Why Does Islam Clash With Western Cultures?

First of all, let’s agree that yes, no matter how much the believers in multiculturalism among us try, Islam does indeed clash with the way of life in much of Europe and other prominent developed countries, such as Australia, Canada and the United States.

Most people in the West drink alcohol on a regular basis. Many European cultures have traditions associated with its consumption and it is viewed as unsociable (hostile, even) to refuse the offer of an alcoholic drink by your host. Islam forbids the consumption of alcohol.

The number of marriages has been steadily decreasing in much of the developed world over the last decade, with sexual activity among teenagers being viewed as the norm. Islam forbids premarital sex.

And of course there is always the issue of the handshake: if you are fortunate enough not to belong to a culture where hugging and kissing near-strangers (of either sex) as a greeting is customary, then it is unquestionable that you will shake hands as a greeting, especially if you are meeting someone for the first time. Islam forbids any form physical contact with the opposite sex. 

So, yes, Islam does indeed clash with Western cultures.

Or does it? 

To be precise, what clashes with Western cultures are the cultures that Muslim emigrants export with their selves when they emigrate or flee their homelands. Islam, as frequently practised by these emigrants places emphasis on practising daily rituals and obeying detailed rulings on various everyday matters as derived from a largely literal reading of the Koran. This kind of religious practice can often morph with outdated (even barbaric at times) cultural practices, such as child marriages and genital mutilation. When a lack of education is thrown into the mix, it becomes increasingly difficult for any one, outsider or not, to differentiate between the sacred and the archaic.

However, a literal reading is not the only reading of the Koran that is possible. It is possible to read the Koran in a more metaphorical manner. What one discovers upon such a reading is that the values that underpin Islam, as with any other religion, are remarkably similar; it is difficult to find a religion where honesty, patience and kindness are not valued.

The current European refugee crisis asks us not whether Islam can exist within a Western culture, but whether we, both Muslims and non-Muslims, have the compassion, the intelligence, the patience and (perhaps most importantly) the courage to challenge the preconceived ideas we have about ourselves and each other and to move beyond the comfortable familiar into the possibility of a more harmonious world.



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