Civilisations don’t clash, rather their roles are complementary: US editor
THERE IS no clash of civilisations between Islam and the West, as civilisations don’t clash, rather they complement each other, says Dr Aslam Abdullah, editor of two prestigious newspapers in the United States.
“It is the empires and economic interests that come in conflict. Today there is no Western or Eastern civilisation but one global civilisation”, he told the Hindustan Times on his arrival here on Saturday. He is to deliver lectures here.
Dr Abdullah says that any person who has read a few religious books in Urdu, Arabic and Persian alone can’t be an ‘Aalim’. “Ulema (scholars) must be well-versed with science of time, socio-political conditions and the realities.
But often, Ulema, who get their understanding of religion from a narrow perspective and lack of appreciation towards other schools of thought/faith cause a lot of damage. Ulema are preaching rather than teaching”, says Dr Abdullah, who was born in Bhopal, studied at JNU (New Delhi) and migrated to the USA. His father, the late Maulana Mohammed Muslim, was Editor of the Urdu daily ‘Nadeem’ in Bhopal and later of ‘Roznama Dawat’ published from Delhi.
He feels that individuals and teams must develop as agents and catalyst to bring a change in Muslim outlook. “Muslims need to be more involved socially”.
“The ghettoisation and lack of social involvement is due to the defensive nature of Indian Muslims, who dissipated most of their energies in proving their loyalty to the nation during the last six decades after Partition besides facing
communal riots and a lack of able leadership”.
On a query about the trend that the young generation of Muslims in Western countries, many of whom are born and brought up in these countries, are less liberal than their parents, Dr Abdullah said that the tendency to bring about social change, often with violent means, due to their frustration, causes the situation.
“It is due to lack of understanding of religion and misinterpretation of the religious texts”. The Muslim intelligentsia failed to provide alternative for social change. “The religious leadership failed to rise to the occasion.” All over the world Muslims must prove their worth to the society and should show their effectiveness in resolving
genuine issues ranging from homelessness, poverty, injustice and environmental issues, said Dr Abdullah, who is author of several books and has taught in universities in India and America.
He feels that the protests on the streets in Muslim countries either over caricature row or the Iraq war are a reflection of the frustration of the populace that is often denied democracy and human rights in their own countries. “We must accept the right to freedom of speech of others and even if we feel insulted, there is the legal and peaceful way. There should not be any space for death threats Internationally, efforts are on to check the misinterpretation of religious principles so that the saner Muslim voices could be clearly heard across the globe”.
“Also, non-Muslims should be large-hearted and shed the attitude that Islam is an impediment to society”, he adds. “It was felt that American Muslims who hail from India should use their resources to bring about educational changes in India”, says Dr Abdullah, former president of the American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin (AFMIO).
“The need is to improve curriculum and bring it in sync with contemporary education apart from training teachers and developing new programmes”. However, he admits that not much headway has been made owing to the fact that many people took money and used it for personal gains.
“There is a feeling amongst section of Muslims that the world is after us and political conflicts including the plight of Palestinians aggravates this persecution complex”, says Dr Abdullah, who feels that Muslim psyche is not exactly understood the world over.
“Most of the Muslim countries came out of colonial rules quite late and the lack of democracy in these nations apart from the poor record of human rights in these societies make the Muslim populace restless”.
Replying to a question that on one hand increasing role of Islam in the American society is reported and on the other hand there is a perception that American Muslims are feeling besieged, he says that there is no dichotomy.
“There are Westerns who understand Islam and appreciate its beauty but on the other hand the political situation does influence the opinion of others. America also went through colonial period like many Muslim countries but it had little direct contact with Muslims until recently and most of the contact was through military or missionaries”, he adds.
“American Muslims are in the process of dialogue with other religious groups and our approach all over the world should be towards developing the process of dialogue, interaction with other groups and a critical view of our own society”, he says.