The Ninth General Conference:Islam And The West Past - Present - Future
Muslims as Co-Citizens in The West By: Dr. Murad Wilfried Hofmann
MUSLIMS AS CO - CITIZENS IN THE WEST - RIGHTS, DUTIES, LIMITS, PROSPECTS - By
Dr. Murad Wilfried Hofmann
1 - One major side-effect of the current process of economic and cultural globalization seems to be that our world is becoming multi-religious. This results in particular form the accelerated spreading of Islam. There are already six million Muslims in the United States, virtually all of them American citizens, with an impressing and growing infrastructure. In Europe, due to labour migration, foreign students, war fugitives and asylum seekers the number of Muslims is around four million in France, perhaps three million in the United Kingdom, and 2,5 million in Germany. Altogether, including Bosnia-Herzegovina, there may be about 20 million Muslims in Europe today.(1).
2 - Due to its structural tolerance vis-à-vis "peoples of the book" (2), the Muslim world has always been multi-religious. Islam expanded into formerly Christian territories- the Near East, North Africa and Spain, Byzantium, the Balkans- without eliminating the Christian communities. This is nowhere more evident than in Cairo, Damascus, and Istanbul, and in countries like Greece and Serbia. This situation was facilitated by the fact that the Qur'an contains what can be called an "Islamic Christology"(3). Coexistence with the large Jewish populations within the Muslim empires - aside from the Near East in Muslim Spain, and subsequently in North Africa and the Ottoman Empire- was facilitated, in turn, by the extraordinary focus of the Qur'an on Jewish prophets in general and Moses in particular (4).
On this basis, Islamic jurisprudence developed the world's first liberal law, called As-siyar, for the status of religious minorities- Dhimmi (5).
3 - Developments in the Western world were entirely different. Here, religious intolerance became endemic, even between Christian churches and sects which were outlawed (as during the first Ecumenical Council in Nicaea, in 325), massacred (as the Donatists in North Africa in the 5th century and the Albigenses and Cathari in the 13th century), subdued as victims of a "crusade" (Constantinople in 1205), or deserted (like Orthodox East Rome during the siege by Sultan Fatih in 1453.) In Germany, a war lasting 30 years between Protestant and Catholic princes decimated the population to an all time low (1618-1648).
Under these circumstances, fuelled by the Church dictum extra ecclesia nullum salus (no salvation outside the church), even minimal tolerance against Muslims could not be expected. The expulsion of both Muslims and Jews from Spain in the 16th century- the first case of "ethnic cleansing" in modern history- made Europe virtually "Muslim-free". There was interaction between the two camps- trade, scientific penetration, diplomatic missions- but no living Muslim presence in the Occident until again in the 20th century.
4 - Against this background, it is not surprising that Muslims find it difficult to be accepted as co-citizens in the West. There simply is no historical pattern for such a co-existence. Worse, collective memories dating from the Crusades and the Ottoman campaigns into central Europe linger below the surface. The Catholic Church, too, has not fully amended its negative attitude toward Islam: While, since the 2nd Vatican Council, it now accepts Islam as a way to salvation, it still shuns Muhammad (s.) as the guide on this way and refuses to acknowledge the Qur'an as God's Word. This unfavourable climate has of course been re-enforced by events inside the Muslim world, last not least the Salman Rushdy affair, the 2nd Gulf War, and massacres in Algeria. What appears as discrimination against immigrant Muslims is therefore frequently a result of real fear of a fast growing foreign population seen as potentially aggressive and culturally very different. In the process, Islam risks to become the victim more of ethnic than of religious prejudices. To put it crudely: The man in the street in Cologne does see Islam as the religion which opposes the notion of Trinity- he couldn't care less about that! but rather as the civilization which makes Turks so strangely Turkish...
1- Under these precondition, contemporary Muslims may well pose themselves the question already posed in Spain 500 years ago, i.e. whether for a Muslim it is permissible at all to take up residence in what has been labelled Dar Al-Harb or Dar Al-Kafr. This question had been discussed in considerable depth when Spanish Muslims, overrun by the Reconquista, chose to stay, and even before this event, and that against the historic precedent of Makkan Muslims migrating to Christian Ethiopia (615-622). Some of the 'ulema, including Imam Abu Hanifa, disapproved of permanent Muslim residence on non-Muslim territory. Imam Shafi'i, on the other hand, believed that Muslims could stay behind in formerly Muslims' lands, provided that they could practise Islam and were not subject to Christian missionary efforts. In contrast to that, Iman Jafaras-Saqid underlined, already in the 8th century, that Muslims might serve Islam perhaps better than at home when living among non- Muslims; Al-Mawardi concurred with this opinion in the 11th century. The Hanefi Madhhab later on became even more liberal. They accepted the idea that there might be pockets of Dar Al-Islam even inside non-Muslim territories. And they were ready to exempt emigrant Muslims from observing certain parts of the slad'ah if this seemed necessary because of ikrah or darura or for reasons of maslaha.(6)
2- Today, during the 3rd Industrial Revolution- the communications revolution- there can be no doubt that Muslims in non-Muslim countries are not prevented or discouraged by Islamic Fiqh to maintain their residence there. In fact, (non-Quranic) concepts like Dar Al-Islam and Dar Al-Harb (Al-Sulh, Al-Kufr) have virtually lost their relevance.(7) It can hardly be disputed that most Muslims in the West for the following two reasons find it rather easy to practise the essentials of their faith in the Occident: On one hand, the West has become irreligious to a point where it tolerates almost anything posing as religion, and that as a "private matter". Secondly, freedom of religion has become part of the human rights bills and conventions universally applicable today.(8) Indeed, Islamic research institutes are now flourishing in the West without any interference by censorship; mosques are being built from Zagreb via Rome to Lyon; and Islamic communities enter into treaty relationships with their countries of residence (9) Should this trend continue, as is my wish and my hope, then sometime in the 21st century Islam m Europe might become part of what is considered "normal", and there is a model to be followed: German Catholics at the end of the 19th century were still suspected to be disloyal citizens because of their links to Rome. Because of the bitter division between the two Christian denominations, in many German cities and even villages one still finds a Protestant church facing a Catholic church in the very center of town. Today, this architectural confrontation makes no sense any longer, but it would only be logical if mosques, too would be added.
1- The prospect of normalization of the Islamic presence in the West raises the issues of integration and/or assimilation. To which extent can Muslims be integrated without losing their identity (and their faith with it)? As it is, Muslims- whether foreigners or citizens, foreign born or local products- are seen as different in four respects:
(a) Appearance: Men wearing large breads and caftans or other national dress and women abiding by the traditional Islamic dress code, more often than not without any redeeming touch of fashion. Many of the Muslim population, even of the second generation, speak the local language with an accent.
(b) Eating habits: The Muslims refuse alcohol and other drugs as well as pork and blood-sausages and demand Halal-slaughtering, thus clashing with local legislation.
(c) Ritual: The Muslims want to interrupt work for prayer during working hours, celebrate their own religious days, go on pilgrimage during specific days, build mosques with minarets (used for the Adhdhan) and burry their dead in a particular way, also frequently clashing with local legislation. (10)
(d) Faith: The Muslims deny major tenets of Christian dogma (Divinity of Christ; Trinity; Hereditary Sin; Dying of Jesus on the Cross); in addition their ideal of the relationship between men and women, inside and outside of marriage, clash with what is considered politically correct. Also many a Muslim is seen as having more than only second thoughts about democracy any human rights.
2- It is obvious that normalization, let alone integration, will hinge on whether the Occident is willing to compromise with these features, and to which extent the Muslims are able and willing to compromise.
(a) As far as the latter question is considered "Islamic" turns out not to be part of Islam as a creed but only part of Islam as a civilization. (11) Looking at the four aspects just listed, it is obvious that there is no room for adaptation as far as (c) and (d) are concerned. No leeway within 'Aqida and 'ibadah. In particular, the old Hanefi idea of exempting emigrant Muslims wholesale from parts of the shari'ah should be rejected. Otherwise, there would be no end to a process which would turn out to be a slippery slope. A case in point is Riba. If the Muslims allowed it how could they propagate their scheme of profit and risk- sharing as a panacea for some woes of Western economies in which people increasingly refuse to accept risks, a behaviour bound to destroy the essence of entrepreneurship.
By this I do, however, not want to argue against the possible development of what might be called a Mauhhab Al-urupi, a Fiqh for Muslim Dhimmi (!) as developping from Fatawah issued by Western `Ulema for specific Western problems if there is such a thing at all.
(b) But there is considerable room for adaptation within (a) and (b): Hardly anybody will deny that a Muslim in the West is not obliged to eat with his hand, sitting on the floor, and cleaning his teeth afterwards with Siwwak. But it should be equally obvious that Western Muslims are under no obligation to wear national dress from their countries of origin and- for Musilmat- to dress without any attempt at making their Islamic attire esthetically attractive. Nor is it indispensable that Muslims spice their everyday language with exclamations in Arabic- from Subhanallab to Masha'allah. In fact, anything which reinforces the misconception that Islam is the (specific) religion of the Arabs (as Judaism has become for ethnic Jews) should be avoided. The result of such attempts should not be a "European Islam" or "American Islam", let alone a French or Belgian Islam, but eternal Islam practiced by people who in some other respects adhere to a particular culture. Indeed, as long as a Moroccan Muslim can easily be distinguished from a Pakistani one, and a Turkish Muslim from a Senegalese one, why not a German Muslim from an Emirati one?
3 - (a) In this process of helping the West to become acquainted with Islam, Western intellectual Muslims have a large role to play: foremost in order to bring home the extremely important point that Islam, far from being "obscurantist", is a rational religion for rationalists. Is there any other Holy Script which appeals to man's power of reasoning, and does so constantly? Is Islam not the religion which began with the appeal to read?(12) In fact, it is not Islam but Christian dogma which is based on mysteries" and extra-rational Gnostic concepts. It is Islam which- like (later!) European philosophy (especially Hume and Kant)- has always denied the existence of a natural law of causality (13), and it is Islam which has remained conscious of the philosophically insoluble dilemma between predestination and responsibility: Features of rationality which the Western intellectual world should positively appreciate.
(b) Muslim intellectual should, however, help as well to re-spiritualize Islam in the West.(14) All too many immigrants from the Muslim world practise their religion in a rigid, legalistic fashion which impresses by its routine more than by its spiritual content- so that Islam is not recognized, in a Christian environment, as a living creed which satisfies the spiritual aspirations of an "emancipated" individual.
(c) Local Muslim intellectuals have an additional indispensable task: Only they can develop the organizational infrastructure necessary for the Muslim communities in the West in their legal dealings with local authorities at the highest level. (15) And only they can provide the literature indispensable for effective Da'wah. Time and again it is proven that Islamic books coming from the Muslim world are unsuitable, in most cases, for reaching Western audiences. There are many reasons for it, including faulty printing and translation, but the major reason for this failure is that only a Western Muslim, raised within Western culture, can fully know how Western people "tick", what their hang-ups are, and their anxieties. In this context, it is of the very essence- and possibly decisive for the future of Islam in the West-that, Western Muslim intellectuals explain the Islamic position on (i) women's rights, (ii) human rights in general, and (iii) democracy.
As far the gender roles are concerned, Muslims cannot abandon God's own dictum that boys are not like girls (Quran Al-Imran 36), and that this cannot but have consequences, limited but nevertheless, with human rights and democracy it is different. There never was any valid justification for Muslim jurisprudence to absent itself from the universal human rights discourse rather than to engage in it assertively and without apologetics. And it is entirely possible to make a case, based on Quran and Sunnah, for the legitimacy of an Islamic democratic republic which, at the human level, pratises a division of power, judicial control over the rule of law, a human rights bill, a multiparty parliamentary system, and free elections of the Amir and of the Shura council. Prestigious Western Muslims and Muslim Fuqaha living in the West have defended this position of the political role of Islam today- from Muhammad Asad to Fathi Osman and Rashid al-Ghannushi (16). But such voices tend to be discredited and drowned-out by statements- As in Germany by Bassam Tibi-about the incompatibility of Islam with democracy. (17) For this, European and American Muslims are paying the bill!
1 - We have surveyed the historical background to some extent and a bit of the actual scene of Islam in the West. The question is now: Under the given circumstances, what are the prospects? Will Islam become the dominating religion of the next century? Or will it fade away in a process of assimilation engulfing, at the latest, the 3rd generation of immigrants who will find themselves mesmerized by the Western consumers' paradise? Or will Islam be forcibly ejected from Europe? I submit: All of this is possible.(18)
(a) Superficially seen, prospects seem good, thanks to the prevalent ideology of post-modernism provided it is prevalent!). Modernism- the arrogant conviction that man is the measure of everything, that his reason is capable of solving everything, and that the resulting Western culture means everything to everybody and therefore rings in the end of history-this Fukuyama Huntington syndrome was, and is, most inimical to Islam. This kind of thinking threatens to relegate the Muslim world to a sort of zoological garden, a marginalized reservoir of obscurantism, fanaticism, and bigotism.
In contrast, post-modernism promises to honour whatever wants to remain particular, seeing to it that "small is beautiful" and "black is beautiful". Also, post-modernism- the ideology of the so-called green movements- emotionally favours the Third World, to a point of "modernism" and fights the novelization of cultures.
(b) There are other trends that seem helpful for a toleration of Islam: Reinforced by food scandals and animal diseases many Western people are now more conscious than ever of the need to eat healthy food, and to stay away from pork. Also the structural addiction to drugs of all kinds has started to frighten many people. Even the all-powerful American tobacco industry is heading for a financial disaster. All this might help to appreciate the Islamic position on food and drugs.
(c) Western feminists have recognized that is was a mistake to seek, beyond equal opportunities, equality with men bordering on the impossible: identity. But their basic aim- to protect the dignity of women and to save them from male sexual exploitation- is identical with the Islamic concern. So, there too, seem to be prospects for better understanding.
(d) Finally, not only in the United States- which never were atheistic- but also in Europe- which largely practices a de facto atheism- there now is a remarkable resurgence of anti-establishment religion at the grass roots level.(19) In addition, the dogmas of Incarnation and Trinity have rapidly been losing credibility even within the Christian Churches: Both factors could help a more favourable attitude towards Islam.
2 - Nevertheless, alas, in spite of such silver linings on the horizon, there are quite a few black clouds on the horizon as well.
(a) As far as Postmodernism is concerned it seems, alas, that all minorities might profit from it EXCEPT Islam. This is the one minority which is considered dangerous, posed for a clash of civilizations, aggressive and intolerant.
(b) While concern about drugs has grown, it is also true that the police considers the "drug war" virtually lost, and that it is exactly the green movements which favour drug legalization and a "right to drug oneself".
(c) While more women than men convert to Islam in the West, it is also true that the average Western woman continues to be Islam's most fervent foe, considering Islam as an unacceptable threat to the very freedoms Western women only recently gained, after much struggle.
(d) While resurgence of religiosity is a good thing, it has also produced fanatically anti-Islamic Christian groups whose professed aim is the elimination of Islam from Europe. (20) Even the president of the Protestant Church of the German State of Hesse, Prof. Dr. Steinacker, in writing and on TV. continues to maintain that Christians and Muslims "do not have the same God", implying that Allah is a mere Idol.
3 - Which of the contradictory trends will prevail will largely depend on the acceptance of Islam as part of the European heritage. When reference is made to it, people speak of Europe's "Christian-Humanistic" heritage which may include Judaism but definitely is meant to exclude Islam. It is therefore essential to remind the Occident that all three monotheistic religions were born in the Near East, and that Christianity has absorbed many more elements of oriental thought and speculation than Islam.
- The Occident should also be reminded that:
- The largest city by far on the European continent-Istanbul- is Muslim;
- Spain has been Islamic longer than it has been Catholic;
- European Renaissance would have been unthinkable without the Muslim "input"
- The absence of a "church" in Islam saved the Muslim world from a situation that required Voltaire's and Lessing's confrontation, called Enlightenment, with a stifling Church; Islam therefore had no need for reenacting the European experience.
In other words, the Muslims in the West have to bring home the idea not only that Islam is there to stay, both in Europe and in the United States, but also that it belongs there as much as Christianity, and that it is not an Arabic or Turkish religion but the universal religion of submission to God as first practised by Ibrahim, our common forefather.
4- This task will be made more difficult by the economic results of globalization on the employment possibilities in Europe. Resulting from the free flow of capital, technology, industrial products, and labour all European countries currently experience structural crises which lead to a decline of the standard of life and demand severe cut-backs in all fields of social State intervention. It is almost certain that the present high level of unemployment will become structural, and it looks as if the Western democracies could not effectively cope with the unpopular measures thus required. All this spells possible disaster for the Muslim work force in Europe which is already effectively accused of taking away jobs from local workers. it does not take much for a populist leader like Le Pen in France to focus public frustration in such a way that economic anxiety and racial phobia combine to make Islam in Europe the victim. I admit this is the worst case scenario. Wa Allaha'lam.
(1) "The Muslim Population in the United States" by Fareed H. Nu'man, American Muslim Council, Washington, D.C., 1992 gives the American Muslim population for 1991 already with 5.330.000. For the U.K. see Dr. M.M. Ihsan, "Islam and the Muslim Community in Britain", Paper delivered at Casablanca on 22 March 1997 during the 4th Session of the Islamic University Al-Sahwa, and J. Nielsen, "Muslims in Western Europe", Edinburgh 1991.
(2) Major Qur'anic verses on tolerance and religious pluralism are 2: 256; 5:48; 11:118; 16:93; 42:8.
(3) The Qur'anic Christology is mainly found in surahs 3,4,5,11,16,19, and 42; also see William E. Phipps, Muhammad and Jesus, London 1996.
(4) Major parts on Moses are found in surahs 7,10,18,20,26,28, and 40.
(5) For the status of non-Muslim Ahl Al-Dhimmah as it ideally should be, see Abdul Rahman I. Doi, "Shari'ah, The Islamic Law, London 1984, pp. 42 & 435, and Muhammad Sa'id R. Al Buti Jihad in Islam, Damascus 1995, pp. 114-139. For the Fiqh as-siyar as actually practiced during the middle-ages, very much against the spirit of the Qur'an, see Ibn Nawawi, Minhaj At-Talibin, transl. by E.C. Howard, Lahore 1914, 1977, pp. 488-469. For a future development of the status of dhimmi into citizens Mp rights see: Fathi Osman, "Human Rights on the Eve of the 21st Century", Paper presented to the Conference on Islam and Modernity (July 6, 1996), pp. 1921.
(6) For details see khaled Abou El Fadl, "Islamic Law and Muslim Minorities" in: Islamic Law and Society, Vol.1, No.2, Leiden, August 1994. Ibn Nawawi, op. cit., writes on p.463: "The law recommends a Muslim inhabiting infidel country to emigrate, even though he may enjoy there the free exercise of his religion."
(7) Fathi Osman put it succinctly when saying that "the division of dar al-Islam apart from the other world..., was Historical and theoretical." (emphasis by me.) See F. Osman, op. cit. Footnote (5).
(8) Such clauses are: Art. 18 of the General Declaration of Human Rights of 10 December 1948; Art.9 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Basic Freedoms of 4 November 1950; Art. 18 of the International Pact concerning Civil and Political Rights of 19 December 1966.
(9) Examples are the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies and the American Graduate School for Social and Islamic Studies in Leesburg, Virginia.
(10) The most liberal and complete arrangement for any Muslim community in Europe was conclude on 28 April 1992 between the Spanish Minister of Justice and the Spanish Islamic Commission, ratified by the Spanish Parliament on 10 November 1992 by law no. 26 (1992. It provides e.g. for immunity of Islamic centers, religious instruction even in private schools, Muslim holidays, halal slaughtering, Muslim access to hospital and prisons, and working hours during Ramadan.
(11) Under Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck the German Catholics, suspected of "Ultramontanism" went through what was even before Samuel Hunting- ton was called "Kulturkampf" (cultural battle).
(12) 76: 1-3. Qur'anic examples are 7:169; 10:101;13:19.
(13) see: Yamine Bouguenaya Mermer, "Induction, Science and Causation: Some Critical Reflections" in: Islamic Studies, Vol. 35, no.3.
(14) European Sufis like René Guénon, Martin Lings, Fritghjof Schoun, and Michel Chodkiewicz have always contributed to this spiritualization.
(15) Currently there exist several Muslim umbrella organizations in the U.K., France and Germany but already a central Muslim organization at the European level has been formed, located in Strasburg (Strusbourg): the "Muslim Coordination Council in Europe" with Dr. Abdalla Boussouf as Coordinator.
(16) Pioneering was Muhammad Asad's "The principles of State and Government in Islam", 1%1, Gibraltar 1980. For Fathi Osman see, e.g., his Shar'ia in Contemporary Society- The dynamics of Change in the Islamic Law, Los Angeles 1994, with chapters on "Shura and Democracy" and "Voting"; also see his Paper on "Human Rights on the Eve of the 21st Century-Problems for Muslims and Others, submitted to the Conference on Islam and Modernity in London (July 6, 1996); for Ghannouchi see, e.g., "Towards Inclusive Strategies for Human Rights Enforcement in the Arab World- A Response" in: ENCOUNTERS, Vol.2, No.2, Leicester, September 1996.
(17) Bassam Tibi denies that in Islam human beings are autonomous subjects. Therefore he claims that there is no such things as an individual right in Islam (so. e.g.. in pp.260 and 271 of his "Die krise des modernen Islams", Frankfurt 1991). No wonder that there are books entitled "Democracy without Democrats? The Renewal of Politics in the Muslim World" (ed. Ghassan Salamé, London 1994).
(18)1 have tried to give a more concrete answer to these pertinent questions in Murad Hofmann, "Islam `Am 2000", Dar Al-Shorouk, Cairo 1995 (Arabic edit.), AMANA Publications, Beltsville, Maryland 1996 (Engl. Edit.)
(19) see "Religion in Contemporary Europe", ed. by John Fulton and Peter Gee, Lampeter, Wales 1994.
(20), A German ultra-conservative Christian organization called "Christliche Mitte "has been conducting an anti-Islamic hate campaign for several years now.