In an interview with Joe Rogan, firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos said Islam will not have its era of enlightenment. Since I speak English, I can look past the few Europeans and Americans with racist views on Arab Muslims and see the legitimate concerns some westerners have regarding the Muslim world’s ability to live in harmony with the west, especially considering the influx of migrants from the Middle East. What Milo said rang a bell in my head because: A) The Muslim world rejected modernity and chose to seek answers in Islam before science and reason following the departure of western occupiers. B) The Muslim world has never allowed any ideas critical of Islam to be discussed publicly and has condemned any lifestyle that goes against what Islam teaches (as interpreted by the Sheikhs of Islam).
The word Muslims use to refer to a Sheikh is particularly interesting because it’s the same word used to refer to a scientist, which is “Aalem”: someone who is knowledgeable about something. Men of god and men of science are essentially the same thing in the discourse of Arab Muslims.
In Egypt, Islamists, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists, were able to systematically exploit multiple factors to cement Islamism as an identity in the minds of most Egyptians. Islamism means Islam is a religion, a state constitution, and a guide for almost every action. The Muslim Brothers and Salafists were also able to make themselves the sole guardians and interpreters of Islam, enabling them to directly control millions of Egyptians. Islamism has contributed greatly to further strengthen intolerance of any ideas Islamists don’t condone, particularly in the realm of intellectualism and public discourse. The ideas of Islam, like all ideas, without challenges and antitheses rot and atrophy. If Islam is a constitution and is also the absolute truth, then fighting to assume power in its name is justified, silencing others is justified: a holy war. President Sisi cannot risk approaching reforming the understanding of Islam without extreme caution and meticulousness, because if Islamists sense that Islamism, their source of power over millions, is seriously being threatened they will mobilize millions of young people against him. The separation of the mosque and the state, once there is a capable will to execute it -and currently I see nothing but feeble secular movements without enough popularity or power to induce any change-, is thorny.
As long as Islamism is popular, the Muslim world will never be able to live in harmony with what the western world stands for, westerners worrying about this is understandable. In fact, more than a few Muslims, not only Islamists, believe that the mere existence of the west – as a collective power with anti-Islam ideals that plays a lead role in managing the world’s affairs – poses an existential threat to Islam and constitutes grounds for Jihad, one meaning of which is waging war. No matter what the west does to accommodate Islamism, it will always remain the enemy. Under Islamism, fully tolerating Muslims is not enough, others must conform. In the Muslim world, there is no criticism of Islam in the public discourse, alternative lifestyles are fiercely fought, minorities must jump through hoops to grab their basic rights, arts are heavily censored, polemicists are always looking over their shoulders, writers get thrown into jail for “assaulting the collective moral fabric”, and women get physically harassed for wearing sexually provocative clothes, or not. This is the culture of one obsolete ideology running crazy.
So yes, the questions by some westerners about Islamism’s willingness to coexist with the western civilization should be taken seriously.