[Above photo: Sami Yusuf known as the Islamic Bono]
It is tempting to suggest that in a culture in which political violence has publicly triumphed over political compromise, a culture in which recognition of force rather than of persuasion is the accepted definition of consensus, liberalism would fall flat.
However, the good news is that liberal Islam is on the rise, representing the overwhelming majority within the Muslim world today. The bad news is that it is a silent majority, or more accurately, a silenced one.
Despite the fact that in the Muslim world people are systematically silenced by their authoritarian regimes, Muslim communities have responded positively both to democracy and to most aspects of liberalism. This is clearly shown by the World Values Survey, pooled sample 1995-2001.
The survey includes 22 countries representing Western Christianity (a West European culture that also encompasses North America, Australia, and New Zealand.
- 10 Central European nations (sharing a Western Christian heritage, but which also lived under Communist rule);
- 11 societies with a Muslim majority (Albania, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, and Turkey);
- 12 traditionally Orthodox societies (such as Russia and Greece);
- 11 predominately Catholic Latin American countries, 4 East Asian societies shaped by Sino-Confucian values;
- 5 sub-Saharan Africa countries, plus Japan and India.
The Cultural Divide
Approval of Political and Social Values in Western and Muslim Societies
- Democratic Performance: WESTERN 68% vs. MUSLIM 68%
- Democratic Ideals: WESTERN 86% vs. MUSLIM 87%
- Strong Leaders: WESTERN 61% vs. MUSLIM 61%
- Religious Leaders: WESTERN 62% vs. MUSLIM 39%
- Gender Equality: WESTERN 82% vs. MUSLIM 55%
- Divorce: WESTERN 60% vs. MUSLIM 35%
- Abortion: WESTERN 48% vs. MUSLIM 25%
- Homosexuality: WESTERN 53% vs. MUSLIM 12%
Source: World Values Survey, pooled sample 1995-2001
As the survey indicates, support for the goal of democracy is surprisingly wide-spread among Islamic publics, even among those living under authoritarian rules. It goes without saying Muslims do adhere to principles which could described collectively as “Liberal Islam.” The problem is the public perception in the West which has been focused on Islamism, thus failing to pay enough attention and support to liberal Islam, the nascent voice of the Muslim world’s silenced majority.
The nice thing about the rise of liberal Islam is that they have turned to the power of the music for expressing their views on societal issues and being a Muslim in today’s world. Sami Yusuf is a liberal Muslim British singer-songwriter of Iranian origin known as the Islamic Bono: