Civilizational Attitudes

  I recommend readers research postcolonial studies – and especially the book Orientalism – after reading this. I also apologize for the abhorrently academic tone of this article; I’ve lately been reading too much of the Arab ezine Jadaliyya.

The more I think about it the more I realize that the hardest thing I find to talk about with others in genuine, constructive conversation is Islam and South Asian culture. In a broader context, theistic religions in general, Islamic civilization, and my cultural background are intensely difficult to discuss and talk about with someone from the outside. I suspect most people that have some sort of biculturalness with two different worlds have similar sentiment. I try to put my tongue on the reason frequently, but I always fail. This article will hopefully be a more successful attempt.

I like to think that I’m quite articulate with my thoughts when it comes to writing. I can organize and strategically argue most ideas that I agree with, and although others may still disagree I can take solace in the belief that I’m right. But perhaps the ability to articulate comes with a presumption that the other side will see some truth in the argument if they’re thinking clearly, and that I wouldn’t have to explain and justify prefaces.

After all, I can’t remember the last time I engaged in a lengthy conversation with someone from an entirely different civilizational attitude. There is such a thing, but most people would deny it. I would like to give a lengthy rebut to those people, but such an argument is one of the terribly difficult things to argue. To engage in such a discussion about why there are civilizational attitudes with someone who only has one would require a conversation with virtually no preconceptions, little shared ground, and few relatable experiences. The idea of civilizational attitudes is a viewpoint that takes a book just to explain, much less argue to someone who doesn’t share the idea.

Having successfully failed to justify the idea of civilizational attitudes, allow me now to explain what that has to do with my own predicament. Being an American Muslim, I am Western – which comes with its cultures, values, and modes of thinking – but I also have a very authentic relationship and identity with Islam as a whole –its cultures, values, and modes of thinking. Most people and friends of mine that experience this two world phenomenon are often stuck in situations where their civilizations collide and they are left at ultimatums. I personally don’t get this often as both a South Asian Muslim and an American, but I think the element of this article is just as intense if not deeper.

When talking about Islam with non-Muslims and even some Muslims, I’m at a loss with words. How am I to justify an idea or a concept efficiently when it was evolved from 1400 years of thought that the other has no familiarity with? Too, how am I to explain something when the other has biases that didn’t emerge just in their lifetime, but have been going on perpetually for centuries if not millennia? The word “jihad” or “Sharia” or “Allah Akbar” strikes terror in the eyes and ears and minds of many Westerners in ways I could never understand, and to even come to some sort of explanation that not just clears away misconceptions and preconceptions but actually expresses the idea in an internal light demands putting away one’s entire body of cultures, values, and modes of thinking just to understand.

It is not easy, and arguably impossible. When I try to articulate, I get caught up in the idea that the other will not understand I cease to even try to make an explanation comprehensible. And then when I try to make an explanation comprehensible, I fail miserably since, well, the explanation requires a book if not more. It requires ripping apart not just all the misconceptions and preconceptions, but one’s entire Western body of cultures, values, and modes of thinking.

Likewise, people get weirded out when I talk about “the West” and ideas that are unique to it – basically half of what postcolonial studies is about. Most Westerners are foreign to even thinking about the West from the outside. People find it hard enough to understand the idea of intrusion, hegemony, imperialism, and the like. When I discuss those words, I’m not talking about the distancing idea of the American empire, but about our everyday expression of ideas. It really is true, for me and for many of those who have this bicivilizational experience, that a friend’s idea can be hegemonic in its outcome and intent. To say, for example, – good heartedly and well intentioned – that “I want to liberate women” or “I demand religious freedom” in countries and cultures distant from one’s own can very well be a telling sign of imperialistic attitudes that are only understood when looked at from the outside.

Words fail me even then to say what is so hegemonic about exterior liberation or foreign pressure to internally change. That such expressions are oppressive in their nature is about as difficult to explain as the topic at hand, religion.

When I try in any fashion of any sort to explain my own religious beliefs or practices and why I choose them, it becomes nearly impossible for the other to see them in any empathetic light unless the other is also deeply and devoutly theistic. Then, the body of cultures, values, and modes of thinking are already shared and no immense justification is necessary. But for all the other times, the ways of thinking are so alien to the other it becomes almost pointless to try and explain.

Try I must, however, and occasionally try I do. While it usually ends in what I would describe as a disaster, some sort of mutual understanding of the “otherness” arises, which isn’t all that bad since it is an understanding at some degree. Still yet, however, there is often an unacknowledgement of the idea that humans are at very fundamental levels different. That acknowledgement unfortunately requires having differences at fundamental levels, which is something only a few of us share. Which leads back to the very beginning of the problem – expressing the idea of fundamental civilizational differences requires having them. Like many things, the problem is tragically circular.

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If Kerry Wants To Make Peace in the Middle East…

…He Should Just Put God In Charge…

The real problem is symbolic. Jerusalem, beyond being a real place, is a very symbolic place. It’s too symbolic for its own good, perhaps, but it is what it is. Because of this, neither side can countenance concessions in matters of principle. Even were Israeli or Palestinian leaders to consider such a thing, rabid partisans of one side or another—probably both—would crucify them for all their trouble. (I use the word advisedly.) It’s just not possible to divide a mystical whole. Things or places with the aura of eternity floating about them somehow defy the law of integers.

The two sides—and others with an interest like Hashemite Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Christians of various descriptions—can far more easily swallow a no-national-sovereignty solution. Human nature being what it is, it’s much easier to accept not having something if your rival doesn’t have it either…

“It is not the …

“It is not the cloth that oppresses women, it is the illiterate mind” – Tariq Ramadan

Tariq Ramadan

Lebanon Loses 78000 Books To Terrorism: Tripoli’s “Al Sa’eh” Library Burned

“I’m not Muslim but I’m more Muslim than the lunatics who torched that library”

And he is sure damn right. It reminds me of a quote by Muhammad Abduh:

“I went to the West and saw Islam, but no Muslims; I got back to the East and saw Muslims, but not Islam”

A Separate State of Mind | A Blog by Elie Fares

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2014 is off to a horrible start in Lebanon. The explosion that took place in Beirut yesterday, in the year’s first few days, has been paralleled by another act of terrorism in Lebanon’s northern capital, where extremist gunmen torched the city’s biggest library, Lebanon’s second, burning it to the ground.

They accused the priest running the library, a man who has been fighting to keep that place alive against contractors who worked to dismantle the building in which it resided, of publishing an article that offends Islam. I guess offenses are in the eye of the beholder. In this case, the eyes are for illiterate people who can’t read and who don’t know the value of a book.

This is the supposed article in question:

Srour article

The country is burning, let’s not worry about a library. A lot of people might say that. But the library in question was a true…

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Perspectives on the Concept of Love in Islam

http://www.al-islam.org/perspectives-concept-love-islam-mahnaz-heydarpoor

“What! Did you then think that We had created you in vain?” – – al Qur’an (23:115)

Oh, for God’s Sake! In the Pub

Shout out to Arkenaten and the blogs he writes for for always being entertaining and enjoyable…if nothing else! Write on.

Lux

Enquiries on Atheism

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Coach and Horses…Chester,England

In light of the few recent  ‘heavy’ posts I shall post something lighthearted, but still with a religious theme.

Take a breather for a few minutes. 

Oh, for God’s Sake! In the Pub

The two soot-blackened, temporary, volunteer firemen, sat at the bar, supping their beer.

“Terrible,” Alf said, shaking his head.

“Dreadful,” agreed his erstwhile companion, Bert.

“Y’know, I never realised ‘til now that building was a place of worship, Bert.”

“Well, y’wouldn’t, would you? I mean, there’s only Fazel, his family and his cousin, Ishmael. So they’re not likely to build a big one, round here, are they?”

“I always thought it was a Laundromat, them going in all dressed in their bed sheets, like,” said Alf, theological man-of-the –world.

“I thought it was a doctor’s rooms,” opined Bert.

“How d’yer reckon on that?” asked Alf.

“Well, all that moaning an’ groaning that comes from inside. Thought…

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“Let people sto…

“Let people stop boasting about their ancestors. One is only a pious believer or a miserable sinner. All men are sons of Adam, and Adam came from dust.” — The Prophet Muhammad

As narrated by Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi.

“To be ignorant…

“To be ignorant and to think you are free is a contradiction in terms.” — Tariq Ramadan

Tariq Ramadan is an Islamic Scholar.

 

Quote from 3 Quarks Daily.

Trust in God and Tawhid- Imam al-Ghazali

Hamza Yusuf is a modern Islamic Scholar.
Al Ghazali was a medieval Islamic Philosopher.

Healing Hearts

The video clip posted below is taken from one of Shaykh Hamza Yusuf’s lectures: “The Critical Importance of Al-Ghazali in Our Times”. Shaykh Hamza in this 2:25 min video clip touches upon what Imam al-Ghazali meant when he spoke about Trust in God and Tawhid. I would encourage you to listen to the clip (and the whole lecture if you can, but this clip in particular). For me, this clip pretty much sums everything up. I think once we get our heads around this thing Imam al-Ghazali wrote about and Shaykh Hamza narrates (which doesn’t happen overnight), we will be able to deal better with the situations and circumstances God places us in. It’s not an easy thing, but hey, who said this life was meant to be easy? But we strive, and strive, and persevere, and try to build our understanding which ultimately gives us the strength and…

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“Chaos can’t su…

“Chaos can’t sustain itself. It never could” — Jon Stewart

Stewart’s on the 9/11 Tragedy (Quote is from here)

More on Jon Stewart

More on the September 11th Tragedy