Globalization and the Problems of the Islamic World – A Social & Cultural Perspective

Most of the studies about Globalization interpret it as a political and economic concept and less attention has been focused on its social and cultural implications which have far reaching consequences and deeper impact than its economic implications. It is unscientific to assume that political economic social and cultural entities of a society operate and functions as independent units. They are interrelated and interact with each other therefore Globalization must be viewed in its totality with a holistic approach taking into consideration its multi dimensional implications.

Globalization is generally defined as a free flow of trade and investment and fund across borders without any constrains or limitation and hindrance to these flows (1), it is generally held as a process of change in the global capitalism in relation to production distribution, trade, finance and technology. It created a new global system, this system erodes borders and cut across all boundaries linking the world in a global system (2).But this is only a partial view of Globalization. Because its implications are far beyond political and economic dimensions.

Globalization is closely linked to the information technology. The post 1960 electronic revolution accelerated the process of globalization, the expansion of information at a speedy rate, cutting across all borders resulted in the free flow of information, and it is in this respect that the term “Global Village” came into being.

Is Globalization a process or a project is a question that is being currently debated by economist, sociologist, historians and political theorists. In the history of human civilization there are phases in which changes and new patterns emerge in human thought and in society that act as a process of change. From this perspective Globalization may be considered as a phenomenon of change in the field of trade and investment, and dissemination of knowledge and ideas, triggered by the information revolution. As a historical process changes of this nature are inevitable in the history of human civilization.

Globalization in this sense is a logical, inevitable process of history providing opportunities for interaction it is in this sense Globalization has been defined as a process by which the world become smaller or rather a global village.   But Globalization which started as a historical process has been transformed into a project for economic and cultural domination. It is Globalization as a project, planned by the west that poses a threat to local economics and cultures of the third world. Thus it become clear while Globalization as a process provide opportunity for interaction as a program it constitutes a threat, this is all the more true in relation to the Islamic world

Most of the studies about Globalization interpret it as a political and economic phenomenon and less attention has been focused on its cultural implications It is illogical and unscientific to assume that politics, economy, society and cultural operate as separate entities. On the whole we need to look at Globalization not as process but as a programme of the west for dominance and it must be studied in an holistic approach with multi-dimensional implications, economic, social and cultural (3).

The world of Islam today is facing number of problems in the political, economical, social and cultural fields but the major problem it encounters is the preservation of its Islamic identity, way of life and its value system. The political and economic domination could pose a threat only to the material and social framework of a society. But any attempt to encroach the realm of religion and culture will shake the moral, ethical and spiritual foundations which will have far more serious consequences and deeper impact at all levels of society. Globalization poses such a major challenge and threat to the Islamic world.

Globalization is a form of neo-colonialism. It has a subtle programme in respect of the Islamic world. Its aim is not only political and economic domination but imposition of Western values on Islamic society by distorting or destroying its ethical and moral values based on the immutable world view of Islam which is a total anti-theses of the western world view this is done in the most subtle manner and with a hidden programme in the name of bringing Democracy, human rights, justice and gender equality and curriculum reform to the Muslim world.

We must distinguish between the Globalization – Awlama – of the west and universality – Alamiyyah – of Islam. When Islamic rule expanded to other countries it accommodated all the ethnic groups and cultures that came under its rule. Islamic expansion was not viewed as a conquest it was known as futuhat or opening up. It was really speaking, opening up its doors to different ethnic groups and religious communities who flourished, interacted with the Muslims and contributed to the growth and the development of Islamic intellectual heritage. Muslims never aim that obliterating or destroying the identity and individuality of any ethnic group that came under its rule. But the programme of Globalization is totally in contrast to this universal, humanistic vision of Islam. The aim of Globalization with particular reference to Islamic world is to dominate, impose the culture of the west and to obliterate cultural diversity with the objective of evolving a uniform culture – the culture of the west.

The aim of this paper is to study the threat of Globalization as a program to the religious and cultural values of Muslim Umma. In other word how it poses a challenge to the religion and cultural identity of the Muslim Umma and the way need for an organized, well planed action by the Muslim Umma to meet this challenge (4).

Globalization has its positive and negative aspects. Broadly speaking it has an economic and cultural dimension. While granting its positive aspects such as transborder trade, free flow of capital, opportunities to transmit speedy information due to information revolution, as a programme for social change Globalization poses a threat to the moral, ethical and cultural values of the Muslim society and its identity.

It is in this respect that the Muslim Umma whose world view is shaped by the immutable spiritual values and ethical principles based on divine guidance must take a serious note of the cultural consequences of globalization, viewing from in this perspective Globalization must be viewed not as a historical process but as a programme engineered by the west in culture building because emergence of a global society and the manifestation of global culture is an important cultural consequence of Globalization(5). It utilizes the powerful tools of information technology aiming at remolding, reshaping and transmuting the spiritual and moral values of Muslim Umma according to the Post-Renaissance, Humanistic, Secularist, Rationalistic, World view of the west creating a universal culture.

In the 19th century who ever controlled the sea-lands controlled the world, in the 20th century who ever controlled the air ways controlled the world and in the 21st century with the control of space and cyberspace control reach and sweep are exponentially increased. Thus the cultural questions of control by whom for what purpose and with what beliefs and values become more timely, relevant, and crucial (6).

Globalization has many commonalities with the philosophy of modernity that came into being during the Post-Renaissance period of the west. Humanism, Secularism, Rationalism, the Idea of progress and four important concepts those are generally associated with modernity. Humanism of the west eliminated God and placed man in the central position of the universe, thenceforth man and his reasoning assumed supreme position relegating God and Divine Guidance to the background.

Globalization accelerated this process of modernity, Anthany Gidden sees a strong link between modernity and Globalization. According to him Globalization is an apogee and outgrowth of modernity with its strong emphasis on secular and materialistic values, Globalization with its modernist outlook is a threat to spirituality and creates a crisis of identity in the Muslim Societies. The cultural Globalization is the most dangerous form of control and dominance, and it has more serious impact than economic Globalization because it interferes directly in molding the human thought, human behavior and conduct in many ways. It is because of this, the academics and thinkers of the non western world express their sources concern about the impact of Globalization on the culture of the nations. And according to a western thinker if monopoly in respect of consumerism is bad, it is more harmful in respect of formation of culture because the monopoly in respect of consumer goods decides the prices but the monopoly of culture determine thinking.

Cultural Globalization seeks to destroy the cultural identity of the Muslims by promoting the culture of consumerism which robs man of all his superior values which it distinguishes him from other creations, cultural Globalization also aims at promoting culture of promiscuous sexual relationship which breaks all moral constraints God has placed for the moral and spiritual well being of mankind. There is an organized effort on the part of the west to promote a culture of total sexual freedom crossing all boundaries of ethical constraints and limitations. The efforts towards cultural Globalization of the society found it’s practical manifestation in the international conferences held time to time under various slogans in their outward form but with an hidden agenda to implement a well drawn out programme to impose western values in respects of woman’s rights, marriage and family life. The two conferences held on population one in Cairo and the other in Beijing and the resolution passed in these conferences legalizing sexual relationship between a male and female outside wedlock giving legal approval for abortion and homosexual relationship, and making an effort to remove all differences between man and woman by introducing the term “gender” constituted a direct challenge to the age old institution of family which is the basic foundation of society (7)

Globalization, from the cultural perspective is an organized effort to impose the western cultural values on the non western nation with the objective of creating a monolithic culture that would eliminate the cultural identity of other nations.

The right to cultural diversity has been accepted and recognized today as an important right of each nation by the rules of international law, corroborated by the charter of the united nations, this right affirms the rights of each nation to preserve and promote the it’s culture.

In the first article of the declaration on the principles of international cultural cooperation issued by UNESCO it is stated as follows :

  • Each culture has a dignity and a value which must be respected and preserved.
  • Each people shall have the right and duty to develop it’s own culture.
  • All cultures with their rich diversity, differences and mutual influence constitute part of the heritage owned in common by all mankind.

Islam is totally in agreement with above clauses of the UNESCO declaration which affirms cultural diversities of the human family.

Al-Quran in the following verses recognizes the principle of religious, ethnic, and cultural diversity.

 Mankind was a single nation but differed later (Sura Yaseen: 19)

 And among his signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the variations in your languages and in your colors. Verily in that are signs for those who know (Sura Ar–Rum: 22)

Diversity of colors, races and ethnicity is the supreme sign of Allah based on his will and divine plan.

If thy lord has so willed he could have made mankind one people. But they will not cease to defer. (Sura Hud : 118)

Therefore attempts to obliterate and remove diversities in respect of religious, cultural and civilizational values of different nations and societies and to cast them into one cultural, civilizational mold of the west is against the sunanullah or the laws of Allah, because unity according to Islam belongs only to Allah.

The organized programme of Globalization of the west to impose it’s economy, politics and culture on other nations particularly on Islamic nations is not something new. Europe had made this attempt during the colonial period of 18th, 19th and to 20th centuries to impose it’s culture, traditions, laws and values on the countries which they colonized. But this attempt did not succeed due to the emergence of nationalist movements for political freedom and cultural liberation.

But the current agenda of Globalization is much more subtle and organized backed by science and technology and mainly information technology.

The most serious challenge faced by the Muslim world is in respect of the religious and traditional ethical values and to the institution of family. The conference on population and development held in 1994 and 1995 which sanctioned same sex marriage, homosexuality and lesbianism constitute a direct threat to the institution of family and the values and laws of sharia that aims at creating healthy families which ultimately is foundation of a healthy stable society. Family according to the sharia is formed the basis of a legally constituted marriage relation between husband and wife.

Islam recognizes only the institution of family as the wholesome framework for sexual relations and raring of children. Private consent to sexual intimacy and the practices in the west ” living together ” ” trial marriage ” ” temporary union ” do not institute a family in Islam (8).

Muslims must prepare themselves to meet this challenge of cultural Globalization in order to safe guard their cultural identity and individuality, in note achieve this they must take some organized effort in order to attain the following objectives.

  1. Muslim must be educated on the adverse impact of the media and the consumerist culture that is being promoted through the media.
  1. Islamic moral and ethical values must be strongly preserved and protected in the families and in the societies at large.
  1. Organized effort must be made to guide the Muslim youth on proper lines and youth organizations must be encouraged and structured to mobilize the potentialities of Muslim youth and channel them towards constructive activities.

Globalization is a positive force that could bring the world more closer forging unity among communities and nations. World has never experienced such closeness of the nations in any phase of it’s history. Cultural diversity as stated above has always been an important feature in the history of mankind and it has enriched human civilization. Globalization with its major instrument for social change namely information technology can contribute immensely, if positively utilized to bring mankind closer. The growing power of computer software and the revolution in the field of information technology has transformed the contemporary world into what is known as “Global Village” this has opened up new avenues for cultural discourse in the form of civilizational dialogue. Attempts are being made at all levels by all those who are concerned about peace and co-existence to create understanding among different religious and cultures in the form of inter-faith and inter-civilizational dialogue. It is only by identifying common shared values of different cultures, moral and ethical values that are held in common by religions, humanity could strengthen it’s spiritual roots and withstand the surging tide of secular humanism.




  1. The economic and financial imperatives of Globalization; an Islamic response, Edited by Nik Musthafa Nik Hassan & Mazilan Musa, Kula Lampur, 2000.
  1. Mohamed Dayyab, Awlamathul Iqthisad, Majallathul arabi, vol-494, January 2000.
  1. Abd Saeed Abd Ismaeel, Arqam wal haqaiq al awlama wal alam al islami, Jeddah, 2001, p 46-47.
  1. Yusuf al qardawi, Al muslimuna wal awlama,Darut tawzi wan nashrul islamiya, 2000.
  1. Muqtedar khan, constructing identity in global politics,The American journal of Islamic social science, vol-15, p 95.
  1. Dilnawaz siddiqi, Information technologies and Globalization: Ruination vs Ripples, the American journal of Islamic social science, vol-15, p 45-81.
  1. Abdul Wahid Hamid, Islam the natural way, London, 1985,p 71-91
  1. Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijiri, Identity and Globalization in the perspective of the right to culture diversity, ISESCO publication, 1997,           p 65-68.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *