Islam, Muslims, and the Secular State in Singapore

The city-state offers a good example of how Islam can flourish in the context of a secular state.

As a philosophy, secularism seeks to interpret life based solely on principles derived from the material world. As a political system, secularism is commonly defined as the separation of religion from the state. Arguably, this is diametrically opposed to Islam,  which maintains that religion regulates and instructs all aspects of a person’s life.

However, on a practical level, secularism does not necessarily mean the complete exclusion of religion from the public life of a society. Instead, it will be more productive to discuss secularism as it is actually understood and experienced by different societies, each in its own unique context.

Certainly, due to Islam’s outlook as a way of life, minority Muslims are bound to experience a number of challenges with regards to their relations with the secular state. In this respect, where and how should they get their religious guidance from? In return, what is the nature of the existing secular system? Some states limit the role of religion in its affairs, due to historical reasons. In other states, religion is recognized and valued within a more accommodative secular state.

In this respect, how does Singapore measure up?

Singapore is a young secular state where religion is not accorded any effective role or position in the political administration of the state. Yet, it provides people with the right to follow any religion or not to follow any. Hence, the state acknowledges the importance of religion to Singaporean society, while asserting its responsibility to maintain neutrality in the matters of religion.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE DIPLOMAT

Environmental Protection in Islam

Islam is keen to protect the environment with all its components by creating a complete conception of life and its system and what it requires of  development according to fixed rules that do not change with the change of time and place. This is what gives Islamic environmental principles the status of validity that achieves happiness and prosperity for its members in this world and the hereafter. Islamic principles of the environment is not a fantasy nor a myth from the myths of the Greeks and Romans, but rather it is part of instinct which God has put in humans, a sincere approach to the creator, the one who created everything. The Almighty said: {So be steadfast in faith in all uprightness ˹O Prophet˺—the natural Way of Allah which He has instilled in ˹all˺ people. Let there be no change in this creation of Allah. That is the Straight Way, but most people do not know.} Ar-Rum verse 30. Nature, including the resources that Allah has gifted to His servants, such as water, soil, sun, and air, is the responsibility of man in this society to preserve -if possible- these natural resources that Allah Almighty has brought forth. However, modern civilization, despite its undeniable services and achievements, has had a negative impact on the human body, from work-related injuries to environmental pollution.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ISLAMONLINE.NET

Will Islam soon be the world’s largest religion?

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran, Iran

A Pew Research poll predicts that, based on current trends, the number of Muslims worldwide will be nearly equal to the number of Christians by 2050. In conversations, you might hear this statement as proof that Islam is growing and other religions (such as Christianity) are quickly declining. But such a conclusion is misleading and does not take into consideration a number of realities happening throughout the Muslim world.

Research reveals the cultural tendencies in Muslim families, not the attractiveness of Islam itself, explains the demographic surge. The growing number of Muslims is not primarily caused by conversion but is due instead to Muslim families producing more children. The higher relative birthrate occurs for various social and religious reasons, including the fact that, in most Muslim-dominant societies, women have few opportunities outside the home.

Of course, some converts are choosing Islam—but we should acknowledge recent research demonstrating that conversion works in two directions.

Consider the Muslim population in the United States. In January 2018, a Pew Research study declared that the number of converts to Islam almost equaled the number who abandoned the faith. Thus, there was virtually no net growth at all. This study also found that about 25 percent of adult Muslims raised in the United States no longer identified as Muslims.

What about the Arab world, especially the heartland of Islam? What are the patterns there?

On June 24, 2019, The Guardian reported a study—conducted by a Princeton University-based research group—that suggested Arab Muslims are quitting Islam in unprecedented numbers. The study compares the numbers of “non-religious” people between roughly 2014 and 2019. The numbers went from 11 percent to 18 percent.

Such a statistic is stunning because the Arab world is the stronghold of Islam. This study occurred during the rise of ISIS when militant Islamist groups were committing atrocities. Many Muslims, it appears, questioned their former beliefs. If more Muslims felt comfortable answering the study’s questions openly, the numbers might be even greater.

FULL ARTICLE FROM WORLD

‘Islam’ is not in crisis, liberalism is

When the world is facing unprecedented poverty, violence and environmental collapse, it astonishes that one could suggest that Muslims or “Islam” are uniquely in crisis.

Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron declared in an address to the nation that “Islam is a religion that is in crisis today all over the world”. In the same speech, he unveiled a political programme for strengthening laïcité, France’s unique iteration of secularism that stringently restricts religion in the public sphere. Since then, a brutal decapitation of a schoolteacher, the vicious stabbing of two Muslim women and diplomatic spats have reignited global anxieties about the entanglement between Islam and laïcité.

Much has been written about France’s weaponisation of laïcité to discriminate against Muslims and on the history of French liberalism as a rationale for the brutal colonisation of millions of peoples across Asia and Africa – what it called its “mission civilisatrice” (civilising mission). This violence is as much part of French history as its revolutionary triad of liberté, égalité, and fraternité (liberty, equality and fraternity).KEEP

It is only the latter, however, that is ever mentioned as France’s contribution to modernity. There is seldom a reckoning with the dark underbelly of liberalism, and the unparalleled violence that was, and continues to be, meted out to its historic Others. But Muslims – having borne the brunt of French (and other) colonialism, imperialism and racist violence – know it all too well. Indeed, for many, Macron’s call for an “Islam of the Enlightenment” is viewed as the latest development in that history.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA

How modernity and globalization influenced the message and expansion of Islam

In order to understand how cultural and societal changes influence any religion, we must first know the definition of religion. Religion is a relation with God which human beings regard as sacred, divine,  spiritual, holy and worthy of  respect. It consists of the ways to deal with different concerns of human life. Religious influences are rooted  in all aspects of human life. Religions evolve  and change with time. Religions consist of  ideas, values, practices and stories that are embedded in culture and are not separable. It is not possible to understand a religion without its cultural dimensions How Islam has adapted cultural and societal changes as it has spread throughout the globe is an interesting and complex phenomenon.

Islam traveled in many ways through different regions. The history of Islam is full  of events  that led to Islam’s spread across the globe. Sometimes it was transferred through military conquests, it was also carried through trade caravans that travelled over vast distances or through the missionaries. When  Islamic ideas came into contact with  new societies, they evolved in unique ways and took on diverse forms. That’s why these societies have multiple different interpretations of Islam. The spread of Islam across different regions involved some prominent factors such as inter-marriages, trade, influencers etc . Spreading of Islam is a complex phenomenon and to say that it travelled merely through sword is not justified. Muslim culture developed from the ninth century to the  twelfth century, and crystallized into what we currently know as Islam. The military expansion of the early centuries facilitated the spread of Islam in name only and it was later that Islam spread in true meaning, as a  number of citizens started converting to Islam. Expansion  of Islamic culture was carried out by missionaries and  political convoys, it also expanded through trade. Group of travelers (caravans) used camels to transport goods and themselves across different regions, they played the most important role in the spread of Islam. These caravans helped in expanding Islamic civilization and culture by connecting different provinces (with the Islamic empires) which were far apart. Merchants carried out trades across different regions. These trades were equally influential in expanding culture and created a sense of multiculturalism or internationalism. These new cultural relationships led to the transfer of technology, science and other forms of culture. This was the start of globalization. But at that time it was just known by multiple names like multiculturalism or internationalism. Cultural globalization is a multidimensional process which leads to different impacts and consequences and makes possible the coexistence of  different values with Islamic symbols , values and discourses. Islamic culture does not consist of  merely a group of  a combination of rituals rather it is a complete way of life prescribed by the Quran.

“The human history is the graveyard of great cultures that the disastrous end of them has been due to this matter that they couldn’t present a planned, rational and volitional reaction against the challenges.”  -Erich Fromm

FULL ARTICLE FROM MODERN DIPLOMACY (EU)

Fact check: Joe Biden quote on teaching Islam in schools needs more context

Posts on social media make the claim that U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden wants “Islam to be taught in our schools”, suggesting this would be at the expense of teaching Christianity. This claim is misleading and misrepresents Biden’s remarks.

One example of the claim, shared over 154,000 times since July 23 is visible  here  . Other examples are visible  here  and  here  . 

On July 20, 2020 Biden sought support from Muslim Americans during an online event hosted by Emgage Action, a membership organization mobilizing around issues affecting American Muslims ( here  ,  emgageaction.org/about-us/  ). 

Speaking virtually before the Million Muslims Vote Summit, Biden said, “I wish we taught more in our schools about the Islamic faith.” He added: “I wish we talked about all the great confessional faiths. It’s one of the great confessional faiths.” 

Biden specified that, from a theological standpoint, “what we don’t realize is that we all come from the same root here, in terms of our fundamental basic beliefs.” ( here ) 

During his remarks, Biden did not imply substituting the teachings of one religion over another but encouraged learning broadly about the “confessional faiths”, or faiths usually associated with a formal statement of doctrinal belief, including different denominations of Christianity and Judaism.  

Biden is a Roman Catholic who for years has written and spoken publicly about his faith ( here ). Most recently, Biden has leaned into his religious commitments, emphasizing his faith during the presidential election and the Democratic National Convention this past week ( here ). 

FULL ARTICLE FROM REUTERS

What does Islam say about climate change and climate action?

Many Muslim majority countries bear the brunt of climate change, but their cultural awareness of it and climate action are often staggeringly limited. 

A movement of “Islamic environmentalism” based on Islamic tradition – rather than imported “white saviour” environmentalism based on first-world political campaigns – can address both. And the post-COVID-19 lull in emissions is an opportunity to fast-track this.

It is a movement we sorely need. My home country Turkey, for example, is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, as temperatures are rising and rainfall is decreasing year on year, causing serious problems with water availability. In Bangladesh, it is estimated that by 2050 one in seven will be displaced by climate change, creating millions of climate refugees. In the Middle East, large areas are likely to become uninhabitable due to heatwaves likely to sweep over the region in the next few decades.

However, despite their vulnerability, many Muslim countries are contributing to the problem. Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority country in the world, is the world’s fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and is doing little to curb emissions. Bangladesh and Pakistan are the two most polluted countries in the world, but have taken no serious measures to address pollution. Inaction in the Muslim world persists despite a declaration by Muslim countries in 2015 to play an active role in combatting climate change.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA

Facebook post takes Biden’s comments on teaching Islam in schools out of context

IF YOUR TIME IS SHORT

  • At a voter outreach event aimed at Muslims, Biden said, “I wish we taught more in our schools about the Islamic faith… about all the great confessional faiths.”
  • Conservative commentators said Biden was anti-Christian and against prayer in schools, leaving out the context of him talking about theology in general.
  • Biden is Roman Catholic and has talked about how faith led him to run for public office. He has said he supports the separation of church and state.

See the sources for this fact-check

As presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden spoke in support of increasing Muslim American voter turnout at a recent summit, he said he wished American schoolchildren were taught more about Islam.

Biden thanked advocacy group Emgage Action for endorsing his campaign and having him at their “Million Muslim Votes” event July 20. Then he said: “I wish we taught more in our schools about the Islamic faith.”

Biden said more than that, but the backlash on social media didn’t catch it. Conservative activists, including Charlie Kirk, tweeted out the comment and went on to say Biden didn’t support prayer or studying the Bible in schools. One former Republican candidate called him anti-Christian. Biden is a lifelong Roman Catholic.

On Facebook, a text post quoted Biden incorrectly as saying: “We need to teach our children the ISLAMIC FAITH in our schools!”

The misquote left out important context from the rest of Biden’s speech and his campaign as a whole.

Biden said he wished schools taught not only the Islamic faith but “all the great confessional faiths.” He also said that he is interested in theology and “we all come from the same root here in terms of our fundamental, basic beliefs,” referencing his own Catholic background.

His reference to “confessional religions” includes different denominations of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, which are religions that each have their own statements of faith, sometimes called a confession. 

FULL ARTICLE FROM POLITIFACT

FATAH: Allah’s Islam vs. Mullah’s Islam

Muslim men practice social distancing as a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19 as they take part in Friday prayers during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan at a mosque in Chana District in Songkla Province on May 8, 2020.TUWAEDANIYA MERINGING / AFP via Getty Images

Without fail, hardly a week goes by when news from the Islamic World does not embarrass ordinary Muslims worldwide.

Either we are each other’s throats, or are hunting to eliminate the ‘kuffar,’ be they Christian, Hindu, Jew or the agnostic and atheist, unless of course, they adhere to the guilt-ridden ‘Cancel Culture.’

And if at all a Braveheart among the ‘infidels’ murmurs a protest, trust us to invoke ‘Islamophobia,’ the ever-present Sword of Damocles that hangs over the head of whosoever dare protest. For we are unique — demanding both supremacy as well as victimhood.

The late Iranian scholar Ali Dashti concluded that Muslim follies have little to do with Islam, but everything to do with early Islamic conflicts where “ambition for the leadership replaced zeal for the religion as a pivotal motive.

In the book Twenty-Three Years that got him tortured by the Khomeini regime, Dashti wrote: “The study of the history of Islam shows it to be a sequence of struggles for power in which the contestants treated the religion (Islam) as the means, not as an end. … The further the Prophet’s death receded in the past, the greater became the tendency to use it (Islam) as an instrument of seizure of the leadership and the rulership.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE TORONTO SUN

Islam’s anti-racist message from the 7th century still resonates today

One day, in Mecca, the Prophet Muhammad dropped a bombshell on his followers: He told them that all people are created equal.

“All humans are descended from Adam and Eve,” said Muhammad in his last known public speech. “There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, or of a non-Arab over an Arab, and no superiority of a white person over a black person or of a black person over a white person, except on the basis of personal piety and righteousness.”

In this sermon, known as the Farewell Address, Muhammad outlined the basic religious and ethical ideals of Islam, the religion he began preaching in the early seventh century. Racial equality was one of them. Muhammad’s words jolted a society divided by notions of tribal and ethnic superiority.

Today, with racial tension and violence roiling contemporary America, his message is seen to create a special moral and ethical mandate for American Muslims to support the country’s anti-racism protest movement.

Challenging kinship

Apart from monotheism – worshipping just one God – belief in the equality of all human beings in the eyes of God set early Muslims apart from many of their fellow Arabs in Mecca.

Chapter 49, verse 13 of Islam’s sacred scripture, the Quran, declares: “O humankind! We have made you…into nations and tribes, so that you may get to know one another. The noblest of you in God’s sight is the one who is most righteous.”

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This verse challenged many of the values of pre-Islamic Arab society, where inequalities based on tribal membership, kinship and wealth were a fact of life. Kinship or lineal descent – “nasab” in Arabic – was the primary determinant of an individual’s social status. Members of larger, more prominent tribes like the aristocratic Quraysh were powerful. Those from less wealthy tribes like the Khazraj had lower standing.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CONVERSATION