The challenge of modernity

Modernity is an issue that involves all cultures and religions. It is a mandatory step which doctrines of all religions have to deal with. It implies a deep review of history, culture and religion. The debate between science and faith is expected to continue in the future.

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The fundamentalist guidelines within modern Islam, can be better understood, if considered in the context of the widespread trend of the modern Islamic reformism, where the Salafi movement plays a key role. The Salafi movement is characterized by some specific features: the literal interpretation of the sacred texts, rejecting any form of “bid’a”, that is, innovation, which is considered as a deviation from the original sources. The Salafi movement pursues the implementation of social reforms based on sharia.
This is God’ s revealed law. Sharia law allows resorting to physical violence which can be perpetrated to impose Islamic rules, both against Muslims and non Muslims. The Salafi school of thought rejects the modern Western culture and its scientific and critical thinking, seen as a secular culture, that is atheist, and morally corrupted. For these reasons, the Salafi movement, and the other currents inspired by it, can be defined ‘fundamentalist’, that is, narrow-minded, intolerant and absolutist.

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We need to ask whether the Salafi fundamentalist trend is an intrinsic and structural feature of Islam, interpreted as a religion based from its earliest origins on the strict connection between the religious and the civil-political fields, or instead, must it be considered as a historical phenomenon which rose accidentally, and in the long run, could be overcome through a radical reform that allows the establishment of a modern Islam, defined by some contemporary thinkers as “reformist” or “moderate”, that is, anti-Salafi fundamentalist. Many Muslims, especially intellectuals, advocate a “reformed and modern” Islam.

Global Village

The establishment of a modern Islam, that is an Islam that has passed the test of modernity, remains the major challenge which the Islam of today must face, both theoretically and practically, to clearly enter into modernity.

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Various attempts have been made by several Muslim academics to reconcile Islam and modernity. Modernity is an unavoidable challenge for the proper growth and development of Islam in our pluralistic world, where different religions and cultures now meet within the same “global village” in a way that has never happened before. The reform of the traditional Islamic sharia is undoubtedly one of the key points for a reconciliation between Islam and modernity.
Basically, Islam should recognize, without too many clauses, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948, accepted by all the nations of the planet. There is no doubt that basic human rights, such as equality, justice and fraternity have always existed within the Islamic tradition, but they need to become truly universal, by eliminating some “purely Islamic” nuances and other limits that derive from aspects of “Islamic cultural tribalism”. Muslim intellectuals are now urged to give their theoretical and practical support to human rights principles and to freeing Islamic societies from the tight grip of Islamic strict law. Muslim academics and intellectuals have a great responsibility to Muslim societies. It is up to them to create a “modern Islamic culture”.

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It will largely depend on them also whether, in the future, Islam will be an element of peaceful coexistence or continuous conflict with the other “districts” of the human “global village”. On the occasion of the World Youth Day in Cologne in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI, during a meeting with representatives of some Muslim communities said: “Dialogue with Islam is not an option, but a vital necessity upon which our future depends.’
Only on this basis, will true fraternity among all people without discrimination and injustices be possible, and the world will really become the “ global village” for all mankind.(J.S.)


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