Are Sweden, Norway and New Zealand really the most Islamic countries?

Each year the Islamicity Foundation, a U.S.-based non-profit organisation, publishes an index of which countries comply most with Islamic teaching.

Each year countries such as Sweden, Norway and New Zealand top the Islamicity Index, but many Muslim countries do not do so well. The overall ranking is made up of scores in four areas according to the principles of the Quran; economic, legal and governance, human and political rights and international relations.

But is it correct to define these standards as being Islamic? The same standards are also endorsed by other belief systems such as socialism, Christianity and Buddhism. Values such as integrity, justice, honesty and peace are not the monopoly of a specific religion or ideology. Given that, it is also possible to declare countries like Norway or New Zealand as the most socialist or Buddhist countries in the world.

The countries that top the Islamicity Index also do well in the United Nations’ Human Development Index.

The Islamicity index also reads the Quran selectively. For example, it is not clear how the index weighs aspects of Islamic law in matters such as gender equality, the freedom to change religion and Islamic punishment. Thus it is not clear how countries like Norway and New Zealand are seen as the most Islamic when they recognise gay marriage for example.

New Zealand, rated by the Islamicity Index as the Islamic country, has a prime minister who gave birth out of wedlock while in office. I do not think there is any recognised interpretation of Islam that would concede that a woman has the right to have baby out of wedlock, let alone remain in the highest office while doing so.

While the Islamicity Index defines Islamic values in terms such as justice and rights, in the Muslim world it is more often defined by adherence to ritual. Being Islamic in the Muslim world is firstly about praying five times a day and performing other forms of worships. Today no mainstream interpretation of Islam endorses a religiosity based on morality without an emphasis on ritual. There is almost no Islamic approach that is ready to label a person as religious or pious only by judging their morality independent of whether they perform prayers five times a day. Islamic orthodoxy is clear today: If you are not performing five times prayer, you are not religious. Contemporary Islam has almost been transformed into a religion of ritual and worship rather than morality.

That is the value of the Islamicity Index - to remind Muslims that Islam is firstly about moral values rather than ritual. 

© Ahval English

The views expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.