"A close look at the West’s value system points to the pursuit of pleasure (goal in life) ahead of freedom, individualism, and utilitarianism as the main cause behind crime. Factors like poor education, social deprivation, unemployment are merely a by-product of these values and should never be addressed in isolation."
Over the past few days, the British public has witnessed the killing of three teenage boys and the maiming of a number of people in a spate of shootings that has shook the country. Tony Blair has been quick to dismiss the notion that Britain is a broken society, and continues to blame a few individuals or groups for carrying out such crimes. He has been joined by ministers, politicians, social-workers, and police officers to examine gun control laws or introduce new programs to minimize social deprivation as a means of reducing violent crime. But rarely, does anyone have the courage or the foresight to ask the basic question: Are western values to blame for the rise in violent crime?
Indeed, the failure to hold Western values accountable leads to more crime, extra legislation, burden on the judiciary, a demoralized police force, over populated prison system, a vulnerable public and a huge drain on public resources. This reactionary approach towards tackling crime is not only limited to violent offences but extends to all forms of crime. Britain is not alone in overlooking the obvious connection between western values and the rise in crime. A similar trend can be found in all other Western societies. In these societies the public is resigned to accept that crime is on the increase and very little can be done to reduce it.
Even the severity of the law does not deter people from committing crime. Thus, for many years, Western governments have struggled to reduce the growing number of pedophiles, rapists, drug addicts, joy riders, burglars, fraudsters, sleazy politicians, unscrupulous businessmen and the like – no matter how many laws they enact or how much time and money they spend on policing. This does not need to be the case. Rather, what lies at the heart of the issue is the incorrect understanding in Western societies of crime and its causes; this has led to Western governments implementing ineffective solutions to combat crime.
A close look at the West’s value system points to the pursuit of pleasure (goal in life) ahead of freedom, individualism, and utilitarianism as the main cause behind crime. Factors like poor education, social deprivation, unemployment are merely a by-product of these values and should never be addressed in isolation.
The West’s goal in life has greatly affected the public’s attitude towards preventing crime. The public in West’s societies is more concerned about preserving their ability to pursue sensual pleasure to the extent that they would not intervene to help other people enjoy their right to pursue pleasure, particularly if such intervention was associated with difficulty or danger.
Unless it is something that threatens their collective pursuit of enjoyment, the public rarely intervenes to stop crimes committed in front of them. This mindset has molded the public in Western societies to become apathetic towards crime, thereby allowing criminals to thrive amongst them. For instance if a thief ran out of a shop in a crowded shopping center, the majority of the shoppers would be hesitant to give chase. If a group of people were attacking an individual on the bus, most people would remain quiet in their seats. If a pensioner was being mugged in the street, most people will ignore it.
The West’s goal in life has also undermined the ability of Capitalist states to fight crime. This is because the role of Western governments is to pass laws and implement policies, which enable individuals to realize their optimal level of sensual fulfillment. All too often, the true benefactors are a small minority of people who use their wealth to influence governments to protect their interests. The government enacts laws that protect their right to pursue enjoyment at the expense of the vast majority. In turn, this vast majority feels that these laws unfairly impinge on their right to pursue happiness and hence many resort to breaking the law. For instance, the majority of the British public abhors firearms, but fails to understand why the government has repeatedly taken no action against the media companies that glorify gun violence as the quickest way of attaining happiness through films, music, books and video games. Equally in America, the public’s demand to ban the selling of guns is met with government silence. In both cases governments are more interested in allowing the media moguls and gun companies to maximize profits at the cost of the public safety.
The same argument applies to the redevelopment of deprived inner city areas, which governments and wealthy capitalists intentionally ignore, as they are deemed to be commercially unprofitable.
Understandably, people living in such areas will resort to crime. Even the punishment of criminals is influenced by the West’s goal in life; instead of designing punishments to deter potential criminals in society, punishments exist merely to restrict the convicted criminal’s pursuit of pleasure. For example the millionaire Geoffrey Archer was able to follow his lavish lifestyle, even though he was serving a custodial sentence. Therefore, at all levels of human behavior the West’s goal in life is the main driving force behind crime in Western societies.
On the other hand, Islam produces a society where crime is not the norm but an exception. This is because the Islamic goal in life is about seeking the pleasure of Allah. It is through seeking the pleasure of Allah that a Muslim attains happiness.
Therefore, Muslims are extremely careful when undertaking actions, large or small because they know that in the hereafter they will be held accountable for them. The outcome of which will be either paradise or hellfire determined by the Muslim’s compliance to Allah’s commands and prohibitions in this life. This belief instills in Muslims a strong sense of Taqwa (fear of Allah), responsibility towards others and obedience to Islamic laws and authority. At an individual level this becomes a very powerful deterrent against crime, as one is constantly aware of the consequences of one’s actions. Allah reminds us in the Quran: “And We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.” [TMQ Al-Qaf: 16]
The manifestation of this self policing would mean that unlike Western countries, the future Islamic state will not need to spend huge resources in fighting crime, use large numbers of surveillance techniques to catch criminals or employ a large police force dedicated to crime prevention.
Similarly, the Islamic society’s yearning to seek the pleasure of Allah will produce a collective mentality amongst the public where the preservation of society and Islamic laws will be regarded as more important than one’s own interest. This is because for Muslims, the transgression of the commands and prohibitions of Allah) by offenders is a sin that must be stopped. Islam has obliged Muslims to enjoin Mar’uf (good) and forbid Munkar (evil). The Prophet (Sallalahu Alaihi Wasallam – Peace be upon him) said in a hadith narrated by Abu Sa’id al Khudri: “Whosoever sees a Munkar (an evil or wrong) let him change it by his hand, if he could not let it be by his tongue. If he could not let it be by his heart, and this is the weakest of Iman.” [Muslim]
In the case of non-Muslims citizens it will be the justice of Islam that will be the motivating factor for them to prevent crime. This will galvanize public opinion to become an effective deterrent against crime.
However, there will always be a minority that would violate the laws imposed by Islam. For them Islam has laid down a comprehensive punishment system which is administered by the state. The punishments in Islam are not intended to restrict the offender, but are meant to dissuade others from carrying out crime. For instance concerning the thief, Allah says: “As to the thief, male or female, cut off his or her hand. It is the reward of their own deeds, an exemplary punishment from Allah. Allah is Mighty, Wise.” [TMQ Al-Maida: 38]
In Islam, the individual through his Taqwa, the public through their concern about the preservation of society and the state all act in unison to ensure that the Islamic laws are implemented and that crime is minimized. The Islamic history bears testimony to this fact. For example, when Imam Malik was appointed the judge of Madinah, he had to wait almost a year before he presided over his first case. Also the records of the courts that existed in the main cities in the Islamic State show that the types of cases dealt by courts were primarily social issues like divorce, inheritance and business related disputes. The number of cases involving murders, muggings, rapes and the like were nowhere near the figures that occur in Western societies today.
Whilst capitalism struggles to cope with rising crime, Islam demonstrates a comprehensive mechanism to deal with it. Muslims living in the West should take it upon themselves to expose the flaws of capitalism and present to the wider society, Islam as the only solution to mankind’s problems.
February 18, 2007