Review: Can the Muslim World Be Re-branded?
In a old yet good article, the New York Times covers the Islamic Economic Forum.
There are some key ideas this piece touched upon that is quite relevant to helping grow innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship in the Muslim world. I wanted to go through each and give some commentary on it from a young Muslim based here in the West.
1. Muslims need a new PR agent: Reshaping the image of Islamic Countries- According to business leaders and policy makers from around the Muslim world during the Islamic Economic Forum, the image of the Muslim world needs to be changed collectively, from one of violence and poverty to vibrancy and prosperity.
Rather than focusing on the multitude of socio-economic problems “they talked about job creation, streamlining bureaucracy and strengthening intellectual property rights”. I think it’s important to focus on these issues but you can’t have a solution without focusing on solving the problem. Public relations can be a good method of reputation management but people will realize the focus should be on infrastructure development and educating the masses rather than superficially trying to develop an exterior that perhaps can not mask the interior problems entirely.
Rhethoric, not Action
The lack of education across the Muslim world also comes up as an issue. The piece notes how many of these influential thought leaders believe in investing in education so as to not make their populations vulnerable to misinformation and propaganda.
Education in the 21st century is shifting, and so must the methods with which Muslim countries educate their society.
Universities, 800 year old institutions, are slowly moving away from corportized, credentialism predicated on an industrial model towards the democratized model based on self-initiated learning and growth. More people are realizing the flaws in the current education model that has, unfortunately, been adopted by most of the industrialized world, including the Islamic world. The future of education in the Muslim world is one where education is FREE and enabled by technology. One where we accept that there are multiple methods of educating oneself whether that would be distance education, homeschooling, unschooling and other methods. The acceptance of alternative education methods in Muslim countries is virtually non existent as public school is seen as necessary and often time required by law.
Lack Islamic Training along side Science, Technology and the Humanities
This is also mentioned as a crucial point of change needed. In many ways, the Muslim population represents their leaders. There are a lot of university-trained scholars. Not many of them are classically trained in Islam or have any rigorous scholastic methodology-based training. This is also reflective in the Muslim community.Inevitably, it’s these people that end up taking on leadership roles and stay confined to discussions around the parameters of Islam alone.
Very few scholars, and there are many great examples, are trained academically or professional in topics other than Islam. And the consequences are not being about to practically engaged with the world around you and adding to discussions on how to solve 21st century issues from a scriptural perspective is a main reason holding us from progress.
Muslim Community doesn’t really exist
Here, I must make a differentiation between the Muslim world and the Muslim community. In theory, there is an organized and united faith that brings all Muslims together but the Muslim “world” is largely fictitious. In reality, there is a realm of Muslim countries, but communities are localized and rarely does support extend beyond helping the poor in one’s own homeland. This might be different from people from the diaspora who don’t identify with a country, but only their faith. However a lot of people are unfortunately still connected based only ethnic, tribal lines.
Cultural, social and intellectual insulation can be a form of death for society. And we’re already succeeding well at one–economic isolation. Rather than Muslims trading with one another, we are effectively insulating ourselves from one another. The article explains that “Muslim countries send 51.5 percent of their exports to industrialized countries, compared with just 13.5 percent to fellow Muslims nations, according to the …Islamic Development Bank”. What’s surprising that is 2/3 of the world’s energy come from the Muslim world and we have many powerful resources along with faith to make us successful, such as commodities, relatively young population, strong multi-ethnic and strategic land etc
Need to Critically Examine What Passes for Scholarship
Faith is not defined by rituals and ceremonies, as they are so prevalent now, as the Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi of Malaysia says.
Going beyond dogmatic rhetoric, often is tied to addressing the true purpose of Islamic scholars in our community. They hold a great deal of importance but I do feel they’re real role and results of their work needs thorough neutral critical analysis.
As the piece says, the Muslim world needs to move away from rhetoric and dogmatism. But how are we to do that and who are the ones at the forefront of this?
Islamic scholarship can be some sort of awe-inspiring position. We give so much attention to these individuals that it has come at price. The price is not being about to properly train, educate and vet the types of people responsible for guiding our communities. And in this process, we’ve accepted less from them. There is less rigidity for what we accept in our community that passes for a community leader. Like a celebrity that gets a slap on the wrist for a crime or a DUI, we accept what scholars tell us without a rigorous examination of whether we believe in what they are telling us and whether it is in fact correct. Quite frankly, most scholarship is quite lazy.
The idea of work as worship is ingrained in our faith. But few people associate working as worship. In others, many people believe our worldly life and afterlife are completely separate. You need to realize that both are integrated and what you do in your daily life counts. What you do on earth is something you are rewarded with later on. There is no separation.
The solution is to start looking beyond ourselves. We’ve shriveled away, confidence stripped from us although we have everything we need to make ourselves successful in the world. A sign of a society’s decay is when it no longer interacts with the world around them and leads through a binary world construct. We’re hindering ourselves economically, socially, culturally and it’s going to need more of a makeover to get ourselves to be taken seriously in the world.
The Muslim Women Doesn’t Need To Be Empowered- She Empowers Herself.
Possibly the best quote in the entire piece said: “”We are Muslims and we are women,” she Khalida Azbane Belkady, director of Groupe Azbane, a cosmetics company also based in Morocco,. “But maybe we should stop talking about Muslim this-and-that and just get to work.”
It’s not a surprise that it’s women who have to make this point. The place of women in Islamic is one of strength, power and honour. I hate to make this a discussion of talking points generally set by Western feminists who have no idea of what it is to be a Muslim women, but Women in Islam have been empowered in many ways. And the ability to lead and given respect for that leadership is one of them. One, they don’t have to spend a dime of their own money when earning anything. It’s the man’s job to be a breadwinner and pay the bill. Two, the men generally turn over their paychecks to women and they handle the family finances. The perspective is that women are always having their hands out begging, but I’m afraid that’s not the case in most Muslim homes. The Western response has been to equate women working outside the home with power but in all honesty, there is more power in the latter.
I have no doubt that Muslim women will be the one’s leading our community through the innovation and creative processes needed to change our condition but it will have to be an active women. One this blog, I call for more Muslim entrepreneurs to arise, sorta of a reverse answer to the West’s women’s liberation movement. Living in your home, working there and taking care of your children seems to be the way of the future for Muslim women, one that I will continue to advocate for.
These are some thoughts after reading this piece. If you had any other ideas to add, I’d love to hear from you!
Don’t forget to subscribe
Follow me on Twitter @HouseofAssouan