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Social Integration with Cultural Diversity: Islamic Approach

Another thing that is needed for globalization is social integration. It is necessary for countries to have a better understanding of each other. This will lead to the development of a universal village. However, a universal village should not be taken to mean a village with a homogenous, all-embracing culture. It has to be a village with cultural diversity. This can happen only if we learn to not just tolerate other cultures but also respect them and abstain from ridiculing them. To expect that all the countries around the world will have the same Western culture is not only unhealthy and undesirable but also an impossible goal to attain. Any effort by a dominant nation to impose its culture on the rest of the world will be resented by other countries. There is no such thing as a supreme, monolithic culture that has only virtues and no weaknesses. Diversity will add only richness to the world.

In other words, we should aim for social globalization with diversity and respect for each other’s culture and religion. We should use wisdom for taking whatever is good in other cultures and avoid what we consider to be otherwise. This is what is meant by unity with diversity. To try to impose our own culture on all other nations is the wrong way for bringing about social globalization. There is no denying of constant reforms, tolerance and mutual respect.

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As far as social integration is concerned, the Qur’anic verdict is very clear. The Qur’an says: Do not revile those to whom they pray besides Allah (6:108). In other words the Qur’an forbids Muslim from reviling the religious icons or gods of other human beings.

Why? Because, as the Qur’an says: they will unknowingly revile God out of enmity. This is again because Thus we have made the actions of all people attractive to them. The religion of every society is very attractive to them. They are not going to leave it. To ridicule ones religion and values and culture will prompt them to ridicule our own religion and culture and thereby create a conflict situation. This is, thus, the worst way of bringing about globalization. The Qur’an also says:

Do not argue with the people of the Book except in the best possible manner except those who have committed injustice. And tell them that we believe in that which has been revealed to us and that which has been revealed to you. Our God and your God is one and to Him we submit. (29:46)

So, if our God and their God is the same, and we have all been created by Him, then why revile each other? However, this is not happening. What is prevailing in the Western world at the moment is the continued reviling of Islam, Prophet Muhammad {pbuh), and the Qur’an. This is a reflection of arrogance and bigotry and not of tolerance and understanding. How can the incident of flushing the Qur’an in the toilet in the US (Guantanamobay) be accepted by the Muslim world as a friendly gesture? And how can globalization take place in such an atmosphere?'

Social and economic globalizations are closely interrelated. It would be difficult to have economic integration without social integration. And it may not be possible to create social integration without creating more goodwill and harmony among the people. The desecration incidents that happened in the US and other numerous similar incidents in Europe are not recent phenomena that have taken place as a result of 9/11: they reflect an attitude of mind that has been prevalent for centuries. It was reflected in the Crusades, and then in the continued attacks on the Qur’an, the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), and Islam. Such behaviour is not going to bring international harmony or globalization.

M. Umer Chapra


Source: Essays on Muslims and the Challenges of Globalisation, Institute of Policy Studies, Islamabad. Republished with permission.