Muslim Reception/Rejection of Modernity (Part 1)

My thesis is that there is a deeply felt, but nevertheless unexpressed anxiety among Muslims, especially among the religious elite, that Modernity (in the technical sense that I will describe below) will ultimately undermine Islam as a viable framework for a coherent community in the modern world. Hence, we witness the temptation among Muslims to find solace and security in dogmatic and defensive Islam and the resurgence of intolerant Islam in Malaysia.


It is a fact of life that people hold conflicting political and religious views and follow different ways of life. It is imperative that the government frames social policies that encourage people of various cultures to identify commonality (not homogeneity) to build a harmonious society. Such an endeavor in turn requires building a social ethos that allows for tolerance of diversity, dialogue and openness to change in order to equip a citizenry with the intellectual capacity to confront the overwhelming pace of change of the modern world.

But what non-Muslims witness coming from the Muslim community is rejection of the vital pre-requisites for the development of a flourishing modern society. We hear prominent Muslims condemning liberalism although liberalism at its best encourages citizens use reason to weigh moral choices rather than follow traditional authority blindly. Secular politics is rejected as essentially antipathetic to religion when it is specifically designed to provide a neutral platform for different religions to work out compromises that are essential for a plural society. Other Muslim leaders reject the call for interfaith dialog. Religious tolerance is vigorously condemned through mass demonstrations that find their way even into the National Mosque. Finally, there are the regular calls for banning of various cultural activities on grounds that such activities (music festivals or films) are against Islam. Continue reading “Muslim Reception/Rejection of Modernity (Part 1)”