Islam in the West
The religion of Islam has had a bad reputation for many years. This can be attributed to the terrorist acts committed by selected Muslims. Because of this, non-Muslims have established a link between terrorism and Islam, giving the religion a bad name. This eventually resulted in the confusion of the Muslims about their own religion. In the article “Islam and the West: Three Stories” by Abdul Aziz Said and Nathan Funk (1998), the first line proves to be an accurate description of the aforementioned misconception: “Islam is perhaps the most misunderstood religion today, both among non-Muslims and among some of the Muslims themselves” (p.1). The said article presents the reader with two stories of opposing viewpoints: the first story asserts that the religion of Islam and Western civilization are generally incompatible, while the second expresses the compatibility of the two and insists that both can co-exist. However, the article also states the need for the creation of a third story.
The first story affirms the prevailing belief in society, as it speaks of the difference between Islam and the West. The domination of Western civilization in global affairs is undeniable and its influence can be felt throughout the world. This influence is referred to as “cultural triumphalism,” which Said and Funk (1998) described as the prevalence of “what is right, true, and real is the same for everyone in the past, present, and future” (p. 2). One of the things that the West greatly influenced was history. According to Said and Funk (1998), “cultural triumphalism favors and reinforces Western cultural values and styles and produces a displacement of Islamic culture” (p. 2). The widespread influence of the West proved disadvantageous to Islam, as Muslims were forgotten in historical accounts (Said and Funk, 1998).
The conflict between Islam and the West originated from the misjudgments of both parties. On one hand, the opinion of the West about Islam is marked by misinformation and doubt. For example, the common Western perception is that the religion of Islam promotes violence. This belief encourages “distrust of Muslim countries” (Said and Funk, 1998, p. 3). The West is also skeptical about Islamic freedom (Said and Funk, 1998). On the other hand, the Islamic opinion of the West is marked with skepticism and fear (Said and Funk, 1998). Islam questions the Western morality. In addition, the achievements of the West in terms of politics and the military are met with suspicion (Said and Funk, 1998).
Unlike the first story, the second one is quite unfamiliar. It illustrates how the Western world and Islam can harmoniously coexist. Said and Funk points out that the beginnings of Islam was derived from several cultures, which includes Arabic and Hellenic (Said and Funk, 1998). In time, Islamic influence eventually grew and included elements from other cultures such as Persia and India. The origins of Islam therefore connects the West with the East (Said and Funk, 1998). Based on this premise, it would be easy to say that there is indeed a possibility for Islam and the West to coexist.
The article also disproved the notion that Islam is incompatible with democracy. Said and Funk insists that the relationship between Islam and democracy has nothing to do with incompatibility; instead, it is a question of preparedness. The only reason why Muslim nations do not have democratic governments is because they are still not prepared for it. Moreover, the lack of democracies in Muslim countries is not only attributed to lack of preparedness, but also the lack of examples. There have not been democratic Islamic governments to emulate. According to Said and Funk (1998), “there is no available model for modern, democratic, and Muslim advanced by modernized Muslim thinkers” (p. 6). This dilemma causes a problem in the establishment of an Islamic democracy. In addition, it is not ideal that the elements of Western democracy be imposed on Islam. It would be futile to use Western ideals in an Islamic system. Hence, Muslims should develop a democratic form of government which is appropriate for their own culture.
The last and third story is still unwritten, but the authors of the article are optimistic that it will be written soon. This last story will hopefully convey a message of “convergence and reconciliation” (Said & Funk, 1998, p. 7). This story will no longer be characterized by misconceptions and misinformation about the cultures of others. In a way, the writing of the third story is a challenge. It will test the West of its capacity to be respectful of the truths established by other cultures and not just the truths that it itself has established. The writing of the third story will also test the capability of the Muslims to impart Islamic ideas to the world.
In the three stories included in the article, the most well-known is the first story. It verifies the fact that bias and discrimination still exists in society, regardless of which culture one belongs to. However, it is most evident with the Islamic culture. On the contrary, the second story is unknown. Not many people are familiar with this story. Despite its unfamiliarity, it cannot be denied that this story may indeed be true. I believe that the third story will resolve the current conflict between Islam and the West. After reading the article, questions will remain. Who will write the third story? How will it be written? After it is written, how can it be applied? The third story is a future endeavor; at present, it is still a mere idea. The article should have included and indicated a process that would show the application of the third story. Because of this, there remains a gap that is yet to be filled.
Said, A. A., & Funk, N.C. (1998). Islam and the West: Three Stories. Retrieved July 22, 2008, from http://www.american.edu/cgp/pdf/islam&w.pdf