The paper deals with one of the most important topics of modern days, i.e. the issue of Islam and its opposition to Western values. Islam is the youngest of the worlds major religions. Muhammad is the founder and the first prophet of Islam. The recordings of his sermons constitute the sacred book of Muslims, namely the Quran. Other main sources of Islam are Sunnah and Sharia. Strict adherence to the rules proclaimed in these sources created contradictions between democratic Western civilization and conservative Muslim civilization. The Islam adherents condemn materialism, consumerism, and many other values of the West. However, a great number of Islamic students study in American and European universities and remain in the host country. At the same time, they do not change their religion but contribute to its prevalence. This fact helped Islam to become a global phenomenon and one of the worlds major religions. However, some modern aspects of Islam contradict the human rights, especially the rights of women. Many Muslim communities in Islamic countries impose a ban on a number of regular things such as education, free will, premarital relations, and others. In conjunction with religious extremism and fanaticism, Islam has become the most controversial religion in the world. It can be assumed that a diversity of religions should not impede world nations in solving problems of global civilization.
In the present days, people can often hear such words as Islam or Islamic. They sound from the TV screen and regularly appear in the internet. Islamic revival and Islamic boom are the expressions that have become common. The past forty years are painted in green, red, and black, which are the traditional Islamic colors. Islam and oil. Islam and the Middle East crisis. Islam and the Palestinian problem. Islam and the Iran-Iraq war. Every word that follows that and contains the secret of Islamic boom. This religion has been a part of the life of millions of people in Asia and Africa for many centuries. For them, it is a way of thinking and action, hope for justice in their lives, and the hope of reward in the afterlife. For other nations, Islam is a factor of instability and constant threat to the peace of the people. The reason for this lies in modern aspects and manifestations of Islam, which are expressed in constant clashes between Muslims and Western civilization.
Characteristics of the Islam Religion
Islam originated in the south-west of the Arabian peninsula at the beginning of the 7th century in Hijaz among the tribes of western Arabia. The founder of Islam is Muhammad, who proclaimed himself a prophet. Currently, nearly half of all Muslims live in North Africa; about 30% live in Pakistan and Bangladesh; more than 10% live in India. Indonesia has a larger Muslim population than any other country in the world.
According to Muslim beliefs, Allah gave the Quran to Muhammad through the angel. The Quran became a holy scripture for Muslims. It consists of 114 chapters or suras. As a rule, the title of each sura does not reflect its content and is associated with the most memorable phrase or topic. The additional source of doctrines is Sunnah, which consists of the stories about the life of Muhammad and his sayings presented in the form of hadiths.
Islam is currently divided into two main streams. Most of the world's Muslims are the Sunni. In particular, these include about 90% of Muslims in the Middle East. Another major branch of Islam is the Shiites. Sunnis stick to their acceptance of the hadith collection, religious practices, and rules of conduct imposed on Muslims in all situations, which are all included in the Sunnah. In turn, Shiites represent the party, which states that the power of the community should belong to the descendants of Muhammad only but not the elected officials as in the case of the Sunni. They do not accept the Sunnah as a whole and complement it with their own regulations, including the belief in the special mediators between Allah and Muslims, namely imams.
There are the following main subjects of Islamic faith: faith in Allah (Tawhid); faith in Allahs angels (Malaikat); faith in Allah scripture (Kitab); faith in the Prophets and Messengers of Allah (Anbiya); faith in predestination of Allah (Qadr); faith in the life after death. Also, the following five pillars of Islam are obligatory for every Muslim:
1. Shahada recitation;
2. Five obligatory prayers a day (or Salah) in compliance with strictly defined rites;
3. Fasting during the month of Ramadan, when Muslims are required to abstain from all food and drink from sunrise to sunset;
4. Pilgrimage (or Hajj) to Mecca at least once in a lifetime of every Muslim;
5. Donations (or Zakat) to poor people and realization of the needs of the community.
As stated above, every true believer should pray five times a day at specific hours. It is important to stick to these rules because missed prayers must be compensated. Otherwise, they are passed on to the children of the believer. The person may be exempted from these obligations by virtue of a severe illness or other serious reason. The issues related to prayer are worked out clearly. For example, every Muslim should perform the prayer Jumuah in the mosque every Friday. It unites the community and eliminates social and economic inequalities between people because this collective action refers to everyone regardless of their origin and material prosperity. The preaching imam usually complements the prayer.
Thus, Islam is the indissoluble unity of the faith, public-legal establishments, and certain forms of culture. As a rule, the division of the spheres of life into the secular and the religious is not peculiar for the Muslim religion. This inseparability has led to the emergence of Shariah. It is the law based on the interpretation of the provisions of the Quran and Sunnah. It contains religious attitudes, legal norms, and moral and domestic regulations. Due to strict adherence to the rules and low flexibility, Islam treats the non-Muslim world with much misunderstanding, hostility, and opposition to the traditional Western values.
Muslim Opposition to Western Values
One of the most obvious modern manifestations of Islam is opposition to the values of Western nations. It may seem that rejection of Western values and the assimilation of modern science and technology have an internal contradiction because technological advances have long been the areas dominated by the nations of the West. At least, Western scientists developed most of the methods and research models of the modern age. For various reasons, the Islamic world has stayed far behind in scientific development. However, the very fact that the West has succeeded in the development of modern science in no way indicates that this happened due to the superiority of Western religions or intellectual human resources. Instead, the West succeeded in monopolizing science and industrial technology due to a combination of historical, political, economic, and geographical circumstances.
According to Islamic critics, the problem of the dominance of the West in science and technology lies in the rationalistic and materialistic worldview that denies the sovereignty of God and any responsibility to Him on behalf of the humanity (Yasmeen & Markovic, 2014). Moreover, the Muslim reformers agree that Western materialism tempts people to consumerism based on the satisfaction of sensual desires. The non-Western nations become victims of commercial exploitation of the universal pleasure-seeking human aspirations in todays world of global communication and commerce. Therefore, Muslims are deprived of many forms of modern music, alcohol, cinematography, social interaction of genders, and much more. However, Muslims approve such fruits of Western civilization as cars, airplanes, medicine, industrial production, computers, electronic media, and, in particular, technical education, as well as the market strategies.
Furthermore, not all Muslims share the view that the Western values should be opposed. First, characteristics of the West as materialistic means looking at it from a biased point of view because Western countries have strong religious faith as well. Second, religious people of all faiths Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Judaists, and Hindus have similar attitudes and beliefs concerning the conditions of human existence, the admissibility of attraction to wealth, and the need to control human passion. In the case of Islam, the memory of Western colonialism and imperialism does not provide many reasons for joy. The Muslim descendants of the colonized peoples consider it their duty to prevent the recurrence of alien dominance in either politics and economics or symbolic, cultural, and social fields.
Currently, many Muslims regard the rejection of the West as a religious duty. Materialism and consumerism in their eyes are a kind of idolatry. However, the exploitation of the natural world through science and technology is not only considered permissible but is also encouraged by Allah, if such actions are carried out in accordance with the Islamic principles of the Quran and Sunnah.
Islamic radical revolutionary movements are calling for complete elimination of the Western and especially American interests and influences from the life of the Islamic states. Their rejection sometimes takes the form of jihad, which means holy war and acts as a form of terrorism. Although the majority of Muslims do not approve of terrorism, the successful actions of extremist groups in the name of Islam do not leave much scope to remain indifferent. Thus, Islam serves two roles. It is both a religion and ideology. It acts as a means to establish a connection with God and a means of mobilizing fellow-Muslims to achieve political and social goals. Islam can serve as a symbol for extremely different nations, which, however, equally consider the impact of external forces as the real reason for the deplorable state of affairs in their homeland. The examples include the injustice and political instability in Lebanon; the Israeli occupation of Palestine; pro-Western government in Egypt; the occupation of Afghanistan by the former Soviet forces. The West continues to serve as the main symbol of the satanic evil in Iran, where government systematically and virtually eradicates Western influence. Among others, opposition to Western values helps the government to maintain power over the people.
Islam and Muslims in the West
There are opposing manifestations of close connection of Islam with the peoples and institutions of the West. On the one hand, many Muslims argue that the openness of the Western culture corrupts and misleads Muslims from the Straight Path (Yasmeen & Markovic, 2014). This is quite true, for example, in the case of the Muslim youth attending Western universities. They discover that traditional social models like close family ties, gender estrangement, and a well-established model of compliance with the rituals do not work. The Western daily routine and training schedule are not quite convenient for prayers at the appointed hours. Also, the Ramadan fasting is not conducive to the efficient and fruitful education of students.
On the other hand, Muslim students of different nationalities work together on the formation of student associations and carrying out Salahs and other religious duties. The Muslim youth, which enters, for example, the United States, have clearly contrasting values and customs to the dominant ethnic group in the host country and accordingly adapt to the situation, taking what they think is possible to take and keeping their way of life to the extent possible.
When coming to the West, Muslims rather tend to become stronger in their faith than to succumb to the effects of the alien way of life. The reason for this is that the North American and European societies have freedom of the press and a high degree of freedom of association and expression. At the same time, they tolerate dissent and even radical viewpoints. Muslims and other immigrants from the East willingly form associations and express their views, which would not be permitted in their home countries and could even result in severe punishment. Ironically, the Muslim students in the West enjoy the benefits of the high-quality scientific and technical education and at the same time, discipline themselves in the field of religion. This disciplining includes Dawah, which means a preaching appeal to non-Muslims to enjoy the blessings of Islam.
When Muslims receive a degree in the West and return home, they bring a wide range of attitudes and reactions to the non-Muslim and the Western lifestyle. However, a significant number of Muslims remains in Western countries due to better economic conditions, opportunities to apply their skills, and other reasons. The presence of these people has led to the first significant advancement in the history of Muslim institutions in the West. In modern France, Muslims constitute the second largest religious community, far behind the Roman Catholics, but ahead of Protestants. There are large Muslim communities in Germany and the United Kingdom, as well as the Netherlands. Also, the Muslim community is firmly standing on its feet in Canada, especially in big cities. As for the United States, there are no less than five million Muslims. It is worth noting that the number of new Muslim converts is increasing, especially among African-Americans. Over time, the Muslim communities in the West cease to be ethnic enclaves. They are increasingly made up of the indigenous inhabitants of these regions, peacefully coexisting with other religious communities such as Judaists and Christians. Thus, Islam gradually turns from a purely Arab regional religion into a global phenomenon. In turn, globalization has had an impact on some of the aspects of Islamic religion. This is especially true for the gender perspective.
Islamic Gender Aspects due to Globalization
Islam is a traditional religion in the Arab East, and, thereby, Sharia regulates the life of the Arabian society. Therefore, a gender perspective in solving social and political problems has a number of features different from European ones. The processes of migration and the related problem of the integration of migrants and returnees in the socio-cultural and political life of host countries characterize a modern rapidly changing world. In this regard, there are drastic changes in the lifestyle and value system of migrants.
Islam is becoming more popular in todays world as a result of intensified migration. As stated earlier, Muslim communities exist today in all European countries and on all continents. In this regard, there are assimilation processes that often do not meet the norms of Sharia, and sometimes even run counter to them. Today, there is no secret that Sharia laws oppress women in many social aspects. However, a Muslim woman wants to participate in public life, have access to education, have a right to vote and to be elected, get married for love, and make a career like a Muslim man.
Today, the Muslim community of France is the largest in Europe. On 15 March 2004, the French government passed the law on secularism. The Muslim womens association of France stands for gender equality while its members are refusing to wear a hijab in educational institutions. However, a certain part of Muslim women considers this as an attack on their rights and freedoms and a deviation from the laws of Sharia.
There is also a law on secularism in Turkey, where the majority of the population is Muslim. However, there has been a deviation from the secular principles after the coming to power of the Justice and Development Party. The following facts prove that the secular foundations of the state are undermined. First, the ban on wearing the hijab at universities was lifted. Second, there was a ban on drinking alcohol in restaurants. In some Turkish areas, there is polygamy, added with compulsory wearing of a headscarf and public reprimands for wearing certain clothes. These facts violate the rights of women and slow down the process of integration.
A Muslim woman, having been a guardian of the hearth for centuries with almost no rights, increasingly experiences these social changes. On the one hand, she is still dependent on her husband and must not violate the laws of Sharia. On the other hand, living, for example, in some European country, she cannot help observing the changes that are taking place in Europe. These include greater emancipation of women, their participation in public life, and other value orientations. However, the Muslim community imposes many restrictions on women even in European countries. These include the ban on marriage between a Muslim and non-Muslim; the ban on visiting evenings entertainment; the ban to visit public places unless accompanied by men; compulsory wearing of the hijab; the ban on the choice of profession; etc.
Pros and Cons
Islam is a young religion. The Muslim religion arose much later than other religious systems, and, unlike them, it has not exhausted its possibilities. Islam is in its prime and plays an active role in the modern world.
The vitality of the Muslim religion. The vitality of Islam is manifested in the fact that it has persevered and did not lose its positions despite the long period of colonization of the Eastern countries. It relies on the lack of a central organization clergy, which hinders the rapid and timely solution of urgent problems in other religions.
The simplicity and accessibility of this religion. The simplicity of Islam is manifested in its dogmas and cults, which are less complex than those of other religions. The availability of the Muslim religion is explained by the fact that Islam takes into account the local conditions as much as possible. Besides, it was not involved in any colonial policy.
Fanaticism and terrorism. Islamic extremism has succeeded in creating a negative image of Islam across the world public. Islam has become the concept that refers to the mass killings and destruction in the minds of the majority of non-Muslims because of Islam fanatics, which commit the acts of terrorism. However, Islam does not in any way recognize the fanaticism, and, therefore, it has nothing to do with bigotry and extremism.
The totality of the religion. Islam covers all spheres of the life of Muslims. It leads to the fact that Islam acts as a way of life, which entirely determines the outlook, appearance, and behavior of people. This fact may interfere with the personal freedom and violate universal human rights.
The reason for the negative perception of Islam in the non-Muslim world is strong opposition to the West and hostility towards Western values. The concept of Islam includes the indissoluble unity of the faith, public-legal establishments, and certain forms of culture. Like any other traditional religion, it calls for humanity, humility, human values, piety, righteous way of life, and respect for ethical and moral values. However, Islam is controversial and heterogeneous and does not encourage the faithful adherents in their desire to be like God. Instead, it requires a blind following of the instructions of Allah. This fact is apparently the reason for the development of Islamic fanaticism and extremism.
Islam entered the 21st century as one of the areas of human civilization and a system of beliefs and practices of the political, material, and spiritual culture. Islam has millions of believers involving numerous parties, organizations, movements, and whole states. At the same time, Islam gave rise to terrorism, extremism, and violation of womens rights. Nevertheless, world nations have different political and philosophical principles and traditions, but this fact should not impede the development of cooperation in solving the problems of global civilization.