Muslims and the Issue of Modernity





   Muslims and the Issue of Modernity


The contemporary world of Middle East offers a geography of sociopolitical conflicts. One problem that the Muslim community with democracy and modernization seems to be the lack of guidance or leadership in matters such as how to handle individual freedom when it is not defined in the Sharia. Even the most progressive of Muslim states seem far from ready to discuss certain issues relating to liberty in the West, namely LGBT rights.
Our class discussions have thought me that the road to constitution is/has been different for Islamic nations than it was for the West for philosophical reasons. While Mechanical philosophy in the West produced the idea ‘‘Matter is brute, inert and even stupid’, Quaran states even matter has consciousness and worships Allah. Again, British philosopher’s Hobbes’ idea that ‘Morality and ethics must rest on objective laws made by humans’ contradicts the Islamic understanding that laws come from the book of Allah and already serve a moral purpose. (Mahallati, September 30)
What appears to make the difference between Muslim states on their way to a liberal state and those struggling is the transition from borderline Islamic Politics to democratic Islam. The Ennahda Party in Tunisia is an accurate example of a state in the Middle East that looks determined in their march toward the establishment of democratic institutions.
An analysis of the trends of Muslims’ responses to the crises of modernity would not be accurate without inspecting Muslims’ view of the Western community. Our discussions in class and what I have learned from our readings-Stephen Zune’s ‘How the U.S. Contributed to Yemen’s Crisis’ led me to research more about the subject. While there is a plethora of discussion as to the causes of Anti-Americanism in the Muslim world and global population overall, academicians like Amaney A. Jamal, Robert O. Keohane, David Romney, and Dustin Tingley argue that Muslim outrage/hatred toward The US government and the West usually rises as a result of tangible attacks toward their dignity such as other states meddling in their own politics, elections, stability as well as military attacks and presence such as in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria. The four writers, in their work ‘Anti-Americanism and Anti-Interventionism in Arabic Twitter Discourses’ analyze Muslim community’s reaction to the publication of the controversial film ‘Innocence of Muslims’ and conclude that Muslims do not argue the American society’s hatred of Mulims motivates these productions, nor do they say that there is a war of culture between the two nations. Rather, they feel they are the victims of recent neo-liberal and imperialist policies and action against this inequity is needed.
Western intervention in Muslim societies was a prominent topic in our class discussions as well. US-influenced Saudi Arabia’s pressure on Yemen and the US involvement in the coup in Egypt prove that Western powers’ political interests in countries with oil often lead to military presence. Zune points to discrepancies and immoral actions taken by troops trained by the US Army in Yemen, some of his claims suggesting that the US-backed Yemen government is utilising soldiers trained to combat Al-Qaida quenching riots and violating the rights of protestors. Clearly, the intervention and disturbance do not help better Muslims’ view of the West, especially as Islamic history has been a history of military defeat for at least three centuries; and incessant territorial conflicts and the US’ backing of Israel arguably preclude Middle Eastern Muslim communities from embracing a peaceful, diplomatic tone. (Mahallati, September 26) All of this added to the fact that Syria was left in a chaotic, disfunctioning state after Western intervention, Muslim responses to the West and its ways could be called hostile at times- perhaps with good reasoning. The situation does not seem to differ when it comes to the war-ridden Algeria.
It can also be argued that Egyptian not-so-successful search for identity after thousands of years of colonial rule had weakened unity among the public, resulting in civil war. Jamal Abdel Nasser was the first Egyptian president in search of a ‘universal identity’.
Similarly, it is apparent that the Moroccon response to modernity was one that called for change, and it wasn’t to be stopped by even the monarchial regime itself. The King’s power was clearly curbed as after the reforms during the Arab Spring in Morocco.
Therefore, as Hallaq argues, Muslim responses to the crises of modernity stem from a variety of factors. Apart from constant intrusion and attempts of oppression by the West, the modern state in the muslim nations is inadequate to resolve the problem of having an institutional system where Muslims can ‘live as Muslims’. Hallaq points to the Umma’s dissatisfaction and demand for an acceptable and stable form of Shari’a governance that they can rely on. On the other hand, it is not ignored that the state and the ulama are still seen as two pillars of Islamic governance that should rule with the guidance of Shari’a, the rule of Allah.
Considering all of these aspects, intense and at times violent responses by the Muslims to modernity as well as the cultural and physical threats it poses constitute a reaction of complex nature. However, it can be argued that Muslims have reasons to be outrageous at a number of realities that preclude the prospect of stablization and a suitable environment of politics.

I affirm that I have adhered to the Honor Code in this assignment.
Harun Kerçek

i. Amaney A. Jamal, Robert O. Keohane, David Romney, and Dustin Tingley, ‘‘Anti-Americanism and Anti-Interventionism in Arabic Twitter Discourses’’ Perspectives on Politics, 55-73

ii. Zune, How the U.S. Contributed to Yemen’s Crisis, 2

iii. Hallaq, The Impossible State, 27