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Cultural Muslim is a general term used to define a group of people who are identified by association with a Muslim community rather than Islamic faith or rituals.

Contents

Concept

Generally, a Muslim is defined by faith in the religion of Islam; however, in the modern world there are religiously unobservant, agnostic or atheist individuals who still identify with the Muslim culture due to family background, personal experiences or fear of retribution for apostasy. Malise Ruthven discusses the term in Islam: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2000) as follows:

There is, however, a secondary meaning to Muslim which may shade into the first. A Muslim is one born to a Muslim father who takes on his or her parents' confessional identity without necessarily subscribing to the beliefs and practices associated with the faith, just as a Jew may describe him- or herself as Jewish without observing the Halacha. In non-Muslim societies, such Muslims may subscribe to, and be vested with, secular identities. The Muslims of Bosnia (Bosniaks), descendants of Slavs who converted to Islam under Ottoman rule, are not always noted for attendance at prayer, abstention from alcohol, seclusion of women and other social practices associated with believing Muslims in other parts of the world. They were officially designated as Muslims by nationality to distinguish them from Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats under the former Yugoslav communist regime. The label Muslim indicates their ethnicity and group allegiance, but not necessarily their religious beliefs. In this limited context (which may apply to other Muslim minorities in Europe and Asia), there may be no contradiction between being Muslim and being atheist or agnostic, just as there are Jewish atheists and Jewish agnostics... It should be noted, however, that this secular definition of Muslim (sometimes the terms cultural Muslim or nominal Muslim are used) is very far from being uncontested.

Muslim culture as opposed to religion

Religious Muslims believe and practice Islam to varying degrees. Cultural Muslims are likely to believe in Islam, but retain some practices for social and cultural rather than religious reasons. Some aspects of retained Muslim culture are described below.

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Names

The most basic example of this is a person's name. Many Arabic names are now commonly regarded as being "Muslim". Many Arabs carry these names by virtue of descent, regardless of their personal beliefs.

Public ceremonies

Often out of family pressures, cultural Muslims often adhere to traditionally Muslim forms of marriage and funerals. For religious Muslims, the form of these is dictated by religious traditions which have to be strictly adhered to. For cultural Muslims, these formalities no longer have religious significance but may be retained out of deference to custom.

Disputes

Religious Muslims are often opposed to the use of the term cultural Muslim, as their definition of Muslim is fundamentally a religious one; thus the terms Muslim culture and cultural Muslim are equally meaningless to them.

Turkey

Officially, about 99.8% of the population in Turkey is reported to be Muslim.[1] However the criteria used to make such a judgment are fairly different from those in the Western world. The Turkish people share a culture that was heavily influenced by the religion of Islam. One can connect to the Muslim aspects within Turkish culture without accepting all of Islamic theology.

References

  • Islam: A Very Short Introduction, by Malise Ruthven, Oxford University Press, 2000.

See also


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