Camille Backman: Community Influence on the East and West

The socio-political factors that constitute the main differences of East Asian and West Asian Muslim States include the adaptability of certain governmental structures, the impacts of several major wars, and the various leadership styles demonstrated in the respective areas. The differences include the formation of non government groups including policies developed apart from the large influences of East and West, and the influence of economic growth and the nuances of majority and minority presences in certain areas.

First, examining the influence of Communism becoming potent in the adaptations of Islam during the 20th century helps provide clarity in certain trends of East and West Asian Muslim States. The Soviet Union was an establishment ground for top down deeper involvement in government on every level. According to Khalid, “the local council that existed at every administrative level” (Khalid 65) provided the basis and creation of new political preferences sympathetic to communist ideals, while acknowledging the minorities within each state. However, the most important factor of the Soviet Union in relation to Islam was the acceptance and atmosphere of Transoxiana. Khalid demonstrates that “localizing Islam and Islamizing local traditions led communities to see themselves as innately Muslim” (Khalid 22).

This process of an organic adherence and relationship with Islam created periods of heightened confusion and tension due largely to rapidly transitioning degrees of acceptance with each new development of political structure and leadership. Rather than simply cutting the influence of Islam in the Soviet Union communities, the various levels of adaptability on each level provided fractures in acceptance and integration of these minorities. Due to this relationship, the Soviet Union influenced Islam in that practicing Islam became a matter of ethnic identity and localized tradition. Further, it is crucial to understand that this localization, and persecution based on this identity prevented the development of Islam and lead to a homogenized and family based tradition in Central Asia. This development affects both the East and the West, because it exemplifies how the spread and access to modern Islamic texts and leadership influence the adaptation and practice of Islam in differing locations.

In order to better understand some of the ways in which the East and West differ in their relationship with Islam, consider the fluctuations and variations of Islam expressed in minority and majority geographical locations provides intriguing insights into these differences. Examining the development of Muslim communities within India and the relationship to Hinduism highlights differing social developments. The pre-existing and deeply prevalent caste system already in place in India pushed the practice of Islam to a minority presence in India, unable to fully convince and convert the indigenous population. According to Char, the form of Islam most relevant and present in India was Sufism. This was due to the initial conversion process in that “change of faith involved no change in customary life or habits. Cast and old contacts remained within the new circles formed” (Char 106). This initial process exemplifies the adaptability of Islam within new cultures, and highlights the multitude of practice and purpose of Islam within evolving and differing societies. However, this initial approach did not yield entirely peaceful integration, and as discussed in class with the current Indian government consisting of a deeply Nationalist Hindu form the Muslim population in India is put at jeopardy. The current situation makes it difficult for Muslims to defend their public views, and the potential of Islam adopting a quietist stance could occur out of necessity for safety and preservation of ideals. On another note, the exchange of ideas and development of certain storytelling and art forms sprung out of the the interaction of these Hindu and Muslim communities. The reign of the Abbasids exemplifies a system of positive exchange and growth of ideas  from translations of sanskrit texts and fables. Sikand highlights the adaptability of Islam, especially the “process of ijtihad , creative reinterpretations of the faith in the light of present conditions, making a crucial distinction between the shari’ah and fiqh” (Sikand 8). This process of adaptability and existing in a pluralistic society highlight one of the differences that occurred from Islam in the East and the West.

Finally, examining the influence of economy on the society and development of government in Indonesia exemplifies a key factor in the difference between Islam in the East and West states. The conversion to Islam existed through the correspondence and Mercantile system, and the burgeoning economic growth and the unity in diversity exemplified within in Indonesia provided a natural and community focused attitude. Kersten examines the proliferation of theorists and new perspectives influenced by the development of Indonesia. In particular, a key element of this society is that “ Islamic   A key development of the cultural and societal expectations within Indonesia includes the values have been integrated into the local culture in such a way that their manifestations no longer need to be referred to as Islamic” (Kersten 156). Thus, the bulk of developments of leadership and governance have taken this deeply rooted culture into account in efforts of a theocentric to anthropocentric focus. This expression of religion focuses on the spirit of morality, and emphasizes that religion is serving humanity, thus a service and community building focus reigns supreme in the current and future developments of policy and leadership in Indonesia.

Crucial differences in East and West expression of Islam occur through fractures of sects of faith, geographical influence on majority and minority communities, and differing leadership strategies. The adaptability of Islam is demonstrated through learning to express this religion in pluralistic societies, and allowing leaders of diverse backgrounds to provide governmental structure and instruction. Finally, the influence and strength of communities within each of these areas of the world remain the most influential and potent factor of differences in socio-political development of East and West Asian Muslim areas.