Can a Muslim become a good naturalized citizen of another country? An adequate answer to this question requires more than a simple "yes" or "no".
Logical analysis and intellectual reflection leads to other related questions that involve the intrinsic values of Islam versus basic Judeo-Christian or Eastern pacifist values. If to become a citizen of a democratic country involves change, then we must ask what that change is. Can a Muslim change and retain his or her Islamic identity? What happens when a Muslim changes? What are the punishments when a Muslim becomes an apostate or kafir? What do you mean by a better person, and how does a "better person" differ from a "good Muslim"? Can a Muslim denounce or change or alter Islamic values? Can a Muslim who questions Islamic values improve his own community? Do Imams and Mullahs restrict or allow Muslims to co-exist in harmony, peace and friendship with infidels?
What is the process by which a Muslim changes attitudes and lifestyle? How does he learn to tolerate, or at least ignore, what he himself wouldn't practice. How does he adapt to secularism, constitutional law, and democracy? If he sincerely adopts democratic principles but remains a practicing Muslim — if that is possible — in what ways can he change Islamic values?
Finally, we ask: we don't question that improvements are possible in the individual and society. But is that true in Muslim attitudes? Does an Islamic society change its values? It can adopt some modern conveniences — the automobile, cell phones, better medicine -- but does that mean it would change its fundamental supremicist attitudes, with rigid class structures, where Muslims are top dog and practitioners of other religions live on sufferance and dare not compete.
Social, political, economic and religious institutions in Islamic societies currently have not led to improvement in the life of individual Muslims. So individual Muslims probably don't have a positive attitude to difficult changes. To change is to become different. But unless you changes completely, the changes are incomplete or partial. Will they be sufficient to teach Muslims to stop trying to impose their Sharia law on all other countries?
THE ARAB SPRING IS A COLOSSAL FAILURE. The Arab Spring forced Muslim societies to make some political change. Theocracies were exchanged for more-or-less secular dictators. But there was not a significant change in the Islamic value structure. In fact, in many cases, they became more rigid and more cruel to the minority religions who live among them.
Israel, India, the U.S., and Australia are democratic and constitutional states with a substantial number of Muslims. The Government in any democratic country works for the benefit, for the interest and welfare, of its entire citizenry, irrespective of color or religious beliefs. Each democratic Government is interested in promoting whatever is good for all its citizens. The social policies and actions chosen are those that at the time seem most likely to lead to good consequences for its citizens. It is assumed that people want to live fulfilling lives, content in their families and jobs — and are involved in what is sometimes called self-actualization, where they use freedom to pursue projects that interest them and develop their potential socially or intellectually or with a particular skill or interest.
They assume that people are more interested in developing their own potential than in stunting the development of others. Good governments treat the people as individuals, not members of warring groups, where it can add fuel to the fire by favoring some groups and not others. This also assumes that the various groups that compose the citizenry are fair-minded, despite the obvious fact they have different value systems. There is the hope that there is a basic sense of give-and-take, live-and-let-live that promotes harmony, or at least, that prevents open warfare among the groups.
There is always the balancing act of how to focus on the individuals and yet take into consideration group values.
Unfortunately, Muslim often meet in their mosques, where they are conditioned to believe their true interests must be the conquest of the host country, not the development of their own lives. Social welfare, peace, progress and harmony depend precariously upon tolerance, compromise and the adaptability of the citizenry. These features don't seem to be built into the Islamic value structure. Bluntly speaking, Islamic interests as taught by Islamic clerics conflict with the practices and goals of democratic countries. This may mean that the morale-building abilities of Islamic groups to transform or revise Islamic societies so that individual Muslims can live in harmony in a democratic country might function only if we compel Muslims to make a drastic change in how they relate to other groups.
Judging from history, Muslims try to marginalize the natives of their host countries once they have a sufficient population, (see, for example, this.) As a group, Islamists never just fit in. They don't assimilate. Muslims cannot and will not be part of an infidel country. Muslim all over the world want to establish Dar-al-Islam and force the natives to live as dhimmis, paying a religious tax for the privilege of living as second-class citizens in their own country. Muslims want to impose Sharia law all over the world. They want an environment where there will be no separation between state and religion. They want the antithesis of democracy. They want no independent Judiciary or Constitution or Law. They want Islamic rulers and Sharia judges to impose Islamic rule and regulations on all infidels. If this seems outlandish, consider how much they have already changed the character of England, France and the Scandinavian countries.
To repeat, the welfare of all the citizens is not part of the Islamic game plan. Any conflict which prevents or disrupts the normal operations of the democracy is acceptable. Murder, assassination, kidnapping, bombing, beheading, slaughter, genital mutilation will become acceptable. Limb amputation and stoning to death will be the punishment for what we consider minor crimes or non-crimes. These will increase if Islamists are allowed to rule the country. Anti-Semitism and the pitting of one group against another will increase. The power of international organizations to improve life and increase peace and harmony will continue to decline. Human rights violations, beheadings, polygamy, the treatment of women as chattel and discrimination against infidels will increase in all Islamic countries. The military budgets will grow at the expense of making life better for the people. We therefore ask:
Muslims get their identity from Islam. In order to change Muslims, must they renounce, denounce or reform Islam? Change may involve the addition of something new, or the subtraction of something old or both. When you change your mind, you may have to give up one belief or intention in order to acquire its opposites. Corollary questions are: is it possible without using procedures not allowed in a civilized society? Is the expense of modifying attitudes at variance with Western civilization beliefs prohibitive?
The Arab spring made for some political changes in the Islamic world. It made some political changes quickly in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia. But Islam which triggers Muslims to act against infidels has not changed. The core question remains: "Can a Muslim change?"
Clearly Islam faces challenges and examples from the modern world. From a Western point of view, all religions have more or less modified practices if not concepts over the centuries. It would seem just as possible for Muslims to reform. They could delete certain passages from the Koran and Haddith, or ignore them. It doesn't seem outrageous to suggest that the individual Muslim man or woman be allowed to decide what is best for himself/herself and be allowed to follow his/her own directions, within the broad scope of the religion.
Except for the multiculturalists that see no problem that Islam and Judaic-Christian values are antithetical, most in the west are uncomfortable with both Muslims intransigence and Islamic rigid dogmas. It is alien to our culture to even suggest that a structure or group can't change, so we almost obsessively assume that Muslims and Islam are capable of change. Hedonism, Christianity, volunteerism theories and practices of medicine and existentialism have changed. Even Marxism has changed.
We must believe that value systems can genuinely grow, develop, decline, and grow in different directions. Our civilization teaches that disaster in one enterprise might lead to growth and success in another. Reasoning by analogy, we are sure Muslims are able to change in some respects in order to adapt and endure in other respects. Changes in the Muslim self-image will become a permanent part of the changed Muslims self. We know this from experience with our own lives.
But Islam has a major difference from other religions. Its practices are built to make Muslims model their behavior on what Mohammad did. They don't just accept his preachings. They do as he did. He took a 6-year old child in marriage. Child marriages are acceptable forever more. Muslims are taught Islam is permanent and it need not face any reform or renaissance or alteration. Muslims contend that Islam cannot change because it is a complete and completed religion. For Muslims, Islam is a whole, which, having no parts, cannot lose parts, add parts or exchange parts. It has no reason to change and couldn't if it wanted to.
Political conditions may come and go. For Muslims, they are all temporary. Only Islam is eternal and unchangeable. Since it cannot change, there is nothing that one can do to change it. Mullahs determine how to apply eternal sharia to temporal conditions. Ethical, social, social, spiritual, metaphysical changes are illusory, temporary, or external matters. They may be imposed by others when Islam is temporarily weak. Contracts may be imposed, but they will be broken when the Umma is stronger. Only Allah and Mohammad are pure and beyond the realm of ethics, diversity, peace, coexistence, harmony, progress or democracy. And the rule of kaffir law is impermanent.
The question remains. Can a Muslims be better or good in a democratic infidel country? In what ways can a Muslim change himself and improve in a democratic country? How, or how far? They certainly have the human resources. They have Islamic scholars, Islamic academicians, religious leaders, journalists, media pundits, political and social leaders, who could work together for Islamic reform.
WE ARE LIVING IN A CONFLICT-RIDDEN WORLD. Conflict among our desires, ambitions, motivations, religious belief system and extensive interests compete with each other. Though persons differ greatly in versatility, adaptability and ability to absorb change, we believe each has the ability to improve in authenticity, duration, and the quality of his social life. We have learned we must often change to survive. We assume it's a universal fact of life. The Muslim's ability to change, or add something new to peace, harmony, coexistence, human rights, or add something to progressive life, and their ability to be a good and law abiding citizen should be the same. Even Islamic willingness to accept things as they are, or are going to be, naturally will lead to a better world. Of course, we understand there have to be some basic changes in Muslim practices. Islamists must stop making demands to promote and convert infidels. Jihadis need to stop preferring death to life. It is intrinsically evil.
And then we bump up against some shattering truths. Muslims want to make the whole world Dar-al-Islam where no one lives as a non-believer. Muslims consider this as their success and goal of life. But this means that success entails beheading and murdering infidels, disrupting harmony. This kind of success is not quite as popular around the world as in Islamic countries.
Islam has ugly beliefs about and hostility toward infidels. They assume the correctness of attitudes and practices against infidels and against their own people — beheading, polygamy, stoning, limb amputation, human rights violation, pedophilia, assassination, homicide missions, hijacking, and terrorism — that we in the West find abhorrent. Individual westerners commit violent crimes, but these generally inspire disgust in Western culture. It is hard for American soldiers to become friendly with their Afghan "allies" because they find Muslim practices sickening. The disparity can't be erased by pointing airily at the need to tolerate multi-cultural differences. We are right to consider these alien practices evil. We must not at any point pretend that we should tolerate what we, deep-down, know is evil. One might argue that these same arguments give Muslims the right to try to impose what they consider proper conduct on the West. It doesn't. Our attitude is that we want them to leave us alone. They, on the other hand, have been trying to impose their way of life on us by stealth jihad. They aren't willing just to separate themselves and live in their own lands and practice what they consider good. Instead they invade our space and try to change us. So, like it or not, it is the duty and obligation for all freedom-loving people on earth to stop this Islamic menace. One must say NO to evil, and because they have declared they will stop at nothing to impose their way of life on us, we are compelled to stop Muslims from practicing their evil ways, or enjoying the evil they see as part of their heritage.
A full answer to such questions as Can a Muslim be a good citizen in a democratic country requires intensive sociological and psychological studies. When values are involved in social life, problems of how to increase good and decrease evil naturally appear. When Muslim groups become large and their conflicting interests become obvious, more intricate and cumbersome methods are needed to determine how far Muslims can be trusted. How devoted, conscientious and efficient can Muslims be as citizens? To the extent that existing Islamic groups are deeply hostile to infidels, (kaffirs) and to democracy, can they be changed?
Judging from the history of Islam, from the past behavior of Islamists and the current displays of Jihad terrorism, it would appear that Muslims are reluctant to develop prodigious intellectual insights and acquire complicated technical skills, and unable to make wise practical decisions. Passion and prejudice interfere or cripple the Islamist's ability to make responsible decisions. Their decision not to reform or revise Islam shows a lack of prudence. They seem to lack the practical ability to change the world by peaceful means.
Considering the values of Islam, the willingness of Islamists to choose evil and their inability to take responsibility for their hostile attitude, we may conclude that, generally speaking, Muslims are not able to adapt to new situations and to live peacefully in a changing world.
Babu Suseelan, Ph.D. is the Director of Addiction Research Institute in Pennsylvania and Director of Indian American Intellectuals Forum in New York. He is the author of several published articles on jihadi terrorism, addiction, and cognitive psychology. He has been an invited speaker at national and international conferences on jihadi terrorism, criminal justice and substance abuse. This article was submitted December 15, 2012.