Today's religious beliefs, governmental structures, laws and traditions of social behavior find their roots in the development of three main belief systems - Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Although other religious movements have developed throughout the years, these three belief systems have had the most impact on civilizations of the West. To better understand this impact, it is important to trace the development of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and review the relationships between them.
On the one hand, some Western scholars and ideologues have tried to present Islam as an anti-democratic and inherently authoritarian ethos that precludes democratization in the Muslim world. By misrepresenting Islam in this way they are seeking to prove that Islam as a set of values is inferior to Western liberalism and is indeed a barrier to the global progress of civilization. (Wines, 2005)
Throughout much of the Muslim world, the 1990s have witnessed the impact and interaction of the forces of resurgent Islam and democratization. Issues of religious and cultural identity, authenticity, and legitimacy have been intertwined with those of political participation, empowerment and civil society. The post-independence drift along a more Western, secular path of development has been challenged if not rejected. Both governments and political and social movements have often reappropriated religious symbols and vocabulary; they have used and abused, implemented and manipulated religion in politics and society.
Muslim experiences, however, have not occurred in isolation. Today, we are witnessing a global movement of religious and communal (ethnic, linguistic, and cultural) resurgence and democratization. The global tendency toward desecularization has challenged the presuppositions of modernization, the progressive Westernization and secularization of societies which had often been articulated as inevitable evolutionary principles of development. Nations and religious traditions, political and religious leaders, have had to contend with religious and ethnic/nationalist forces who reassert their identity and seek empowerment.
The many forms of this postmodern transformation can be seen not only in Muslim societies, but also in the disintegration of the former Soviet Union and of Yugoslavia, communal confrontations between Hindus and Muslims in India, and the revolt of Sikh nationalists in the Punjab, Muslims in Kashmir, Tamils in Sri Lanka, and confrontations between militant Jewish religious groups and their more secular counterparts in Israel. For some observers, the reassertion of age-old religious and ethnic identities has led to talk of a clash of civilizations, of a post-Cold War period or New World Order in which the threat of global confrontation will no longer be between superpowers or nation-states but civilizations. All major world religions have witnessed a reassertion of religious themes and issues reflected in mainstream as well as more marginal religious organizations. Their voices and names are many; they are often characterized as fundamentalist, reformist, revolutionary, or liberation movements, depending on the ideological and political vantage point of the observer. Despite vast differences of geography, history, doctrine, culture, and experience, increasingly many people throughout much of the world have become more disillusioned with and critical of a modernity run wild or out of ...