A Modern Disenchantment: A Look at the Conflicting Muslim Perspective on Modernity- Alex Broekhuijse

When one examines the dynamic between the Muslim world and modernity, one views a certain disconnection. Call it a disenchantment or a dissatisfaction, the rise of western powers and cultural integration has led to a frustration with modernity for many individuals in the Muslim world. However, this frustration is not an issue directly because of religion, but instead because of the loss of culturally significant traditions that came to pass with the development of the integration between Muslim cultures and societies with the rest of the world. While older Muslim civilizations did not have to worry about the ramification of possessing a global role in the outside society, modern Muslim society must directly interact with several other cultures and see their culture integrated into those differing worlds. Specifically, interaction integration, and influence from outside civilizations represents the origin for the Muslim disenchantment with modernity, which finds its origins with conflicting cultural practices and consumerism.

Primarily one must examine the role of rising globalization in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries in the origin of Muslim dissatisfaction with the modern world. The nineteenth-century interactions between western and Muslim worlds represented a signal of centuries of political discourse and conflicts to come for the two societies. Unfortunately, Muslim countries were weaker at this time, and many culturally recieved considerable to western influence, with western media, literature, and even toys becoming rapidly more and more popular within the Muslim world 1. This, unfortunately, resulted in an uneven trade between the two societies, with the Muslim world giving out little influence to the western world, while the western world supplies considerable influence into Muslim day to day life 2. The ramifications of this leads to a feeling of disconnection for the people. As their society and culture are invaded by new ideas, concepts, and lifestyle views that they are completely not used to. When one examines dissatisfaction, it is found that dissatisfaction usually arises when individuals feel like they have had something taken from them, manipulated and diluted, and this is exactly what has been the basis for the major cultural transformations to the Muslim world that have occurred with the rise of modern globalization.

Once the globalization has been established, the cultural trade that then occurs leads to several cultural conflicts and changes, many of which leave the society with the largest change to be somewhat uncomfortable with their new reality. It was the new cultural norms introduced by heavy interactions with western civilizations that produced a divide between current Muslim society, and the society detailed within the Quran. A primary example is that of eating customs. In the Muslim world, it is customary to eat with your right hand, as it is considered an action of the prophet 3. However with the rise of western concepts within the Muslim world, the concept of eating with fork and knife was introduced, and became customary 4. This battle between what is traditional and culturally relevant, and what is brought in by new civilizations can be highlighted as a source of discomfort towards the modern world shared by many Muslim individuals.

A secondary source to the disenchantment that can be highlighted is the consumerism of foreign goods, and their rising popularity and influence within the Muslim world. When a society attempts to adapt to the new society they are interacting with, certain elements are lost. Primarily if one were to look at the development of fashion in the Muslim world throughout the nineteenth-century one will see the cultural influence that can occur through the interactions and melding of different cultures. With the rise of french involvement in the middle east, the fashion of the Muslim world was greatly impacted. This led to the adaptation of Muslim clothing to incorporate french elements, which included making the fashion generally more revealing 5. There is a similar experience for immigrants as well, as the difficulty to find food produced within the adherence of sharia law can lead to individuals limiting the amount they care about that specific aspect of their faith.This results in a distinct conflict, between what is dictated in the customs of the original culture, and those of the new culture. For individuals used to the traditional customs of a certain world, the loss of those customs in regard for new ones cannot only be frightening but also deeply unsettling. This makes the fear of modernity deeply evident, as not only does it represent change, but tossing older cultural customs aside in exchange for those of an alien culture.

If one were to search for remedies to this cultural discomfort and disenchantment wth modernity, one would find changes that while large and time-consuming, are necessary to help create a world with a role for each culture, with no one culture dominating others. Western nations, especially the united states, finds itself able to quickly popularize its own culture within other nations, especially nations that they attempt to interact with. What western nations must watch to do is to make sure that there is mutual sharing between cultures, and to preserve the culture that is being introduced to the global stage and similarly add to it with new elements. Globalization is inevitable, but the process of integration between worlds, even if they inherently conflict, can be smooth as long both cultures are promoted and mutually supported. 

1. Kenney, Jeffrey T., and Ebrahim Moosa. Islam in the Modern World. New York, NY: Routledge, 2014. Print, 281. 
2. Ibid, 282.
3. Ibid, 285.
4. Ibid, 286.
5. Ibid, 289.