humanity lives crowded together in an increasingly small world of various cultures. undoubtedly, western culture is the dominant influence in the modern world today. hence, it is inevitable that others interact with it and assimilate its positive values and achievements, but without adopting its negative ones. there is a cultural dimension of most human phenomena, religion included, and modern societies are tending to become less exclusive and more multi-religious. but while people are developing an outlook that is more accommodating toward others, acknowledging these differences does not mean that there should be no distinction between good and evil.
as well as being a religion and way of life, islam is also a complete worldview. its attitude toward the present western civilization is the same as that manifested toward every past civilization: it accepts the goodness that such civilizations can yield but at the same time rejects their evils. it allows for the acquisition of particular benefits such as scientific and technical knowledge, yet many social aspects are seen to be destructive and contrary to islamic teachings.
islam has never advocated a policy of isolationism. it does not oppose other civilizations merely because they are non- muslim but believes in the unity of humanity and good relationships with people of different races and inclinations. and muslims do not object to benefiting from modernity in discovering the mechanisms for solving common problems or to the solutions themselves, as long as they do not contradict islamic legislation.
islam neither rejects the west totally nor does it accept it uncritically. led by political and economic interests, the upholders of western civilization often follow policies which are detrimental to the collective good of muslims. what muslims and many other peoples of the world today reject is the presumed centrality and universalism of the west and its self- centered attitude. they opposed the oppression and exploitation perpetrated by western colonialism in the past, and they object presently to the newer, albeit more subtle forms, which are no less malevolent. injustices caused by arrogant attitudes and demeaning policies are unacceptable to everyone.
opening up to the modern worldview and critically interacting with it has alerted muslims to certain problems raised by western modernity. international relations, globalization, i he menace posed by the media and central government to the human individual, the increase of leisure time available to ordinary people, and the processes of standardization were issues seldom raised in the past. the study of western modernity in a critical and interactive manner may serve to sharpen the awareness of muslims concerning the magnitude of the global culture crisis and consequently, increase their knowledge and confidence in their own divinely ordained way of life.
it can be fairly said that islam does not oppose any civilization as long as it serves the interests of humanity. but customs of other cultures involving principles or conduct prohibited in islam can never be considered as lawful for a muslim, even one who resides permanently in non-muslim lands. the limits set by god are protective ones which must always be observed, and islam stands firm to uphold this right for mankind.
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