Saturday, March 13, 2010

Face to Faith:

East is not always best. Muslims in the west need to find their own expression of the universal teachings of Islam.

Usama Hasan The Guardian, Saturday 13 March 2010.

One of the problems that Islam and Muslims now have in Europe is that we are often too eastern: from visibly different dress to traditional gender roles to a lack of emphasis on democracy and human rights. Eastern Islam does not sit well in the west, and is often rejected as alien and foreign. Racist individuals and groups can also easily hide their prejudice, pretending that they are upholding western values and ideals. Muslims often still speak about "Islam and the west," whereas we should be speaking about "Islam in the west."

Read the full text here


There will be an unsurprising number of people unwilling to hear what Usma Hasan is saying about the need for British Muslims to forge their own identity. This has nothing to do with whether our society is secular or not and everything to do with how we who are not Muslim understand Islam from what the haters within it say. This is exactly why he is arguing that Muslims need to articulate a different creed in the West and we have fallen into the trap of interpreting Islam from an understanding that Mr Hasan recognises needs updating.

When we discuss Sharia Law, do we do so in the knowledge that The Old Testament is also full of awful, horrific and barberous things? Christianity and Jusaism have largely had their Reformations and Enlightenments (although the Topeka Baptists and their pale immitators would give the lie to that) and view these events as anachronistic and not reflecting the realities of current religious faith. When people like Mr Hasan are encouraging Muslims to go through their Reformations and Enlightenments, which in their turn may well lead to a reappraisal of aspects of their scriptures, shouldn't we welcome that and offer encouragement?

A Western Islamic understanding could well, in its turn, begin to influence Eastern Islam as the Protestant Reformation, over a period of time, tempered much of the Catholicism of its day.

But Islam is reforming in the West, albeit slowly. While some young Muslims remain tied to the conservatism of their parent's or grandparent's villages, many have already moved away from such expressions and as they have integrated they have found a new identity that rejects the very attitudes that Usama Hasan outlines in terms of gender roles, dress codes and democracy. I have no reason to believe that this will not continue but every reason to be pessimistic that Western understandings of Islam will lag behind and be based on what the conservative remnant expresses in its behavious and attitudes.

What many people also miss is the fact that what some of us - and clearly many Muslims - believe to be a part of an Islamic identity has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with cultural add-ons.