Globalization, Multiculturalism and Muslims

Introduction

The advent of digital media, satellite television, and the World Wide Web has enabled the Muslim community to form better connections than it did in the past. Currently, there are over one billion Muslims around the world. Therefore, the current digital and technological platforms have enabled the Muslim nation to form a bond that is usually referred to as ‘Ummah’ by Islamic scholars. Nevertheless, the globalization and multicultural platforms that have enabled Islam to flourish across the world have also revealed the fundamental differences that exist within the religion. For instance, the Islam that is practiced in the Middle East is fundamentally different from the one that is prevalent in Western nations. Globalization can be defined as “the process of social change bringing distinct and different civilizations, cultures, communities, or individuals into interaction with each other” (Reid 2007). The factors that bring people together such as the media and the internet are constituents of globalization. On the other hand, scholars have often questioned the place of the Muslim nation in a globalized world. The popular view is that the Muslim nation is against globalization as the concept comes with several secular values that are in contrast with Islam. Another school of thought is of the view that the Muslim nation has already internalized critical aspects of globalization. Consequently, globalization is responsible for the “recent Islamic revival, radicalism by Islamic militants, and the resurgence of religion around the world” (Philpott 2002). On the other hand, a multicultural universe appears to undermine the core aspects of Islam. Some detractors of the Muslim nation consider some Islamic practices to be pale versions of the historical barbarism that has characterized the religion in the past. Nevertheless, there are some versions of Islam that have blended with multiculturalism while others appear to be in stark contrast with the phenomenon. The first section of this paper explores the impacts of globalization and multiculturalism on the contemporary Muslim nation.

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Challenges and Opportunities

Several things have changed for Muslims around the world in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Consequently, the position of the Muslim nation in a globalized world has become an item of debate within religious and scholarly circles. Twenty percent of the world’s population professes the Muslim faith. Although most of this population is clustered in specific parts of the world, Muslims can be found anywhere across the world (Yom 2005). Multiculturalism is renowned for compressing the world and bringing communities together in spite of their geographical positions. Some of the most visible aspects of multiculturalism in Islam include the emergence of various factions of the faith and the rise of militancy within the Muslim nation.

It is important to note that when globalization came up it was considered a system of global chaos’. This description can be used to explain how some stakeholders feel about globalization and Islam. Scholars began floating the term globalization after the Cold War. Some of these scholars considered globalization to be a “fragmenting process that eroded the sovereignty of nations and gave rise to several social, cultural, and religious loyalties” (Mohammadi 2002). These early scholars predicted that globalization would divide the world along religious lines and it would eventually introduce chaos into the world. Consequently, globalization was expected to introduce several mutinies into the existing religions. In the early days, globalization was considered as a system that introduced people to new foods, faiths, identities, music, sexual practices, languages, and skin tones that deviated from the universally accepted norms (Thomas 2000). Therefore, during this era, globalization was a double-edged sword that could help and harm Islam in equal measure. For instance, globalization could help the Muslim nation to take religion to new frontiers. On the other hand, globalization was to introduce secularism in the midst of turfs that were considered as ‘shrines’ of Islam.

One of the greatest impacts of globalization in the Muslim faith is the ushering in of the realization that Islam is not just a mere religion but also a comprehensive way of life. It used to be a common belief across the globe that Islam was ‘one religion and one culture. However, this notion has since been challenged by globalization and multiculturalism. Globalization has made it possible for multicultural populations that include Muslim and non-Muslim people to witness the diversity of Islamic culture. For instance, several aspects of the Muslim faith differ across the board including dress codes and gender encounters. Muslim women in Saudi Arabia dress differently than the ones who live in European countries such as France. The differences in opinions within Islamic banks have also given rise to what is considered a ‘hybrid’ form of Islam. Hybrid Islam seeks to eliminate the Arabic bias within the Muslim nation and embrace multiculturalism. On the other hand, there are those who feel that ‘Arabic Islam’ is the only pure form of Islam (Schäbler & Stenberg 2004). Some of these multicultural issues are responsible for the Muslim-related radicalism that is commonplace in countries such as Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran. The exposure of the fundamental differences within the Muslim nation as a result of globalization has brought about concerns about the future of religion. Globalization is on the rise and there are fears that Islam might not survive its impact as a single religious faction. Most scholars feel that “Islamic religious identity is being eroded by cultural and religious ‘hybridity’ that results from globalization” (Rizvi 2004).

In the past, religion has served as the pillar of human existence. However, the position of religion as humanity’s guide is constantly under threat from globalization. For example, scholars have noted that in the past, societies “would be described as atheist or agonistic but in recent times these descriptions have changed to terms such as democratized or modernized” (Yom 2005). The imminent demise of religion as a human descriptor would have a profound effect on the Muslim nation. Islam is still one of the most deep-rooted and humanity-focused religions in the world. The debate on whether globalization would dethrone religion is further compromised by the resurgence of religion during the last few decades. However, it is quite clear that Islam has become a major influence on political and ideological systems within the Muslim nation (Thistlethwaite & Stassen 2008). The success of religion-based humanity depends on the benefits that the adherents attain from a certain religion. Consequently, the supremacy of Islam over globalization indicates that religion is viable for the human condition. Furthermore, it is apparent that globalization vindicates and weakens secularism while strengthening the Muslim nation.

Reflection

The readings that were covered in this section reveal several important details about the Muslim nation. The institution of Islam has come under sharp focus in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks and the rise of Islamic militancy. Consequently, most of the subjects that were covered in this section bore more significance in light of the precarious stereotypes that have bedeviled the Muslim nation. This section of study covered various contentious issues such as the connection between Islam and militancy, the effects of globalization on Islam, the relationship between religion and violence, and the place of Islam in the post-September 11 worlds. It is also important to note that the studies in this section are meant to define, explore, and establish the role of Islam in a diverse world. The second section of this paper is a reflection on the study topics that have been covered over the last few sessions.

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One of the most interesting moments during the recent sessions of study involves the topic of religion and violence. This topic is quite philosophical in nature and it draws upon general wisdom to pose the question of whether religion causes violence. It is easy for a simple-minded individual to conclude that religion begets and fuels violence. However, according to William Cavanaugh, there are other possible causes of violence that masquerade as religion (Cavanaugh 2007). For instance, the most prominent causes of violence in the modern world are economic and political factors. Nevertheless, individuals are known to use the auspices of Islam to fuel violence among diverse populations. The interesting fact is that the reasoning behind religious violence often fails to justify the mode of operation behind several religious conflicts (Cavanaugh 2007). On the other hand, further exploration into the issue of religious violence reveals that politics and economic interests are the most common causes of religion-based conflicts.

One of the topics that I would like to revisit in the future involves the topic of the resurgence of religion in the era of globalization. Before encountering this topic, it was my assumption that globalization would eventually take the place of religion in the world. For instance, in the early globalization era, several forums were coming up and their sole purpose was to ‘break free from the shackles of religion (Beyer 2010). This pattern was especially common in societies where religion defined everyday life. However, after the death of some of the most infamous social systems such as communism, the role of religion in the world was revisited. Another plausible explanation for the resurgence of religion in the world is that the rise of factions that oppose the religious wellbeing of individuals have prompted people to hold on to their religious identities. During the topical studies, it was hypothesized that the recent resurgence of global religion is a result of globalization (Schäbler & Stenberg 2004). Therefore, religious values and systems are not dying but they are just changing in line with globalization. It would be interesting to explore the specifics of the relationship between religion and globalization albeit in a comprehensive manner.

The most challenging thing in the course of these studies was to assess the stereotypical biases that accompany Islamic studies. All religions are bombarded with stereotypes that might act as a hindrance to those who wish to study them. However, these stereotypes are particularly present in the study of Islam. Consequently, it is difficult for a scholar to identify his/her biases as well as those that are found within the study materials. For instance, some reading materials that were provided in this course consisted of underlying religious biases.

References

Beyer, P 2010, ‘Religious Diversity and Globalization’, The Oxford Handbook of Religious Diversity, vol. 4, no. 185, p. 34.

Cavanaugh, W 2007, ‘Does religion cause violence’, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, vol. 35, no. 2, pp. 56-62.

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Mohammadi, A 2002, Islam encountering globalization, Psychology Press, California.

Philpott, D 2002, ‘The challenge of September 11 to secularism in international relations’, World Politics, vol. 55, no, 11, pp. 66-95.

Reid, C 2007, Encyclopedia of globalization, Routledge, New York.

Rizvi, F 2004, ‘Debating globalization and education after September 11’, Comparative Education, vol. 40, no, 2, pp. 157-171.

Schäbler, B & Stenberg, L 2004, Globalization and the Muslim world: culture, religion, and modernity, Syracuse University Press, Syracuse.

Thistlethwaite, S & Stassen, G 2008, Abrahamic alternatives to war, USIP Publication, Washington DC.

Thomas, S 2000, ‘Taking religious and cultural pluralism seriously: The global resurgence of religion and the transformation of international society’, Millennium-Journal of International Studies, vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 815-841.

Yom, S 2005, ‘Islam and Globalization: Secularism, Religion and Radicalism’, Challenges of globalization: New trends in international politics and society, vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 27-46.

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