in one election, and five in the next, shouldn't it ask why? If the state has conspired against us, why and how? Such a movement should not get angry because we ask that it re-evaluate itself. We have performed such re-evaluations in our movement, and were able to put our finger on a number of mistakes that we made in dealing with the regime in our country.
What I am proposing is a group of comments that have a lot of room for personal interpretation. Some might agree, disagree, or partially disagree.
My first comment is about the strategy of the Islamic movement in dealing with minorities. Muslim minorities are 45 percent of the entire world population of Muslims. They are a major value for Islam, and they are the pioneers of Islamic propagation. Either they help open the path or else they become extinct. Supporting these outlying regions must be a priority before extinction. Look at what happened in the Balkan region. In the days of the Ottomans, the spread of Islam was rapid. After the demise of the Caliphate, the Islamic presence there is like puddles of water where the sea has left, waiting to dry out.
The balance of international power is not on the side of these minorities. They should not have to over-extend their resources and carry the burden of Islamic governance. This is a role for the countries with a Muslim majority. If these Muslim minorities adopt the ideas of Islamic governance laid out by Sayyed Qutb and others at this point, they will have signed their own death warrant. The role I suggest for Muslim minorities is to reinforce the Islamic presence in the countries they live in. There is a big difference between maintaining a presence and working to establish an Islamic government. The most a minority can hope for is participation in politics. In fact, their entry into the realm of politics is sometimes a major reason for the attention minorities get. So they better focus on social work. Politics is a grinding arena. The race for government is the race for wealth and influence.
Sometimes we find Muslim minorities asking for independence or a separate state. Of course this is allowed from a legal point of view, but in reality it must not be allowed. We can ask: is the quest for independence necessary? Or can we accept a lesser arrangement, like self-rule, in preparation for the return to Islam? This goes for the Chechnyans, where the Muslim minority is demanding independence from Russia. Russia is a decaying empire; Islam can get to it in time. So why should we prevent that by splitting from it especially if independence is simply not viable and would lead to the annihilation of the Muslim minority? Also, the incessant demand for independence might damage the relationship between the Muslim world and the nation that the Muslim minority wants independence from. If the Muslim minority in China adopts the demand for independence one day, and the Muslims find an interest in allying with China against some mutual enemy, the Muslims will be faced with a major dilemma.
The Islamic nation has an interest in not picking fights with China, India, or even Yugoslavia these days. Wherever Muslim minorities can live safely, and practice their religious rites freely, independence is not necessary. In fact, the pursuit of independence could be deadly. Generally speaking, Muslim minorities are not requested to govern the countries they live in by Islam, nor to think about independence, because this will lead to their genocide and put the entire Islamic nation's interests in danger.
The second comment is about priorities. Is our priority social work or reaching power? These two items might not be mutually exclusive - Islam wants to Islamize politics and society simultaneously - but if the interests of social missionary work (da`wah) contradicts political interests, the social interests must be put before anything else. It has been proven that what is achieved socially is more permanent and better than what is achieved politically. Modern experience has taught us that things achieved through the state are quick but short-lived, because they depend on force. But what is done through social activity lasts, because it depends on persuasion. Humans do not like to be forced. The Makkans offered Muhammad (PBUH) the government but he refused it, preferring instead to establish his calling.
The Islamic movement must not have the government as its first priority. Takeover of government should not be the biggest achievement possible. A bigger achievement would be if the people would love Islam and its leaders. Our entire activity is based on the Islamic state of `Umar Ibn `Abdul `Aziz, which lasted only for two years, and the Guided Caliphate before him. Who remembers anything from the Umayyad or Abbassid caliphates? `Umar Ibn `Abdul `Aziz was a beacon because he renewed the prophetic form of government. The issue is not how long you governed, but what you did. The years of `Umar left a long-lasting effect in the hearts of Muslims for the rest of history. The most dangerous thing is for the Islamists to be loved by the people before they get to power and then hated afterward.
The third comment deals with civil society. The Islamic movement should be keen on developing and strengthening civil society even after the state is established. Even the Islamic state doesn't have control over everything under it. Government is a small part of the institutions of civil society. It is there to support and strengthen society. There must be more institutions of civil society, enough so that the people don't need the state. The Islamic movement must return power to the society through grassroots institutions. These institutions must be led by elected officials.
There shouldn't be institutions exclusively for Islamists. It's better to have nationwide institutions where everyone competes for their leadership. It is a waste of time to have a leftist student organization, an Islamic student organization, etc. The Islamic movement should not be an excuse to divide the people. All are Muslims, but the Islam of some needs a little rejuvenation. Even the idea of Islamic parties should be given up. While the word "Islamic" usually is prohibited for political reasons from being in the name of Islamic parties, that might actually be a blessing. Any party that the Islamists participate in must be an open, national party.
The fourth comment is on the current conflict between the Islamic movement and the secular state. The movement is being subjected to horrific amounts of violence and suppression. The question is: how should the movement respond to oppression by the secular state? Is state violence a justification for popular violence? There are many religious replies to this question; most do not condone violence against a government that calls itself Islamic. Pragmatically speaking, however, all of the episodes where Islamists responded violently to state violence have been negative. Popular violence, whether Islamic or otherwise, has not been able to damage any regime's standing. Leftists and Islamists have carried out violence, and it has led to nothing but disaster, as in Syria.
The Islamic movement must abide by peaceful methods. It must refuse all forms of military activity. This is the lesson we can learn from the Rafah Party in Turkey. The achievements of the Islamic movement were confiscated more than once by the military. Had the Islamists called for revolution against the army, it would have been utter stupidity and it would have been a catastrophe. Today the Islamic movement in Egypt suffers from hard times, but its leaders refuse to be misled into violence. These regimes want the Islamists to enter the fighting arena, because the government has more resources. Violence is what these regimes specialize in, and they are rather creative at it. The arena of the Islamists is thought, and that is where the rulers are bankrupt. We should not be pulled into a field where they will surely win.
The fifth comment deals with democracy. Many Islamists associate democracy with foreign intervention and non-belief. But democracy is a set of mechanisms to guarantee freedom of thought and assembly and peaceful competition for governmental authority through ballot boxes. The Islamic movement's negative attitude toward democracy is holding it back. We have no modern experience in Islamic activity that can replace democracy. The Islamization of democracy is the closest thing to implementing Shura (consultation). Those who reject this thought have not produced anything different than the one-party system of rule.
The Islamists have two examples: Iran and Sudan. Both are searching for identity, searching for a modern Islamic form of government. We have no modern example for implementing Islamic government. The uneducated think that the Islamic program is a ready-made entity: stick it on the ground and implement it. I don't see any choice before us but to adapt the democratic idea. It might even be dangerous to ignore democracy. Even more dangerous is for the Islamic movement to reach a state where either it remains in power or it dissipates. The movement's options must be open to guarantee its existence. The ones who can gain the most from democracy are the Muslims; they should be the most keen for it. They might come to power whenever free elections are held. The secularists are in the minority these days. They are the ones who have problems with democracy. They are preventing democracy in the Islamic world, because they would lose.
The Islamic mind must adjust until it sees things in their real light. America, the Zionists, and the secularists are the ones afraid of democracy in the Islamic world. So why do you, brother in Islam, share this fear with them? Why are you helping them destroy this beautiful thought?
The Islamists must realize that, despite the achievements of the Islamic movement, the balance of power is simply not in their favor. The balance is in the secularists' favor. Governance might be something the Islamic movement cannot do alone. Maybe the better option is to participate in government as long as the balance of power is what it is. This would maintain the achievements that the movement has gained over time. Governing single-handedly would put the Islamists in the spotlight, and then isolation. Rather, they must open up to all the political forces and forge alliances with all national parties. Islam is facing the threat of Zionism. The Islamists must be looking for common ground to establish a dialogue with the national forces, even Western non-xenophobic streams of thought, to face the Zionist threat together. The Zionist threat is endangering the Islamic nation and the world, and is a threat to values, family and religion. It aims to get rid of everything good about humanity.
We must work to lessen the conflicts between the Islamic trend and other political trends in the Muslim world. May God help us.
"If anyone fears God, He will find him a way out for him that he never thought possible. If one trusts God, He will be enough for him" (Talaq: 2-3).
Such promises must remain in our souls, and in the souls of the generations to come. The sun of Islam will shine the world over.
But we must affirm the need to educate ourselves in Islam, fear God, observe the prayers, read Qur'an, and find time to feel God in our everyday lives. We must believe that, without God's presence, we cannot change any balance of power. "And God will have His way, but most people do not believe" (Yusuf: 21).
Shaykh Rashid al Ghanuchi is head of the Al-Nahda Islamic movement of Tunis and is one of the most important Islamic thinkers today. After obtaining political asylum, he has resided in Britain. He is considered one of the more pragmatic Islamic leaders and supporters of coexistence and cooperation among cultures.
|Re: When Cultures Collide|
|06/21/02 at 01:02:34|
|Muslim Philosopher Addresses Islam and the West |
Publishing Date 4/6/2002
CHICAGO, April 6, (Islamonline) - Islam is not a monolithic faith but a dynamic one and Muslims must take from the West those values that do not contradict Islam, asserted eminent Muslim philosopher and author Tariq Ramadan speaking at a public lecture at the Field Museum of Chicago Thursday night. Ramadan, grandson of Hasan Al Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, dismissed the idea that a singular model should be applicable through out the world's Muslim communities. "Models have to change but principles remain the same. We have to be intellectually creative and innovative. If we see in the American model something that is good, then we should accept it as our own. Prophet Muhammad [SAW] accepted everything that was good," he said in his lecture titled ‘Islam and the West’. He stressed the need for ijtihad (seeking knowledge) among Muslims and said that education is the key to Muslims' problems. He stated that over the last fifteen years, many Islamic scholars have applied ijtihad and have come up with new answers on questions like voting, political participation and civic responsibilities in the West, stating that eventually this will be very helpful in the future of Muslim communities. Ramadan urged non-Muslims not to categorize Muslims in only two groups: moderates and fundamentalists. “How could you say that about Muslims? The Muslim world is very complex and diverse. We should be more precise in our definitions," Ramadan asked. He opined that what is happening to Muslims in the West would eventually help Muslims in countries where they are majority populations. He said that his book, "To be a European Muslim," has been translated in several languages of the Islamic world including Arabic and Indonesian. "In the past Western Muslims were taking help from others but now it is the other way around." he said. Ramadan pointed out that learning about American and European history is also a part of Islamic education but that Muslims have thus far ignored seeking such knowledge. "We have to know about the system that we are living in. It's constitution, civics, morals and values. We have to learn about the new environment, in order to promote mutual understanding," Ramadan said. He also went on to say that among the problems in the Muslim communities, a major dilemma comes from national and ethnic traditions. He gave the example of last year’s conventions of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) (attended by a large number of those belonging to immigrant community) and that of the Muslim American Society (MAS) (primarily attended by African-Americans). The two conventions took place over the same weekend, in the same city and yet in different locations. "African-Americans are not respected as they should be respected. There is a bourgeoisie among the Muslims, which looks down upon others. This is a problem," he said. There is a lack of self-criticism among Muslims, Ramadan said. "It is our dignity not to accept everything in the name of Islam." He urged the Muslims to break free from the “ghetto mentality” and interact with other communities. He also called on Muslim organizations in the West to be economically self reliant and not to be dependent on funds from foreign countries. He said that there is no contradiction between being a Muslim and a European or an American. "Don't ask me to be a less Muslim to be a good Swiss," said Ramadan, who holds Swiss nationality. Ramadan said that America is seen as an enemy in the Muslim world because those countries perceive America as a country that only looks after its own self interests and ignores the needs of others. He hoped that America and the West would be a voice for the voiceless and promote freedom of speech and justice all over the World. "This is the only way to please God," he said. Ramadan's speech was the second in a series organized by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. Rashid Khalidi from the University of Chicago and Oleg Grabar from Princeton University are scheduled to speak on April 30 and May 14 respectively.
|Re: When Cultures Collide|
|06/23/02 at 12:27:03|
|Dear Ahmer, |
I keep returning to your posts, trying to decide whether or not to respond...I fear to do so, as I do not want to cause offense to my hosts by having my meaning misconstrued. At the same time, I feel that they need to be reminded of the importance of their services to those such as myself. So... with your kind indulgence, I will continue;... however, I will try to be as brief as possible, and perhaps I will not get myself into too much trouble.
Sir, I am very pleased that you posted these articles. At times I begin to feel alone in my thoughts,...and then I read something like that which you have posted above, and I feel a bit of relief.
I have mentioned this before, however, I suppose it bears repeating: I too feel somewhat like a misfit. I live in the heart of the Bible Belt (think of it...) and have found most of the folks here to be surprisingly intolerant ( of just about ANYTHING that is different from their belief systems.) My remaining family members will have little to do with me. ( My dear departed father had no issue with my inclinations...in fact, I suspect that the way in which he raised me was deeply influenced by precepts he absorbed during his many years spent in the Middle East and northern Africa.) The people with whom I work are very unkind and can make things very difficult. This community does not want me, and I cannot be an active member of the Muslim community. Then there is the added misfortune of being a single female ( not divorced, but celibate.)
I have been asked, "Why don't you move to a place that would be more hospitable?"
"Where," I wonder? And shall I quit my job, sell my townhouse, pick up and move to a place (anyplace?) where I will be just as much of an outcast as I am here (in North Carolina?) I think not.
What is my option? To go through my day as best I can and try to treat others as I would wish to be treated. Then, at the end of the day, I can come here...to this on-line community (and others like it,) and find some comfort. I have "met" some really fine people and my hosts here have been very tolerant and most helpful to me in answering my queries and directing my paths of learning.I realize that in the "real world" they could probably have little to do with me (I am the MASTER of the "faux-pas,") nevertheless, while I am HERE, I can have the illusion of acceptance.
For some of us, that will have to suffice. However, I am easy enough to contend with, and find myself to be rather well-contented.
With kind regards,
|06/23/02 at 12:29:54|
|Re: When Cultures Collide|
|06/23/02 at 16:27:27|
i have one question comment now, more later.
but, first --- sis addison, i want to reply to some of the things you said.
you say that you can't participate in your local muslim community. do you mean because you are not muslim, or because you are not accepted there? if the former, i'd suggest that you try what i do, which is to just try to make friends with muslims around you, and try to spend time with them and discuss things with them. there are limits to this, of course, since as non-muslims we are also considered to be bad influences, and you might find yourself feeling yet another level of exclusion. BUT, i'm sure that if you, as you seem to imply, have experienced the american life i have, of not fitting in anywhere with any group at any time (for me, right back to elementary school, but what would you expect of a tiny child who can't find god and fears infinity?? hee heee) because social "groups" of every type get so stuck in their own identities that they all indulge in so much of g.w. bush's "you're with us or you're with them" mentality, that you have enough strength of character to handle this at least partially, to the extent that you will be able to derive benefit from your personal associations, no matter what limits are placed on them. (of course, i consider sentiments like bush's to be indicative of illness, which can even become terminal, but that's a, um different line of thought... ;))
if you can find just one or two members of your muslim community there with whom you can establish some rapport, make them feel welcome in your life. show them that you appreciate their example, and spend time trying to learn from them. chances are they will invite you to participate in certain types of community events, which you should take advantage of whenever possible. but be prepared for bad reactions from some people. (i won't tell my bad experiences here, but know that they can happen, and if they do, don't take it personally.) just let yourself focus on the best muslims around you, the ones whose character so clearly shows in their words and actions - you'll see it on their faces, even.
ahmer, my comment:
Now, as a citizen, I have to ask myself: what could I take from the culture I live in, but also from my sources, which can help me to be a true citizen? My loyalty to my country must be genuine -- this is
why I am coming back to my sources, and taking elements or values, which are universal.
Let me give you an example that applies three principles. When I have to vote for someone, am I going to say that I am going to vote for the Muslim only? Or only the one who is telling me, "I am going to
give you a mosque, or some advantages"? Or should I vote for the one who holds universal values, which are consistent with my Muslim values and at the same time can help our common society? We have
three very important values, or principles, that are our references.
First, I have to vote for the more competent man or woman. Competence is a specific feature. I am not going to vote for you just because you are a Muslim, I want you to be competent.
Second point: intellectual probity. Honesty. Integrity. That is important for me. If I'm supporting you, I want you to be upright.
The third principle, is that I want you to work. I want you not to forget about the people for five years, and then come back asking me for a new vote. I want you to be active at the grassroots level, and to
serve the people who elected you. This is your duty.
though this is written specifically about voting, i think the first point above is critical throughout many aspects of our lives. we shouldn't let ourselves fall into blind allegiances in any context. and i think the second point is sort of the only one that matters......in the sense that if #2 is true, #3 and #4 should follow, and you will hope with your heart that any person's muslim identity is so intertwined with #2 that none of the negative points raised here would even be a question for a split second.
of course, my mind immediately jumps to an emotional sense of concern that we not abandon any muslim (see, there i go with that "we" again... ok, so.....you all are looking to me like a community based on great honor and integrity. if this is true, what other community would i call "we"? just indulge me on this, i guess i'll ask...) any person who seems to have fallen into a place where they need help should be given help - i know that's sort of a dumb statement, and so obvious, but i have also read some comments here that the most important thing to do is to focus on one's own efforts to reach heaven and ignore all else. i can't relate to that - back to "deny me heaven if i worship only to seek reward in order to get there" idea... (yeah yeah i could look it up - she was much more succinct in her wording...).
(i apologize for what i think is a sort of incoherent sense to this --- can't quite focus to write but didn't want to wait forever to reply here...)
|06/23/02 at 19:37:01|
|Re: When Cultures Collide|
|06/23/02 at 18:20:37|
Thank you for taking the time to respond...I apologize for the confusion...The trouble with brevity is that one often does not explain oneself fully.
Muslim community...Om....Baptists, Catholics, Pentecostals, Methodists, Presbyterians, Holiness, Mormons, Jehova's witness, Jews,...and one swingin' church o' faith that uses poison snakes in their services...Not a HUGE community of Muslims here...
The nearest mosque is the Ibad-ar-Rahman in Durham...Certainly not local by any means...However, this is not the issue. ( And now I shall further humiliate myself...) I think my biggest problem is that since I am not Muslim, I do not know exactly how to approach the situation of seeking others out without looking as if I am being too,..."forward." ( I think you get my meaning...) Have you any suggestions?? Bear in mind that given a platform I am well able to deliver in the most convincing and aggressive manner. However, on a personal level, I am about as timid and unassuming an individual as one will ever know. Seminars I can do... it's what I'm trained for..."Chatting people up" on the side scares me to death... !!
Don't even get me started on Bush...My blood pressure is 90/60 and I'd like to keep it there...
Again, Mwishka, I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me and certainly I would entertain any additional input from you or anyone else for that matter...
With my respects,
|Re: When Cultures Collide|
|06/23/02 at 20:34:29|
|first, for sis addison,|
hmmm....well, i guess i have an advantage in being in school right now, so there are muslim student organizations i can go to. and there's even a muslim women's association at my school now, so i have, um, "resources" to meet people in non-threatening ways. ( :D i can relate to the public versus private - you want me to give a talk about proteins? no problem. you want me to walk into a room of 150 - or even 50 - people all of whom are strangers to me and go make friends? --- ha! that i find tremendously more challenging. i'm kind of a cross between noisy in my opinions but also pretty shy...)
um, without going too far away from the topic here, perhaps there's someone here on the board who's in your geographic area who could help you out. (sounds like maybe winston-salem area??) now that you're using the internet more, maybe you could search for the muslim students' association at the school closest to you who would hopefully be very open to helping you out and giving you direction, and putting you in touch with the muslim community members nearest to where you are. maybe you could find out about programs and lectures, or classes, at schools or mosques closest to you that you could attend. good luck with it! feel free to write to me if i there're other things you think i might be able to help you with.
Looking at the Islamic revival worldwide today - a revival aiming to rebuild the individual and society and recompose the nation's thought and politics based on Islam - we find it
making progress. It is making victories that no other ideology is making in today's world.
It is a comprehensive way of life. Islam was around before the modern Islamic movement, but it had been thought of as a preparation for one to get to heaven, not a system to
i see disagreement right here at this board about whether our own path to heaven should be our overriding concern. the way i see life, if you're not reaching out to every person you meet with some gesture of respect and greeting and human feeling, it doesn't matter what else you do in any second of your life, because you're negating a sense of community on all levels. you can then go be somebody well-known, or somebody popular, or somebody knowledgable, but if you do all that - whatever it is - for yourself, you're a deadend in humanity's advancement. (this view of what's important in the world is, though i've been warned by friends that there aren't too many muslims who can hear this, the catholic view of the world, which is what i did gain from my upbringin. the high value placed on dignity for humanity in general and desire for humility by the individual is a value shared by catholics and muslims. i know, i know most muslims know little about catholicism other than the priesthood and the inquisition... i know some people don't even recognize "catholic" as a word whose definition means "universal", as in common to all. a catholic view of a subject has nothing to do with roman catholicism, the religion, it means a view which can be applied to humanity in general, such as the view of the inherent indisputable dignity of all people.)
second, a clarification needed:
My first comment is about the strategy of the Islamic movement in dealing with minorities. Muslim minorities are 45 percent of the entire world population of Muslims. They are
a major value for Islam, and they are the pioneers of Islamic propagation. Either they help open the path or else they become extinct. Supporting these outlying regions must be a
priority before extinction.
is this common language usage? muslim minorities as i would use that term would mean people like the ismailis in the high mountains of afghanistan. this doesn't refer to minorities in that way at all? just to countries in which muslims are a munerical minority in the population?
(the reason i'm asking is that i have a lot of concern about the way muslim minorities - as i use the term - are excluded from communities, much as those who came to islam are excluded.
Is our priority social work or reaching power? These two items might not be mutually exclusive - Islam wants to Islamize politics and
society simultaneously - but if the interests of social missionary work (da`wah) contradicts political interests, the social interests must be put before anything else. It has been
proven that what is achieved socially is more permanent and better than what is achieved politically. Modern experience has taught us that things achieved through the state are
quick but short-lived, because they depend on force. But what is done through social activity lasts, because it depends on persuasion.
ok, this is a critical issue to any people anywhere working for what is really called "social change", though that term is so overused and abused that it almost has no meaning now, except as some sort of way to categorize people's political beliefs. ( < nearly a contradiction, as you can see by the way social work and political work has been clearly differentiated in this article.)
i absolutely agree that social changes are the only ones that last. they're slower to come about, often only emerging after many many decades of changing-revolving political scenarios. however, i disagree strongly with th use of the word persuasion, which implies a sense of forced change, that someone won and someone lost - that one view was better and someone (the winner) "convinced" the other one to join their "side". this, to me, falls into the category of "political" change, choosing the winner's side, because of perceived selfish advantages. that's not at all what i would define as social change, of either a desirable or undesirable tyep. that kind of change is something that comes to people slowly, as they see examples of the benefits of the change, and the changes in their minds usually occur slowly also, as each new and often very tiny example remains with them, allowing them to build FOR THEMSELVES a new system of belief. rapid conversions in thought are most commonly not lasting, and based on unrealistic idealized versions of whatever the change is about.
um, ok, have to get out of here...
maybe more later.
|Re: When Cultures Collide|
|06/23/02 at 21:43:49|
thank you again for your response! I'm guessing that you also have the advantage of being much younger than I am, if you are still in school...! (Have I been away from the atmosphere of acedemia so long that I have forgotten how much it can offer? Apparently!! Thanks for that much needed slap in the face!) You have offered some stellar ideas!!
Yes,...my public vs. private are so diametrcally opposed that I sometimes feel like two entirely different people! Still it is of some comfort to know that others might feel the same anxiety when put into certain social situations...
Mwishka, I really appreciate your help and your willingness to offer it.
With kind regards,
|Re: When Cultures Collide|
|06/24/02 at 18:32:15|
Muslims get very happy when people ask us about our faith. It show they are interested in Islam.
Surah 110. Succour, Divine Support
1. When comes the Help of Allah, and Victory,
2. And thou dost see the people enter Allah's Religion in crowds,
3. Celebrate the praises of thy Lord, and pray for His Forgiveness: For He is Oft-Returning (in Grace and Mercy).
If you feel shy about asking ,you could call the mosque before going there,perhaps they have some days where they teach non-muslims about Islam. . Some sisters there might be happy to help you learn.
Read the "The Treatment To Be Given To Souls And The Reform of Vicious Characters" by Imam Ibn Hazm on another post, it is a good read.
|Re: When Cultures Collide|
|06/24/02 at 19:27:54|
Thank you for your response and for your advice! I shall think upon this thing and perhaps after some consideration I shall be able to summon the courage to do just as you have suggested...
Now, concerning this post which you mentioned, I shall attempt to search it out, however, if I am not successful in my venture, it is possible that I might return to you for directions!
Thank you again for your time,
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