The truth about whether Islamic values are compatible with Western values

Time and again Islam’s teachings uphold religious and personal freedoms. If dictators in the Middle East or radical Muslim preachers oppose the Prophet Mohammed in their words and actions, then they’re solely to blame

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The Independent Online

A recent poll published by the BBC suggested the majority of Brits don’t think Islam is compatible with Western values. This is a thoroughly concerning finding considering how there are nearly 3 million people living in the UK who describe themselves as Muslim. But how incompatible are their views with Western values in reality? It's especially important to ask this after acts of atrocity like the Nice attack.

The core Western values of democracy, freedom and justice can be seen as the bedrock of its civilisation – and for practising, informed Muslims, freedom and democratic values are anything but new to them. Islam from its very outset advocated for complete freedom, justice and democratic values.

Many are quick to point out that today, many Islamic nations seem to have fallen back into the Dark Ages. But it was Islamic injunctions which first spurned the great advancements made during the Islamic Golden Age from the 8th to the 13th century. The reason many so-called Islamic countries have gone backwards socially or politically is a direct consequence of failing to faithfully follow Islamic injunctions. This is because they have allowed themselves to follow the ideology of hardline clerics, rather than truly Islamic teachings.

From the outset, Islam has always advocated for a democratic form of governance, leaving it to the people to decide how and by whom they should be led. So any Muslim demanding that sharia law should be imposed in this country is not only entirely ignorant of Islam but insolent towards the freedom and opportunities Western countries offer. Ironically, of course, they are able to spout their false ideology because of those very freedoms.

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To illustrate Islam’s support for a democratic government, verse 4:59 of the Holy Qur’an clearly outlines the basic and main requirements for democracy. The people must take their vote as a responsibility and thus choose the most appropriate and suitable person to lead them. The Qu’ran then in turn exhorts those in authority to exercise justice.

Further, it promotes dialogue and consultation to gauge public opinion and decide matters fairly as illustrated in 42:39. Muslims in the early era of Islam had this sense of responsibility.

So when Islam itself supports a democratic form of governance and also requires Muslims to “obey those in authority among them” (4:60), any Muslim speaking against the West while living with its freedoms is acting deliberately against the recommendations of their religion. Those who really feel Islam isn’t compatible with Western values ought to educate themselves on Islam’s true teachings, even if some so-called Muslims won’t.

If we take justice to be one of the Western values to be proud of, those unaware of Islamic teachings would be surprised to hear how the Qur’an strongly exhorts to absolute justice on more than one occasion (5:9, 6:153, 7:30), saying, “Allah loves the just” (49:10). The Qu’ran is so clear on the importance of fair-mindedness that Harvard University declared this verse as one of the greatest expressions of justice in literature.

But what about freedom? Here we find similar values. Those asserting that Islam restricts freedom are grossly mistaken, or simply deceived by the oppressive political regimes in the Middle East. It’s important not to confuse the religion of Islam with oppressive political and dictatorial rule.

How, when the Prophet of Islam said it was forbidden to compel anyone in matters of faith, can his followers then have the authority to impose their beliefs on others? Time and again Islam’s teachings uphold religious and personal freedoms. If dictators in the Middle East or radical Muslim preachers oppose the Prophet Mohammed in their words and actions, then they’re solely to blame. It doesn’t mean Islam is incompatible with freedom or human rights. It means that these hate preachers and unjust rulers who claim to be Muslims are at odds with not only Western values, but the true requirements of their faith.

The Prophet Mohammed declared all men were free – no one being superior to another except by way of righteous conduct. He further took great steps to abolish slavery and liberate women across the Arab world whose status as chattel was widespread. This was long before similar battles were won in the West against unjust slavery and for the liberation of women.

In other words, Islam isn’t just compatible with Western values; it started to espouse and establish them long before western democracies. Islamic and Western values are one and the same, and they have been for longer than you could possibly imagine.