Islamicity Indices: The Seed for Change

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 Islamicity Indices
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In the aftermath of the tragic terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York on 11 September 2001, most commentators attributed terrorist attacks around the world to “Islamists.” Though unfortunate, such knee-jerk reactions were understandable in light of conditions in many Muslim countries—dictatorial and autocratic governance, little or no personal freedoms, subpar economic performance, social and cultural stagnation, a veil of injustice, and virulent anti-Western and anti-human-rights rhetoric of “Islamists.”

Under these circumstances, while placing the responsibility of failed Muslim societies on Muslims may be understandable, its extension to Islam and Islamic teachings is a giant leap that has no basis in reality and poses long-term dangers for interfaith relations. Some extreme elements in the West go even further and imply, or even state, that the DNA of Islam is hatred, injustice, terror, violence, and backwardness.

This is not the Islam that we have known or recognize. It was for this reason that we decided about a decade ago to look into Islamic teachings and assess their application in Muslim countries.

So we started to look into the political, social, and economic conditions of countries that profess Islam (countries that belong to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation [OIC]) and their adherence to the fountainhead of all Islamic teachings—the Quran. We wanted to know which Islamic teachings were practiced and prevalent in Muslim societies; in other words “how Islamic were Muslim countries.”

We were not preoccupied with the percentage of a population of a country that professes Islam and prays five times a day, but whether societies adhere to the principal political, social, and economic teachings of Islam, such as providing a scaffolding of justice and affording individuals freedom and equal opportunities to develop. So with this purpose in mind, we embarked on constructing Islamicity Indices. We delivered a paper on the topic in 2007, published two papers in 2010, and a third paper in 2013 on the topic.

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To our surprise, this work has generated much interest around the world. These earlier papers have been downloaded thousands of times around the world and Muslims, especially young Muslims, have contacted us. The ideas have been discussed at Friday prayers, in both Muslim and non-Muslim countries. The prime minister of Malaysia adopted a Malaysian Shariah-based Islamicity Index beginning January

201 In 2014, the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) sponsored two international conferences on “Shariah-based Multi-dimensional Development Indicators” in Saudi Arabia and in Indonesia, where about two dozen scholarly papers were presented. In May 2015, at the opening of an International Conference in Tehran, the president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, voiced the opinion that Muslim countries should use Islamicity indices to monitor their progress toward achieving societies envisaged in the Quran.

 Our findings have been reported on the BBC, ARD (the German Public Broadcasting System), Irish Public Radio, and numerous other major commercial radio stations and on the pages of many major newspapers around the world. In February 2015, we were invited by ARD to give a forty-minute public lecture on Islamicity Indices and how they could be the seed for positive change, in the Muslim world and in relations between the Muslim and non-Muslim countries Islamicity Indices provide Muslims with a benchmark to measure their progress toward reaching ideal Muslim communities as envisaged in the Quran and practiced by the Prophet Mohammad (sawa).

 They afford Muslims a yardstick to question their governments and rulers, a yardstick that could not be abruptly dismissed. Convinced that Islamicity Indices could be the seed for change in the Muslim world, we decided to write this book to provide a more comprehensive discussion of Islamicity Indices, give the results of improved and updated indices and discuss how these indices can be an important instrument for change in Muslim countries and in their relations with the non-Muslim World. We hope to follow up on this book with a dedicated website where we would report updated indices on an annual basis, invite others to upload their own indices for all to see and compare and for interested parties to upload their comments and suggestions.

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There is no one right index. Different indices serve different purposes. All indices have room for improvement in their construction and in the quality of the data and information used for their estimation. The trans- parent presentation of these indices and thoughtful conversation and debate is the path that could engage more and more Muslims around the world

We hope that this book and the dedicated website to be developed in the very near future will be a spark for widespread debate on how best to develop efficient institutions and build the foundation for social, political, and economic progress in Muslim countries.

Concluding Comments

Abstract: Islamicity Indices and their recognition the world over are an important element in this process of positive change in the Muslim World and reconciliation with the West. Each country may want a modified index as there is no one right index that fits all. Such benchmarks should generate further debate and encourage Muslims to ask why they are not free and prosperous as are other communities around the world. Muslims desperately need benchmarks to hold their rulers accountable.

 They need encouragement to do this in a peaceful way as envisaged in Islam. Leaders must be rule compliant. In the absence of a generally acceptable benchmark, clerics and absolute rulers are more apt to dismiss any challenge to their interpretation of Islam as those of Western liberals or those who have no understanding of Islam.

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