Muslims in the West: Loyal to Whom?
A briefing by Mark Durie
January 18, 2012
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Mark Durie is a theologian, human rights activist and pastor of an Anglican church. He has published many articles and books on the language and culture of the Acehnese, Christian-Muslim relations and religious freedom. A graduate of the Australian National University and the Australian College of Theology, he has held visiting appointments at the University of Leiden, MIT, UCLA and Stanford, and was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 1992. On January 18, he spoke to the Middle East Forum in Philadelphia.
Mark Durie began his lecture by noting the inherent friction between Islam and state citizenship as opposed to the Judeo-Christian tradition which encourages its followers to defer to local authority (and by extension state rule), whose prosperity and success will also benefit its subjects. These differences are rooted in Islam's lack of distinction between religion and politics dating back to the Prophet Muhammad, who combined in his personality the offices of head of state, chief justice, supreme military commander, and high priest.
Muhammad stressed that Muslims must live wherever Islam was dominant so as not to become like those under whose rule they live. Given Islam's non-differentiation between the religious and temporal aspects of life one's political identity must influence one's religious identity, and vice versa. Therefore, Muslims living outside the House of Islam risk developing a "conflicted allegiance." "Sovereignty," Durie explained, "only comes from Allah, so Muslims should submit only to authorities who rule by the laws of Allah. There is no concept of non-religious authority that is legitimate."
Having said that, Islam is a pragmatic religion in which necessity may permit that which is forbidden. Hence living outside the House of Islam may be permissible under certain circumstances such as fleeing religious persecution within the Muslim state and proselytizing to non-believers: so long as this does not contribute to the strengthening of the non-Muslim nation or lead to preference of its rule to that of the House of Islam. Such acts are sinful and a Muslim should not serve and identify with any state or nation but the Muslim nation.
More recently, scholars have adjusted their views—or at least conveniently adopted new ones—to facilitate Islamic life outside Muslim lands. So much so that the United States has been defined as being part of the House of Islam because one's ability to practice either radical or liberal Islam in that country is greater than in, say, Egypt.
In response, said Durie, the West "should encourage Muslims to settle down and become full participants, but without legitimizing this theological world view." Some means must be found to encourage young Muslims to be proud of their country, whether or not it is a Muslim state, while firmly rejecting pressures for the institutionalization of Sharia law in Western legal systems. Still, Durie concluded, "freedom of religion is an unchallengeable value in our thinking."
Summary account by Alex Berman
Related Topics: Muslims in the West | Mark Durie
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