By Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal
Islamphobia is both real and imaginary; it is real in the sense that those who suffer from it, are really concerned about the rise of an imaginary Islamic Europe or Islamic America within a foreseeable future. Figures vary, but there are some website claiming that by 2020, that is within the next two decades, there will be some 150 million Muslims living in Europe and the current population of Muslims in North America will at least triple and there will be some 30 million Muslims in America and Canada. When exploded and combined with inherent, historical, long-standing demonic images of Islam in the Western mind, this demographic explosion of the Muslim population fuels Islamphobia.
And when the political leadership—a Tony Blair, an Angela Merkel—also suffers from the same disease, it becomes plausible that this leadership will try to enact laws, which will violate even the most basic human rights, in order to “protect” what it deems to be “their way of life”, as opposed to Muslims’ way of life. The recent outburst of the German Chancellor Merkel against German Muslims is a typical, but by no means a singular, example of this trend. Merkel, the daughter of a Protestant pastor, brought up in East Germany, who now leads a predominantly Catholic party, can only see “Judo-Christian” roots of Germany, which—she believes—are not compatible with Islam, although in her case it is obvious that “Judo” is thrown in merely because of the Nazis past of her country, otherwise, her declarations are based on a fundamentalist Christian dogma: “Multikulti does not work,” Merkel recently told a meeting of the younger members of her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party at Potsdam near Berlin. To be sure, this is far from all the teachings of Jesus, upon him peace. To be equally sure, this is nothing but bigotry, but the point is not what it is, but how she sees the “Muslim problem”, just as it was the case with Hitler, how he saw the “Jewish problem”.
One fails to understand how someone can be so insolent in this twenty-first century after the birth of Jesus Christ, upon him peace, to demand that Muslims should “integrate and adopt Germany’s culture and values” if they want to live in Germany. Yet, this is not just the German Chancellor, who is obsessed with this idea of a hypothetical and static German culture; it is the case with all such conservative leaders across Europe and America. What they want Muslims to do is simply give up their way of life and dissolve in the secular culture even though they falsely claim that their vision is informed by Christian values and Christian culture.
For any Muslim to adopt that utterly devastating secular culture and the set of values which has created untold human suffering in the Western world is simply to give up Islam, for it demands that they eat and drink what non-Muslims eat and drink, they send their children to the schools where values and customs are utterly against the fundamental dictates of their religion, that they participate in crypto-religious rites which contravene their beliefs, and that they partake of all the ills and spiritual, emotional and psychological diseases of the land where they have immigrated out of historic necessities.
This is obviously an unacceptable proposition for any Muslim who is mindful of a life to come when he or she will be asked about all the deeds he or she committed while on this Earth. This is also utterly against our understanding of what it means to be free citizens of a country. What is being asked is not only against fundamental charter of human rights accepted by almost all states at the UN level, but it also contravenes basic human dignity.
Yet, that is the level of challenge faced by Muslims living in the West. This is a unique situation for both Islam and Muslims and it will take at least three generations before it would settle in some stable form. In the meanwhile, what Muslims need to do is a task unparalleled in their entire history: they have already established a network of mosques across Europe and North America; they now need to establish educational institutions and raise a new generation of scholars who are at home in the traditional Islamic sciences as well as equipped to deal with the social, economic, and political realities of the twenty-first century.
This is not an easy task; it is made even more difficult because there are not sufficient links between the main body of Muslim polity in the traditional Muslim lands and the large Muslim minorities now living in Europe and America. Not many Muslims in the traditional lands of Islam realize the tremendous task faced by the Muslim minorities in the West and the ruling elite of these lands is not sufficiently aware of the importance of the new situation for their own good. They have not understood that a vibrant and authentic Islamic polity in the West can be of tremendous benefit to the entire Muslim world. This is so because this new polity is multi-racial, multi-cultural, and multi-lingual in the true sense of these terms, it represents, more than anywhere else, the true universality of Islam. And this will help to settle many basic questions faced by them in a world that is increasingly becoming global. Furthermore, because the new polity in the West is situated in the materially advanced societies, it is going through the process of assimilating the good of the modern world and rejecting its evil aspects at a much advanced stage than Muslims living in the traditional lands of Islam and this means that if there are sufficient organic links between the two polities, the Muslim world can be saved a lot of destruction as it comes to terms with modernity.
Muzaffar Iqbal is the founder-president of Center for Islam and Science (www.cis-ca.org), Canada, and editor of
Islam & Science, a semi-annual journal of Islamic perspectives on science and civilization. He received his Ph.D. in chemistry (University of Saskatchewan, Canada, 1983), and then left the field of experimental science to fully devote himself to study Islam, its spiritual, intellectual and scientific traditions.
Born in Lahore, Pakistan, he has lived in Canada since 1979. He has held academic and research positions at University of Saskatchewan (1979-1984), University of Wisconsin-Madison (1984-85), and McGill University (1986). During 1990-1999, he pursued his research and study on various aspects of Islam in Pakistan, where he also worked as Director, Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH) between 1991-96 and as Director, Pakistan Academy of Sciences (1998-99).
During 1999-2001, Dr. Iqbal was Program Director (Muslim World) for the Science-Religion Course Program of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (CTNS), Berkeley, USA.
Dr. Iqbal has published books and papers on the relationship between Islam and science, Islam and the West, the contemporary situation of Muslims, and the history of Islamic science.
His publications include Islam and Science, God, Life and the Cosmos: Christian and Islamic Perspectives , Science and Islam, Dawn in Madinah: A Pilgrim’s Passage , The Making of Islamic Science (IBT, 2009) and a few more titles.
He is the General Editor of the forthcoming seven-volume Integrated Encyclopedia of the Qur’an, the first English language reference work on the Qur’an based on fourteen centuries of Muslim reflection and scholarship. He is a regular contributor to Opinion Maker.
To read Part – I see this Islam’s New Faces