From Issue: 939 [Read full issue]

Muslim Identity

On the one hand, Muslim identities relate to their origins, whether this is African, Turkish, Asian, or other, and on the other hand it represents a type of prison that by its very nature inhibits integration because Muslims are different. Even Muslims use the term without care. Yet the question is of the utmost importance since our involvement depends on the clarity of the direction our identity gives us. So what is the Muslim identity? Four fundamental elements of the necessary response can be identified: [Muslims are those who]

1) live a faith, a religious practice and spirituality;
2) develop an understanding from basic texts and from life's context;
3) educate and bear witness; and
4) act and participate.

Every Muslim, man and woman, from any country, must be able to bring these four elements that constitute his being to life and see to it that they flourish. It is his or her "right to an identity" that every country that respects freedom allows its nationals and residents: this right is generally accepted throughout the West.

It must be noted that the definition of identity that is set out here is anything but closed and secular. Although the first element, which gives a foundation to faith and its practice, is fixed, the same cannot be said of the other three, which oblige us to consider the times we live in and our society so that we can have a better understanding of our life context, adapt our education, improve the transition, know how to act, and refine our involvement in society. We must clearly state and repeat that we want, with all our heart and soul, to live our faith, practice our religion, and give spirituality its [proper] place since these give value to our daily lives. These are the roots that ground us, strong and solid; through these roots we derive nourishment from the soil we live in, we develop a better understanding of our environment, thereby completing the harmony of our being. So our identity is open and dynamic, in constant dialogue with our context and society. It reflects upon and masters its evolution and allows for adaptations that are required for us to remain faithful.

Compiled From:
"Western Muslims: From Integration to Contribution" - Tariq Ramadan