Start looking for similarities among the world's religions

Daily News Egypt
6 Min Read

The West and the Muslim world are multi-faceted, multi-cultural, and multi-religious realms despite the narrow way they are often viewed and defined. There are millions of Muslims in the West, and there are millions of individuals of other faiths in the “Muslim world. There are underlying relationships between these supposed separate worlds that exist in the basic foundations of their cultures; the continual resurgence of religiosity is at the heart of both of our cultures and has been throughout history. The goal of religiosity is piety, and a temporal consequence of piety is the insistent turning of the individual and collectivity toward those values and ethics that are universally cherished by all human beings. Given this relationship between piety and time-honored ethics and values, anyone of goodwill, Western or not, should feel encouraged by that facet of Islamic doctrine that supports the cultivation of piety through religious practice, which elicits from its practitioner an inter-human ethic also shared by the Judeo-Christian, Hindu, Parsi and Buddhist traditions. Therefore, similarities between cultures can be found in the religious and theocentric realm. Even seemingly clashing cultures can find common ground here. American heritage has a strong theocentric basis. I recall, as a schoolchild, reciting daily “one nation, under God indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, as taught by the American Pledge of Allegiance. This idea is precisely Quranic. Moreover, the sense that executive, legislative and judiciary institutions must be parochially neutral while at the same time acknowledging divinity and cultivating piety and sanctity, no matter what the outward form (be it Christian or Buddhist or Islamic, or something else), is in keeping with the operational understanding of governance as derived from Quranic principles. These principles were elaborated on and lived by the prophet Muhammad and his apostles. Though similarities can be drawn, the East has kept theocentric principals closer to the surface of its cultures, while the West supports a more secular culture. There is very little the “Muslim world needs to learn ideologically from the modern West. The making of ideologically-sound governance and society lies in the application of Islamic law, or sharia, defined by the Quran and embracing pluralism. Whether this element of the sharia is fostered and supported by the domestic or transnational geopolitical power-brokers is an entirely different issue. Western-based secular humanism, which views public expressions of faith or mention of God as a malignant imposition of religion, is repugnant to the Islamic paradigm. Regardless, Muslims in the West are still expected to abide by the mores and legal precedents of where they live. Taking an extreme example, if, through due process, it is decided that religion or mention of God is purely private matter, the Muslim, by the ethic dictated by sharia, needs to comply or find somewhere else to live. In the Muslim world, like in the rest of the developing world, the West has imposed corporate client regimes through the use of covert or overt war. The ensuing harmful socio-political and economic consequences have caused many segments of the population to feel deeply violated. When these Muslim populations express themselves against very real injustices, they do so in the phraseology of a sharia ethic that promises them their rights to life, liberty, property, security and fair distribution of wealth and opportunity. The sharia has its basis in religion; hence, religious revivalism is analogous to Americans demanding their “constitutional rights in the face of socio-political and financial victimization. Various reactionary movements have their basis in this dynamic. Religion, when practiced authentically, by definition builds bridges amongst its practitioners, no matter what the brand of their respective religions. The Quran explicitly addresses this phenomenon in many instances. One of the most dangerously flawed theses is that there is something within authentic religion that is central in causing conflict along religiously parochial lines. However, religious, racial, ethnic or any other form of bigotry is by definition a psychological perversion. Although religion, race and ethnicity are semantically linked to their respective bigotries in an existential manner, they are not causative. A pious Jew, Christian or Muslim will behave in the same manner when it comes to inter-personal ethics. The modalities of worship may differ, but the treatment by a pious Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Parsi or Buddhist toward their fellow man will be the same. All humans, be they theocentric or theophobic, desire to spend their time on this earth with their rights secured, free to enjoy their pursuits within a peaceful and ordered society. This is the common bridge between believers and non-believers. There is an underlying commonality that exists in the humanity of peoples, their cultures and religion. A massive public campaign must be waged which supports tearing down the barriers between our “two worlds. It’s time that we stop looking for differences and start paying attention to the similarities. Faiz Khan, a medical doctor, is a writer and lecturer on Islam. He is also a co-founder of MUJCA-NET, the Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth. THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary in collaboration with the Common Ground News Service.

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