‘Western model of nation state always used to manage muslim world’
Istanbul: The nation-state structure is in trouble, especially in the Muslim world, and Muslims need to engage in rigorous intellectual debates so as to revive their legacy of 1400 years, said a notable academician in Istanbul on Wednesday. He said that the Western model of the state was always used to “manage the Muslim world.”
Delivering a talk at Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University hosted by Centre for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Dr.Yakoob Ahmed said, “Islam and the concept of the Ummah is a decentralizing force for the nation-state.”
“The Ummah transcends boundaries which is a threat to the nation-state structure, which is secular and militaristic in nature to save resources,” Dr. Ahmed said. In his scathing criticism of secularism, Dr. Ahmed said, “It has attacked and bashed every religion.”
Exploring the roots of secularism, the SOAS (London) graduate said, “Religion was seen as problematic and abusive in Europe which required subjugation and regulation that then became global as state and religion were separated in every nation.” However, he added, “Secularism has not completely removed religion and has allowed interaction and negotiation with (certain) religious groups.”
“In India,” he exemplified, “Hinduism will not subscribe to the killing of Muslims but it is Hindutva – a secularised political ideology – which does so, by ‘otherising’ Muslims.”
So long as the world-view is dominated by secularism, he said, “Islamophobia will remain, as it is the role of the secular to subjugate that which represents religion in the public sphere, in this case Islam. We see there is a problem with Islam in the West, India, Myanmar… It is not only in the political sphere but it has filtered into the public sphere now.”
“This has led to the rise of certain groups who are regulating as to how the world should be governed,” Dr. Ahmed, who is a lecturer of theology at Istanbul University, said. “(And) anything else will face violence,” he said of Islamophobia. Dr. Ahmed identified ‘fear’ as one of the components of the modern-day nation-state. “This,” he said, “they justify to save democracy which comes through security and regulation.”
For Dr. Ahmed, secularism has been far worse of all systems. “It has not left anything, be it art, buildings and what not. It does not care.”
Asserting his point, Dr. Ahmed said, “my alternative is that we have a system which has survived for over 1400 years which means there is something in it.”
However, the academic regretted that in contemporary times the Muslim Ummah has “chosen not to listen to this reality”. “We are not ready to listen to it, we have chosen not to face it.”
Dr. Ahmed explained as to how after the fall of the Ottoman devlet, “The Ulema gave up on a political vision of Islam (for Muslims).” “They stopped theorizing what should be done for the future… they are no longer providing solutions as what could be done at a political level… they have left a gap.”
“Muslims have a tradition, a political tradition but it is not clear anymore which is problematic,” he maintained, adding the example of how the Ennahda Party shunned its Islamic identity and changed to a more secular party under Rached Ghannouchi.
Dr. Ahmed rued that the Muslim world is unable to understand that the world was changing at a faster pace. “Our youth are becoming disenfranchised with Islam.”
Impressing upon the reformist parties to hold the places wherever they are Dr. Ahmed said, “They need to ‘internationalise’ their approach… those affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood for example need to contribute to systems wherever they are… by giving solutions to those structures which have given them refuge.”
He, however, said that the execution of violence by Muslim groups saddens him. “There is a system of checks and balances but when violence is done by Muslims, we tend to give up on justice, deen, taqwa etc.” “It is strange as how non-Muslims identify as who is a ‘good’ Muslim and who is a ‘bad’ Muslim.”
Asking the Islamist parties to brace up, Dr. Ahmed said, “People say that we are in a post-Islamist era…. (which means) Islamist models need a shake-up.”
Defining Islamic democracy as an oxymoron, Dr. Ahmed said, “Islam is just and that is it. The question is where is the place of the sharia in the Muslim world?”
“The Sharia is not being envisioned as a philosophy, vision and something to do with morality but simply ‘yes and no’ and ‘dos and don’ts’,” he explained, “that is why there is an urgent need to go back, to see Islam as a philosophy and as a vision.”
Citing the example of ‘Black Lives Matter’, Dr. Ahmed said, “They need to radically change because they want rights equal to those governing them (White nationalists) who claim to be civilised but have given devastation to the world.”
“We need to question what has secularism given to us? Nothing but destruction and devastation,” he emphasized.
Lambasting the Muslim nations for they “have lost legitimacy long ago”, the academician said, “Religion has been subjugated… there is a constant management and human life is just a number now.”
“It (human life) is not sacred anymore because we have left every ideal of morality, philosophy and have embraced secularism,” he added.
To make his point, Dr. Ahmed said that Al Qaeda and Deash reflect more of the secular than Islamic.
Despite knowing that systems, such as capitalism etc, are not good, Dr. Ahmed said, Muslim nations have embraced them. “We have a vision… yes, there have been mistakes but what is the West giving to the world… let us give a try to our own system now.”
He said that the system which Islam gives to its Ummah should not be seen through the perspective of the West. “The Ummah thinks and acts in terms of a body which is a collective,” he said and asked Muslims to be attached to each other emotionally, spiritually and politically.
The London born academic said that the Muslim world was facing very tough times because “Today we are afraid of terms like Sharia, Jihad and Khilafat. We are scared to say so… and with time it will go into subconscious and with the passage of time, it will be just an abstract idea which has no meaning,” he explained.
Asking Muslims to revive the collective Iftaar tradition, he said, “There is an assumption that the Sharia takes away our freedom which is totally wrong.”
“In Islam, sovereignty belongs to Allah and authority to the Ummah,” he said. “Allah is sovereign and we have to show humility and submission which provides humanity with a sense of being accounted for.It is due to authority that we have to safeguard the interests of the Ummah unlike the nation-state structure where everything has to be ‘sharp’.”
Dr. Ahmed said that Muslims are living in a time when there is a gap between generations. “There is a disconnect… we are living in a consumerism era and we have to change that.”
“I am scared of the trauma of the youth in Egypt… the opinion, and choice of young Muslims matter and their anger is genuine,” he maintained, “The youth are creative but they are contained and conditioned. We need to listen to them.”
Urging the Muslim intellectuals and youth to interact with the world as Islam encourages us to do so, Dr. Ahmed said, “We have to develop resistance… it is hard work; psychological and intellectual but it is more dangerous than bombs.”
The resistance narrative, Dr. Ahmed said of Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, has to be carried forward. “We have to be intellectually violent against secularism. Maintain your memory,” Dr.Yakoob advised the Muslim youth, “Even if you don’t exist, idea of your memory survives. It is important.”
Suggesting that the systems in place in Turkey should allow the Syrian population (technically guests of Turkey) to maintain their identity, Dr. Ahmed noted this mass migration will have an impact on the social and political life of Turkish people.
Riyaz ul Khaliq is associated with Centre for Islam and Global Affairs, Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University.