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The Secularized Muslim Elites' Dilemma

This brings us to a third important issue, that is, the conceptual problem of the secularized Muslim eite. In many Muslim countries, even without being colonized, a Eurocentric view of knowledge, history, and society was accepted by their elite. This is what Bennabi (1905-73) calls “colonosibility”.’

Those who accepted to be colonized, in their desire to modernize the Muslim society, did not hesitate to adopt the intellectual culture and political system of the colonizer. In South Asia not only persons like Syed Amir Ali (d. 1928), Syed Ahmad Khan (d. 1898) but historians and religious scholars like Shibli Numani (d. 1914) tried to sooth the national consciousness and accepted the presence of a “just” British imperialism.


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Modernity, development, and the urge for a forward movement became new goals. Even nationalism, secularism and scientism began to be accepted as instruments of modernization. The values and concepts dominant in the West were often viewed by a culturally colonized mind in terms of adopting the colonizer’s whole worldview rather than adopting the agreeable elements only. This phenomenon can be seen even in countries not directly colonized by brute political power. For instance, Turkey, where a Eurocentric worldview was imposed on its own secular leadership through legislation, education, and economic-political reforms in the name of secularism and modernity. The local modernizing class is not confined to one country or area; it is a phenomenon present almost everywhere.

Not surprisingly, a good number of legal practitioners and some members of judicial and legislative institutions plead for the continuation of the civil and criminal codes introduced in Pakistan by the British colonialists in early 19th century. Convinced of the ‘modernity’ of this code, they visualize Islamic Shari'ah as fossilized and pre-modern. They even ignore the fact that of the over four thousand laws prevalent in the country (over ninety percent) were enacted during the colonial period, untouched by the breath of freedom that came only in 1947. The ‘modernists’ have assumed the role of the defenders of a colonial legacy; the Islamists who want to bring the country out of the maze of colonial laws and take them in conformity with demands of independence are dubbed as “fundamentalists”!

 

Source: Islamization of Laws and Economy: Case Studies on Pakistan, Charles Kennedy. Republished with permission.