Many Muslims in the world consistently blame the “West” for all their problems. No doubt, many of the problems in the Muslim world stem from decisions made in the West. i.e… the arbitrary creation of Israel, the blind unconditional support of Israel in its occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people, sanctions as political punishment regardless of innocent victims, aid as political reward regardless of ethics, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslims throughout the world, the absolute hypocrisy of foreign policy and at times domestic policy… I mean this list is just endless
BUT sometimes we forget that the Muslim world is just as much to blame for the condition of Muslims all over the world as anyone else, if not more so. Unless we fix our own problems we will never be able to step forward and try to change our condition. Leaving these problems out there is also our weakness and they enable others to take advantage of and in the end, oppress us.
So, having lived in the Muslim world for a period of time and a lifetime in the West, these are some things that I see as the major problems or hurdles we need to change in the Muslim world first, before we blame others. I think we really need to look at ourselves objectively and realize the wrongs that go on among us, just as much as we like to analyze ‘the other’.
#1. Doing the world’s dirty work - Sending innocent people to Muslim countries TO GET TORTURED. Why should the world care that Muslims are being tortured in Guantanamo and Bagram when Muslim countries practice torture as a regular interrogation method? When America sends innocent Muslims TO Muslim countries to be tortured! It’s really quite disgusting. Torture is completely antithetical to the principles of Islam. There are just no words. (And still we like to blame the West for everything.)
#2. Racial inequalities - Let’s talk about the status of workers in Muslim countries, such as maids in Saudi or construction workers in the Emirates. These workers are abused freely, by individuals and by society. Underpaid, overworked, they live in hovels, are paid a pittance, have no rights or recourse if abused. They are never allowed to be citizens, they don’t have the same rights as their boss or the citizen down the street. They can’t even send their kids to the same school or go to the same hospital. I mean call America the devil all you want but at least they theoretically have some type of equality and rights for people who live and work in their country. We read stories after stories of abuse and first hand accounts, with very little reform or accountability. Yes, I know these people are poor and need to go to Muslim countries to work. But if the oppressed accept their oppression due to circumstance and we take advantage of it, what does that make us? (And ours is a Deen that always was the first to defend and help the oppressed and emphasized the equality of all peoples.)
#3. Corruption/Bribes - Corruption in Muslim countries is so rife. Why is a Muslim country always #1 or #2 on the list of most corrupt countries, I always have to ask? Corruption is so common that regular bribe amounts are listed in tourist guides. Want to get telephone services? Want to get out of an airport? Want to do anything? This isn’t like a tax or a tip, this is plain corruption. Want to cover up a crime? Want to commit a crime? It seems like Islam has become only form to people. Pray, fast, maybe go to Hajj and that’s it. But what about your character, your morals, your ethics. Cheating other people. Rampant nepotism. Covering up of inequalities and wrongful actions?
#4. Bureaucracy - This is tied to the one before. Have you ever tried to go to a Muslim country and get a visa? Before I left someone sent me a step by step list of how to establish an Iqama (residency visa) in a particular country. It was 6 handwritten pages and no joke, it listed how to go from this office to that office to that building and get this stamp from this person and so on and so on. It was all description because there are no addresses or official ways of doing anything! We are in such a hurry to modernize and be just like the West, why don’t we copy some good organization and efficiency skills eh. This probably goes back to another big problem in the Muslim world: The rote learning and non-encouragement of any questioning, creativity or innovation in the Muslim world. Also related, where is the work ethic in Muslim countries? Besides “Inshaallah Bokra Mumkin”. Now I know for Muslims we have a different focus on life and it’s not to go to work everyday, make money and consume more Dunya. But somehow I just see this slowly being lost in Muslim countries. Where’s our pride and responsibility in working hard, building, inventing, improving, creating.
#5. Emotional Islam - We Muslims always get upset when we see something wrong or offensive to our religion. Such as… the Danish cartoons or the Salman Rushdie book (or a teddy bear named Muhammad?!) or whatever else. There’s a lot of evil in the world and there are a lot of people that hate Islam. But us becoming emotional or upset about such things does nothing. Nothing constructive or progressive comes from it. Imagine if every Muslim that was offended by the Danish cartoons went out and held one positive event about Islam in their town. Imagine if every Muslim that burned (or like me returned the book to the library thinking it was the dumbest book I ever read) a hateful book on Islam, instead talked to one person about the life of Prophet Muhammad (s). It’s so easy for us to hold protests, hold up signs and yell slogans, even easier to turn to violence. But why aren’t we doing the real work? Working on real Dawah, real programs, on our youth… in so many needed areas?
#6. Opression of women – No Islam does not oppress Muslim women, but Muslims sure do. Or should I say they let others do. How can honor killings be common in certain areas of the Muslim world? Killing innocent girls. Something so vile, that the Quran even asks why a person would do it. And tried and convicted they receive 2 years. Really? A 10 year old sold by her father and forced to marry an 80 year old. Really, that’s acceptable to us? Throwing acid on little girls going to school. Domestic violence against women. I mean there are no words. We will never even take a step forward if we don’t eradicate these evils.
#7. Copying everything western – The Muslim world loves copying and imitating everything western. They love western clothes, western movies, western architecture, western music, western pop stars. What happened to our values? What happened to our own appreciation of our own beautiful things. Our beautiful clothes, music, people, architecture, rich cultural heritage. Chai, Rumi and Ghazals seem to be more appreciated in the West than anywhere else these days. Why can’t we have pride in and develop our own culture which is more in tune with our values? [And one thing that really bothers me...Why do rich Muslims frequent Parisian fashion houses when it is a crime to dress as a Muslim in France?] (Sigh, and again it’s the West that’s oppressing us.)
#8. Lack of superior media and propaganda – Yes please. We need some. The Muslim world really needs some good PR people. Not to mention journalists, authors, pundits, politically savvy leaders and so on. Why (,when we have right on our side you ask)? Because the Islam haters are much better at this than we are. They are able to turn an innocent victim into a terrorist in a heartbeat. They are able to justify things like racial profiling, torture and extraordinary rendition. They somehow make extreme Islam-haters into “experts on Islam and the Muslim world” on Fox News. Definitely a huge problem.
#9. No viable economic system - Islamic economics is beautiful. It’s fair. It’s sustainable. It has ethics and morals and has a built in system of checks and balances. It protects people from being exploited and it prevents people from doing the exploiting. And yet we aren’t using it. We are using a system of interest and usury that makes the poor poorer and the rich richer. A whole other subject is also how much money is being wasted on extreme luxuries instead of development in Muslim countries. The wealth of certain Muslims is phenomenal… how about spending a little to help other Muslims instead of that new car/clothes/billion dollar mansion. (Did you know that the only buyers of Parisian fashion houses are 1. the nouveau riche of Russia and 2. wealthy Arabs from the Gulf.)
#10. Nationalism and disunity – Can I just say… Algeria vs Egypt :p or let me say Egypt’s refusal to allow Gazans sanctuary. Everyone has pride in their country and background, but it is our faith that unites us all. Divided we are easily picked out by enemies. Divided we will always fall. History shows again and again that the way to attack Muslims is to cause division and disunity. We are then easily defeated.
Yes, it’s painful to look at ourselves this way. How far we have come from practicing our Deen. If we could just practice the noble principles of Islam in all aspects of our life, socially, politically, economically, in character, in relations with others, how different we would be! And how different our world would be.
Have we forgotten the words of the Quran that say “Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in their hearts.” What’s in our hearts these days? Is it “hatred of the West”? Is it “love of the Dunya” or is it “love of Islam and our fellow Muslims”? Do we want for them what we want for ourselves?
In conclusion, I contend that if Muslims were to fix these problems and go back to practicing Islam in all realms, inner and outer, form and character, there is no power on earth that could defeat them in any aspect.
Thanks for reading.