New Phase of Muslim-Western Relation

Ketua Umum PP Muhammadiyah Haedar Nashir Dok SM

Prof Dr Haedar Nashir, MSi

George W Bush once declared “crusade” after 9/11 World Trade Center twin tower terrorists bombing. That “crusade” statement emotionally flared up in response to the unexpected action that happened in the heart of Big Apple city. Perhaps the controversial word was the unconscious reflections of the United States President at the moment, which has Tariq Ali called as an “imperial fundamentalist”, who has gained momentum to burst. Muslims around the world has suddenly condemned the tragedy that has made Islam being accused and scapegoated, while criticizing the Presidents controversial statement.

But every cloud has a silver lining. After 9/11 tragedy, not only a few non-Muslims in the West (North American region and the Blue continent) have actually been curious and wanted to know about Islam. Surprisingly, the “peaceful revolution” (silent revolution) that has arisen among Western societies creating the more receptive condition to Islam.

From day to day many young people and intellectuals are persistent on seeking spiritual path and finding Islam. Mosques has been built in number of European and North American countries. It is not uncommon when non-Muslim visitors come to the mosque to ask questions about mosques and Islam. The new phase of Islam-Western relation has begun to walk towards brighter future, insya Allah.

Islam in the West

The old paradigm has still left a negative perception about the relation between Islam and the West. Meaning that the West is hostile to Islam, and vice versa. There are still few groups of Western society or countries who are showing bad attitude toward Muslim. Islam is seen as a source of violence, terrorism and threats. Meanwhile, Muslim community views the West as a source of problems and is a political interventionist who weakens the Islamic world. That Islam-West relation has brought tension and conflict which Huntington rashly called as the clash of civilizations.

Three inclination of attitudes towards the West are growing in Muslim circles today. First, Muslims tend to shut themselves down because they want to live in puritan way in the middle of the Western society who has been seen as the source of demoralization. This group is completely anti-Western, who believe that the West is completely bad so yet an enemy to Islam. The second group is completely pro-Western, as they believe that West has no flaws and problems, so it tends to be seen as a westernized group. The third is the moderates group, who perceive the West in two ways, the positive and negative so that opens up room for criticism and the need to be selective.

However, along with various initiatives from both sides, including through various non-state groups such as interfaith groups, the process of mutual understanding and dialogue between Islam and the West increasingly happening. Slowly, the tension, conflict, and misunderstanding between both sides began to be minimized.

Even though problems still arise, it seems that the relationship between Islam and the West has given new hope for dialogue, peace, and cooperation, so that the mutually beneficial global order can be created to build civilization in the future. Islam and the West has entered a new phase of mutual understanding and more meaningful dialogue.

For Muslims there is also new hope for Islam in the West. That Western society is open to the presence of Islam and Muslims.

An international survey agency The Few Forum, presents interesting notes and predictions. It stated that post 2030 the Muslim population will be at the largest. If there are 22% Muslim and 33% are Christian-Catholic at present, in the future the Muslims population will be at the highest number. The demographic and sociological development of Islam in the West will  absolutely create a change in the attitude of Muslims towards the West.

Now even an accommodative attitude and effort has arisen pushing the integration between Islam and the West. Tariq Ramadan, Hasan Al-Bana’s grandson, a Muslim scholar who settled in Switzerland, offered a way of accommodation and integration. According to Tariq, it is necessary to change the perception of Islam towards the Western world, eroding the dichotomy of Islam and the West. Instead, he offered Islam in the West, or even “The Western Muslims”. This is important and beneficial for both Islam and the West.

For Tariq, French, British, German, Canadian, or American Muslims are now struggling to build a “Muslim personality”. Meanwhile, in the other part of world Muslims are also forming an “American Islam” and so on. They try to stay loyal to Islamic principles while at the same time presenting American-European culture. Being a Muslim while still wearing Western personality and culture is possible not nencessarily to be a Middle Eastern Muslim.

Tariq also discussed “Beyond Islamism”, contained criticism towards the tendency of Islamic movements in several countries, including Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia. He assumed that the political Islam Movements (Islamist) so far, has been able to attract popular support on through democracy, failed to properly manage yet some of them led to greater conflict.

According to Tariq, it is important renew the paradigm of the current Islamic movement, not only in the sphere of power politics, but also in the politics of knowledge and cultural movement. In the context of modern culture, Tariq offers Islam as al-badil al-tsaqafy, or an alternative form of civilization.

Cosmopolitan Islam

Both in the context of relations with West and other regions of the world, along with the development of globalization, Muslims and Muslim countries must be involved on taking role in global realm. Muhammadiyah as a reformist Islamic movement and a modernist, cannot escape the global relations.

The globalized life of mankind with borderless state, nation, and conventional relations that requires an inclusive, world state Islamic view, known as the cosmopolitan Islam. Muhammadiyah in its 46th Muktamar on 2010 in Yogyakarta even has formulated the definition of “Islamic cosmopolitanism”, which is contained in the  “Muhammadiyah’s Second Century Notion” (Pernyataan Pikiran Muhammadiyah Abad Kedua).

In that notion stated that on facing universal humanitarian development, Muhammadiyah has developed a cosmopolitan Islamic perspective. Cosmopolitanism is an awareness of the unity of people throughout the world that transcends ethnicity, class, nationality, and religious barriers. Cosmopolitanism morally implies a sense of universal human solidarity and a sense of universal responsibility to whole human beings, regardless of primordial and conventional differences and gap.

Muhammadiyah has quite strong cosmopolitan historical roots. Socio-historically, Muhammadiyah was born in the era of colonialism with the international interaction, such as between native, European, Chinese and Arabic, which formed national unity.

The pioneers of Muhammadiyah, embraced cosmopolitan cultural insights and relations because of his interaction with foreigners from Europe, Turkey, Arabia, China, India, and others. Intellectually, the founder and figure of Muhammadiyah interacted with those with modern thoughts from the Middle East and West, which shaped and expanded his cosmopolitan horizons. Ideologically, Muhammadiyah is a modernist Islamic movement which adopts many tools, methods and elements of Western modernism as an embryo of cosmopolitan attitudes without being trapped in westernization.

Islamic cosmopolitanism that developed by Muhammadiyah can bridge the necessity of developing Islamic and Western dialogue and the dialogue between civilizations. In a new perspective, clash of civilizations is an outdated perspactive, even can be a real trigger for conflicts. The new world order requires dialogue, cooperation, alliance and co-existence between civilizations. In term of relation between civilizations and the development of universal humanity, the global ethics and wisdom is truly necessary to guide, direct and lead the world towards a more enlightened civilization.

At the same time Muhammadiyah sees that global civilization is demanded to continue the dialogue with local cultures, so that the human civilization wont be trapped in the cultural colonization as happened in the history of colonialism which afflicted the lives of people. Globalization and multiculturalism wont bring a new colonialism hegemony that kills the potential of local culture, but instead wants to comunicate and be able to provide cultural space for the growth of local genius and local wisdom which are the important pillars for the continuity of the universal civilization.

In the aftermath of Islamic and Western relations, Muhammadiyah also needs on facing new developments in geo-political, economic and cultural shifts to East and Southeast Asia. This is where the importance of citizens, cadres, and leaders of Muhammadiyah to understand the development of Islam in the midst of the dinamics of culture and world civilization, that is accompanied by new dynamics, so that to be able to stay upright on Islamic principles and personality.

This article was published in 6th Edition of Suara Muhammadiyah Magazine on 2015