As it is well known majority of Muslims in the world live as minorities in non-Muslim countries and hence number of problems arise which need to be tackled. There is large number of Muslims in Europe and North America besides in number of Latin American countries. Certain problems have been aggravated after 9/11 attacks on twin towers in New York.
Number of problems are arising most important of which is Muslims' loyalty to the country they live in. Often it is maintained that they are not loyal to the country of their residence and show their loyalty to some other Muslim country especially where their holy places are situated. In case of Indian Muslims it is alleged that Indian Muslims are loyal to Pakistan. And their loyalty to India is doubted by communal forces in India. This has caused many a riot in post-independence period.
It is maintained that it is teaching of Islam that one should not be loyal to the country of residence if it is non-Muslim country. It is far from true. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) is reported to have said that love of one's country is part of faith (iman). There is nothing in the Qur'an or in hadith literature, which urges Muslims not to be loyal to ones own country. It is quite incorrect and un-Islamic to maintain such an attitude.
Writer's like V.S.Naipaul have also maintained that those who convert to Islam renounce their pre-conversion culture and adopt Islamic culture. Mr. Naipaul has neither the knowledge of ground reality nor that of Islamic history. Each Muslim community has its own culture, which is basically native culture, culture of the soil. It is flying in the face of facts to say that all Muslims in the world have same culture called 'Islamic culture'. The anthropologists know it very well that no culture from any other country can ever be transplanted wholesale to another country.
And, no non-Arab Muslim country has ever adopted Arab culture, however, Islamic they might be. One has to differentiate between Islam and Arab culture. A culture can never be based solely on religion. History, geography, language, local customs and traditions all play their role in evolution of a culture. Religion, at best, could be, one among these factors. Often, Muslims in the same country like India have several regional cultures like North Indian Muslim culture, Tamil culture, Kashmiri culture, Kerala culture and so on. Thus in the same country Muslim community is far from being homogenous.
Whole of Iran converted to Islam over a few centuries but Iranian culture always maintained their distinctive features. They never compromised over it. Not only that they were often accused of being intensely loyal to their pre-Islamic beliefs like Zoroastrian dualism (thanaviyyat). They were even persecuted by Abbasid rulers for sticking to these beliefs.
This is true of Muslims all over the world. They do not give up their native culture and cultural traditions. Even the personal names never become wholly Islamic. The names of Indonesian Muslims, Malaysian Muslims, Thai Muslims are quite distinctive and not always Islamic. Mr. Naipaul is sadly mistaken if he believes otherwise. Even customs and traditions are quite different and have much in common with the native practices. In fact if anthropological surveys are conducted on what is called life cycle rituals between Muslim and non-Muslim communities of a country or a region of a country it will be found very much similar with minor differences.
Even in Shari'ah law there is provision for what is called 'aadaat (customs). It is permitted to retain these customs as popular practices. In fact what is known as shari'ah law has incorporated many Arab 'aadaat. Every Muslim community in every region practices such local 'aadaat which are quite distinctive. Thus neither Muslims all over the world imitate Arab culture nor show disloyalty to their own country of residence and loyalty to any Arab country. Such allegations are made out of political interests rathe than on the basis of reality.
Well, Muslims may desire to go for haj to Mecca and Madina (in Saudi Arabia) once in life as a religious duty but it does not, in any way, translate into political loyalty to that nation. It is sheer canard to maintain that. Also, it is a political canard to maintain that Indian Muslims are loyal to Pakistan. Some Indian Muslims - particularly from North India - may have some sympathies with Pakistan due to cultural and blood ties but it has nothing to do with political loyalty to that country.
Pakistan is again is very diverse country culturally and linguistically. The East Pakistan could not stay with West Pakistan, as Bengali language and culture were very different from the Punjabi and Urdu culture. Thus two-nation theory also collapsed as language and culture proved to be more important than religion. In remaining Pakistan too, there is immense diversity and non-Punjabi Muslims like Sindhi, Baluchi, Pathan and Urdu speaking Muslims have very different cultural traditions. All these people are immersed in their respective cultural traditions.
Muslims in the Globalised World
In our globalised world new sets of problems are arising. Today a large number of Muslims are migrating mainly to the west i.e. to European and North American countries for better economic prospects. There is large number of Turkish Muslims in Germany or Muslims of Pakistani origin in U.K. One also finds quite a few Muslims in countries like Norway, Holland, France and several other European countries. In North America, particularly in the USA there are Muslims practically from every Muslim country be it Arab or non-Arab.
These migrant Muslims, like other non-Muslim migrants, retain their culture and language though it begins to diminish with coming generations. The first generation guards it jealously. America has also given up its earlier melting pot model of identity and has adopted mosaic model instead. Thus Arab Muslims in America are now referred to as 'Arab Americans' or Pakistani and Indian Muslims as 'Pakistani Americans' or 'Indian Americans' and so on. It is very good attempt to preserve and promote democratic pluralism. While in India we see growing intolerance and national chauvinism western countries, particularly North America (which includes Canada) is showing growing tolerance for democratic pluralism.
However, the events of 9/11 have created some strains and new questions are arising. Islam is coming increasingly under cloud. Its teachings are being critically examined. The Qur'an is being increasingly studied by Americans and they are raising questions about its teachings. Today the Qur'an is being read much more widely than ever before. However, reading the Qur'an literally or in translation creates its own problems. To understand the Qur'an in its proper spirit one should be thoroughly acquainted with its historical context. If one does not have this background many verses are likely to be severely misunderstood. For example, there are verses about unbeliever (kafirs), Christians and Jews which, if not seen in the context in which they were revealed, they are likely to be misunderstood.
There are verses in the Qur'an which say Christians and Jews are friends of Muslims and there are verses which say they are not friends of Muslims and they cannot be trusted. All this leads to confusion or, if quoted selectively, can be misconstrued as Muslims being hostile to other communities. These verses, therefore, should be seen not only in the background of events but also in the context of overall teachings of Qur'an.
The over all teachings of the Qur'an is of tolerance of other faiths and acceptance of basic truth in all religions. The basic premise of the Qur'an is that Allah has sent His guides (haad) for every people and every nation (13:7) with the same truth. Therefore, it is duty of Muslims to accept all the prophets and show them equal respect (2:136) In fact, according to the Qur'an, it is duty of all Muslims to show equal respect to all the prophets sent by Allah. Qur'an mentions all Biblical prophets among them but many sufis and theologians have added even non-biblical religious personalities including from India to this list.
Thus tolerance of all religions is a must for Muslims. Qur'an also maintains that there are different ways of worshipping Allah and one should not quarrel about them (2:148). And even if some people worship other than Allah, one should not abuse others Gods (6:109). Thus Qur'an does not teach conflict with other religions but tolerance and harmonious living and mutual respect for each other. Today we promote pluralism but Qur'an required Muslims to accept pluralism as Allah's Will. Allah has given each nation a law and a way and this pluralism is the test for us (for living in peace and harmony) (5:48)
Today freedom of religion and free speech is among the basic values of our society. When Islam appeared on the scene in 7th century A.D. these values simply did not exist. Intolerance and fanaticism were widely prevalent. But the Qur'an promoted respect for all religions and acceptance of basic truth of all religions. It also taught freedom of conscience and laid stress on it (2:256). Of course it is about no compulsion in religion but it applies to all matters of conscience. Religion is an integral part of ones conscience and hence when there is no compulsion in matter of religion there cannot be compulsion in any other matter and according to the Qur'an human beings have full freedom of conscience.
Islam is thus most modern religion. It guarantees religious freedom on three levels: 1) one can follow any religion one likes or no religion at all; 2) one can worship any god one likes and 3) one can worship in any way likes. Islam has its own beliefs and its own way of worship but others cannot be compelled to adopt them.
Also, the Qur'an clearly says that there are different laws and different ways for different communities to follow. The Qur'an says, " For everyone of you We appointed a law and a way. (5:48) Thus the law and the way depends on the genius and requirements of the community. Many Muslim 'ulama (theologians) also maintain, on the basis of such verses that din (basic religion) is one and laws (shari'ahs) differ from people to people and community to community.
There is thus no question of coercion in matters of religion. Everyone should be free to follow any religion or no religion at all. Muslims should respect others freedom according to their scripture. In other words Muslims should co-exist with others in peace and harmony. They should respect laws and ways of other communities. If there are any problems they should be solved through dialogue.
Muslims have been exhorted by the Qur'an to "argue not with the People of the Book except by what is best ?(29:46). The definition of the People of the Book should also not be restrictive but inclusive. In the past Muslim 'ulama when confronted with other communities, sought to include them among the People of the Book. The modern constitutional laws should also be respected as these constitutions are based on certain values like justice, freedom of conscience, human dignity, freedom of religion and rights of individual.
Thus where Muslims are in minority and living in non-Muslim majority countries they should respect the constitutional provisions. The right to freedom of religion is very valuable right and it should be used as creatively as possible. The Muslims in many non-Muslim countries like India, America, Canada and European countries do live in peace and harmony with their non-Muslim co-citizens.
Another important provision in the Qur'an which is obligatory on Muslims is practicing justice ('adl). A Muslim cannot be unjust, if he is true Muslim. An unjust Muslim is a contradiction in terms. In the Qur'an justice is integrally connected to the concept of piety (5:8). There are several injunctions in the Qur'an to stand by justice. The Qur'an says "O you who believe, be upright for Allah, bearers of witness with justice; and let not hatred of a people incite you not to act equitably. Be just; that is nearest to observance of piety. (5:8). Also in 4:58 the Qur'an says, "..and that when you judge between people, you judge with justice."
Thus justice is very fundamental to Islam. Even hatred and hostility with people should not make any Muslim act with injustice towards them and he should always judge between people justly. Again it is most modern value which the Qur'an so much emphasized hundreds of years ago. Justice is emphasized by all modern constitutions in democracies. Thus Muslims should feel quite comfortable in modern constitutional democracies. A Muslim should not approve of any undemocratic regime based on coercive dictatorship. Coercive dictatorship flouts, all norms of justice most flagrantly. Thus, if justice is such fundamental value, a Muslim should not tolerate dictatorship in any form. He should wage peaceful struggle against it and for ushering in democracy.
Democracy is so essential for an Islamic set up as without it one can neither realize freedom of conscience nor have a just dispensation. As pointed out freedom of conscience and justice are most fundamental to Islam, democracy also becomes essential, as these values cannot be realized without democracy. Respect for human dignity is also an essential teaching of Qur'an (see 12:70). Human dignity cannot be respected in a non-democratic system.
It is also to be noted that justice cannot be achieved through violence or feeling of revenge. Such an attitude begets more violence. It is totally wrong to think that one can achieve justice through violent or terrorist means. On the other hand, it begets more violence. It is for this reason that Qur'an's emphasis is on peace, not on violence, as many people think. Jihad is nothing but utmost efforts to realize justice peacefully.
In non-democratic set up violence becomes the rule and one has to use violence to ward off violent attacks. Islam permitted violence in defense in non-democratic tribal society where war was rule rather than exception. Peace was exception in that society. The concept of qisas (retaliation) is not a norm; it is only permitted in the given society. The norm is forgiving (ghafr), for Allah's name is Ghafur al-Rahim i.e. (Forgiver, Compassionate).
Thus retaliation was permitted in a society, which was non-democratic and violent and for a democratic society one should not practice revenge and retaliation but forbearance and forgiveness. These are high moral qualities. In a democratic society jihad takes the form of only peaceful democratic struggle for justice. The understanding of jihad in early Islamic society cannot, and should not be binding on today's generation of Muslims. Today Muslims have right to attempt ijtihad (reinterpretation) of jihad as democratic struggle for justice. Jihad can be permitted only for realization of justice and in modern democracy it can take only democratic form.
It should be remembered that values per se are any time more important than what form realization of these values take in a given society. If justice could be realized in medieval society through war it can be realized today through peaceful democratic manner. What is ultimately important is justice, not war or jihad. The forms of struggle would be decided according to the given situation. But often, on account of dogmatism and narrow mindset form struggle takes becomes more important than the reason for that struggle. Thus in Muslim mind jihad has become more important than the reason for waging it. We have to reverse this and make people understand that it is justice, which is important, not jihad (as war), which was the possible form in those days.
We have also to bear in mind that in democracy all people live under rule of law and the struggle for justice has to be collective, Muslims and non-Muslims together. It should be a common project. The Qur'an expresses this by using the word naas (people). All people in a democracy should ensure justice through democratic struggles. However, it is obligatory for believers - Muslims - to struggle for justice, even others do not join in. It is obligatory for Muslims to ensure justice not only for themselves but for people as a whole, even for their enemies. This is not only desirable but obligatory.
Thus any act that leads to gross injustice in the society, much less an act of terror, must be fought against. One cannot condone violence by one section of society against another section, be it on grounds of religion, or any ground. It runs against the spirit of qur'an.
It is duty of Muslims living in any non-Muslim country to fight for justice not only within the country but also against external forces. If anyone commits aggression against the country (Muslim or non-Muslim) it is patriotic duty of Muslims to defend the country against external aggression. The Prophet of Islam has set an example in this respect through what is known as Mithaq-I-Madina i.e. covenant of Medina. When the Prophet migrated from Mecca to Madina he drew up a covenant with the people of Medina irrespective of their religion - Jews of various tribes, Muslims of various tribes and non-believers (pagans) of various tribes to form a community, which he called ummah wahidah (one community) and made it obligatory for all the signatory to the covenant to defend Medina together, if attacked by outsiders.
It should be noted that in this covenant religion was no condition for forming an ummah wahidah (one community) and defense of the city was duty of all. It should be noted that at the time of drawing up the covenant Muslims were in minority in Medinah. Thus wherever Muslims are in minority it is their duty to defend their country along with other non-Muslims.
And wherever Muslims are in majority it is obligatory for them to ensure full justice to religious minorities. Justice is more fundamental than any ones religion. Non-Muslim minorities should not only be free to follow their religion and protect their identities but also should be entitled to equal political rights. One must distinguish between religious community and political community. As religious communities they may have their distinctive practices but as political community they should have same rights and this is what the Prophet (PBUH) meant by calling the Medinese community, which included Jews, Muslims and pagans as ummah wahidah.
In modern democratic polity Muslims should enjoy equal rights if in minority and by same logic non-Muslims should enjoy equal political rights, if Muslims are in majority. This is what justice demands. As pointed out at the outset majority of Muslims lives as minority in various countries and is enjoying equal political rights. They should also reciprocate in the same spirit.