Thursday, June 3, 2010

Islamic Discourse in Muslim Countries? Struggling with Colonization and Hegemony

·         Change with Islam and not changing Islam!

Sawt Al-Azhar

We need to change our religious discourse in order to make it more compatible with the comprehensiveness of Islam. But America, in its current attack on Islam, wants to change Islam. We want to change with Islam and they want to change Islam. America’s problem with Islam is neither Islam’s rejection of American policies nor violence and terrorism against this policy, but the problem lies in Islam itself.


·         Why Have We Remained Backward While They Have Progressed?

Muslims have many difficulties with modernity perhaps because Muslims believe that they should not achieve anything but should receive the achievements of others. This is a feature of the simple Bedouin life where the Bedouin does not work and waits for the work of nature, like rain or eruption of a well. The second problem with modernity is that not only is it a human achievement but it is also a Western achievement. Arabs and Muslims have a troubled history with the West full of misery, from the start of traditional colonialism until now.

·         Islamic World Faces Intellectual Stagnation

Riaz Hassan

(THES), announced last week, show the poor state of academic institutions in Muslim countries. The US , with 5 per cent of the world’s population, has 54, or 27 per cent, of the top 200 universities. Forty-six Muslim countries on the other hand, with 16 per cent of the world’s population, have only one or two per cent of the universities on the THES list. The two universities are Malaysia ’s Universiti Kabangsaan and University of Malaya , which rank 185th and 192nd with overall scores of 29.2 and 28.6 respectively from a possible 100. On the important measure of faculty citation, an indicator of intellectual creativity and impact, they scored lowest.

The THES rankings were based on the assessment of more than 1,000 higher education institutions using five key indicators. These included asking 3,700 research-active academics globally to name the top 30 research universities in their field of expertise as well as counting the citations per published paper by researchers at each institution. The other indicators were the number of foreign students enrolled, staff-student ratios and top companies’ assessment of the quality of an institution’ s graduates. For Islamic countries, notwithstanding some isolated centres of excellence, these rankings confirmed the findings of other studies.

Another indicator of the intellectual insularity of the Arab world was reported in the 2002 report of the United Nations Development Fund on the Arab world. According to this report there is little writing or translation from other languages: 1,000 years since the caliph Mamoun the Arabs translated as many books as Spain translates in a single year. The consequences of intellectual stagnation are already reflected in the economic performance of the Muslim countries. A Brooking Institution study reported in The Economist (September 13, 2003) showed that over the past quarter-century, GDP per person in most Muslim countries has fallen or remained the same.
In the third industrial revolution with its “knowledge economy”, in which creation of wealth will depend primarily on “brain industries”, the scientific, technological and intellectual stagnation is going to have far reaching socio-economic repercussions.

These conditions are also a legacy of the colonialism experienced by most Muslim countries for an extended period in the past two centuries, during which they endured some of the worst excesses of racial and economic exploitation that stalled their development. But most of the causes of their present predicament can also be attributed to the prevailing cultural and political practices. Other countries like Korea, Singapore , Taiwan and India have taken notable strides in the fields of science and technology and are now among the major emerging economies.
The writer is Australian Research Council professorial fellow and emeritus professor in the Department of Sociology, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia.

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