Review: Western Muslims and the Future of Islam

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Tasneem Vali

Writer at Learn to Laugh
Tasneem Vali is an architect, independent writer/editor and volunteer with ICNA and Guider, Girl Guides, Canada.

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Do they forge a new identity for themselves and their children or do they adhere almost to the pint of obstinacy to their ‘home’ culture?

 “…taking into account the social, cultural and political realities Muslims are facing, three questions are fundamental and urgently demand precise answers if we are to build a future for ourselves in the West: Where are we? Who are we? And in what way do we want to belong ?”

This book speaks not only to the future generation of Muslims who find themselves caught between the proverbial rock and hard place, their parents’ culture and western culture, but is a beacon of reformist thought that will appeal to Muslims in every situation.

Let’s face it, there is no longer a Dar ul Islam, so Muslims must refashion and rethink their stand on several issues. Ramadan offers new understanding and interpretation of what it means to be a Muslim, in a non-Islamic environment. He offers the principle of justice as the beacon that should guide our development as an Ummah, not our cultural bias which only leads us to withdraw into our shells.

“If for example Muslims in the West are called upon to participate in a war that is unjust and based solely on the desire for power of control (of territory, interests, other people), they should not…take part…they should under the ‘conscience clause’ plead ‘conscientious objection’…many people have pleaded this conscientious objection throughout history…”

Later in the book, Ramadan talks about how Muslims must and should integrate into mainstream society, obviously keeping in mind not to violate Islamic tenets. In this new context, interpreted keeping in mind that practising Muslims are a minority in most countries, they must participate fully in the civic life of the societies they call home. Western Muslims and the Future of Islam moulds a fresh Muslim Identity, one that refutes the idea that there is a Clash of Civilizations according to Huntington.

This book intelligently argues that Muslims in the 21st century must focus on ‘an Independent western Islam’ that is not held down by traditions rooted in culture, but should be lightened by Islam’s own traditions and the reality of living in the West (or other countries that are not traditionally Muslim).

Western Muslims and the Future of Islam is divided into two parts, the first part has an introduction with four chapters, and the second part includes six chapters and a conclusion. The introduction is a must read to understand the book and the methodology Ramadan used in deriving his conclusions. He has used traditional sources such as Quran and Ahadith, and interpreted them in the light of Western culture. The best part of the book is the way traditional problems that Muslims perceive are thought of as benefits in establishing a new identity at par with Islamic traditions. Isolation as a method to keep ‘our children safe’ is not acceptable any longer.

A book worth reading, even if I do not agree with all of its premises, I do like that it opened my mind to a new way of approaching and raising my kids, and living as a Muslim in Canada. No longer is the ostrich approach viable, it is time to venture where no Muslim has ventured before. May Allah give us Imaan.

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