The impact of the current globalization on the Muslim world has been varied, with positive and negative outcomes for different nations.
Malaysia, for instance, has benefited enormously from one particular aspect of globalization, namely, trade, the interwoven international financial networks proved disastrous to the Indonesian economy during the 1997–1998 Asian financial crisis.
The globalization of communication technologies, for its part, is exerting tremendous impact across the Muslim world, particularly on youth.
One of the vehicles of that variety, he remarked, is brought on by global migration and the accompanying visibility of a plethora of cultural mores (articulated through food, music, films, and religious practice). Consequently, as goods are transported and sold all over the world, companies are also assembling multicultural workforces. Yet such variety can also create tension, which can lead to additional gaps between nations and civilizations, as in the case of Islam and the West.
The Muslim world is reacting in manifold ways to recent global transformations, with some countries and populations appearing to be able to engage with the new realities more successfully than others. What is certain is that key components of that successful engagement— human liberties, rule of law, equal opportunity, independent media—are universal rather than merely Western values, and that, as the 2004 Arab Human Development Report indicated, these elements are often lacking in Muslim societies.
Most Westerners continue to demonstrate a widespread lack of basic knowledge about Islam. That lack is compounded in the West by social secularization and the accompanying death of religious taboos, which decreases interest in and empathy with non–Western religions. Similarly, many Westerners view Islam as a monolith, and indeed the demonstrations that took place in the wake of the cartoons controversy were regarded as confirmation of this.
Mr. Seinitz pointed to examples of effective models of modernization and development in the Muslim world, such as Malaysia and Turkey. What is needed within the Muslim world, as these examples demonstrate, is better governance that encourages modernization and enables Muslim nations to prosper from globalization, rather than suffer its losses.
Muslim countries have four institutional challenges to surmount: (1) an uneven and often insufficient knowledge base, (2) a lack of empowerment of the female population, (3) an absence of participatory governance, and (4) the prevalence of ethnic conflicts.
Mr. Muzaffar offered Malaysia as an example of a country that has had success with modernization despite the pressures of globalization. This, he feels, is due to five major reasons:
- A lasting balance of power among national ethnic groups;
- A socially responsible and relatively honest political leadership since the late 1950s;
- A sustained economic growth accompanied by redistribution to bridge the gap between indigenous and nonindigenous peoples;
- An emphasis on education, irrespective of gender; and
- An ever–more ingrained cultural sense of tolerance at the societal level.
The Role of Islam in the Modern World
“Are Islamic traditions (shariah) relevant to the problems faced by the modern world?” The most argued point in this regard is the situation of the Muslim world in contrast with the progressive ‘Modern’ West.
Sceptics may ask; how can a way of life that was implemented fourteen centuries ago be applicable today? Humans have ‘progressed’ and our lives have changed dramatically since then. Our tools of production, means of trading and modes of communication would be unrecognised by the desert Arab of the 6th Century CE.
“O you who believe! When the call is proclaimed to prayer on Friday (the day of Jum’ah), hasten earnestly to the Remembrance of Allah, and leave off business (bai’a): That is best for you if you but knew! And when the Prayer is finished, then may you disperse through the land, and seek of the Bounty of Allah: and celebrate the Praises of Allah often (and without stint): that you may prosper.” [62:9]
The law that Allah has laid down in this verse is that it is forbidden for the male mature Muslims to trade at the time of Friday prayers. The word bai’a (trading) is explicitly mentioned. However, it is not only trading that is forbidden during this period. To be more accurate, a Muslim may not busy himself during this time. ‘Busying oneself’ is still the same today and ever since the time of the Prophet (PBUH). ‘Busying oneself’ has never changed and never will change.
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