Welcome to ‘Muslim Journey’!
This blog replaces my previous one: ‘Beyond Freedom’
The “Muslim Journey” it’s trying to portray and analyze is the transformation of Muslims and their cultural patterns, occurring around the world. The Islamic paradigm has been shifting, steadily though often imperceptively, trough Muslims’ clashes and engagements with the liberal West, modernization, the spread of education, and the winds of freedom and democracy swirling at different paces in different segments of the Islamic civilization.
It’s largely an uncharted journey of individuals and societies whose identities and value systems are in flux. Yes, Muslims are praying, fasting and giving alms the way they used to fourteen centuries ago. They feel the bond of their umma, the global Muslim community, as they always did, and sometimes with greater intensity because the communications revolution has made them more aware than ever before of their global “brotherhood” and the challenges it’s facing from Israel’s anti-Muslim apartheid to China’s atrocities toward Uighurs to India’s attempts to blot out the autonomy and identity of Muslim Kashmiris. But the Muslims who witnessing, assessing and joining these events and causes are often different in their outlook sense and intensity of purpose.
In the late 1940s when I was growing up on my ancestral rice paddy farm in Bangladesh, news of Jewish attacks on Palestinian Muslims was brought into our Polashpur village by occasional visitors from Sylhet town, months after the events had occurred. After Friday prayers at our ten-shed village mosque, we would join our imam (prayer leader) in prayers for God’s protection of those beleaguered Muslims. In the fall of 1989, on a trip to the Pakistani city of Quetta, I ran into a group of Muslim “Mujahedeen,” or freedom fighters, from different countries, returning from Afghan battlefields after defeating Soviet invader to Afghanistan and making them “run with their lives, leaving their guns in the fields, and probably wetting their pants,” as one of them gloated. Among the group were two Bangladeshis, one from a village no far from Polashpur. This past March I watched from in front of the White House American Muslim youths, along with other Americans belonging to myriad faiths and national origins, marching toward an AIPAC conference being held at the Walter E. Convention Center several blocks away. The Israeli occupation of Palestine, once an almost exclusively Arab and Muslim grievance, has become a Muslim-led global cause.
I have been watching the evolution of Muslim societies and worldviews firsthand, and a product of it in Islam’s showroom. I’m a bit surprised to note that the Muslim story, the story of Islam’s
I have been witnessing this Islamic saga firsthand. And I’m its product in its showcase. I’m trying to make sense of it, and give my take on it when I can.
accelerating is about the evolution of Islam and Muslims under the impact of modernity, religious and communal revival, and the winds of freedom and democracy that are swirling around the Muslim world. It’s about Muslims’ epic journey from colonial subjugation and agrarian torpor to independence, modernization, and globalization. It, too, is about my personal journey from rock solid beliefs and ethno-centric outlook nurtured at an Islamic seminary in what is now Bangladesh to the anomie, contingencies and possibilities of life in the West.
Today many Muslim societies have been roiling from religious upheavals, autocratic tyranny, extremism, and spasms of terrorism. This phase of the Muslim journey would remind you of pre-Enlightenment Europe – the Europe of interfaith and intrafaith strife, the Inquisition, the Renaissance and the Reformation. Those social religious convulsions were the birth pangs of the Western civilization as we know it today. But the values and worldviews of twenty-first-century Muslims and the challenges they face as individuals and communities, are far different from those that inspired and hamstrung Christian and pagan life in early modern Europe.
Islam hasn’t had a Grand Inquisitor Tomás de Torquemada, or a John Calvin, or a Machiavelli, or a Robespierre, let alone a Hitler. Neither has it, indeed, produced a Newton, a Shakespeare, a Da Vinci, or an Erasmus. This is mainly because, in my view, Europe has been riding its historical roller coaster from fundamentally different cultural and environmental vintage than that of Muslim societies.
The fascinating question remains, for me at least, is what the trajectory of Muslim’ journey into the future is going to look like. I have been mulling over the question for years but haven’t arrived anywhere near a plausible answer. Not yet, anyway. I’d like to know if any of Muslim Journey visitors have. I hope Muslim Journey will be a useful tool for the continuation of my inquiry.
The questions that would underlie many of the posts on the blog would include: What’s fueling the communal resurgence and violence in many Muslim societies? How are these societies being nourished or challenged by modernity, globalization and the communications revolution? How have individual Muslims and their societies been evolving from their engagement with disparate cultures and value systems? And so on.
I will be hosting Muslim Journey and writing most of its posts. I also welcome guest posts. If you wish to write one, please leave me a note in the Contact tab message box.
Below each blog post is a Comments box. I invite you to share with me and other visitors your questions, criticism or other thoughts about the posts.
I look forward to learning from your thoughts, and growing.
Thank you for stopping by at Muslim Journey!
Host and Editor