On the advice of another blogger, musingsaudi, I looked into the beliefs of a Muslim scholar named Hamza Yusuf. I found one of his concepts interesting, which is mentioned in this video.
He describes the reactions of conquered peoples as divided into two groups: Herodianism and Zealotism.
Herodianism is the attempt to mimic the dominant civilization, as happened in Japan (he says post-world war situation — I’m not sure if he means World War I or II. I would argue that before America defeated Japan in WWII, Japan had already been copying the American style for some time, which in turn, lead to its ascendancy). I recently read “The West and the Rest” which delves deeply into this concept and it also uses Japan as the best modern example.
It seems to be Hamza Yusuf’s belief that this would be a bad thing for Islam. However, I suggest people read “The West and the Rest” because it outlines how every country which has taken on Western values has seen a steady rise in their GDPs, standards of living, rights of all its individuals, and so on. So, is Islam a peculiar case? I fail to see why this would be true.
Yusuf states that the problem with Herodianism is that the mimicry is never as good as the original and that it is always destined to failure (that’s a very close paraphrase… YouTube started buffering when I wanted to get a perfect paraphrase). I would ask, is it really fair to state that Japan failed? A relatively small island nation growing from the ashes of war — modern nuclear war — into a global power in less than a century is a failure? Regardless of Japan’s current slow economy, considering the fact that such a small country can out-compete larger countries such as China, Russia, and America in so many ways seems quite remarkable to me, not a failure. The same argument could be made for the so-called “Asian Tigers”.
I find it hard to believe when people come back at me with the argument that, “Economic prosperity and equal rights and things like this are only Western values.” Really? Tell that to a beggar in Karachi or a sweatshop worker in China or a farmer in Siberia or a slave laborer in a North Korean Gulag. The fact is, the term “Western values” is ridiculous. These are human values. They are valuable across cultures, religions and nations.
On the other hand, Hamza Yusuf’s view of Zealotism is positive because it preserves the original teaching of the Koran and the Hadith. In other words, Islamic Reform is something which is to be avoided. I will admit, my interpretation of Yusuf’s perspective in this paragraph may not be precise, and I welcome correction. If this is an accurate portrayal of his opinion, however, I believe that this kind of thinking will keep the Arab world in an economic and intellectual stagnation in comparison to the rest of the world.
In the end, the main question remains: Should Islam become more like the West? For the future of Arabic people, I vote with a strong, “Yes!”