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Globalization and Islamic Societies Essay

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Updated: Jul 8th, 2020


Globalization is considered to be one of the most significant phenomena of the modern world. Globalization is a kind of dream that presupposes the unity of all sources and support of all existing countries. Ideally, globalization is about becoming one society with mutual understanding and common goals for further development and living. However, an immense variety of cultures and religions makes globalization rather a challenge. Substantial differences between societies impede the processes of globalization. Islamic societies and globalization comprise a controversial topic for discussion. In the following paper, the concept of globalization from the Islamic perspective will be evaluated.

Defining Globalization

The notion of globalization was used in the 1960s for the first time. Initially, the term “globalization” was used in economic literature mainly when it concerned about marketing strategies and expansion. The current understanding of this concept became popular in the 1990s with the help of mass media mostly. As Featherstone (2002, p. 1) states, ‘the root ‘global’ seems to possess a self-evident quality in its suggestion of not only the expansion of the scope of our social relations to the planetary limits but also in the way it points to the spatial integration of the world through increased communication and trade’. This statement explains the nature and target aim of globalization — the formation of one humanity.

The distinctive feature of globalization is economic integration. The aim of globalization is to provide benefits for the whole humankind by sharing resources and boosting economies on the global level. This idea has been promoted by well-developed industrial countries primarily because they will benefit from economic integration most of all. Thus, economic integration is a challenge for developing countries that lack resources to contribute to the global economy. In ‘General Introduction’ (2006), it is written that critics of globalization call globalization ‘neo-colonialism’ for this reason.

According to information presented in ‘General Introduction’ (2006), the economy may be regarded as an engine of globalization. The best examples of successful implementation of globalization derive from this sphere. One can take the spread of cultural icons as an example and proof. Thus, McDonald’s, Jeans, and Coca-Cola are the most easily recognized icons of Western society. These images serve as symbols of successful and wealthy industrial societies. They demonstrate that globalization is inevitable to reach the same level of development and well-being of society.

Islam and Globalization

When it comes to the globalization of Islamic societies, many controversial debates appear. The globalization has already affected Muslim nations, and the concern is about the further impact of globalization.

Many people from Western countries share the opinion that already developed concepts of human rights and democracy just should be implemented in practice in countries that have not accepted them yet. Thus, the only problem is to explain the significance and usefulness of these ideas. Featherstone (2002) writes about the controversy of such intention. In this case, it seems that Western societies obtrude others to accept practices that contradict with core principles of life in those cultures. This is the point where the problem of Muslim identity arises.

‘Globalization is a normative force with a set of cultural, political, legal, and economic imperatives — often deemed alien to the receiving societies’ (‘General Introduction’ 2006, p. 2). Globalization presupposes the implementation of Western ideals into an extremely different society, and it challenges the existence of the indigenous identity of Muslims. The issue becomes even more complicated after finding out that Muslim identity is not an undifferentiated entity.

Muslim societies and their traditions vary drastically. For instance, the practice of female genital mutilation is accepted in some Muslims from Africa while it seems unacceptable for women from other Islamic countries. Such diversity within one society does not hinder the feeling of identity of all Muslims. Every cultural group shares the feeling of belonging to one large community that is connected with the same religion.

Democracy comprises another controversial topic. The idea of democracy is integral for globalization as far as it presupposes the freedom of choice and the protection of all human rights. However, Islamic society has rather a different understanding of democracy due to religious and cultural peculiarities. Usually, Muslims have two views concerning democracy (‘General Introduction’ 2006). The first view is that Muslims have authority over all non-Muslims. The second opinion refers to the division of power in Islamic societies. Religion and political power diverged since the beginning of Islamic societies. Usually, representatives from the clergy approved the activity of political leaders. However, these political leaders were only Muslims. The idea of being obedient to non-Muslims seems to be irrational for supporters of Islam.

Apart from the investigation of the intrusion of the West into the Islamic community, some scholars analyze the Muslims entering Western societies. Many Muslims live in European countries, and the co-existence of these two cultures does not remind the ‘clash of civilizations’ described by Samuel Huntington. On the contrary, Huntington’s suggestions are being challenged by the current condition of relations between Muslims and Western people. Finally, it is important to mention Featherstone’s (2002) conclusion that globalization could be much more efficient if all civilizations admit the weaknesses of their systems.

Religious Globalization

Globalization influences religion significantly. Globalization promotes the spreading of religion in many ways. Thus, believers can migrate to other countries and spread their religious beliefs there. Modern technologies allow the distribution of religion via the Internet as well. However, the spreading of religion is not a new phenomenon. Supporters of the particular religions traveled to new lands hundred years ago and formed local religious communities. These practices may be regarded as the first prototypes of globalization according to Robertson and Scholte (2007).

As it has been already mentioned, globalization is seen by many Muslim societies as something hostile. This negative attitude can be rendered with the help of religion with maximum efficiency. Religion is the strongest aspect that differentiates cultures and people. Examples of new religious movements in the 20th century prove that fact. As Beyer (2011, p. 197) states, ‘For those who see in globalization a trend towards homogenization but also the conditions for the renewed importance of differences, religion now appears as one of those factors through which the most important differences come to be identified’. Thus, such religious movements as the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979 serve as examples of the protests against globalization.

On the other hand, the achievement of the globalization aims is often viewed via the perspective of Muslim secularization. Secular Muslims accept the urban and modern way of life and are not so restrained by religion. Secularization presupposes the adoption of democratic principles together with the selection of particular traditions from native cultures for the retention of Muslim identity (‘General Introduction’ 2006). Secularism is often seen as a manifestation of religious pluralism. This concept has been studied by Beckford (2003), who has come to the conclusion that no pluralism is possible nowadays as far as there are two distinct dissimilarities between religions.

Financial Globalization

The significance of the economy for globalization has been already discussed. As a result, the globalization of the Islamic countries should be based not only on religion or cultural perspective but the economy as well. The first system that was expected to function on the global level became the Islamic Banking and Finance (IBF). It was introduced in the 1970s as a part of the Islamic moral economy. Western financial institutions perceived the IBF with mistrust. In the 1990s, the situation changed due to the success of some of the Gulf Cooperation Countries, and the IBF became a significant player in the global arena. However, Perry and Rehman (2011) write that the financial impact of the successful Muslim states on the world economy is insufficient.

The IBF principles are predetermined by the Qur’an, and some of them hinder the complete functioning of the IBF as the banking system. The prohibition of interest, fixed return, credit cards are distinctive features of the IBF. These limitations make it impossible for Muslim countries to promote the globalization of the level of the economy. Still, Asutay (2010) demonstrates that the IBF has proved its resilience in the period of crisis and that the collaboration between countries of GCC and EU is crucial for filling gaps between two civilizations.


The issue of globalization is of extreme significance for the modern world. Globalization is being actively represented in media as the inevitable future of the humankind. The primary aim of globalization is to achieve unity among countries for common purposes. The central idea of globalization presupposes the economic integration of countries for the achievement of the well-being and prosperity of all nations.

The notion of globalization has been developed in Western societies. It supports ideas of democracy, the protection of human rights and freedoms, and the equality of life. However, some of the concepts of globalization are rather controversial and difficult to accept for representatives of other societies. Globalization still evokes numerous discussions in Islamic countries.

The first significant issue refers to the challenge of the preservation of the cultural identity of Muslims in the context of globalization and cultural merging. Religion plays a significant role in globalization. Thus, some Muslims adopt secular Islam while others consider it to be the betrayal of their religion. The second issue is the economic integration of Islamic and Western financial and banking systems. The Islamic Banking and Finance cannot become a full value participant of global economic affairs due to the particular prohibitions.

The most challenging issue refers to the modification of Islamic finance systems without violating Qur’an. Further investigations should focus on searching for alternative economic relations between Islamic and Western countries. Also, Islamic society faces an urgent need to re-examine regulations of all activities because most of them are based on old principles. It is necessary to admit that such changes cannot be achieved soon because of the precise following of the Qur’an laws is still crucial for the preservation of Islamic identity.

Reference List

Asutay, M 2010, ‘Islamic Banking and Finance and its Role in the GCC-EU Relationship: Principles, Developments and the Bridge Role of Islamic Finance’, in C Koch and L Stenberg (eds.), The EU and GCC: Challenges and Prospects under the Swedish EU Presidency, Gulf Research Center, Dubai, pp. 35-58. Web.

Beckford, J 2003, Social Theory and Religion, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Web.

Beyer, P 2011, ‘Religious Diversity and Globalization’, in C Meister (ed.), Religious Diversity, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 185-200. Web.

‘General Introduction’ 2006, in S Akbarzadeh (ed.), Islam and Globalization, Routledge, London, pp. 1-14. Web.

Featherstone, M 2002, ‘Islam Encountering Globalization’, in A Mohammadi (ed.), Islam Encountering Globalization, Routledge, London, pp. 1-13. Web.

Perry, F & Rehman, S 2011, ‘Globalization of Islamic Finance: Myth or Reality?’, International Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, vol. 1, no. 19, pp. 107-119. Web.

Robertson, R & Scholte, J (eds.) 2007, Encyclopedia of Globalization, vol. 3, Routledge, London. Web.

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