Understanding Devout Muslims & Islamic Republics

It is obvious that Muslims are very religious and hold their Islamic beliefs strongly. These traits lead Muslims to vigorously and sometimes violently react too any real or perceived blasphemy, sacrilege or profanity against Islam. This well grounded personal affront is understandable as long as it does not try to restrict beliefs held strongly by others such as freedom of speech. It is this intolerance to the point of attempted values hegemony that leads many Westerners to believe Muslims are extremists when in reality they are just devout and want their governments to support their devoutness. Yet, it is Western values hegemony that alienates Muslims, esp. Muslim women, in return. The problems of values and processes must be delineated and understood in order for the Western and Islamic world interact productively. (For comprehensive survey of Muslims see)

These values conflicts do not in the least negate the MuslimsÂ’ desires for Western institutions. A solid majority desire democracy, voting rights for women, economic development and technological advancements among others Western processes. Yet, they desire them without the attached content. For example, media resources and devices are desired by Muslims but the Western content that is in their view is morally bankrupt and comes with them is not. Thus, it is the context of whose values are use while these institutions are adopted that is the problem.

Another example of values conflict are equal rights for Muslim women. Many Muslim women consider equal rights a step backward because they have privilege positions based on their faith and equal rights would eliminate these positions. Also, many Muslim women believe Western equal rights is a male ploy to exploit women. In many ways they have a valid point since Western women are held to both male and female standards and responsibilities. Thus, a head scarf may be much more freeing than time spent on hair styles and grooming. Even a burqa may free one from slavery to fashions. And Muslim women see Western women do these activities for the benefit of men. It may be Western women are being exploited by equal rights.

The vast majority of Muslims hold their Islamic beliefs to be central to their personal and social lives. Many want these beliefs manifested in Sharia and Islamic Law to be a basis for governance and some believe they should be the only basis for governance. These Muslims are not unlike the Fundamentalist Christian minority in the USA who want the Bible to be a basis or the only basis for US governance. The fact that their countries are overwhelmingly Muslim and there is universal support for Sharia and Islamic Law makes Islamic Republics obvious outcomes.

Just like Westerners use English common law as their basis for governance and their Constitutions as its codification, Muslims want to use Sharia as their basis for governance and Islamic Law and Republics as its codification. The major difference is that the Western codifications strive to be secular while the Muslim codifications has no secular desires but instead desire to be devoutly Islamic. Still, Muslims do not want Theocracies (rule by Religious Leaders) but instead democracies. These religious states are not unlike the Western heritage of Christian Church and Regal States of Medieval and Renaissance times except for the fact that Muslims want democracy with Sharia and Islamic Law as their religious state.

Using their historical experience, Westerners are trying to get Muslims to skip their religious state stage of governance while the Muslims want to experience it. The American colonies were at least partially established for reasons of religious intolerance in Europe. This lead to the wish to separate religious and civil law to the point that separation of church and sate became part of the U.S. Constitution. The Muslims have similar experiences in their Sunni vs. Shiite conflicts but it not to the point of wanting separation of church and state.

Westerners forget that freedom from oppression for many of their citizens started in the last half of the 20th Century with the civil rights and womenÂ’s movements. And many in Western countries are still economically and socially oppressed. So, the imposition of so-called Western democracy on Islamic countries when freedom is still not universal in their own countries seems hypocritical to Muslims.

In summary, the Western world has a lot of institutions that the Muslims want to adopt. But they want these institutions without the attached values content. They have their own content and do not wish to adopt Western values that they view at a minimum as morally suspect. At the same time, they want the time and freedom to determine their future content based on their values. This means Islamic Republics with Sharia and Islamic Laws that are democratic and where women have the unencumbered vote. It also means economic and technologic development would be the bases for these advancements since freedom and poverty are essentially mutually exclusive.

In return, the Western world should advance values-free economic development and technological advancement in the Muslim world. These will lead to increase freedoms as it did in the USA in the first half of the 20th Century and is now doing in China. Patience is a virtue that the West must practice when dealing with Muslims. They are doing their Good and have no use for our imposed Good.

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