Perceptions Of Islam How the West Perceives Islam and what Mazrui thinks is the Reality Most Westerners tend to view the Islamic societies as somewhat backward in their beliefs according to Mazrui. Commonly Westerners believe that this is due to the oppressed religious beliefs of Islamic’s. They also believe that the Islamic society is governed inhumanely in comparison to the enlightened, well-rounded democracy of the Western world. However the measurement of cultural differences between the West and Islam is somewhat complex, and the differences between the two is narrower than assumed by most Western beliefs. Islam is not considered just a religion, and most certainly is not just a fundamentalist political movement but is a civilization and a way of life that varies from one Muslim country to another. The Westerners seem fail to recognize how their own societies have failed to live up to their liberal mythology. Many aspects of Islamic culture that Westerners regard as medieval may even have prevailed in their own culture until fairly recently.
In most cases, Islamic societies are only a few decades behind in the socially and technologically advanced Westerners. The main question that we must ask ourselves is what path leads to the highest quality of life for the average citizen without the worry of being abused in the process. According to Mazrui, Islamic values deserve serious consideration because the West doesnt provide the answers to all the questions being asked. Many Westerners regard Muslim societies as being unenlightened when it comes to the rights of women, and it is true that the question regarding women is still troublesome in most Muslim countries. The rules regarding the Islamic beliefs on sexual modesty have often resulted in excessive segregation of the sexes in public places, sometimes bringing about questionable differences regarding womens rights. However, Muslim women have always been permitted to own property where the British women where not allowed to do so until 1870.
Islamic laws have also allowed the inheritance to both genders equally while in many Western cultures women could not inherit anything if there were sons in the family. The United States, which is the largest most influential Western nation, has yet to nominate a female into the presidential office where Muslims have had two women Prime ministers. Although Muslims have moved towards female empowerment, they are still far behind in female liberation. The sources and methods of censorship may differ but censorship is just a fact of life in Western societies as it is in the Muslim world. Censorship is often crudely, imposed by governments, mullahs and imams, and recently, militant Islamic movements. However, the Censorship in the West, is more polished and decentralized. The practitioners in the West are financial backers of the cultural activity and entertainment advertisers that buy time on commercial television.
In regards to the division of church and state and the protection of minority religions through secularism in the West, Islam has tried to protect those religions through ecumenicalism throughout its history. One conclusion that can be drawn from this is that Westerners are less well rounded in their political behavior than they believe. The other conclusion is that Muslim societies historically have been more ecumenical, and are therefore more humane, than the Western critics have come to recognize. However, the Islamic ecumenicalism has protected religious minorities more effectively than the Westerners. Over all the Western liberal democracy has enabled societies to enjoy the openness of its governments accountability through the participation of its citizens along with a high economic productivity.
However, Mazrui points out that Western pluralism has also been the breeding ground for racism, fascism, exploitation, and genocide. Mazrui believes that if history is to end in arrival at the ultimate political order, it will require more than the Western teachings on how to maximize the best in human nature. Mazrui also believes that mankind must also be willing to address the Islamic views on how to check the worst in human nature-from alcoholism to racism, materialism to Nazism, drug addiction to Marxism as the opiate of the intellectuals. Over all Mazrui feels that one must distinguish between democratic principles and humane principles. Some humane principles that need to be distinguished include stabilizing the family unit, security from social violence, and the relatively nonracial nature of religious institutions where the Muslim world may prove to be ahead of the West.