M. Habib Chirzin


As the human history entering in to the new millennium, the human development is facing the phenomenon of the so called globalization. The question of integrity of creation, sustainable development, peace and social justice are also discussed and encountered in the new context of globalization. According to Ibrahim Abu Rabi, it is almost impossible to give a simple definition of the term globalization, for it carries a number of implications in the economic, social, political, ideological, and intellectual realms. The main concerns in this paper are to raise several critical questions about this implications, especially in relation to the Third World; offer some critical remarks on the state of contemporary Islamic thought; and suggest ways to grapple with the subtle and deep epistemological, ethical, and scientific shift that globalization has engendered recently. Also, at the outset it could be said that the Islamic perspective on economy and social development has not been taken seriously by the opponents of globalization, mainly because there has not been a systematic Islamic critique of this phenomenon. It is true that there has been a political backlash against Western modernism in the Third World countries especially in the Muslim communities in the relation with the development issues. (Ibrahim Abu Rabi, AJIS, Fall, 1999, p.16)

Regardless of the complex epistemological undercurrents of contemporary Islamic thought, it has not yet fulfilled its intellectual potential, for it has failed to grapple with some of the most critical issues of our time. Where is Islamic critique and appreciation of modern nationalism, democracy, the nation-state, modernity, and even the oft discussed colonialism and neocolonialism? Except for a few individual studies and reflections, contemporary Islamic thought has not presented a comprehensive perspective or perspective on the many issues and questions besetting the contemporary Muslim community. The lacuna is most apparent on the question of both modernity and globalization. (Ibid. p. 17).

To most thinkers in the Muslim community, from the radical to the most conservative, globalization seems to be an inevitable phenomenon. However, several questions remain to be answered what does globalization means in the context of a postmodern, post-Cold War era, and in the context of aggressive/ hegemonic Western capitalism? How has civil society in the Third World changed in the past decade? What is the relation between globalization and the international foreign debt, sustainable development, peace and justice? Is the recent collapse of the Asian economy and society a direct result of globalization’s encroachment etc.?

Globalization challenges the nation-state to open up its space and borders for a novel type of competitiveness free of any control. The nation-state’s political elite is expected to cooperate frilly with the economic enterprises, and the accumulation of national capital is very often impossible because many Third World nation-states are burdened with large debts owed to international financial institutions, such as IMF and the World Bank. The rules of the game change here: national development and growth in the Third World are hampered by the accumulation of capital on an international scale. According to Samir Amin, in l950s and l960s globalization was somewhat controlled by three international factors (1) the intervention of the capitalist state in the process of capital accumulation; (2) the Soviet project of socialist economy, and (3) the Bandung project of the non-aligned movement formed under the auspices of Sukarno, Nehru and Nasser.

The term of globalization is often used to describe the global nature of capital and the emergence of a single global economy in the contemporary era. The term also suggests certain homogenizing tendencies in the social as well as political realms. (Thaha Jabir Alalwani, "Globalization: Centralization not Globalism", the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, vol. 15, No. 3, Virginia, Fall 1998, p. vi). These homogenizing tendencies may refer to something as banal as ubiquitous acceptance of Denim jeans or to some things as profound as the globalization of the democratic process. That is why the globalization led to centralization.

Centralization conceives of world as one, but clearly identifies what is the central and what constitutes the periphery. In a system undergoing centralization, a global power asserts its domination over "others" by locating itself as the normative, political, and economic center of the universe. It marginalizes the rest of the world, and simultaneously assumes, often through coercive means, the role of leader in moral as well in materials terms. There is a clear hierarchy in the system, and the center is the undisputed "hegemony". Thus when the periphery emulates the center, it often does so out of fear or insecurity, and the resulting homogenization is actually hegemonization. (Ibid.)

According to Alalwany the centrality of the hegemony is based on an anthropological view of the universe, which distinguishes - or rather discriminates - between the good/powerful and the bad/weak. The centrality of the hegemony is a manifestation of its egocentric nature and its sense of superiority over others. It sees itself as advanced, rational, creative, democratic, and peaceful, and constructs others as underdeveloped, traditional, lazy, authoritarian, and therefore inferior. It assumes that it is the best and that the rest must emulate it in their political, socioeconomic, and cultural constitution.

Ali A Mazrui in his interesting writing "Globalization, Islam and the West Between Homogenization and Hegemonization", mentioned that one of the consequences of globalization is that we are beginning to resemble each other to a much greater degree than we ever did in the past, regardless of physical distance. Homogenization is increasing similarity. The second accompanying characteristic of globalization is hegemonization, by which the paradoxical concentration of power in a particular country or civilization. While homogenization is the process of expanding homogeneity, hegemonization is the emergence and consolidation of a hegemonic center. With globalization, there has arisen an increasing similarity between and among different societies. However, this trend has been accompanied by a disproportionate share of global power among a few countries. (Ali A. Mazrui, AJIS, Fall 1998, p. 2-3)

The major ideological systems at the end of the twentieth century also are converging, as market economies appear triumphant. Liberalization in being embraced widely, either spontaneously or under duress. Anwar Sadat in Egypt opened his nation’s gates via his policy infitaah, and even china has adopted a kind of market Marxism. India is in danger of traversing the distance from Mahatma Gandhi to Mahatma Keynes (homogenization). However, the people who are orchestrating and sometimes enforcing marketization, liberalization and privatization are Western economic gurus reinforced by the power of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the United States, and the European Union (EU). Indeed, Europe is the mother of all modern ideologies, whether good or evil: liberalism, capitalism, socialism, Marxism, fascism, Nazism and others. At the end of present century, the most triumphant ideology is Euro-liberal capitalism (hegemonization). (Ibid.)

The multinational’s penetration of the Third World economies, far from eliminating poverty and alleviating the misery of the urban and rural poor, has led to three intertwined phenomena: and increase in the number of poor and unemployed people, the concentration of wealth in the hands of the political elite, and an increase in state repression.

With the privatization mushrooming in the countries of these now deceased leaders, the nationalist/socialist project of self-sufficiency and the empowerment of the poor has come to a deadly halt. In the Arab world for example, the Gulf region was forcibly cut off from the rest of the Arab world by the Center that intensified its hegemony, both economic and military, in the wake of the military defeat of Iraq in the second Gulf war. What this means, according to Shamir Amin, is that the Gulf States are now "protectorates that are devoid of any freedom to maneuver both economically and politically". In the words of Immanuel Wallerstein, the Third World won the political battle in the 1950s and 1960s, where by decolonization had been achieved almost everywhere. It was time for second step, national development. The second step was never to be achieved in most places. In the age of liberalization and integration, globalization does not permit economies to breathe on their own. (Immanuel Wallerstein, in Au Mazrui, op cit.)

Globalization is constructing a new world that a few decades from now, will look very different. Major transformations are already occurring: the collapse of socialism and the spread of privatization to the Third World Countries; the rise of regional powers, such as the European Union, in the wake of American supremacy; the widening of social and economic gaps between rich and poor within and between countries; the globalization of exploitation, a natural consequence of privatization and multinational investment; the rise of ultra-nationalism, the internationalization of crime, the destabilization of the nation-state etc.

In view of the colossal consequences of globalization, a new popular consciousness of the Muslim communities have evolved to understand and resist the negative tendencies of globalization. The Muslim communities are working hard to revive the social, financial, and economic ethics of Islam, as a monotheistic phenomenon, to combat these dangerous inclinations. It is important to revive a sense of community that withstands the attack of individualism, which has become the rule of the day in advanced industrial societies and their Third World satellites. With increasing gaps between North and South, and rural and urban gaps within most countries of the South, and increasing number of marginalized and impoverished people in the cities, there is no escape from reviving the Islamic social ethics.

To reclaim vitality, according to Abu Rabi, modern Islamic thought must reinterpret the main theological and normative precepts of Islam in a manner that opposes the totalitarian nature of the contemporary Muslim community’s ruling political and educational systems, as well as the great boost they have received with the onslaught of globalization on the world market. If one accept the claim that the crux of the Islamic world view is egalitarianism (musawah), social justice (al adalah al ijtimaiyah) and peace (salam) than one must conclude that to follow Islamic ideals, one must oppose the forms of political, economic, social, or intellectual oppression that currently dominate the Third World. In other worlds, we must promote an Islamic worldview that is liberationist in nature and meaningful to the average people.

From the very beginning, Islam asserted the equality of all people (al musawah bainan nas). Its ideas and values always were couched in the language of humanity with a universal audience. By asserting the humanity Islam emphasized the equality and unity of all. This is the first cornerstone around which human development, based on the universal ethics and values of Islam, can be advanced. The second corner stone of Islamic perspective of the human development is the values that Islam shares with all other civilizations: unity and integrity of creation (tawhid), peace (salam), justice (‘adl), freedom/liberation (hurriyah/tahrir) and trust (amanah). And these fundamental values should be encountered in the real life and struggle of the people, especially the poor and the marginalized in the Third World countries for the total human fulfillment and human liberation. And such encounter and struggle would enrich the spiritual experience, enlighten the religiosity and liberate from the cultural, social, economic and political oppression.