Muslims in the West: Loyal to Whom?
A briefing by Mark Durie
January 20, 2011
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Mark Durie is a theologian, human rights activist, and pastor of an Anglican church in Australia. He has held visiting appointments at the University of Leiden, MIT, UCLA, and Stanford. During his years in Indonesia, he observed a society in which a Muslim majority tried to enforce Islamic law on its sizable Christian minority, leading to his acclaimed 2010 book, The Third Choice, which examines the status of non-Muslims under Islamic rule. On January 20 he spoke to the Middle East Forum in New York on the topic of loyalty.
By understanding how Muslim scholars address the question of loyalty, Westerners may better understand why their nations often have problems assimilating their Muslim populations, asserts Mr. Durie.
The question of loyalty has had tragic implications: Mr. Durie cited the case of Major Nidal Hasan as an expression of isolation and tension commonly experienced between Muslim minorities residing in Western communities. He states that whereas Western Judeo-Christian ethics separated religion and state centuries ago, Islam intertwines religion and state into an inseparable whole. In fact, scholars of Islamic jurisprudence have never concretely settled the lawfulness of a Muslim living in the West, or Dar al-Harb—the "House of War."
Mr. Durie next tackled several proposed solutions to this problem. Traditional Islamic jurisprudence justifies living in Dar al-Harb (permissible only for a few days) if fleeing from religious persecution. A contemporary solution, then, leans on the Muslim principle that "necessity abrogates the obligatory." Mr. Durie states that if, for example, a Muslim does not have access to halal food, he can eat non-halal food out of necessity. In the same fashion, a Muslim fleeing persecution may settle in the West out of necessity to practice Islam freely (hence the many Islamists who settle in the West to escape persecution from their autocratic opponents). In fact, Mr. Durie cited some Islamic scholars who consider the United States more "Islamic" than majority-Muslim nations, because the U.S. allows for complete religious freedom. He points out, however, that many Islamic scholars agree that a Muslim must think of himself as a Muslim first and a citizen of his country second.
Mr. Durie proposes that Islam adopt a theology of the brotherhood of humanity, wherein all can benefit through mutual assistance—rather than Muslims solely benefiting through ideological domination. He concluded by stating that, if we do not wish to surrender Muslim Americans to foreign law on our own soil, concessions to Islamic law must not be made. During question-and-answer, Mr. Durie implored the West to have the "guts" to understand Islam as a religious-political system—and to take the steps necessary to change our own understandings, not just those of Muslims living in the West.
Summary by MEF intern William Aquilino
Related Topics: Muslims in the West | Mark Durie
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