Culture and Community

One of the underlying premises of this study has been a belief in the potential for peaceful coexistence between traditionalist Islam and Western-style modernity. Sadly, such a premise stands in marked contrast to the prevailing popular attitude both in the West and in many Muslim circles.

Westerners with little knowledge of Islam often reflexively judge it solely by its most militant, rejectionist elements: the Taliban, hardline Iranian ayatollahs, or self-described mujahideen of various extremist (even terrorist) organisations. These elements represent only a tiny fraction of world Muslim opinion, yet all too often in the West they are presumed to be the legitimate voice of the entire community.

The Muslim world, for its part, is equally quick to take Western actions out of context: there are those who may be profitably reminded that the term “modern values” is not necessarily an oxymoron, and that Western civilisation does not find its definitive expression in Baywatch.

As a citizen of the West, however, it is not my place to tell Muslims what they should and should not believe about my culture.… Even in academic and policymaking circles, Islam is today’s bogeyman of choice: Samuel Huntington’s positing of an Islamic bloc irretrievably hostile to everything the West represents is only one among many prominent expressions of this outlook.

From ‘Mullahs on the Mainframe: Islam and Modernity among the Daudi Bohras’


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