Mohamed M Begg
The word ‘globalisation’ can imply different meanings for different people across the world. This paper examines what ‘globalisation’ means particularly to people living in the East, and especially in the Arab/Muslim world.
According to Walsham (2001, p.18),
“The term globalization has achieved the unusual status, in a relatively short time, of becoming fashionable in academic debates in the social sciences, in the business world, and to some extent in the popular media. However, even a cursory examination of these sources would demonstrate that the term is highly ambiguous, and that it masks a wide variety of opinions on what is happening in the world”.
The term ‘Globalisation’ therefore, attracts various definitions and explanations. Some of these will be considered and explained in this paper.
Globalisation is not a new concept from the Islamic point of view. First of all the Arabic word for this geographical world is ‘alam’; hence the Qur’anic usage describing the Creator as ‘Rabb al Alamin’ (The Lord of the Worlds), and one of the phrases used to describe the status of the Prophet Muhammad (sws) in the Qur’an is ‘Rahmatullil-alamin’ meaning a ‘mercy to all the worlds’ (regardless of whether everyone accepts him as the last prophet or not). Describing Prophet Muhammad (sws) in such a manner clearly indicates that he had not only a global mission but a universal mission. The global nature of Islam is in fact quite visible to all of us, as Muslims can be found in virtually all parts of the inhabited world. Globalisation is therefore not an alien subject for Muslims, it is the means through which the current process of globalisation is taking place, namely the ICT revolution and satellite television which are raising new hopes and concerns.
According to Robertson (1992, p.8), “Globalisation as a concept refers both to the compression of the world and the intensification of consciousness of the world as a whole”. Walsham (2001, p.18) explains that,
“the first of the two points relates directly to the time-space compression, largely mediated by IT. The second point is, however, somewhat wider than the earlier material, since it refers to the world as a whole rather than Western society. The wide spread of accessibility of communications media such as television, even in remote rural villages in the Third World or underprivileged urban communities anywhere, means that news of happenings in the world as a whole is available to the great majority of the world’s population”.
The result of vast and fast availability of information means events in a remote part of the world can bring immediate response. For example atrocities in the Middle East regions can quickly mobilise people on the other side of the world to start protest marches within hours. The Tsunami disaster in South East Asia is a positive example of how quickly citizens across the world responded both financially and in the form physical arrival with heavy equipment to rescue the victims.
Moving on to a different aspect of ICT developments, the remarks by Nelson Mandela (former President of South Africa) on globalisation at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton on 28th September, 2000 are worth noting. He said, “Anyone who ignores globalisation is like a person who says that he does not know what winter is and will therefore not buy any warm clothes”. He, however, warned those countries who ‘in the name of globalisation are inflicting poverty on other nations’. Some nations becoming richer as a result of ICT and others becoming poorer due to lack of education, poverty and inability to create infrastructure required to use ICT to its full potential means creating inequity, injustice, anger and frustration in the hearts and minds of millions of people across the world. All these issues if not tackled in good time can bring disastrous results not only for the countries concerned but also for the prosperous countries.
Currently, ‘Global Terrorism’ has become a common phrase in most of the news media. Is this yet another form of globalisation? One hopes not and every effort has to be made both by the Western world and the Muslim world and the remaining world to join hands and remove this menace from the face of this earth.
This paper will therefore examine how the ICT revolution is transforming the vision of ‘globalisation’ globally and particularly within the Arab/Muslim world and some third world countries and provide some explanation of the reasons and impact of such a ‘globalisation’ for people living in different parts of the world. It also discusses how an equitable, cohesive, peaceful and co-operative ‘global community’ can be achieved with the help of the new technologies particularly the Internet and satellite TV revolution.
Robertson, R(1992), Globalization: Social Theory and Global Culture, Sage, London. Walsham, Geoff (2001`), Making a World of Difference – IT in a Global Context, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester, U.K.