OUTLOOK — By Haider Al Lawati — Once I was asked to give my own definition of globalisation during my higher study in Germany. The tutor urged us to write down what we felt from our own point of view. Since there were people from different nationalities in the class, he asked us to write the meaning of globalisation and its connection to our culture and beliefs. Being a Muslim I had to write something which connected globalisation with my religion.
I believe globalisation means that people of different backgrounds, cultures, political and economic systems, faiths and religions have to interact and co-operate with each other for their common good; thus globalisation can be broadly defined as the integration of economic, social, cultural and political systems.
The word “globalisation” can be traced back to many years, however its full concept did not enter into popular consciousness until recently.
Many scholars tried to connect the trend of globalisation to earlier periods such as the different conquests, empires, the colonial periods and the establishment of multilateral companies.
Human societies across the globe have established close contacts over many centuries, but the pace has dramatically increased recently since we deal with jet planes, cheap telephone services, e-mail, the Internet and instant capital flows etc.
Despite the huge benefits of globalisation, for billions of people around the world business driven globalisation means uprooting old ways of life, threatening livelihoods and cultures. Globalisation is mostly apparent in the economic field such as the work of the Breton Woods conference. In international politics it is mostly prominent in the establishment of the United Nations.
“Globalisation is viewed as a century’s long process, tracking the expansion of human population and the growth of civilisation that has accelerated dramatically in the past 50 years.
Early forms of globalisation existed during the Roman Empire, the Arab Empire and Islamic Golden Age, when Muslim traders and explorers established an early global economy across the Old World resulting in a globalisation of crops, trade, knowledge and technology; and later during the period of the Mongolian Empire, when there was greater integration along the Silk Road.
Global integration continued through the expansion of European trade, as in the 16th and 17th centuries, when the Portuguese and Spanish Empires reached all corners of the world after expanding to the Americas.
The repercussions of globalisation have also affected religion. Globalisation led to Islam (for example) spreading widely in the United States.
The Quran had espoused more than 1400 years before the importance of people to be acquainted with each other.
It called for the exchange of knowledge. The concept of people understanding each other has many meanings, including globalisation.
Knowing each other deepens the relation between people. It increases contacts and exchange of interests for the good of humanity. Islam thus not only calls for enhancing co-operation between people, but also stresses the need for continuing this trend, especially in matters that benefit humanity such as science, culture and economics.
It calls for useful exchanges for the benefit of all and discourages ideological matters that may increase conflicts between individuals, governments or states. Islam espouses peace in case of military conflicts by encouraging any of the two or more belligerent parties to end the conflict so that peace and harmony prevails. This is the essence of globalisation in my view.
However, the tutor’s comments on my writing were as following: “First of all, well done for writing your own definition. You have chosen a very normative definition, one that is difficult to compare with the other definitions given in this regard by the scholars, which are more analytical in nature.
It is therefore harder to reconcile with academic standards on definitional clarity and parsimony. It is, however, a very inspiring definition, and I think you have captured some very important insights that we should live and learn together in this globalising world.
And for me as a westerner, it is very interesting to read about aspects of Islam that are different from the usual stereotypical picture given of Islam in the (Western) globalised media”