April 19, 2006 Special Dispatch No. 1142

Reformist Columnist: ‘Muslims Living Abroad Cannot... Impose Their Values – Just as We Do Not Permit Christians Living Among Us to Impose Theirs’

April 19, 2006
The Gulf, United Arab Emirates | Special Dispatch No. 1142

In his column in the UAE daily Al-Ittihad, reformist writer Yousef Ibrahim calls upon Muslim immigrants to recognize the secularism of their non-Muslim host countries and not to try to impose their Islamic values on the secular majority. [1]

The following are excerpts from his column:

"When Foreigners Come to Islamic Countries… We Insist That They Respect Our Traditions"

"Something important happened recently in Australia that made us ask ourselves, Who are we and what is our attitude towards others?

"When foreigners come to Islamic countries to work, live, or visit, we insist that they respect our Islamic and Arab traditions. We also expect foreign workers in our countries to respect the customs of our religion, and sometimes we even go overboard and demand that their wives cover their heads with a veil, and demand that they not eat in public during the days of Ramadan, and refrain from eating pork, drinking wine, and the like… In all the Islamic countries, anyone accused of harming the sensibilities of the native residents is punished, deported, or imprisoned…"

"Must the Muslim Be Entitled to Have More Than One Wife in America, Russia, Europe, or China?"

"The Muslims have every right to impose Islamic values on their peoples and in their lands, as long as they constitute the majority. The problem is, what happens when the Muslims are not the majority, as in America, Europe, Australia, and some countries in Asia[?]… Can Muslims who immigrate abroad insist on applying the laws of Islamic shari'a to themselves and to others even where it is clear that they are a minority? Can they challenge the secular cultures common in the Western societies [with demands], or resist the will of these societies to separate religion and state?…

"In a secular country, do Muslims have the right to build mosques, teach the Koran, or support the [Islamic] religious schools? Must the Muslim be entitled to have more than one wife in America, Russia, Europe, or China? Can they impose Koranic punishments in these [countries]?…

"In principle, this entire matter begins and ends with our views towards others, with the question of whether we think that others have rights or not, and with the question of whether Islam is a religion capable of coexisting in a secular society without being condescending towards others - particularly with regard to the civil laws in the Western democracies."

"It is Imperative That Our Muslim Brothers Living Abroad Share the Values of Those who Prefer Secularism"

"This brings us back to Australia. Last week, Australia's Conservative Prime Minister John Howard summoned to his office a large group of Muslim clerics from the Muslim community living in the continent, and presented them with an ultimatum. He said that Australia, which is fundamentally a land of immigrants, demands of everyone who resides in it… 'full allegiance' to the secular Australian constitution and not to any other law common in the countries whence the immigrants came...

"Just in case the words of the prime minister were not sufficiently clear, Treasurer Peter Costello added that the Muslim clerics must adhere to the secular laws, and that if they do not do so, they must leave Australia…

"The issue of 'live and let live' has turned into an existential issue [for Muslims living in non-Muslim countries]. In accordance with the current democratic values and with other values, the non-Muslim majority lives in systems based on separation of religion and state… Since it is not reasonable [to assume] that the situation will change… it is imperative that our Muslim brothers living abroad share the values of those who prefer secularism.

"Muslims living abroad cannot assume that they can impose their values - just as we do not permit Christians living among us to impose their values upon us…"

[1] Al-Ittihad (UAE), April 7, 2006.

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