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When a Muslim accepts to live in a certain society, he is, in essence, making a pact that with that country that he will abide by the laws of that state. He does not have the right to violate the laws of that state simply because he is a Muslim and the state is not an Islamic state. Thus, all of the principles of proper behavior that have been described in this chapter apply to a Muslim living wherever he may be living. In most countries today, many things may be legal that are forbidden to a Muslim. These legal things a Muslim simply avoids. He should also demand his legal rights to ensure that he is not forced to do anything forbidden in Islam. Overall though, he should be from among the law-abiding citizens.
In addition to that, a Muslim should be a plus for any society he is living in. He should be a model citizen in many ways. As described earlier, he should be a good neighbor. He has the obligation to encourage what is good and prevent evil wherever he may be living. In addition, he must avoid and oppose what most societies see as the greatest crimes, such as murder, robbery, extortion and so forth. Furthermore, he must steer clear of alcohol or drug use, thus not burdening society as a whole with his personal weaknesses and addictions. Finally, he must be just and fair in all of his dealings with the other members of society.
Even though Muslims should play a positive role in any society, in many countries of the West today, a Muslim’s loyalty and patriotism is being questioned. Obviously, a Muslim is not going to have the same feelings towards a secular government as he would toward a Muslim government. That, however, does not mean that he is going to work against his government or seek to harm the country he is living in. Undoubtedly, many a Jew will feel more loyalty to Israel than to their own home country. In fact, the recent debates in the United States demonstrate that many Christian groups are displeased with their government (and with the Supreme Court in particular). Many a Democrat in the United States, for example, does not feel complete loyalty for Republican administrations and vice-versa. However, no one seems to be questioning their loyalty and patriotism.
If patriotism means to simply follow and support what one’s government is saying and be gung-ho in such blind allegiance, no intelligent person would be patriotic as all governments are known to lie and deceive at one time or another. On the other hand, if patriotism means to wish what is best for one’s country, then the problem is that everyone differs as to what they see is best for their country. Some feel that they have the right to speak on behalf of all, but their “right” to do so may be questioned.
Islam recognizes the fact that it is natural for an individual to love his country and to have an affinity for that land in which he grew up. When the Muslims were forced to migrate from Makkah, which was under the control of the polytheists, many of them expressed their love for Makkah. Hence, it is natural for Muslims to develop a love for whatever land they happen to be in, even if the country is not an Islamic state. It is also natural for Muslims to desire what is best for their homeland.
But, again, unfortunately, their idea as to what is best may not be shared or appreciated by others. For example, the Muslims may wish to see an end to gambling, prostitution and pornography. The Muslims believe that this is what is best for all the people concerned, Muslims as well as non-Muslims. However, many non-Muslims will not share this feeling. Therein lies the crux of the problem. Theoretically speaking, though, in contemporary “free” societies, this should not be a problem. Muslims should be able to hold on to their values and customs—without bringing harm to others—while the others follow the dominant culture in non-Muslim lands. If the “free” countries are not willing to give the Muslims that much, it means that they are not willing to live up to their own ideals. It is not that Muslims are trying to cause them harm, they are simply trying to be good citizens while living a different lifestyle than the dominant culture.
- With respect to warfare, in general, Muslims today should be pacifists and conscientious objectors. The only type of fighting sanctioned in Islamic Law is fighting on behalf of an Islamic State or clear self-defense. In the absence of those two, Muslims should not engage in warfare. This author will not even bother to touch upon the question of terrorism. Enough Muslim scholars have already denounced terrorism and have shown that it has no place in Muslim behavior. Unfortunately, though, the non-Muslim media does not seem very interested in presenting a full picture of the attitude of Muslim scholars, preferring, it seems, to blame Muslims for not coming out strongly against terrorism. This author attended a conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (April 20-22, 2004) entitled, “The Stand of Islam on Terrorism, Violence & Extremism.” Had this same conference been held in the Vatican and had been about Christianity’s view of those topics, the conference findings would have probably been assailed and praised for months if not years to come. However, although participants came from all over the world, barely a mention was made of the Conference (if any mention were made) in the international media.