The World Of Islam Muslims are the bridge of cultural pluralism

Editorial by Riaz A. Siddiqui, Khaleej Times Online, 13 August 2004

SINCE the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, indifference to Islam in the West has first turned to disdain, then to suspicion and more recently to hostility. Most recently, amid rising concern about immigration in general, Muslims had to be contended with the charge that aspects of their religion are fundamentally at odds with the liberal democratic values of the West.

Nevertheless there is no sign of lessening the Muslims' influence or Islam's impact at the global level. One fifth of humanity is Muslim, living across 57 countries of the world. Millions of Muslims live in the West. 1.3 million in Britain, 3.2 million in Germany, 4.2 million in France and Islam is the fastest growing religion in the United States.

Individual Muslims flourish in the Western societies, be they owners of the cornershops, the prosperous tycoon, the eminent researchers and academics. All work hard, hold strict family values and commit no crimes. Muslims in the Western countries are 'model citizens' who always try to integrate with the societies of the land where they live. They are law abiding citizens and are always in quest of a big role.

Islam does, of course, impose some obligations on the Muslims wherever they may be which they try to adhere to without causing annoyance to the peoples of other faiths. Extremism and extremists are condemned by Muslims of the West with the same intensity as they are looked down by all the peace loving and enlightened citizens of the world.

Muslims are more than forthcoming and are willingly participating in the dialogues with other religious entities as Islam firmly promotes and encourages pluralism, be it cultural pluralism, political or religious pluralism and dialogue of cultures calls for pluralism and synthesis. Muslims living in the West have had an opportunity to so many cultures which provide a wide scope for religious tolerance. Ways of life differ amongst each other in various matters because they relate to identities that cover both private and public lives and Islam is always open to learning and teaching anything positive and constructive for any society.

Further, Islam defines tolerance as harmony in difference and what we ought to seek is harmony of the differing cultures. Antagonists of Islam also should know that clashes and conflicts result from one side aiming to monopolise power and influence thus alienating the other. Our aim ought to be the development of meaningful and active tolerance amongst the different ways of lives and through this we can promote peace on all levels, local, regional and global.

From the time immemorial there has been an unsuccessful endeavour to make a universal religion, but it does point to coexistence of peoples with different faith. Western governments should realise that Muslim world is virtually at the centre stage rather constitutes the centre of gravity of the global politics hence entitled to present their own vision. The talk of clash and hate campaign have no relevance in any religion. The internal stability and economic well-being of the Muslims is inextricably linked to the global prosperity. Non-Muslim regimes must know that Muslims have an equal place in Western societies alongside the people of other religions.

And Muslims must show that they can organise their clergy and places of worship from within their own material and intellectual resources.

The West should treat Muslims as citizens with full rights and responsibilities as a strong bridge for the cultural pluralism.