Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
Islamophobia 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 websites 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 combined with inherent, historical, long-standing demonic images of Islam in the Western mind, this demographic explosion of the Muslim population fuels Islamophobia.
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 the 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 Nazi past of her country, otherwise, her declarations are based on 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.
One fails to understand how someone can be so insolent in this twenty-first century as to demand that Muslims should "integrate and adopt Germany's culture and values" if they want to live in Germany. Yet, it is not just the German chancellor, who is obsessed with the 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 into the secular culture even though they claim that their vision is informed by Christian values and Christian culture.
For any Muslim to adopt that secular culture and the set of values which has created untold human suffering in the Western world is simply to give up Islam. For that culture demands that they eat and drink what non-Muslims eat and drink, they send their children to the schools where values and customs are against the fundamental dictates of their own religion, that they participate in crypto-religious rites which contravene their beliefs, and that they partake of all the ills and the spiritual, emotional and psychological diseases of the land to which 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 upon 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 the 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 could settle to some stable form. 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 with 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 even more difficult because there are not sufficient links between the main body of Muslim polity in traditional Muslim lands and the large Muslim minorities now living in Europe and America. Not many Muslims in the traditional lands of Islam realise the tremendous task faced by Muslim minorities in the west and the ruling elite of these lands are not sufficiently aware of the importance of this new situation. It is because this new Islamic polity in the west is multi-racial, multi-cultural, and multi-lingual in the true sense of the 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 this new polity in the west is situated in 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. This means that if there are sufficient organic links between the two polities, the Muslim world can be spared a lot of destruction as it comes to terms with modernity.