The attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001 have intensified the debate about Islam and its role in the modern world.
Some Muslims argue that for Islam to embrace modernity, with its emphasis on reason, acquired knowledge, human rights and representative politics, would be to reclaim an Islamic heritage that has enriched humanity and contributed to its progress.
There are others, however, who view modernity with suspicion, seeing it not only as a Western concept which threatens Muslim values, but also as a sinister attempt by Western powers to dilute and weaken Islam.
What do you think? Are Islamic concepts incompatible with modern aspirations? Why is there a perceived lack of democracy in a number of Muslim states? How can the heritage of Islam in science and the arts be made meaningful in a modern world?
Please include your phone number if you'd like to participate in a special interactive forum or Talking Point programme on Islam. Your number will not be published.
The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:
I believe Muslim extremists who try to impose their beliefs on others by violent means should be dealt with severely. On the other hand, the West also needs to start playing fair where Muslim nations and the Arab world, particularly the Palestinians, are concerned.
One thing that has to be asked is if Western countries are so inherently evil and hard line Islamic states completely angelic, why is there a large number of people from those countries trying to emigrate to the West and not the other way around?
Graeme Phillips, Berlin, Germany (normally UK)
Islam is compatible with modernity because Islam is for all times and time changes.
Mohammad Haseen Khan, Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia
Malaysia should be thrown out of the Commonwealth after Mahathir's anti Jewish comments. If a western leader had made such a comment we wouldn't hear the last of it. Why don't we hold foreign leaders to the same standards of behaviour that we expect from our own leaders?
John Hickson, Canada
Islam is not compatible with modernity. Freedom and human rights that can be experienced in Western countries cannot be experienced in Islamic nations. Islam controls almost every aspect of live, from politics to how you touch your own wife. People change, the world changes so must religion.
Krenar Shqiptar, Albanian living in Greece
No religion is compatible with modernity in the sense that it precludes rational thinking, promotes dogmatic beliefs and stimulates rigid and unquestioning behaviour. I certainly find Islam incompatible with democratic principles and institutions, human rights, liberal economies and intercultural, all aspects that I consider essential to the definition of modernity.
Luis Amorim, Brussels, Belgium
How many Muslim countries there are? How many of them have democratic elections, human rights, Freedom of Speech acts? .When are the next parliamentary elections in Morocco, Jordan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Arab Emirates, Yemen and Qatar?
Krenar Shqiptar, Albanian living in Greece
Why single out Islam? Can the words 'tolerant', 'enlightened' or 'liberating' be applied to Christianity? The Catholic church still practices the same archaic methodology of keeping it's world-wide congregation largely mired in poverty, ignorance and fear, the Anglican church is about ready to implode because of the ordaining of one gay bishop - even though homosexuality is rife within the church ranks.
Is it really Islam that needs modernizing?
Graham J Noble, Santa Fe, New Mexico
When will the west and the Jews in particular learn that the subject of religion, homeland are taboo subjects to all Muslims and should never ever be interfered with as Muslims love to die for their principles
Louay, Damascus, Syria
Islam in America is thriving and tolerated. Christianity in Muslim countries is under attack and not tolerated. America has helped Islam in Kosovo, Somalia, Afghanistan and now Iraq. If they hate us so much why do we keep helping them?
S. Mole, NYC, USA
Islam will only be compatible with modernity if hard line Muslims accepts that western cultures are vastly different to theirs and learn to tolerate them instead of carrying out acts of terrorism upon the west.
John Lewis, Harlow, UK
One of the most important and essential parts of a modern society is the freedom of its individuals and the respect of the human rights of its members. It is a sad fact that in Islamic countries this is lacking or non-existent and as such this is a poor advert for Islam, and so results in the West being unable to accept that Islam is a religion with similar values to Christianity or other "peaceful" religions. Having Sharia law is another major stumbling as it is wholly incompatible with the West and is so far behind the times in different areas as to be laughable to the modern educated person.
Craig Douglas, Hong Kong
Of course Islam is compatible with modernity. In fact, we in the west have much to thank Islam for- We adopted Arabic characters and text from the last golden age of Islamic scholarship which helped us to emerge from our dark age. The only thing Moslems and other religious groups such as Christians have to fear is the 'rabble-rousing' for political gain by opportunist politicians on either side of the debate.
Anthony Duggan, London, UK
Not only are Islam not compatible with modernity but neither is Christianity and Judaism. By the way; if there is really Jewish rule of the world, why wasn't I informed so that I could have a piece of the action?
Sol Yurick, New York, USA
There is no single religion that advocates violence and Islam is no different but lot of things are taken out of context, both by non-Muslims and Muslims themselves and that brings Islam its present bad image. I believe that as a religion Islam is very modern in terms of rights, ways of living and in the field of science. Of course, not if you think that being modern is the way you dress and not a state of mind. I choose my moral lifestyle over that one. Islam makes you a very peaceful person with a clear conscience if you understand it very well.
Ziana, Wales, UK
I believe that a lot of people have misunderstood this issue. Islam does not oppose modernity at all. Islam is not opposed to space travels, modern electronic gadgets and the internet. But Islam opposes pre-civilisation culture such as nudity in public, sexual relationships outside marriage and the use of modern devices such as television to screen pre-civilization culture.
Tanjung Pinang, Indonesia
Islam claims to be a religion of peace but it has a history even up to modern times of violence and coercion in pursuit of its quest for world domination.
D Redeem, London, UK
Islam is a religion of peace and therefore has all the attributes required for living with modernity. The problem most Muslims see in today's world is the unfair treatment of the Palestinians by the Israelis supported by the US. While most Muslims view these atrocities with anger and frustrations a minority has taken up arms targeting the Israelis and the US. The Palestinian issue is the most important global issue affecting the Muslims. I believe if this problem is resolved the gap between the West and Islam will be greatly reduced. The Palestinian problem is not a Middle Eastern problem, it is a global problem.
Mohamed Rafeek, Australia
Of course Islam is compatible with modernity. However it depends on the definition of modernity. Modernity that asks for a sacrifice of moral and ethical values is unacceptable. Islam advocates freedom of choice and equal rights for everyone. In the past there have been many Muslim scientists who have contributed a substantial amount to modern science. Today there are many Muslims working in many technological and scientific fields.
International public opinion polls show that Middle Easterners rate themselves as significantly less happy than their western counterparts. I believe Muslims desire a higher standard of living. It is natural for them to want what the West has-things like better health care, better housing, mobility, freedom of expression, and access to information. But Muslims are subjects of dictatorial theocracies, and Islamic clerics discourage the exercise of inquiry which gave rise to the West's higher standard of living.
Coos Bay, Oregon, USA
There is no "individual" in Islam. How can there be subjectivity in a religion whose very name means "submission"? Our lives are not our own; we exist to worship Allah in the way he commanded in the Koran. Christian conceptions of "free will" to break with tradition, to chart new courses are condemned. It's God's will, not man's ability that people rely upon and invoke. Islam is fatalistic; or rather should I say that Muslims are fatalistic; things are done onto them, they are never the doers, and modernity is about "doing". Look at Muslim reactions to events - everything is a conspiracy. We, Muslims, are never responsible. To be sure, these attributes are found in Islamic places, among Islamic peoples and maybe as much societal as they are religious.
San Antonio, TX USA
There are millions of Muslims all over the world living in the most modern cities and working in technological fields. Obviously, these Muslims have found a way to reconcile their faith with modernity. It is the xenophobic interpretation of the faith that some Muslims choose to follow that is incompatible with modern society or really any form of civilization. It is unfortunate that this xenophobic sect seems to be more successful at communicating their message than the silent majority.
Jim, NJ, USA
The "modernism" of the West is a relatively new creation - women (and men) still covered their heads with hats and scarves in the Christian West into the 1960's - the same decade that women and minorities began to achieve a level of equality in Western Society.
The true break with the past came earlier - first with the Renaissance (empowered with ideas from Islam), and then with the Reformation - and the separation of Church and State.
Islam as a religion is not the problem. Islam as a vehicle of power - which necessitates the silencing of discourse and progress - is.
Go to the root of any religion, and you will find the ideals to be great and good. It is the interpretation and implementation of a narrow set of ideals that serve the purpose of power that pervert the enlightenment of any religion.
George Bush and his "Christian" cronies are as much evidence of that as any Wahabi mullah.
Greg Gutbezahl, Montclair NJ USA
The big problem between the West and Islam is the concept each has of God. In the West there's the freedom not to believe in God for example; salvation in the West can be achieved through religion or a personal vindication by choosing any philosophy or system of thought by the individual without it being a sacrilege. In Islam, there's only the word of God, and if the teachings of the Koran are not followed then that is sacrilege which can be severely punished by an Islamic society. This doesn't mean there is something wrong with Islam, not at all, but we should find a bridge to bring closer these two different outlooks of life.
Benjamin, Mexico City
Islam does have a bad image in the world. This is due to the extremists who think that God wants them to kill and injure people. However, if you read up on the faith, most Christians would not have a problem with its fundamental ideas and beliefs. The Islamic role model is a very good way to lead your life whether or not you are a Muslim.
Robert Morgan, Wales
With the collapse of the Christian Church, it is difficult for Christians, like myself, to embrace an alternative. Islam has not yet been 'corporatised', so there will be stiff opposition to its existence in the Western world. Muslims have the difficulties that the early Christians had, and that was to convince the none believers that there was something Wonderful worth living for.
Tony O Hanlon, Woy Woy, Australia
I noticed when I read these posts that most Muslims blame the problems with their own governments, society and all other ills on the 'evil' West. They have to look at themselves and their own leaders instead of always blaming others. Also remember that the Golden Age of Islam was more inclusive then the new Wahabist Islam of today.
A country's modernity, in the sense of progressiveness, can be measured by the way its women are treated. Islam, the way it is lived by a majority nowadays, is far behind and obviously unwilling to adhere to modernity.
Frederique, Paris, France
If you look at the Gulf states, you find that Islam is only compatible with the conspicuous consumption that defines modernism. Modernism seems to have no other definition apart from nice cars, getting cable TV and shopping at the mall.
All religious beliefs are incompatible with modernity. Religion demands faith from its adherents, even in the presence of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The fact that modern society took it upon itself to question the dogmas perpetuated by its leaders (who largely claimed a divine right to rule) is the reason our lives have improved immeasurably over the last few centuries.
Westerners generally have convoluted views of Muslims' perception of Western values. The Muslims' antagonism towards the West in general and America in particular is due to the injustices and atrocities perpetrated by their proxy, Israel towards fellow Muslims in Palestine. In Islam, all Muslims are brothers and they share the pain of fellow Muslims in the Middle East.
Mohd Shah, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Islam is a religion not a political ideology. And it should be seen this way. I think that Islamic concept and ideas are incompatible with modern aspirations but I also think that at a political level they can achieve democracy as any other country. The West has to respect Islamic ideas and Islam must respect Western ideas.
Tânia Quintão, Lisbon, Portugal
With regard to whether countries which separate church and state are in a better condition, we need look at both the mental and spiritual as well as the economic health of the people. Many empires and nations have enjoyed economic prosperity in the last few thousand years. However, when I go on the tube in London, I do not see people brimming with joy. On the contrary, in spite of these people's comparative economic wealth, their dissatisfaction and discontentment is greater than what I have seen in Muslim countries. Yeah, economically we're doing quite well, in spite of having to work twelve hours a day just to keep up with paying the bills.
To Aisha, London: It is not economic wealth that makes people happy, but the freedoms they have. People in the West are mush happier than the majority of people in the East. If this is not the case then why are millions a day from the East trying to enter our countries while there is only a handful going the other way? A poll taken in Iran showed that the majority is not happy with the current Islamic "Sharia law" ruled nation.
As a member of the Muslim Association of Britain, it is encouraging to see the Muslim community becoming more empowered within the UK. The recent by-elections in Brent East signalled that moderate Muslims are ready to take on the challenge of being part of society without compromising their beliefs and values. There is a pot of positive contributions that young professional British Muslims can make. This on top of a common agenda of peace and justice has helped to shatter some of the ignorance that existed before.
Amjad Mohamed-Saleem, Rainham, UK
As someone else on this board said, modernity is not the acceptance by Muslims of Western culture to the demise of their own. It is a method of embracing technology, accepting faults and learning from mistakes. Of course, examples for improvement can be taken from Western culture (and vice versa, the West has things it could learn from Arab culture). Countries like Turkey and Malaysia (and, without Saddam's greed, so would Iraq) have proved that a secular model works well with Islam. Sadly, in all the Abramic faiths, there are a minority who believe that people do not have the right to believe in other things, and in the Arab world it is a sad fact that these people have come to the forefront. I'm just glad that the religious right in America have no more influence than they do at the moment.
Darryl LeCount, Bristol, UK
Islam can be made compatible with modernity. Witness the flourishing of mathematics, astronomy, medicine and philosophy during Islam's heyday. However, for Islam to get back to that level of openness would require the larger Muslim community to wrest Islam back from the fanatical mullahs who have hijacked Islam for the past several centuries.
Queensbury NY USA
Islam and modernity are compatible only in the West, where freedom of religion and separation of church and state make it possible. For the theocratic Middle East and the rest of the Islamic world, forget it.
George Mena, Fremont, California, USA
No, they are not compatible. Islam is an all-encompassing moral, spiritual and physical theology teaching right from wrong, and highlights the ultimate responsibility for the actions one takes. Modernity emphasises practicality, is flexible to the desires of the majority and is ultimately governed by the economics of the elite. The "Muslim" states you mention contain very little of Islam, and plenty of modernism without the flexibility. Having a dictatorship in a Muslim majority country does not make it Islamic.
Why is it we as a nation of Christians/Protestants etc think that the Islamic faith is not modern? Is it because we think we are better than the followers of that faith? We call ourselves democratic and that we allow others to be whatever they want but as soon as they turn their backs we are trying to change them and make them what we want them to be. This is not my idea of fairness to the rest of the world - rich or poor!
Lise B, Canada
Western ideas of modernity are achieved by blackmailing the developing countries and by the systematic subjugation of economic, political and social power. Those who tend to think that western modernity has given them so much should find out first how that was achieved. Unfortunately many of them don't look beyond their world (USA and Europe) because they do not suffer economic hardship like most of the world. The problem is being compounded partly because of attempts to export the western concept of modernity to people who find it difficult to get one meal a day. Islam provides a pragmatic approach and is effective if utilised in the right manner. Unfortunately for most of the Muslim countries, their leaders strive for the same level of material greed as the West and so ignore the plight of the people.
To Muslim countries, modernity means whether they're next on the American hit list for a bombing campaign and invasion. They're going to be bombed into wanting 'modernity' whether they like it or not. In the meantime, westerners think that they're on a holy crusade to impose western values on others whether they like it or not. Well, that sums up the West's racism and imperialist ambitions dressed up as a debate on 'modernity'.
Bilal Patel, London, UK
To Bilal Patel of London: Racism is a double-edged sword. When will the complete lack of tolerance from Muslims toward non-Muslims be addressed? Am I the only person who feels a blast of icy air from the Muslim community? I doubt it, and yet everyday I am lectured about the need for tolerance and understanding. I have no problem with that, but it has to cut both ways. Until there is a sense of equity, the gap will continue to widen. As a Muslim you have a duty not only to celebrate your own faith and culture, but to respect and to embrace the faith and culture of others.
Having been born into a Christian sect, I would say that all religions which go beyond the simple act of fellowship/worship are incompatible with modernity as they become progressively more introspective and arrogant to outsiders and fundamentally non-democratic. What really worries me is that Bush and his core administration are actually reverting to the dogmas of the Christian religion in their criticism of the 'uncivilized world'. Now that's progress!
David O, UK
In Malaysia, the Islamic model they have there seems to be compatible with modernity. They have a good education system and a society that is fairly open and democratic - unlike Arab countries. Islam is not the trouble. The Arab culture of tyranny is. I hope Islam wakes up to this threat before it exports itself more effectively.
Secularism, equal treatment of women, religious tolerance and democracy are all relatively modern ideas. I see no reason why any of these things should be incompatible with Islam. The Muslim world, as diverse as it is, does seem to reject some or all of these ideas. I'm not sure exactly why. One only needs to take a brief look around the world to see that secular democracies with religious freedom and better treatment of women are more successful, free and prosperous places. Of course, the people in the Muslim world should be free to choose their own path, but don't complain about being left behind if you choose not to adopt a more modern system.
Shawn, Washington, DC, USA
It is said in the Holy Quran that the first word from Allah was "ikra". which means "read". The importance of the quest for knowledge, education and advancement is on of the key concepts in Islam.
If modernity is defined by technological progress, and acquiring knowledge then Islam is most certainly modern. But if modernity is defined as adoption to western values then it is not.
From my viewpoint, the West does not have the right to judge the values of people from different cultures which they do not understand. The assumption that western values are the right ones is not acceptable. In fact, such close mindedness is what I see as being "not modern".
It's not just Islam. Christianity - especially as espoused by the Catholic Church and much of America - is totally unsuited to life in this new millennium.
The only way that we'll ever get out of this mess of a world is if no religion is taught to anyone anywhere. Demolish the church-schools, forbid religious education and only allow adults to read any religious books. Most certainly prohibit preaching and missionaries.
The human mind has absolutely no in-built defences against these hideously destructive memes.
The notion of "modernity" as synonymous with an emphasis on, for instance, political justice and human rights, is itself a very European idea. Most of these components of so-called modernity have appeared in many forms, in most cultures, with varying degrees of success. What is hegemonic about the attitude of the "West" - in the sense of the predominantly Christian world - is the notion that these ideas are strongly unique to our culture.
While the exact way we have developed and expressed these ideas in relation to the rest of society may be unique, I see no obvious reason to believe that this exact development is the only one compatible with the aims of compassion and the desire for justice. Quite the contrary - a real concern for human rights and justice is as incompatible with the forced imposition of "our" notion of modernity as it is with the Crusader or militarist Jihad notion of bringing "the truth" through force.
I, strongly believe that Islamic concepts can be compatible with modern aspirations if and only if the operators of the modern world stop their allies from terrorising Muslims who share a common boundary with them. Like the case of the Indians, the Israelis, the Bosnians and so on. Also the US needs to have a rethink towards its view of Muslims and Islam. One keeps wondering why the US is so hostile to the rest of us. The invasion of Iraq confirm our fears. Finally, Islam as a religion is totally against killing innocent lives. So Islam does not teach the act of barbarism, at the same time it does not stop its followers from defending their rights no matter how powerful the aggressor is. That is not incompatibility.
Adamu Idris, Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria
To blame the West for the shortcomings of the Islamic world is wrong. Democracy is a messy thing that requires certain human rights. Such as freedom of religion, speech, and the basic human needs met for its citizens. Such as food and shelter. If Islam wants to join the modern world it will need to accept these practices. If someone is critical about the Prophet or the religion, they cannot just call for the person's head. Remember "Satanic Verses". Even my most moderate Muslim friends seem to agree with the Iranians' death wish for the author.
Cincinnati, OH, USA
Suicide bombers exist because Eastern people think in absolute terms and cannot distinguish between ideal and self or between state and the individual. This is not the case with Western thought which is based on relativistic outlook. Therefore the point where East meets West is the point were Eastern people see Western ideals and ideologies as if they are their own self. Fighting for an ideal then means fighting in a suicidal fashion and killing oneself (which is a form of victory for the cause since in absolute thought, the cause and the self are the same thing).
No, I don't think Islam is compatible with modernity. It seems to be stuck in a 1000-year old time warp, which it desperately tries to hang on to while the world around it changes. Modernity has equality for the sexes, not just roles, for example. It has free thinking, including the question whether a god exists at all. It has free enterprise and so forth. With what we know of the universe today, religions and the concept of an all-powerful god are outdated. Moral values differ according to culture and cannot be imposed outright across the spectrum of human civilisations, modern or traditional. Islam, like Christianity, as well as Buddhism here in Thailand, needs to find its place in an evolving world with global awareness and problems, or perish into history.
Islam, like other religions, is a code to implement in one's life. However, once the followers feel that they are morally superior to others, then that is when a code becomes an ideology. History shows that faiths/religions succumbing, at some point in time, to such a fate. Religions should never over-ride our humanity. This is, sadly, the case with all popular and organized religions.
Modernity has been a forward step for tool making but a backward step for civilization. In resisting modernity, Islam is exhibiting spiritual vigour and liveliness.
Sebastopol, CA, USA
Islam is still quite a new religion compared to mine's, Hinduism. I believe that Islam is still evolving. We must remember Christianity once upon a time was a radical religion that created a lot of terror and bloodshed. Some Muslims might scorn my religion and others as well as the West but I feel a lot of Muslims are just too proud of their religion, just like the West is too proud of its wealth and achievements (largely due to oppression of other countries where incidentally Islam is the fastest-growing religion). Humility not pride is what is required.
If anyone thinks that Islamic countries don't have and want democracy and human rights because they are "not in their culture" then that is arrogant. And thinking that "they" cant "handle democracy" and is racist.
Modernity did not emphasise reason and knowledge, rather it is through the latter that we have reached where we are today. Islamic philosophy strongly encourages the pursuit of knowledge and contemplation, respect and compassion for all of creation; man and environment. Does capitalism or modern industrialisation attempt to address any of this in theory, let alone in practice?
The Quran says that there is no limit to knowledge, that the whole universe is made for and is subservient to man and that it is through acquisition of knowledge and use of reason that it can be conquered and made to serve the interest of mankind. I personally believe that the limitlessness of knowledge in Islam best explains that Islam and modernity are compatible. The Muslim world is not at peace, it has not been allowed to face itself where people predominantly are more willing to live peacefully than to think about modernity and those concerned are bankrupt of ideas regarding all the obstacles on they way to modernity.
Zikria Zakee, Kabul, Afghanistan
I'm sorry but I really do not see the connection between Islam and terrorism. Even though they say they commit these atrocities in the name of Islam that does not make it true. Also I do not see the connection between Islam and the West. One is a geographical group and the other is a religious community. It like comparing Africa and Judaism. I think the whole premise of this page is to incite debate on a non-subject and blur the real issue which is American world domination and the economic reasons America needs to secure oil supplies.
Daivid, Bergen, Norway
There's no sense in the question. I don't know what modernity is. However, being a Christian I can understand fully what Islam is. Islam is, the way I see it, a coherent system of values as important as mine. There's no future for humanity if all the values built for centuries are denied by so-called "modernity". If such "modernity" prevails call it stupidity.
Maria, Porto, Portugal
Islam is a religion that is anti-progressive. Room is not given for repentance for every offence made against Sharia Law. It also preaches hatred against people of other beliefs. The Islamic belief is anti-democratic and anti-establishment.
Efoe Livingstone, England
The core of this debate is in fact the ongoing conflict of moral relativism vs. absolutism. It is arrogant of the Western world to assume that our beliefs and ideas are the correct ones, while those of the Islamic world are unjust and acts of terror. A believer in Islamic concepts may just as well look at American politics, concepts or laws and view them as being terroristic or unjust. What gives anyone, any one country, any one person, or any one system the right to impose an absolute code of morality throughout a multicultural and diverse world?
Evette Caplan, Toronto, Canada
How can Islam vary so drastically over the world? Some state that it is a peaceful religion, while others say Islam should be the only religion and all others should be abolished - with force. How can one religion be interpreted in two opposite extremes? Surely it's either peaceful, or it's not.
Bishop's Stortford, UK
What is modernity? Is it modernity that allows its proponents to cluster bomb the nnocents, to vindicate the bulldozing of civilian homes, to ignore the poverty of the majority of the world's people? Or is it the use of racism to prevent economic migration because the modernists own the world? Is it modern to bully countries into submission by denying them the right to trade fairly or to use radioactive materials in war while denying it? Is it modern to imprison apeople in Camp X-ray and deny them a fair trial because they happen to be of a different colour? If this is the case, then Islam is not compatible with modernity - Islam is better. The West is not modern. It is just the way that it is. It is not better - it rules its people through psychological tyrannies. Get your heads out of the sand: it is not modernity that the world needs, it is justice and frankly most of our countries completely lack that.
Having just heard about the memorial for the 7500 Muslims murdered by the modern Christian Serbs, the question is what do you mean by modernity? Was the West 'modern' as it watched the death of 800,000 Christian Rwandans? Was the US 'modern' when it secretly bombed Cambodia during the Vietnam War? Was Israel 'modern' when it carried out assassinations with the innocents counted as collateral damage? Why are you asking such questions when you know that all they are likely to do is to increase division? How 'modern' of the BBC to illustrate its bias by claiming to champion free speech.
David Green, London UK
The question should be "is religion compatible with modernity?" In spite of the renaissance 600 years ago in Christianity, there still is many backward and irrational thinking as well as practice in the Christian world. The seemingly modern appearance of Christianity was not easy to achieve; much blood was shed to gain those rights. In Islam, there has never been a renaissance. If history can be used as a guide, there will be and there should be. But it will not be easy. As it was for all conservative and religious movements many power hungry classes will fight to the end against evolution. The question being asked is biased and wrong because by asking it the assumption is that Christianity is, which is not a true assertion.
If intolerance and terrorism are the measure of incompatibility with modernity, one might equally ask if Christianity is compatible. Let us not forget that it was a "Christian" not a Muslim behind the devastating bombing in Oklahoma City just a few years before the tragedies of September 11, 2001. History provides quite strong evidence that all religions and societies are capable of both great compassion and great repression. Evidence is also quite strong that just because a society reaches a state of tolerance and freedom does not mean they will maintain it. Take a look at the rapid decline of both internal freedom (the Patriot Act) and international inclusion (the unwillingness to seriously consider world opinion) in the United States over just two years. Fearing and demonising other groups is the first step toward the intolerance and closed minded idealism that leads to injustice, repression and finally violence.
Where are the worldwide protests against militant Islamic terrorists? Can anyone answer this question? One can only assume that secretly the moderate Muslims and their leaders feel as though terrorists are fighting for Islam, what else can one assume? Please help me on this quest. Why is there a need to be ambiivalent about this question?
Islam is actually very compatible with the idea of modernity. If we agree that the idea of modernity came about with science and technology. There is no 'Galileo affair' in Islamic history. However, Modernity must be based on ethics which guarantee basic human rights. It is the content of every religion. Any understanding that religion oppresses human beings must be invalid. I agree that some Muslim countries lack democracy. But democracy and or lack of democracy are not dealt with in religion. It is an accident that major Muslim countries are undemocratic
If by modern aspirations and political systems you mean "Western" ones, then the answer can only be no. Islam, for all its fairness and talk of tolerance is the antithesis of not just modern western society but any western society. Where western society is pluralistic, integrating individuals within itself, Muslims prefer their own community. Where western societies subscribe to the rule of law, Muslims have their own law. You have to ask ultimately, where are their allegiances. It's all very well to talk of Islam's past contributions; Italy had the same, so too Greece, China, the Babylonians, Egypt, but we're not talking about the past. Where are these empires today? What does Islam contribute today?
The acceptance of Western values, whether in 50 or 100 years, is inevitable and I believe we are witnessing the last desperate push to weaken the influence of Western secular and democratic values. Islam has had a self imposed isolation for centuries. With the advent of movies and television, this is no longer possible. There is a rejection of the "modern world" because of a rage that much of Islam does not fit in a modern world. Outside of a few million fanatics (out of a billion Muslims) no one much cares for the establishment of Sharia, the cutting off of limbs for various crimes, or stoning for alleged sexual misconduct. If many manifestations of Sharia seem barbaric to Westerners, it is because they are barbaric.
Andrew Zaplatynsky, Syracuse, NY, USA
I think we should define first the meaning of the word "modern". If the word modern means that we encourage premarital sexes, putting our parents in retirement homes instead of taking care of them, encouraging marriage between same sexes, and other values considered as modern nowadays, then I would say that Islam would never be compatible. But if modern refers to hard work, being technology minded, embracing democracy, and so forth, I don't see any regulations in Islam that goe against those. The root cause of the actions by extremist Muslims I believe has been understood by the western leaders, though they may still be refusing to acknowledge this fact. The way things are going right now, it is tempting the moderate ones to go to the extreme as well. We have to convince the western people that Islam is a peace loving religion, not as bad as what their leaders want them to think.
Kenny, Jakarta, Indonesia
Islam equals traditionalism and fear of change. Islam could never be compatible with modernity, in the way most westerners define modernity.
I am a Christian and have respect for other religions. Islam is a good religion with a lot of fanatical followers like in any other religion. The problem in the world today is that most westerners believe that the only correct path is following what they believe in. Democracy, as preached by the West, just cannot work in some countries, especially those that choose to be guided and ruled by the terms of their holy book. Those who are preaching democracy are not even democratic. You can not rule America if you are not privileged or rich. Whatever the type of government any country chooses must be compatible with the norms and values of that country. Democracy is simply not compatible with the teachings of Islam. My advice to all Muslim is to strongly defend what they believe in and not succumb to the pressures of some western countries.
I am catholic and at age 11 made a choice to leave the catholic church because of what I saw going on around me at the catholic school I attended and in the local church. For this reason I believe that people can follow whatever belief system they choose, but the system must not be linked to law or politics. The basic values of right and wrong, fairness and equality are all that is needed. Law making should be participatory and should not reflect weird cultural practices. No-one wants to have their right hand chopped off for some petty crime and no-one wants to be stoned to death.
Brenden Canning, Sydney, Australia
Islam is a wonderful and peaceful religion with great leaders. Israel and the regime in the USA are doing everything they can to corrupt the name of Islam. One needs to separate fact from fiction in order to understand true Islam.
Ali Ghaderi, Iran
Religions need not be compatible in this case Islam. People can be compatible with one another, in this case Muslims. There are many Muslims who either make compromises with their faith's precepts in order to live peacefully in societies of freedom. There are people of any and all faiths who do this. It is not a person's religion which matters, it is their behaviour. If Muslims are willing to live and let live we can live peacefully in our little global village.
Amarillo, Texas, USA
It is not true that the Golden Age of Islamic civilization arose wholly as a result of Islam. Arabs conquered already existing, sophisticated societies such as those of the Byzantines and the ancient Persians. he Byzantines originated the modern concept of hospitals which the Arab Muslims copied, not invented. The Byzantines also originated the "Islamic" architectural style that is so admired today. The ancient Persians outlawed slavery which the Arab Muslims unfortunately reintroduced to that culture. Also, the Arabic contribution to the Italian Renaissance is exaggerated. As long as Muslims look to the achievements of a Golden Age that in many ways did not exist, they will not move forward. In truth their religion needs to be reformed, and that reformation is not going to be happen by looking backwards instead of forwards.
It's not Islam or Judaism or Buddhism or Hinduism or Christianity; it's the fact that while all religions seem to espouse to the 'love thy neighbor' philosophy none of the religions of the world can get along with each other. It appears that most all incursions going on in the world are really all about religion. Doesn't it seem at least a little bit ironic that, only those countries, which enjoy separation of church and state, seem to be economically and socially very successful? Unless and until all factions in the world realize that religion and government must not be mixed together, there can never be peace in the world. And one last thing, a question actually, If Islam is such a great religious belief, why are all the believers as poor as church mice and all the countries they live in referred to as 'Third World' or 'Developing Nations' who look toward countries like the US or England for economic assistance?
Constableville, New York, US
The lack of democracy in a number of Muslim states does not mean any lack of democracy in Islam itself. Islam insists on the importance of science and all kinds of advances that improve the quality of our lives.
In order to be compatible with the modern western world I believe Islam has to evolve. I am aware of how controversial this statement may be to Muslims, but I see no place in the West for a religion in which high clerics declare fatwas against writers (as was the case with Salman Rushdi). The sole idea of a jihad or holy war is certainly unacceptable to many Westerners as many of us believe there can be nothing holy about bloodshed. I am on the other hand quite aware that Christianity had many similar problems in the past. I am sure that Islam will be able to take on a shape which will be compatible with the western world, but I think it had not yet happened.
Nick, Warsaw, Poland
I often find Muslims and non-Muslims fail to understand the philosophy of Islam. It is so unique in so many ways. The thing which separates Islam from the other divine religious namely those of Christianity and Judaism is that Islam covers all aspects of life, be that of family, politics, economics or work. The West knows it received a lot of its knowledge from the once flourishing Muslim empire, but often denies it.
It isn't just Islam, ALL religions are incompatible with a scientific approach to knowledge. There are no Gods other than those created by small minded men who are unable to grasp the reality that you are born - you live - you die - and that's all there is.
Islam is not only a religion but also a comprehensive way of life. It is a religion that emphasises social justice and denounces oppression. No peace without justice. Democracy in Muslim countries is prohibited and prevented by the powerful West, not by the concepts of the religion. The people want to be ruled by Islam, not by the oppressive and regressive regimes. Why does the west support these regimes?
Burke, VA, USA
The segregation between religion and government is required. Can't have both together, otherwise we would end up with extremists who scream for the extermination of all types of people.
Islam is a universal religion. It is for this reason that during early Islamic history Muslim scholars contributed enormously to philosophy, science, the humanities, art and architecture. It goes without saying that Baghdad and Alexandria, Cairo, Andalusia and Persia were the seats of learning. It is well recognised that it was the Muslim scholars who sown the seeds of the European Renaissance. Unfortunately with the rise of political and military power, decadence and corruption set in within Muslim society. Muslims stopped interacting with the wider world. Muslim rulers became preoccupied with internecine struggles for power. Muslim scholarly endeavours were not supported by Muslim society.
The rot set in. It was as a result of this situation that a religious clerical class grew out of the society, which eventually became inward-looking and had a very narrow world view. Perhaps the present rise of ultraconservative values in the United States establishment is a good example of what happens when political and religious leaders become wrapped in a sense of self-righteousness.
Navidul Haq Khan,