Maulana Wahiduddin Khan | New Age Islam Website | May 28 | 2016
Q: Some people are critical of ‘globalization’, citing evidence to show that it is causing rapidly increasing economic inequalities. Globalization helps multinational corporations become even wealthier, while driving small businesses out of competition, resulting in massive poverty and unemployment. How do you see this?
A: There are two aspects of globalization that one needs to consider here. The first is inequality. Inequality does exist, but it is a natural phenomenon. The fact is that inequality is and will remain part of every system. This is because according to the law of nature inequality creates competition and challenges, which, in turn, lead to progress.
A second aspect of globalization that needs to be considered is that opportunities have increased manifold because of it. As a result, there has come about what can be called the phenomenon ‘de-monopolization’, which means that many more people now have the chance to avail of opportunities.
Critics of globalization generally focus on only one aspect of the phenomenon and ignore others. What they consider as the minus point of globalization is not due to globalization per se, but, rather, due to the law of nature. Misinterpreting the law of nature causes critics of globalization to be unable to understand and acknowledge its positive aspects .
It is important to bear in mind that inequality is part of nature and not something unique to globalization as such. It is true that the magnitude or extent of inequality has increased because of globalization, but one must also remember that the quantum of opportunities has also increased, too. Further, one should remember that this inequality is not a permanent or absolute feature of globalization. There are numerous cases of people who hardly possessed any material wealth initially, and who have worked hard and prospered as a result, availing of the new opportunities opened up by globalization. One should also note that the opportunities that have accompanied globalization are an integral feature of the phenomenon of globalization.
Q: Some people who are critical of globalization point out that it is increasing consumerism and materialism among people, resulting in spiritual impoverishment, because it is driven essentially by materialistic concerns. Do you agree? Do you think this has to be this way or can globalization also be a means for promoting spiritual consciousness?
A: I am also living in the age of globalization, but I am completely a spiritual person. This shows that no situation creates a compulsion. You don’t have to behave in a certain way if you don’t want to. It is up to the individual concerned to allow himself to be influenced by the situation he or she is faced with. Suppose there were no globalization—that would not necessarily guarantee spirituality. One can be spiritual while living in a materialistic environment. At the same time, one can be non-spiritual in an environment which is not materialistic.
Q: You speak of God managing history. You talk of God’s role in history. In which way do you think globalization might reflect God’s working in human history? Or do you think globalization goes against God’s plan for humanity?
A: Globalization is very much in accordance with divine culture. This is because for the past thousands of years, the divine message had remained restricted to the local level. Globalization made it possible to disseminate the divine message to people at a global level through various means. Thus, globalization is in accordance with the divine scheme of things. Along with this, several other phenomena have come along with globalization, for example openness has replaced narrow-mindedness.
Q: Some people say that globalization is resulting in the destruction of non-Western cultures because it is linked to the spread of the Western (or American) culture—a culture of what they see as reflecting unbridled individualism, consumerism and hedonism. So, they say that globalization is a threat not just economically to the non-Western world, especially to the poor, but also culturally and that it is causing what they call ‘Western cultural imperialism’ and the destruction of non-Western cultures. What are your views about this?
A: This statement is quite illogical. What you allude to is not a phenomenon of Western culture as such, but, rather, reflects the fact that challenge is an integral part of human life. Western culture offers a challenge to non-Western people, because of which people in the non-West have been encouraged to rethink many things and to become more creative.
We should welcome globalization. We should see it as part of a historical advancement. If we find anything unwanted in this phenomenon, we should attribute it to the law of nature. Everything in nature has both positive and negative aspects. For example, modern democracy is a boon, but at the same time it has aspects that some people regard as objectionable.
Globalization is a phase of a historical process. This historical process will carry on and cannot come to a halt through a person or group’s opposition or resistance. All we need to do in this new age is to avail of the opportunities that have been brought about as a result of globalization.
Q: Do you think it is possible to think of a different sort of globalization from the one that we have present? If so, what would its distinctive features be? And what might be a realistic way to promote this alternate globalization?
A: It is unrealistic to ask for an alternative. There is no alternative to globalization as it is not the creation of any person. Globalization is the culmination of a long process of history. Only another historical process can change the current state of affairs to bring into effect another phenomenon. If, for the sake of argument, an alternative to globalization is created, even then there will be people who will find that it has problems. We have to accept that there would always be problems, and at the same time recognize there will always be opportunities. Therefore, singling out problems and initiating a movement of resistance is not the way of wisdom. Rather, one should ignore the problems and focus on availing the existing opportunities.