Modernization of the Middle East

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  • Topic: Islam, Islamism, Sharia
  • Pages : 5 (1576 words )
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  • Published : December 4, 2012
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During the late 19th century and the early 20th century, Islam in the Middle East was introduced to its greatest threat yet; modernization. Conflicts within the muslim community and the rapid development of the surrounding world, has left the muslim society in the dust. The technological/scientifically dominant Ottoman empire went through expiration and was left with the remnants of its broken empire. Western civilizations then modernized and quickly became more superior in its European trade, technological advancements, and consumerism, in result causing muslim subordination. Seemingly, the only response that this society can possibly come to is to modernize as an attempt to “rank up” in the world. It is this fact that has led to the struggle between modernization and what many experts call fundamentalism. Should they reform their society to complement the new modern world, or should they hold to their traditions? It is this resistance, this struggle between the old and the new that has led to many great conflicts within the muslim world. Though modernism has become more widespread in the muslim world today, Islamic Modernism has had more of a negative impact on the muslim society, that can be explained in three extremes: adaptation or rejection of modernism, relativism and religious fundamentalism, and modernism and fundamentalism.

Modernism can be defined as “A movement toward modifying traditional beliefs in accordance with modern ideas” (Google DIctionary). As it follows, “Islamic Fundamentalism” as described by Yevgeniya Baraz, is the modification of traditional Islamic beliefs to accommodate the modern ideas of the modern world (2010). One of the first pioneers of Islamic Modernism was Jamal-al-Din al-Afghani and his pupil Muhammad Abduh who are also known as the “catalyst of Islamic Modernization” (Baraz 2010). These two Islamic reformers blamed the subordination of muslims not on the actions of the West, but the brokenness of the Islamic society itself. Afghani saw that its traditional values had poisoned itself, the nature of the muslim society at the time was to cling to the past and to suppres of outside values. The muslim society is what Brian Beary (Global Researcher 2009) would describe as religious fundamentalist, the desire to replace secular law with religious law. This brings up the first extreme, between fundamentalism and modernism. The struggle between fundamentalism and modernism is not only between Islam and the west but Islam and itself. Some modernist like Afghani and Muhammad Abduh were pro-modernization and sought advancement and reform. On the other hand there were people like Celal Nuri (another important face of Islamic Modernization) who was more against it. But with all extremes there is a medium. The medium that Nuri accepted was called “partial westernization” (Buzpinar 2007). This ideology is focused on taking on some of the industrial and scientific parts of western society, but leaving out the cultural ideas and attitudes. In this way muslim society has made itself more modern while attempting to hold on to its values. Though it seems fail-safe, this view has caused much conflict.

In a sense, fundamentalism is a direct result of modernism. Seyyed Hossein Nasr (Professor of Islamic Studies, Georgetown). said that the only reason Islamic fundamentalism exist is because modernism. He describes fundamentalist as a strict society that has a “you're with us or against us” complex. So if the muslim society remained static and never changing, then there would be no conflict. I do not believe that it was the west that causes many of the conflicts, but it is when the muslim societies try to adhere to western ideas that conflicts arise. To say that if the “west” didn’t exist that there would not be any more struggle between modernization and fundamentalism would be incorrect, but to say that if the muslim society in general did not try to westernize much conflict would be avoided would be...
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