Applying Wasaṭīyah within the Malaysian Religio-Political Context

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Ahmad El-Muhammady

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Abstract

There is a resurgence of interest in the wasaṭīyah (moderation) approach
among contemporary Muslim academics and policymakers, particularly with
regards to its application and utility in resolving social challenges. This renewed
interest apparently intensified especially due to Samuel Huntington’s
1993 “clash of civilizations” thesis in the aftermath of 9/111 and the emergence
of extremism and liberal thinking in the Muslim world.2
This short essay argues that the need for wasaṭīyah in the present-day
context is not due to that factor alone; rather, it is a response to the pervasive
extremism manifesting itself in various forms, either in the practice of politics,
economics, culture, religion, and others. Economic extremism produced exploitation,
market manipulation, inequality, and poverty in many countries.
In the realm of politics, extremism appears in the form of global domination,
authoritarianism, and even democratization projects that ignore the country’s
socio-political contexts. Such an effort is meaningless to the locals and, at
worst, might jeopardize the democratization project itself.
In addition, the rise of modernity and postmodernity has produced unintended
consequences. Modern society tends to engage in the endless pursuit
of materialism and conspicuous consumerism, both of which devalue spirituality
and the religious life. Modern people, therefore, are intellectually sophisticated
but suffer from a spiritual-ethical vacuum due to their excessive pursuit
of material gain. The “reign of quantity,” as Rene Guénon argued, not only
rules supreme in the economic and business domains, but also permeates institutions
of higher learning. Eventually liberal education does produce ...

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