This is an outstanding article, which peels back the layers of obfuscation, deception (taqiyya) and confusion on the part of Westerners when it comes to Islam. To use another SciFi example, it's as if Captain Kirk and crew have beamed down to a planet where even the famed Star Trek "Universal Translator" can't help us, because key concepts have such radically different meanings for Muslims.
This is a long article, but well worth it for all the insights. Be sure to explore the Footnotes, which expand a great deal further our understanding, and are very helpful. Be sure to also visit the IslamWatch site, as it has many more helpful resources.
Key Concepts Having Different Meanings for Muslims and Westerners
by Jon MC, IslamWatch
Thanks to Bill D.
In this article I shall address four key concepts as generally understood in the free western world and the Islamic world.
My experience when talking to Muslims is that when these (amongst other) words are used we “talk past each other” in that each is trying to convey a different concept to the other. Thus I might just as well have titled the piece “Western concepts misunderstood by Muslims”.
That said, I also have to acknowledge that some Muslim speakers exploit this disconnect in order to “say one thing whilst facing west and another whilst facing east”. In other words they use these “conceptual discrepancies” for the purposes of Taqiya.
The Western viewpoint: In the West “freedom” is used to describe a whole range of things encompassed in civil, political and individual rights.
Perhaps the most succinct definition of “freedom” is that of Thomas Jefferson: “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.”
He went on to say: “I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often [nothing] but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.”
Quite explicit in Jefferson's definition is that all people have equal rights. Implicit also is that all (non-tyrannical) laws must apply equally to all people without exception. (This idea was put in British law as the law acting “indifferently” -as in “without difference” - towards all people.) Jefferson also neatly balances the sometimes contradictory ideas of “freedoms” and “rights” which so bedevil much of modern politics.
Freedoms are generally understood to be things that the government won’t stop you doing, whilst rights are things that the government will help protect for you. In other words the government shouldn’t tell you how to live your life, but at the same time it should ensure that everyone’s rights are being equally protected.
The Islamic viewpoint: The entry on freedom, or “hurriyya”, in the "Encyclopedia of Islam" describes a state of divine enthralment that bears no resemblance to any Western understanding of freedom as predicated on the workings of the individual conscience, nor does it speak of rights. According to the encyclopedia, Islamic freedom is "the recognition of the essential relationship between God the master and His human slaves who are completely dependent on Him."
Ibn Arabi, a Sufi scholar of note, is cited for having defined freedom as “being perfect slavery to Allah”.
To put it another way, Islamic-style "freedom" is freedom from any form of unbelief (“Khufr”) in Islam.