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 The Challenges of Globalization and the Muslim World    by Professor A. R. Momin

Globalization involves a whole set of processes, including the increasing integration of the world economy, the growing interconnectedness and interdependence of societies around the world, and extensive and unprecedented movement of capital, goods and services, technology, people, lifestyles and cultural patterns. Modern information and communication technologies are the driving force of globalization. In earlier times, the economies of most countries were dominated by agriculture or industry.

In contrast, the global economy is defined in terms of processes that are largely intangible and 'weightless'. This weightless economy is a product of modern information and communication technologies-computer software, Internet-based services, media and entertainment products. In other words, the global economy is essentially knowledge economy. Manuel Castels, in his influential books The Rise of Network Society (1996) and The End of Millennium (1998), points out that the global system is in essence a network society made up of extensive linkages between production, power and experience. These linkages, according to him, construct a 'culture of virtuality' in the global flows which transcend time and space.

Globalization is not an entirely new phenomenon. In earlier times, empires, conquests, religions, movements and migrations involving large numbers of people had a global or near-global reach. Christianity, Buddhism and Islam have been global religions for centuries. The globalization of Christianity began under the aegis of the Roman Empire with the conversion of the Emperor Constantine I to Christianity in 313 A.D. The globalization of Islam, on the other hand, did not commence under the auspices of any empire. It was set in motion by the inherently universalist message of the Islamic faith which attracted hundreds of thousands of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds and from different regions of the world, by the dispersal of Muslims across large parts of the world and, subsequently, by the creation of transnational institutions of science and learning.

For the first time in history, the globalization of science, medicine and philosophy took place under the auspices of Islamic civilization during the medieval period. It was marked by extensive translations of scientific and philosophical works from Greece, India, Persia and Egypt, by a creative synthesis of the researches of Muslim scientists with those of other lands, by the establishment of scientific institutions (such as observatories, scientific academies, medical colleges, libraries, hospitals), by the employment of Arabic as the universal lingua franca of scientific communication, and by the creation of a community of scientists, philosophers and translators from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds.

It must, however, be acknowledged that the scale, magnitude and reach of the processes subsumed under globalization, particularly the incredible acceleration in the rate of change, are truly unprecedented in the annals of human history. A great deal of hype and euphoria surrounds the process of globalization. Mercifully, the euphoria is now slowly dissipating, giving way to a more realistic and balanced assessment of the pros and cons of globalization.

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