In the name of Almighty God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Many people raise the question, "How has the Muslim world become the way it is?" Rampant violence, hatred, sensationalist propaganda, gross human rights violations....all of these things are common in the bulk of Muslim majority countries around the world. Why is this? What happened to the Muslim world to make them this way? If you go to your local mosque and ask a handful of worshippers this question, your likely to get a number of possible responses. Some will point to US foreign policy. Many will point to the creation of the state of Israel. Some will point to corrupt dictator puppets who were set up by the American government. Some who are a little more educated will point to European colonization in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as the source of these problems. However, an open-minded student of history can see very well how problems in the Muslim world started; polarization.
The seeds of division between Muslims were actually on the very night of the prophet Muhammad's death (peace and blessings be upon him) when decisions were made about who would be the successor to Muhammad's role as the 'ruler' of the Muslim nation. Most went with Abu Bakr while others believed that Ali should have had the position. There began the long twisted time-line of Sunni/Shia division within the Muslim world. However today, in all reality, the strife between Sunni and Shia is overshadowed by a much bigger threat which exists in the polarization of the Muslims between extreme 'progressivism' (liberalism) and extreme 'conservatism'. When you look at the Muslim world today, we are increasingly seeing less and less 'moderate' Muslims and more and more people who fall on either the extreme right, or extreme left.
Extreme leftist Muslims often refer to themselves as 'progressive Muslims' who see the tenants of Islam found in the Qur'an and example of the prophet (pbuh) as more a 'suggestion' or 'utopian' ideal that when need be, be discarded or altered for the sake of "keeping up with the times". Many governments of Muslim majority countries have implemented laws that are reflective of this movement including Turkeys ban on the wearing of hijab (a Muslim woman's modest dress including a head and sometimes face covering) in public offices and schools.
Extreme right-wing movements amongst Muslims are people like the so-called Wahhabis (and others) which theocratically dominate Saudi Arabia. Based in the teachings of a self-proclaimed scholar Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab, this category of Muslims see any and all "western" influences as "un-Islamic" including certain aspects of music, film, democracy, and even simple things such as pants and t-shirts. Some of them (NOT ALL) even resort to and justify violence to "purge" Muslim lands from such influences of the 'kufar' (disbelievers). These types of Muslims often claim to adhere STRICTLY to the Qur'an and the example of the prophet Muhammad (pbuh), however I (and others) would argue that these folks seem to be worshipping an "image" of Islam rather than adhering to Islam as it truly is, which is open to diverse cultural influences excluding anything that is explicitly forbidden or involves idolatry in any way.
The bottom line is that this polarization means more and more people being on the fringes of Islamic ideology, and less and less people being in the middle. The prophet Muhammad (pbuh) famously said that the Muslim Ummah (people) is the 'ummatul wassitin' or the "people of the middle way". So to say the least, we the Muslims of the world are not living up to this ideal.
Now the title of my posting today is "what today's America can learn from today's Muslim world". The reason why I went thru the explanation above is because it is this same polarization that is today taking place in America along political ideological lines. On one hand you have progressive liberals who see the Constitution as more of a 'suggestion' that can be altered or discarded to "keep up with the times" and on the other hand we have so called neo-conservatives who claim strict adherence to the Constitution while at the same time violate it.
Progressive liberals, who have their roots in the ideology of Woodrow Wilson (who created the League of Nations and started America on this 'world empire' course that we've been on), today are increasingly trying to bypass Constitutional principals to accomplish goals similar to the early stages of Communist movements in Russia, China and elsewhere. The health care debate is a prime example of that in that right now Congress is exploring every possible parliamentary trick they can to pass legislation that the overwhelming majority of American people don't want. Even considering bypassing Constitutionally mandated votes by both houses of Congress before sending the bill to the desk of the President.
On the other side, we have so-called neo-conservatives who wail about government spending and the need for smaller government and more adherence to the Constitution, while at the same time supporting American imperial power across the world. Why do we have military bases in Germany, South Korea or Japan? Do they need to be there? No. South Korea might be debatable but the others definitely no. Since we do that how about allowing other countries to have military bases here in our country? Of course no one would even seriously consider that. So why do we impose ourselves into these other nations? They support America's blind support of Israel to the point of even not recognizing completely democratic elections in Palestine. Hamas was elected to power completely democratically by the Palestinian people yet the US refuses to recognize them simply because Israel doesn't. That's utter hypocrisy. I don't like Hamas that much either but it's up to the people of Palestine, NOT the American State Department. These are also folks who wail about how America is a 'Christian' nation and some have even said that the separation of church and state in the First Amendment was only meant to be a 'federal' prohibition and that state and local governments COULD create official religious positions. This is absurd because the first Amendment is there to guarantee that all Americans have the right to worship as they choose and to not have that meddled with by the government.
Most of us recognize the polarization that's happening in our country. The TEA Party movement is evidence of that. The brutal partisan tactics of the Obama administration and Democratic leadership in Congress is evidence of that. I truly fear that if this continues, America will soon look like the Muslim world, especially when it comes to violence.
Educated Muslims living here in the US and other western countries have the advantage of not being consumed by the political and social polarization of the Muslim majority countries. All of them have repeatedly stressed that the only solution for the peoples in the Muslim majority countries is a return to their roots; a return to true Islamic principals. Democracy is in fact an Islamic principal as Almighty God tells us in the Qur'an,
"Those who hearken to their Lord, and establish regular Prayer; who (conduct) their affairs by MUTUAL CONSULTATION; who spend out of what We bestow on them for Sustenance" (Qur'an 42:38)
Freedom, choice and individual liberty is an Islamic principal.
"Let there be no compulsion in religion/way of life. The truth has been made clear from falsehood so whoever rejects the worship of false gods and embraces the worship of the one true God have truly grasped a most trustworthy hand-hold that shall never break". (Qur'an 2:256)
These things are lacking in the Muslim majority countries both in those dominated by so-called progressive Muslims as well as those dominated by Wahhabi and suto-Wahhabis.
Likewise, if we want to survive as a nation, America needs a fundamental return to its roots which is of course the Constitution. For me, after the Qur'an and the example left to us by the prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the US Constitution is probably one of the most profound documents/ideologies in human history. The most fundamental spirit of the Constitution is individual liberty and the power of the people to chart their own destiny. Not only does this make it and Islam perfectly compatible, but it serves as the foundation of the simple fact that America has been since it's beginning, a place where people of all races and creeds can free to live according to their own worldview. Being a Muslim is not about how you dress or who your parents are. Being a Muslim, is about coming to God and worshipping Him according to His terms and His commands and not our own. Likewise, being American is not about pledging to a flag, being of a certain religion, or being a Democrat or a Republican. Being an American is about accepting the American ideal for what it is, not for what we simply 'want' it to be.
...And Allah Knows Best...