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Globalisation

Written exclusively for Salaam by al-Maktabi

We can date the beginning of the contemporary era of globalisation to about 1970. From then on there is a revival of 'orthodox' capitalist competition and the promotion of ideas to bolster such 'competition'. In the process there is enormous growth in inequality between the rich and poor nations and within the capitalist countries. The inequalities persist and have grown wider. If one looks at UN Development Reports for the past few decades one will witness the widening of income gaps between the 1960s and 1990s.

Simultaneously there have been a technological explosion and an information revolution, which have come to sustain globalisation. These changes are at the heart of the process but should not be mistaken for the process itself. Again, the inequalities are profound and the illusions of wealth through e-commerce, for instance, endless. Through the information technologies the world has shrunk but it is shrinking ever more into the image of western designers and marketing gurus. While the internet has enabled great communication and awareness it has not necessarily produced greater understanding and insight. Thus the moral panics about migrants and 'intruder' religions like Islam into the heartlands of Europe and the US despite all the information available about Islam and Muslims and other minority communities.

Finally, migrations across the globe and a new politics of diasporic 'communities' have changed the face of politics internationally (See M for migration). The fall of the Berlin Wall represented the end of bi-polar politics. The capitalist West under US leadership is the only dominant world power but the diasporic dimensions of politics in the West have become a major issue of domestic politics. The uncertainties over the purity of language, 'race', religion - all often subsumed under the rubric of 'identity' - have become key political issues in Europe and the US.

Since much of these developments emerge out of US dominance it may be appropriate to think of globalisation as another form of Americanisation. While this is legitimate it may serve very little purpose for contesting globalisation and turning it into an opportunity for Muslim communities. If you are reading this on the Salaam.co.uk you are already in the web of globalisation. Muslim communities have to therefore turn the process to their own advantage. Attachment to Islam offers a means of affiliation to transcendence and the eternal amidst the exceedingly rapid and often disorienting change of globalisation. New Muslim identities have for long been in the making in migrant communities and with increasing globalisation newer identities will emerge as more boundaries breakdown. Cosmopolitan Muslim subjects who value Islam yet move in and out of locations and between settled communities could be the new breed of Muslim. In our medieval past there were a handful of such individuals, such as Ibn Battuta and al-Biruni, for instance, who were forever on the move soaking up foreign cultures. Perhaps we will see the return of the nomadic Muslim subject, forever on the move, if not as often physically or out of necessity then because of the new conditions enabled by globalisation.