I'm busy preparing for another trip across the seas, so no time for more detailed posts and discussions, sadly. However, here are few things which caught my eye over the past few weeks.
I'm not sure I have the time effort to go through each and every point in each article, or that I'd even want to. People can read an article by Yusuf Smith, which sheds light on some of the claims. Personally, I am unsurprised that a newspaper like the Telegraph has published these articles. (Apologies for the terrible tabloid-like headline.)
He begins by quoting from various Muslim personalities. The quotes include things like 'We want an army of preachers and teachers who will present Islam in all languages and in all dialects' (attributed to Yusuf al-Qaradawi). Someone should remind Browne that all religions, especially universalist ones, talk of some ultimate goal for humanity, and are always keen to take on new converts. I don't see any complaints about evangelicals near my house out to help 'Christ conquer the world'. Indeed, one African organisation, having just built a large congregation hall near my house (and I mean large), now spends significant sums of money advertising its message in posters which appear across the London Underground. And it's not just religions which make such claims that humanity should accept their own views as the pinnacle of human thought. Secular, and post-Christian, ideologies do too. Marx anyone? Need I remind people of the secularisation thesis? How about ideological theories which underpin 'development' policies? Has Browne really never heard of Fukuyama, Landes or Huntingdon?
One of Browne's more laughable 'concerns' is the choice of name for male Belgian Muslim boys (it's Muhammad -- which, by the way, is a popular Muslim name everywhere!). He also complains that French Christians are converting to Islam, based on French government figures. What is his concern here? That European liberalism is so weak that a religion, maligned for centuries in Europe, is so easily able to penetrate European society? Also, what is an overtly secular government, like the one in France, doing collecting data on the private religious beliefs of its citizens? Or does 'separation of church and state' only exist when banning a piece of cloth on a Muslim's head?
Lastly, I find Browne's title itself interesting. It seems to play on the old "Western" prejudices and fears about the romanticised, mystical, but ultimately dangerous, "East". Islam as a religion, of course, recognises no geographic division in its theology, although historically Muslims have been seen as people of "the East". But this political (and cultural) division of the world of the world into East and West is a modern ("Western") classification. Browne fears the 'triumph of the East'. But I live in a world where 'the West' is said to have triumphed. Should this be more acceptable to peoples of the world?
(In any case, the "East" that will probably 'triumph' in the next 50 years is beyond the Muslim-dominated East, namely China.)
Sadly, my knowledge of economics is very sketchy. However, I tend to see economics as a human activity, rather than some eternal truth out there to be grasped via a 'scientific method' (as is attempted by the physical sciences). As I see it, the Qur'an intervened directly in these human activities, in order to stop what were gross injustices. Instead of concentrating on this sort of 'ethical' approach to economics, modern Muslims tend to see 'Islamic economics' as a collection of "rules" through which they must jump in order to pass the halal question mark. One feature of modern Islamic economics, at least as is touted by populists and political activists, is to take a certain facet of "Western" economics (in this case "interest") and claim the direct opposite as being "Islamic". Now, I am not declaring "interest" to be halal (or even haraam -- see an Islamic jurist about such opinions). I am saying that there is often little thinking put into "Islamic economics" as we have it today. Much of what passes for "Islamic" banking simply looks "Western" but with Arab-Islamic terminology. Or it is the case that socialist ideas are superficially 'Islamised' and presented on the populist platform as part of the opposition in politically-oppressed Muslim states.
Until we have some Muslim economists -- that is Muslims who are trained in economics -- prepared to think outside the box, I don't see the situation changing much. Then again, perhaps this is all 'Islamic economics' can be?