'We Should Just Be Ourselves'

Interview with Professor Is-haq Oloyede

What are the indeficiencies in the Islamic world today? What are the responsibilities of the Islamic organizations face to the non-Islamic world as well as to the Islamic world? There are some of the issues which dominate most of the debates on going among scholars and politicians in the Islamic societies. Professor Is-haq Oloyede from the University of Ilorin, Nigeria discussed these issues for

Do you think that there are some missing  elements in the Islamic world?

he Islamic umma, the Islami world, should acquire integrity, sincerity and commitment in order to earn the confidence of Islamic countries and Muslims. It is important that Islamic bodies, such as the OIC, make themselves relevant to the needs and aspirations of Muslims. It is important for Islamic organizations, governmental or non-governmental, to educate themselves properly, to be properly informed, so that they can re-inform, educate and sensitize Muslims. They will not be able to do this unless they are able to address issues which are pertinent to the welfaUniversity of Ilorinre of the Islamic umma. For instance, the issue of education; the issue of poverty and legation; the issue of creating employment; the issue about enlightening the Muslims themselves about what Islam is all about. Islamic organizations need to be proactive, not reactionary. When something happens that is detrimental to the interests of Islam and Muslim leaders keep quiet...this infuriates some radicals who are less knowledgeable and less informed about such situations. When Muslim organizations talk in defense of Islam it will eliminate this problem with the misguided ones, who might think that the best way out is radicalism. We must also pay attention to the fact that the Muslims perhaps are weaker; we need to create our own media and the media must be active, it must be truthful, it must be as daring as possible. By so doing, we will be able to counter the propaganda against Islam, particularly that from the West. It is not possible to do this without unity. One thing that is lacking among Muslims today is unity. We are not united - they talk about twenty-two Arab countries in the world today. How many of these are on speaking terms among the Arabs, who should be united not only by Islam, but also by their linguistic resemblances? There cannot be unity without authority or leadership in any organization, anywhere. Without a head, without a recognized leadership we can only generate anarchy. One of the reasons for the disorganization of the umma today is because there is no politicized leadership; in fact, I would say there is no leadership that is recognized – neither the authorities in Saudi Arabia nor those in Turkey. With the Catholics, when the Pope talks he talks for all the Catholics, if you decide to be with him you go and serve at a different level. You cannot be more Catholic than the Pope. But in the world of Islam everybody appears to be a leader, everybody appears to create leadership and call themselves the leader. One of the issues we need to address is that of leadership. We cannot know everything, but we should have an idea about leaders. Muslim leaders need to come together and create a ship, a structure that will drive the umma, rather than everyone being on their own and doing whatever they like.

How can we overcome this lack of leadership? How can we achieve an alternative form of leadership?

I am of the opinion that the OIC is the best place to create this. But I am not sure that the OIC is independent enough to be able to play that role. I believe that if the OIC is in a position, and this is a big if, to independently rally all forms of opinion the OIC platform can be used to convey a consultative meeting for a leadership; this will not be parliament, it will be rotational, it will be like a nation that has no parliamentary leadership, just rotational leadership and a secretariat. There will be a secretariat created for the management of the Muslim umma and most of the people respect that leadership. Whatever the leadership decides, whatever position they take, it will be accepted among the majority of the Muslims. However, at the present time this is not so; what we have is factional leaders, based on whether you like the face of the leader or king of a particular country or region. I don't think this should be the case. Given the antecedents in Islam, we are in a position to facilitate the leadership; we cannot go back to the days of the sultan. So we won't create a sultan in Ankara or Istanbul, but we can allow these antecedents to spur it into action, to facilitate the process. I believe it is possible.

And do you think that the participation of non-Muslim countries like Russia as an observer to the OIC is an advantage or a disadvantage?

For me Islam rests on da’wa in Allah. Everybody is welcome. I do not see the participation of everybody in an Islamic movement as a problem, because our assignment is da’wa. We cannot be an island on to ourselves. People participate...I do not agree with those who think that the participation of countries like Russia will harm the movement; this is a sign of intellectual weakness. Islam is intellectually strong, and when Islam meets other intellectual movements, Islam comes out stronger. Unless we want to accept that we have very weak Muslims, I cannot see the participation of any non-Islamic country as a problem in the process.

What kind of steps should Muslims take, either at the state or individual level. when facing Islamophobia?

For me, Islamophobia, the phobia of Islam, is natural. For public relation purposes some people can devote their attention to this; but it is not an issue for me. If somebody is hated by a group, unless you remove the cause of the hate it will continue; Islam is a force against all evils, it appears that evils are prevailing in the world today. Islam has to stand against this unless it wants to turn evil. For me, the fact that evil is taking over the world and that Islam is hated is natural. What we should not do as Muslims is not allow ourselves to be caught up in a context; we should not be reactionary. We should just be ourselves. Muslims should behave in an Islamic manner. We should also be conscious that in this world public relations matter. We should not be an island. We should strive not to lose our friends and to make potential friends; but to eliminate enemies appears to be impossible to me. Thus, it is better for us to stand up for what is right rather than trying to counter Islamophobia.

In terms of the African continent, how do you evaluate the awareness of Islam in Africa today? Particularly among the younger generation?

I believe that Islam has to meet fashion in Africa; a large number of people moving towards liberalism, and they are not paying attention to the value and ethics of Islam. They are moving towards the West. That is one instrument. There is a new generation of Muslims who do not appear to be patient enough about what is happening around them. They have become unduly radicalized. They emphasize things that I don't feel are important and they try to condemn others unnecessarily. The consequence of this is that they continue to further fragment Islamic society. They are unable to achieve that which they are trying to achieve and they are arriving at the opposite of their intention, and creating disunity.



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