West vs. ISLAM?

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  Islam and the West: Bridging the Divide
There is no getting away from it - Islam and the West view one another with mistrust and suspicion.

Muslim woman wearing a veil
Suspicion & mistrust pervade relations between Islam and the West

A historian might say - they always have.
But, if so, their long and turbulent relationship has entered a new phase over the last 30 years or so.

A series of events - from the worldwide Islamic revival of the 1970s to the 11 September 2001 attacks against America - fuelled the fear that Islam and the West are on a collision course.

But, are they really - "Worlds apart"?

NOTE: Keep in mind, most Muslims living in so-called "Islamic" states, do not really enjoy the true state of Islam referred to in Quranic texts, nor do they have the freedom of speech and open media we take for granted every day (like this article you are reading right now).
For the most part, the vast majority of Muslims live under heavily occupied conditions being represented to the west as "Islamic State" when in fact, it is military occupation with dictatorship governments left in place by western occupation.

Many in the West associate Islam with violence and extremism. Militant Islamic groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah are constantly in the news.

The most famous of them, al-Qaeda and its leader Osama Bin Laden, are the main suspects in the 11 September attacks and a string of others - in Bali and Mombasa and, more recently, in Casablanca, Riyadh and Jakarta.

In addition, Islam is seen as hostile to democracy, women, gays and other religions.

Each side has a shopping-list of grievances. So, we asked you to tell us your position:  (read what they say..)

For their part, Muslims accuse the West of rampant "Islamophobia" - fear of and hostility towards Islam and Muslims.
Examples are everywhere - in US foreign policy, in newspaper cartoons, and sometimes in the everyday encounters between Muslims and non-Muslims.


Muslims accuse the West of rampant "Islamophobia" - fear and hostility towards Islam

Muslims look at conflicts around the world - in Gaza and the West Bank, in Kashmir, Chechnya and elsewhere - and see their fellow Muslims on the losing side.

They feel they are losing out in the new world order. They fear the West wants to dominate as well as demonise them.

One planet

The problems are real, but relations between Islam and the West are about more than battles and bigotry.

For hundreds of years Muslim and non-Muslim travellers, scholars, clerics and merchants have exchanged goods, ideas and information, and still do.

It is a story of mutual need. It's also a story of change.

Muslim at prayer in the Central Mosque in Birmingham, England
Millions of Muslims now live in Western countries

At the time of the Crusades, there were two physical blocs, Christendom and Islam. No longer. In our new, globalised world, the "West" is everywhere - its ideas and ideologies, its science and technology, its movies and music, its fast food.

Islam, too, is now global. Millions of Muslims now live in the West. Mosques, Muslim schools and Islamic banks have become commonplace. The old geography is out of date.

Have your say

This BBC special series opens up a new space to explore Islam in the 21st century.

Articles, interviews and interactive features look at such issues as democracy and women's rights in the Muslim world, hear from converts to Islam, discuss inter-faith dialogue, and let Muslims from different countries and backgrounds share their experiences and opinions.

It's a space for Muslims and non-Muslims to talk, debate and interact - to explore differences, and maybe help bridge them.

Do you agree with the author's comments? How can Islam and the West reconcile their differences? Send us your comments and questions using the form on the top right.


The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:

Creating enemies to further one's own aims is not a new phenomenon but applying objectivity and asking deeper questions in the press could help bridge this divide that currently exists between "The West" and "Islam."
Zahid Wissanji, Uganda

The problem is not Islam vs. the West, but justice vs. greed. The problem is not between the peoples but between the Muslim people on the one hand and their own rulers who themselves oppress Islam and the Israeli war government and the arrogant right-wing US administration on the other. The problem will remain as long as the Palestinian problem exists.
Mohamed Abdelrahim, Egypt

The problems between the West and Islam are not religion--not in the basic defining tenets of either Islam or Christianity, but rather in the exploitation of the poor and ignorant members of the two societies. On both sides, fundamentalists use fear and retribution as tactics to encourage subservience among the "faithful." Education is key to removing the rot from the brains of all of the fundamentalists' blind followers. However, in the eyes of our national leaders, it is easier and less expensive to equip a group of young people with a gun instead of a solid foundation of free thought. Here in America, a powerful lobby group has a slogan that says "guns don't kill people, people do," and in this case, rReligion doesn't kill people, people do.
Wes Burnham, Texas, USA

It is easier and less expensive to equip a group of young people with a gun instead of a solid foundation of free thought
Wes Burnham, Texas, USA

Why should the divide be bridged? Sometimes cultures are so different that they can only be separated.
Rich, USA

The reason Muslims fear to openly speak out against their extremists, my Muslim friends tell me, is that they are themselves too terrorised to speak out, being scared of reprisal. So they leave it to others.
John Chan, UK

The West has religions and "democracies." The Muslims have Islam that is their way of life. At its best it is a cradle to grave belief that they live daily and has high and generous principles. Don't let us tar a billion people because a small minority causes us trouble. Think of the trouble we have caused them in years past. The West tried and still does try to ram Christianity down others' throats across the world. Who robbed the Middle East of their oil? Who overran their countries and treated them as second class citizens? I hate the terrorists and will fight them to prevent them killing us but that is a matter of expedience - not an answer to the problem. That I don't have.
Stan, UK

The so called West is slightly hypocritical when it accuses Islam of being backwards. Have we already forgotten that in the United States of America it was OK to call a black person an abusive name only some thirty years ago? Our "values" of democracy and equality have a very short history. Let us not pretend that we are centuries ahead of Islam when it comes to equal treatment of women. At the very best we might be twenty years ahead. And even that is purely because we were lucky enough to have a few high profile individuals who sacrificed their lives to fight for this equality.
Cezar, Canada

Our "values" of democracy and equality have a very short history
Cezar, Canada

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