Muslim Identity & Global Change

The controversy in the UK over voluntary partial adoption of shariah law to help solve domestic disputes within some Muslim migrant communities led to a storm of criticism of the Archbishop of Canterbury , the leader of the Anglican Church, over what he did not say, and very little discussion on the implications of what he did say. The subsequent bashing of the Archbishop with the image of violent intolerant Islam did not reflect the findings of the recent global Gallup poll on what world Muslims think, and was ritualistic, political and diversionary. But it did convey that part of British public opinion is now frightened of Islam and that British Muslims are nervous that British identity and loyalty are in question. The problems encountered in UK are not unique and are part of a more global picture. The Archbishop was right to imply that a new synthesis must emerge, but this goes wider than a new synthesis with Islam. First, globalization is accelerating and migrants from countryside to town may find themselves marginalized in poorer urban communities, whether in Pakistan or the UK. Economics is the driver and social development has to catch up. Second , urbanization and the drive for secular rights and democracy, especially in rapidly modernizing Muslim states, conflicts with traditional tribal and religious values. Thirdly , society whether in Europe or in modernizing Muslim societies wants consumerism and secular democracy but seeks to preserve religious, cultural and regional identities. We cannot build the new world in the cathedral of a shopping mall with the values of a TV soap opera. There has to be more to life than that. Terry Lacey reports.