Sunday, April 30, 2006

Tolerance.. A double entendre?
(picture: Jananne El-Ani)
Are we living a universal Nazi regime all over again?
Nazism is pathological aberration of German romance. The romantics opposed to the idea of the universal man and they favored not the abstract human being but the tradition and the race. As a result to that, man has become labeled by his culture and his origin and background became like a second skin that could be a prison. The map of the world became a mosaic that kept people separated as opposed to the melting pot that it should be and human interactions through out the world now consist of North-South leaving out the East-West.

Multiculturalism is about the inter-cultural relationships. It is about learning from each other and it becomes a challenge when there is no understanding of what the culture is. It is similar to the fanatic modesty of the French population that leaves immigrants clueless as to what constitutes being French. Nowadays the Western intellectuals are posing an atheist monoculture which could be the reason behind the persecution of Muslims in Europe. In the United States, Islam is not considered a threat to multiculturalism and that could be a reason why Muslims are left to their practices in the US more than Europe. Berlin is considered the 3rd largest Turkish city for example since 25% of the population is Muslim. The population of Muslims is France is larger than the population of Libya.

It seems that the solution posed today to the Islamic presence in Europe is to encourage secularism, or modern Islam. Nilufer Gole in her book "Interpretations: Islam and Europe" explains the effect of the transition between old and new Europe on the integration of Islam in European countries. The debate about Muslim immigration, Islamic headwear in public schools, the terrorist attacks in European cities, and Turkey’s membership in the European Union all indicated the ways in which Islam was entering the public sphere of Europe. The term secular Islam is just a term to describe non-practicing Muslims by birth who have adopted the ‘western way’. I find it hypocritical to expect those Muslim immigrants to leave their culture behind in order to integrate in the European culture. I also think this contradicts with the term multiculturalism and defeats the nature of the argument.

I attended one of the lectures at the New York Public Library as part of the PEN organized New York Festival of International Literature presiding Salman Rushdie (whom I had the chance to meet). The discussion entitled “The limits of tolerance: Multiculturalism now”. During which and on the subject of Islamic culture in Germany, Necla Kelek said “Turkish men made a journey 40 years ago to Germany and despite the years, the Turkish Muslims are not integrated in the German culture. They kept their Islamic traditional beliefs. They live in a world where they are supported by a bigger Islam. The way women wear the veil reflects the level of fundamentalism and the black chador for example is a sign of organized religion. The women only exist in the shadow of their husbands and that is the basis of the religion”.

I disagree almost entirely with the previously stated view on Islam in general and Islamic women in particular. The scarf that Muslim women wear, which is not mandatory in Islam, is in no way an indication of weakness or being subjected to the man.

I came across a very nice view on the Islamic veil in a piece done by Jananne El-Ani, who is a Palestinian artist whose work is currently shown at the museum of modern arts as part of the "without boundary: seventeen ways of looking" exhibition of Islamic arts (a term invented in Europe in the 19th century, to describe the art of a vast region stretching from Indonesia to Morocco). In her photograph, she depicted 5 women in various stages of veiling giving the room to the viewer to interrupt the process and disrupt a very private journey. The faces are very confrontational despite the normal cliché of the veil subjecting the women. The cover could be very powerful. Her portrayal of women contradicts expectations rejecting conformity to any dress code.

I do not understand why the head scarf is even an issue. Maybe the declaration of one’s religion makes people more uncomfortable. I have said it before and I will say it again. The head scarf is not obligatory in the Islamic religion. Islam does not give an inferior position to women but men give an inferior position to women given the chance in any religion. This is strongly manifested in some Islamic countries nowadays for the fact that these are impoverished countries due to wars which leads to ignorance and misinterpretation and misuse of religion in the name of power.

The European countries that Muslims migrate to should practice what they preach and be, themselves, tolerant to the manifestation of the Islamic religion and open to other cultures. Westernizing Islam through the creation of the secular European hidden and shy Islam is not the answer.

I have to say that I personally hate the veil. I do not hate what it represents though and I can not judge people who wear it or try to impose my sense of culture or fashion on others. Freedom includes the freedom of speech, writing, thinking, wearing what you want and practicing your religion in any shape or form it entails.

32 comments:

laila said...

I think the best way to survive in a foreign country is to balance your culture with some aspects of the "western way of living". I mean as long as your religion and beliefs are not inteferring with the original intention of immigrating then tolerance is in the picture. its a fine line between practicing your beliefs and between forcing others to accept them, whether it was the europeans or the immigrants. it's a very delicate situation.
but i have to point out something related to what Kelek said, I just met a Turkish person born and raised in germany, and to the contrary, him and his whole family including his parents are non-religious and very westernized, but they still hold on to their culture and traditions.

Ghassan said...

I will not comment on your post but just want to point out that there are people running around with green Mohawks. so it's not about conformity, it's about the veil.
On the other hand, in Saudi Arabia women are forced to wear the veil, now I know that this country doesn't represent Islam in any way shape or form, but still, you should always see both sides of the coin. How much are islamic societies tolerant to 'difference'? well they are not. at least here they don't have someone beating you with a stick in public places if you are veiled...
anyway, I say people should wear whatever they feel like... and honestly, we should address the designers for this purpose.. once cavalli makes a whole line of 'veiled' designs then it will be all the rage and people will buy into it...

Mirvat said...

kelek was painting a negative image of muslims who still are very much into their own culture and she mostly used women as an example showing the veil as a representation of the retardation of Islam.
we've seen it in France happen when these women were not only judged but forced to take the scarf off in schools by the government. the response posed in the lecture and in a lot of point of views is to have a secular islam in order to have these muslims integrate.
the problem is the muslim immigrants are not the ones not integrating but the western culture. can't a woman be very westernized and still wear the veil for example? what do appearances have to do with it? isn't being weternized about believing in freedom and civility which implies the freedom to practice your religion.
they see the veil as a label of terrorism since women started suicide bombing themselves and i think this is what defines tolerance... they are not being tolerant to the sight of Islam. kelek asking the turkish muslims to integrate and leave the aspect of their culture behind is not tolerant.

Mirvat said...

yes Islamic counties are not open to different cultures at all. no 2 ways about it but they don't claim they do and they don't claim they're the countries of freedom and democracy. and it is about the veil specifically that's true. like i said before if it was just an open manifestation of religion that is opposed, which i could understand, what about the hasidic jews and the nuns?

Samer said...

Mirvat, you have to take into consideration politics when it comes to how the West views us. They are being shown every single day the ugly face of us. It is like showing the people in the Middle East Timmothy Mcvay and what he did as a pure American thing. Which is untrue.

Hasidic Jews and Nuns are not presented as an example of oppressed people, but rather as a freedom of choice.

Mirvat said...

i understand the image that is been portrayed in the post-9/11 era but the discrimination started in europe on a social level since the second world war. you're right though, it's always political..

FZ said...

mirvat- i agree with you. we need a more progressive society in Europe (and in America) tolerant of the spectrum of individuality. kelek's views sounded sad and disappointing... reactive toward the frustrations of culture rather than visionary. but the photograph from the without boundaries exhibit is wonderful-- can't wait to get to that!

Paul said...

Very nice piece. I agree with Laila when it comes to the balance between keeping your culture and beliefs and not expecting huge sacrifices from the host country. After all, immigrants should know where they are going.
I guess part of the problem is the growing Muslim population in European countries is a new demographic parameter that governments didn’t find the answer to.
And it is not just demographic, nowadays, it is also political. Northern European countries were the most friendly to Muslims, and after the cartoon incident, that kind of changed.
Playing the devil’s advocate, but isn’t true that Muslims in France or Germany identify more with Muslims anywhere in the world instead of people in the countries they live in? Accordingly, wouldn't the world be a better place if religion becomes something simply personal, something between you and god, no matter who your god is?

hashem said...

Mirvat,
Some people force women to wear the veil, based on religious reasons.
Others, force them to take it off, based on social reasons.
The problem is that both sides want to dictate on the women what to do, in such a basic thing as to what to wear!

DA said...

Kierkegaard said "People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use."

I do believe that our social wellfare system in The Netherlands has gone bazurk but that counts for everyone taking advantage of it. THIS is what should be adressed, not women wearing burqa's. We have to realize though that this reaction is one of the extreme kind of reactions. I believe our Dutch melting pot is doing well. Every growth comes with pain. I see so many immigrants integrating quite well and I see Dutch people adapt their narrow minded principles. Mind you that many quotes and one-liners that get press attention are politically colored and serve another goal then promoting social behaviour.Ultra left and -right will allways shout and yell.

We're not there yet but we'll get there, I'm sure of that!

jij said...

It is true that discrimination against people from Muslim countries (but also people from Africa, parts of Asia, South America, etc) originated from Europe, but that’s not due to any specific European cultural trait in my opinion. It is a direct artifact of colonialism. It’s not the color, it’s not the religion. It’s imperialism. We were occupied and exploited by European governments for centuries. Racism against us was thus useful in a sense: It is morally and practically easier to exploit people who are inferior to you. It is easier to force a way of life on people whose own way of life you look down upon. This applies also to how Africans Americans were treated during slavery in the United States, or how Native Americans were looked upon.
There is obviously discrimination against people of the third world countries in the United States, but it operates differently, because the nature of imperialism has changed to fit the times. I don’t agree that Muslims or Arabs are not segregated here because multiculturalism is encouraged. Different groups of people living in separate ghettos do not constitute multiculturalism.
Racism against the old colonies is still alive and well. It originated centuries ago, but it is so established in the mainstream that it comes casually, with no reflection. Example: Compare and contrast CNN’s coverage of the daily bombings targeting civilians in Iraq, to the suicide attack in the London subway. The difference is outrageous, obscene I would say. The London bombings were a “human tragedy”, “a British 9-11”, “touching thousands of families”… Interviews with survivors, with families of victims, etc… The same incident in Iraq (probably killing more people) is covered in a drastically different way. There is no sense of devastating loss of human life; it’s cold, detached, and impersonal. It’s business as usual. People in Iraq, In Iran, in Lebanon die everyday. That’s what they do. That’s the way it’s always been. The image becomes detached of history in the mind of the Westerner. However, people of London or Madrid are easily identifiable. They have the same lifestyle; they come from the same world. It’s very simple: all people are not equal.
Of course, a lot of westerners are aware of this and oppose this way of thinking. But the fact remains.

Mirvat said...

yes fez, her views sounded like coming out as a reflection of the german's frustration with the turkish muslim community and instead of having a general view on islam, she reflected a very narrow-minded image on the cultural aspect of the religion in a subset of the population.
i thought you saw the exhibition? anyway, it was good. i really liked some of the pieces.

Mirvat said...

hashem, i don't think the european issue with muslim women exhibiting this aspect of their religion has anything to do with the status of women in society. it's just one aspect of close-mindedness and i'm sure the same goes for men who grow facial hair in a way that would look like fundamentalists.

the problem simply has to do with freedom of choice like you said. either that might be the individual choice or the choice of a nation and a culture even when these people live within the culture of the new country they migrate to.

Mirvat said...

paul,thanks
i am personally an advocate of not living by your religion and of religion being simply and strictly a relationship between you and God but this is very idealistic. we can't deny that one's religion becomes a basis of culture in one's life. i agree that muslims in arabic countries identify with muslims around the world more than the country they migrate to but don't jews do that to in all the countries they're in. don't lebanese christians identify with christians around the world more than their arabic identity. i'm just saying it's normal and it happens everywhere even if it's not right.
the moroccons and the algerians and the lebanese in france for example, these people migrated to the country that occupied these countries once upon a time, doesn't this count at all. and now that they're in the 'host country' why should they leave behind aspects of their identity when other manifestations of religion in other groups (like the jews around the world) is never messed with?

Mirvat said...

Da i'm hoping we'll get there. as silly as the burqa topic, like i said before, it is whereever i go and i think it's just a symbol used against Islam nowadays in order to show the world that our women are inferior and that we're retarded and uncivilized.

Mirvat said...

jij, totally agree.
one thing though, the modern day segregation, at least when it comes to Islam, is torn between 2 parties. the monoculture of intellectual atheist elite which is mostly in europe and the democratic representation in the US looks down on us and they want a secular islam that would not be as 'abrasive' and the religious catholics that drive the politics of the world almost today, represented in bush's administration, that is just against the religion and the cultural aspects of Islam

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