Religion as a common denominator

by Faiz Khan
Print
Email
Hershey, Pennsylvania — The West and the Muslim world are multi—faceted, multi—cultural, and multi—religious realms despite the narrow way they are often viewed and defined. There are millions of Muslims in the West, and there are millions of individuals of other faith traditions in the “Muslim world”; there are underlying relationships between these supposed separate worlds that exist in the basic foundations of their cultures; and the continual resurgence of religiosity is at the heart of both of our cultures and is seen throughout our histories.

The goal of religiosity is piety, and a temporal consequence of piety is the insistent turning of the individual and collectivity toward those values and ethics that are universally cherished by all human beings. Given this relationship between piety and time—honoured ethics and values, anyone of goodwill, Western or not, should feel encouraged by that facet of Islamic doctrine that supports the cultivation of piety through religious practice, which elicits from its practitioner an inter—human ethic also shared by the Judeo—Christian, Hindu, Parsi and Buddhist traditions.

Therefore, similarities between cultures can be found in the religious and theocentric realm. Even seemingly clashing cultures can find common ground here. American heritage has a strong theocentric basis. I recall, as a school—child, reciting daily “one nation, under God indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”, as taught by the American Pledge of Allegiance. This idea is precisely Qur’anic. Moreover, the sense that executive, legislative and judiciary institutions must be parochially neutral while at the same time acknowledging divinity and cultivating piety and sanctity, no matter what the outward form (be it Christian or Buddhist or Islamic, etc), is in keeping with the operational understanding of governance as derived from Qur’anic principles. These principles were elaborated on and lived by Muhammad and his apostles.

Though similarities can be drawn, the East has kept theocentric principals closer to the surface of its cultures, while the West continually supports a more secular culture. There is very little the “Muslim World” needs to learn ideologically from the modern West. The making of ideologically—sound governance and society lies in the application of it’s the East’s own shari‘a, a code of law defined by the Qur’an that embraces pluralism. Whether this element of the shari‘a is represented, fostered and supported by the dominant domestic or transnational geopolitical power—brokers is an entirely different issue.

The brand of Western—based secular humanism which views public expressions of faith or mention of God as a malignant imposition of religion is repugnant to the Islamic paradigm. Regardless, a Muslim in the West is still expected to abide by the mores and legal precedents of their locale. Taking a hyperbolic example, if, through due process, it is decided that religion or mention of God is to be a purely private matter, the Muslim, by the mandate of the ethic dictated by shari‘a, needs to comply, or find somewhere else to live.

In the Muslim world, like in the rest of the third world, there exists an imposition of Western, corporate client regimes and aristocracy through the use of covert and overt war operations. With self—determination undermined, the ensuing harmful socio—political and economic consequences cause many segments of the population to naturally feel deeply violated. When these “Muslim world” populations express themselves intellectually and verbally against very real injustices, they do so in the phraseology and intellectual paradigm of a shari‘a—ethic that promises them their rights to life, liberty, property, security and fair distribution of wealth and opportunity. The shari‘a has its basis in religion, hence, religious revivalism in this context is analogous to an American demanding their “Constitutional Rights” in the face of socio—political and financial victimisation. The various reactionary movements have their basis in this dynamic. The relationships between the actual operations and crimes attributed to these various movements on the one hand, and the transnational corporate or Western agendas on the other, needs further scrutiny.

Religion, when practiced authentically, by definition builds bridges amongst its practitioners, no matter what the brand of their respective religions. The Qur’an explicitly addresses this phenomenon in many instances. One of the most dangerously flawed theses (which even well meaning religionists fall prey to) is the thesis that there is something within authentic religion (no matter what form) that is central in causing conflict along religiously parochial lines. This is like claiming that there is something inherent in the existence of a plurality of races/ethnicities that causes sectarian conflict in that arena.

Religious bigotry, racial bigotry, ethnic bigotry or any other bigotry is by definition a psychological perversion. Although religion, race and ethnicity are semantically linked to their respective bigotries in an existential manner, they are not causative. A pious Jew, Christian or Muslim will ideologically behave in the same manner when it comes to inter—personal ethics. The modalities of worship may differ – but the treatment by a pious Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Parsi or Buddhist person toward their fellow man will be the same.

All humans – be they theocentric or theophobic — desire to spend their time on this earth with their rights secured, free to enjoy their pursuits within a peaceful and ordered society. This is the common bridge between religionists and non—religionists. There is an underlying commonality that exists in the humanity of the peoples, the cultures and the religions of this world. A massive public campaign must be waged which supports tearing down the barriers between our “two worlds”. Honest journalism must be encouraged and cultural education and understanding must be promoted. It’s time that we stop looking for differences and start paying attention to the similarities.

###

* Faiz Khan is a writer/lecturer on Islam and M.D.. He is also a co—founder of MUJCA—NET, the Muslim—Jewish—Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth. This is the sixth of six articles in a series on religious revivalism and Muslim—Western relations commissioned by the Common Ground News Service (www.commongroundnews.org).

Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 17 October 2006, www.commongroundnews.org
Copyright permission has been obtained for publication.
 
 
 
 
VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Women of Tunisia: Let your voices be heard!

The women of Tunisia have a decisive role to play in shaping Tunisia's future. Fatma Ben Saïdane reminds women of the power of their vote and the importance of civic engagement.
 
 
 
 
"For both scholars and policy-makers, the materials on the Middle East produced by Search For Common Ground are outstanding. If one is looking for balance and depth of analysis, this is the place to go to get a better understanding of the complexities of the contemporary Middle East."

- Dr. Robert O. Freedman, Peggy Meyerhoff Pearlstone Professor of Political Science, Baltimore Hebrew University and Visiting Professor of Political Science Johns Hopkins University
 
 
 

It takes 200+ hours a week to produce CGNews. We rely on readers like you to make it happen. If you find our stories informative or inspiring, help us share these underreported perspectives with audiences around the world.

Monthly:

Donate:

Or, support us with a one-time donation.

 
 
 
OTHER ARTICLES IN SERIES
Counter religious extremism with religious compassion
Searching for the roots of Islamic fundamentalism
Muslims are paramount allies in fighting “jihadism”
A perilous present and uncertain future
America’s youth and holy war
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
200+
 
 
# of hours per week to create one edition
 
 
8
 
 
# of editors in 6 countries around the world
 
 
30,000
 
 
# of subscribers
 
 
30
 
 
Average # of reprints per article
 
 
4,800
 
 
# of media outlets that have reprinted our articles
 
 
37,307
 
 
# of republished articles since inception
 
 
6
 
 
# of languages CG articles are distributed in
 
 
2000+
 
 
# of writers since inception
 
 
'

 

Other articles in this series

Counter religious extremism with religious compassion by Marc Gopin
Searching for the roots of Islamic fundamentalism by Nader Hashemi
Muslims are paramount allies in fighting “jihadism” by Abbas Barzegar
A perilous present and uncertain future by Amina Rasul-Bernardo
America’s youth and holy war by Kathryn Joyce