George Carey: A challenge for both Muslim and Western societies

From the Sternberg Lecture, given by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, at the University of Leicester
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The Independent Online

Why is it, we may wonder, that from the 17th century, Muslim scholarship began to fade away and European learning and scholarship began to flower and eventually dominate the world? The answer has to be sought in the political and cultural environment in which learning is set, and the freedom from restraint that scholarship needs to fulfil its destiny.

It is no accident that the Western reformation, although principally a Christian protest against authority, became the catalyst of a revolution which is continuing to this day. Reason had to be separated from authority and ideology in whatever shape or form they came.

The challenge to Muslim countries is to create environments where learning can flower unrestricted and be open to women as well as to men. It is my conviction that democracy is the best system for safeguarding human rights and securing education, health care and social provisions for all. It is my hope that more and more Muslim societies will, in days, embrace this form of political life.

Nevertheless, it remains true that the Western critique of Muslim societies for being too closed and too authoritarian should be balanced by Muslim criticism of Western systems of government that, by putting such a premium on individual freedom and rights, may undermine individual responsibilities and corporate moral principles that make for healthy community living. I, for one, do not rule out the possibility that Muslim experience of democracy in days to come will influence Western forms.