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Being a Muslim Today

Today, every Muslim is asking himself some questions -- questions that have been pending with the Muslims for decades and centuries. What does being a Muslim mean today? What is the ethical role of being a Muslim and what is his social role? What is Islamism, in both theological and social terms? What is political Islam and where did that come from? What is the role of Islam today? Why has the War on Terror been reduced to War on Islam? Why is the clergy's Islam so different from a Sufi's Islam? Are Politics and Islam separable?

Islam is a phenomenon, a happening. Its influence on a person's life and mind cannot be curtailed, because Islam is all about how to live, a code of ethics, manners and morals. In its essence and principle, Islam is very different from how it is interpreted and applied by most Islamic states. Most criticism is turned towards the royal monarchies of the Middle East, whose influence runs over state controlled religion, and very few of which have democratic institutions while the ones who do are equally authoritative and repressive.

With the growing corruption and bigotry, alongside the pandemonium of the various interpretations of Islamic principles, the discontent of the Muslims is reaching the brink. Today Muslims want consensus of definitions and interpretations so that different sects, rulings and followings can be brought into a comprehensive view.

Today, it's as crucial as ever to understand the polarities of Islamic Modernism versus Fundamentalism and to explore the possibilities of rationalizing religious dogmas with modernity and pluralism. Today, it's Muslims who must answer these questions. Is there a social orientation among them in favor of democracy and constitutionalism? Is the western model of democracy a workable system of government? And if we do have democracy, how do we ensure that it's empowered and representative of the Islamic concept of social justice?

Moreover, what economic alternatives can Islam present if it questions the exploitive materialism of the west and its tentacle-like economic and democratic systems? What would the shape of Islamic Economic System be like if it rejects interest and usury based economies? There are Muslim scholars and theologians who have worked on the interpretations and definitions of Riba (interest or usury in the Quran), but there is reluctance in implementing those models, as well.

There is also a lack of understanding in the difference between an Islamist state and an Islamic state. Islamism is that extreme ideology evolving from the Political Islam, a contrivance for the Afghanistan Jihad. It's a recent event in the Islamic history. Political Islam is a modern ideology, one that is political rather than religious. Its primary goal is not a theological, but rather, a revolutionary change against imperialism. The object is not to alter existing societies with theological goals, but a revolutionary transformation demanding an expulsion of western cultural and religious goals.

Most Muslims do not accept Islamism as the legitimate interpretation of their religion. Theoretically, Islam has played a central role in Muslim Societies as an effective organizing principle; but practically, a great majority of the Muslims have rejected traditionalist's and Islamism's interpretation of their religion, while less ardent Muslims are horror struck by the idea of living in this extremist version. They might be culturally conservative and pious, but to them, Islamism is a deviation from the Islam they have always known or practiced. They want an Islamic state based on the principles of Islamic social justice, not an Islamist state based on extremism with selective forms of punitive Sharia, as propagated and practiced by religious political parties. 

With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the encompassing of Pakistan, common citizens are paying the price of insensitive policies from their governments and foreign interventions with in their lives and blood. They are paying with the blood of their children, with the destruction of their country, with their displacement, and the sufferings of these Muslims will go to waste if they do not arrive to a better state of awareness and evolution of Muslim identity and the meaning of Islam.

Muslims are now cornered with no other choice than to bounce back. The issues that have been conveniently brushed under the carpet as intangible, inconclusive and esoteric, cannot be ignored anymore. The debate on Islam, in its true spirit and essence, is inevitable, and for Muslims, the urgency of the current circumstances might mean now or never.

And questions run over: Islamic jurisprudence and the notion of differentiation of knowledge; the relationship between Islam, politics and the proper form of government; the idea of Islamic civilization; the status of women and gender relation; the unequal distribution of money and resources among the rich and poor; the authoritativeness of Islamic garb; the corruption and the bigotry of the clergy; the unjust systems and the so called socialism of the rich, as well as the capitalistic financial regimes and the puppet democratic governments.

It is most important to ask the right questions, because the right questions help you seek the answers. Asking questions will help Muslims evaluate their objectives and goals as an themselves as a Muslim nation and civilization. Inertia and inaction have created ambiguity and gloom, and this blind alley is an impasse. The only way out is turn back and redirect the path by sorting out our basic differences and our sense of Muslim identity. 

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