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Are Muslims up to the challenge? - comment - Are Muslims up to the challenge?

March 04, 2008 Yilmaz Alimoglu
Community Editorial Board


The current state of Muslims is downright depressing, conflicted by internal, ideological wars, pagan nationalism and tribalism.

As Muslims, we love to blame the West and Israel for our current terrible state. This is pure denial and a convenient way of not doing much to change our situation because change for the better is difficult to achieve. Real change starts with individuals who make the choice and commitment to change. It also involves a lot of hard work and asking some serious questions.

Relative to the 15 million to 20 million-strong Jewish community worldwide, there are more than 1 billion Muslims living on this planet today; yet the Jewish community has produced many more scientists, writers, poets, musicians and statesmen than Muslims in the last 200 years and generally is a more active, productive and influential player in the global economy. Both communities continue to waste precious time, energy and resources fighting each other – bookends of the same prophetic lineage. We have fallen victim to power struggles; in the process, the weakest members of our societies end up suffering.

Ironically, between the 8th and 14th centuries in Andalusia (southern Spain and Morocco today) it was a different story. During that time, Christians, Muslims and Jews all lived together in a golden age of intellectual creativity, tolerance, respect and harmony.

Andalusia was a shining light for the world, producing great scholars like the philosopher and scientist Ibn Rushd, also known as Averroes, who some credit with being the founding father of secular thought in western Europe, and the great Islamic mystic Ibn al-Arabi. Ibn Haldun laid out the foundation for modern management, psychology and sociology. Abu al-Qasim, known in the West as Abulcasis, is regarded as the father of modern surgery.

Had Nobel Prizes existed during that era, many Muslims would have won them.

The Muslims of Andalusia were as devoted to serving humanity as they were to the study of the sciences and commerce, if not more so. They asked challenging questions and worked hard to find reasonable answers using their intellect.

Media-savvy individuals claim to speak in the name of Islam or on behalf of all Muslims, but they do more harm than good, falling prey to the fame they gain from being controversial over their use of unwise words. They do an injustice to non-Muslims by creating false perceptions of Islam and play a major role in creating a prison of prejudice.

They are not Muslims by choice but by inheritance, like inheriting a piece of property. Accepting and practising Islam is against their way of life but they still claim to be Muslims. If you cannot agree with the texts and principles, then why bother calling yourself a Muslim? Calling some of them nihilists might be more appropriate.

Ultimately, the quest for truth demands rigorous research, clarity of thought, trust, humility, perseverance, consistency and the avoidance of judgment without understanding.

Are Muslims today up to the challenge? Do we have the intellectual capacity to respond? Are we familiar enough with Islamic scripture to have the courage to remain faithful to core principles? Are we ready to invest the time and energy needed to resolve issues and promote understanding based on the original scriptures and message of the Prophet?

Perhaps, if we can first learn from our roots, know where we come from and understand what shapes who we are today. After resolving the identity crises endemic within Muslim societies, we will then be ready to discuss with each other issues facing humanity, based on diversity, equality and common values.

Yilmaz Alimoglu, an electrical engineer with a management degree, works as a consultant in the high-tech field.


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