The values that I grew up with and learned as a child born in South Asia nearly half a century ago are quite different than the ones preached and practiced today in the West. In our zeal to be called civilized we have automatically assumed it to equate with modernity. Thus, in our political jargon when our western leaders talk about being civilized they mean how well we have adopted the modern western way of life. That means, to be civilized you should have not just an ordinary wired telephone but a wireless/cellular phone, TV, cars, computers and other amenities of the western modern life - running faucets, western habits and consumption patterns. Minus those modern amenities, you simply are not civilized. But that is not enough! You have to also mimic western way of life. On the top of that list comes women's liberation. That is, if women in your culture are not 'liberated' by discarding the traditional garb or dress, you must be 'oppressing' your females, and you are uncivilized! It is no accident that France and its president, born of a broken family and himself a playboy, Nicolas Sarkozy are now defining how the 'cultured' and 'civilized' French society ought to look like.
Sarkozy is married, if I am not mistaken his third time, to Carla Bruni, a singer who is more known for exhibiting her naked body than her voice. So, as you can guess: hijab and Muslim veil, worn by many traditional Muslim women, are unacceptable in that 'emancipated' country whose 'civilized' natives still have not learned the basic hygiene, let alone the true meaning of morality. If you care not to expose your kids to sex, you better switch off the TV after sunset. In such countries of sin and immorality, where sometimes you can't distinguish a real politician from a part-time pimp and a prostitute, and, (probably pertinently so,) run by racists and bigots, it is no wonder that immigrants with their conservative values and family-oriented culture and tradition are considered a direct threat to the very foundation of those states. It is that age-old cry and fury of the 'liberated' inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah: you must be like us in order to reside here; there is no place for the Prophet Lut (Lot) or his righteous kind!
Sarkozy is surrounded by guys like Bernard Kuchner who not too long ago is accused by hard-hitting investigative journalist Pierre Pean in "The World According to K." of a "possible conflict of interests" in working as a consultant in Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo while serving as government-appointed head of a public body supporting health services in Africa. In the Netherlands the far-right, anti-immigrant politician Geert Wilders of the PVV has won major gains in local elections, with results indicating that he may dominate the political scene in the run-up to the general election in June. After winning the election, Wilders told cheering supporters at a rally in Almere, "We are going to conquer the entire country ... We are going to be the biggest party in the country. The leftist elite still believes in multiculturalism, coddling criminals, a European super-state and high taxes." Wilders likens the Qur'an to Hitler's Mein Kampf and wants Muslim immigrants deported.
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's Christian Democrats remain the largest party in the Netherlands, but for how long? On March 18, 2010, the PVV gave up trying to form a governing coalition in Almere, where it won more seats than any other party. In a press release, the party said most of the other parties had refused to give ground to PVV demands on what it describes as "essential issues". The PVV's demands included a ban on headscarves for city council workers and in all institutions and clubs "which get even one cent of council money." The ban would not have applied to other religious items such as Christian crosses and Jewish skull caps. Is it anything but blatant discrimination and religious bigotry?
In the French-speaking Quebec province of Canada Premier Jean Charest this week proposed an anti-niqab bill. The proposed law is misguided and described by the Ottowa Citizen as a clumsy, politically-charged hammer. The newspaper says, "Of the 200,000 or so Muslims in Quebec, maybe a few dozen women wear a niqab, a veil that covers the entire face except for a slit for the eyes. To draft legislation singling out such a tiny minority suggests the law has more to do with pandering to fears about immigration -- specifically, the failure of some immigrants to integrate -- than solving any real, non-aesthetic problem posed by niqabs... The anti-niqab bill is clearly meant to be a political statement, and an ostentatious one at that, not unlike the infamous code of behaviour drafted by the Quebec town of Herouxville in 2007 that prohibited all sorts of practices, real or imagined, that are associated with immigrants. The joke was that Herouxville had virtually no immigrant population." The editor is absolutely right, but will the racist politicians in Quebec see the light, or follow their racist cousin in France? Never mind a westerner's preference for almost everything artificial and unnatural, cosmetics and perfumes to hide his/her natural imperfections and bad body odors, are the modern amenities the real measures of civilization?
Let's consider TV. It has both positive and negative sides. There is no doubt that it allows us to learn about our planet and galaxy. A peasant in Lalmonirhat in Bangladesh can now get a glimpse of life in Louisiana, USA - located on the other side of the globe without ever having to sail or fly there. But news, history, geography, health and science are not the only things shown on TV. Seldom do we realize that with TV, we have brought violence and sex into our family rooms, and not the kind of things family members can watch together in the same room! Just turn on any major channel in the USA between 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. You will see soap operas about dysfunctional families where everyone seems to be cheating - husband cheating his wife and vice-versa, let alone the unmarried guys and gals whose preoccupation seems all about sex. In places like Germany and France, it is much worse; you can hardly find a channel in the evening that is free of showing sexual stuffs. If this kind of lifestyle is what a western civilization has ended up producing who in the right mind would need this poison?
Unfortunately, a dominant culture is like a magnet that attracts others to mimic its ways. Many in the third world and developing countries are, therefore, learning those bad ways faster and unquestioning. Take a look at the beaches in South America where traditional bikinis worn by women are getting fast replaced by G-string bikinis. It is no surprise that we see many young boys in South Asia today with earrings, a practice that was not known or seen in the past. Many youngsters are now addicted to drugs -- another statement to show off their borrowed modernity and liberated soul. Many possess illegal arms. It is not difficult to find a strong correlation with a rise in sex-related crimes, violence and divorce in these societies today. Women in traditional homes are discarding natural herbs for synthetic cosmetics!
In this culture of modernity often times it is the large and small screen actors that become the role models to copy. The things that they wear become our fashion and style. We are not shocked any more to learn that most Hollywood actors live immoral lives; they are into drugs and sex. Divorce and sex scandal are rather common facets of life in the Hollywood. The hottest topic that dominated the media the last week was all about sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic Church. It is obvious from the reports unearthed thus far that Pope Benedict has a long history, dating at least back to 1979, of condoning such sexual abuses within the Church. As a micro-manager all his life, he was on the top of all such affairs and cannot now evade accountability. He allowed the transfer of molester priests that preyed on children. There are also questions about Benedict's directive as a Vatican cardinal in 2001 that bishops worldwide were to keep pedophilia investigations secret under threat of ex-communication. Regrettably, the church leaders chose to protect the church instead of the children.
As a child growing up in Bangladesh, I remember the story of a rickshaw puller who stopped by a well to help a village girl to put her water pitcher on the head. Neither the doer of the kind act nor the beneficiary had to utter a single word; he knew the kind of help the girl needed. After he was able to place the water pitcher on the head of the girl, he left for his rickshaw while the girl left for her home. No "thank you" was even needed to be uttered by the girl. It was all that natural - giving and receiving. That is what real civilization is all about: where each member of the society does continuous small acts of charity without expecting reward or recognition. It is also free of hypocrisy or pretension.
Surely, a society and civilization that prides in its modernity where immorality, sex and abuse are engrained into its very core, and fascist inclinations are interwoven with its sinful and faulty character cannot be the role model or guiding light for anyone, much less for others with strong life-giving and -sustaining ethics, values and mores.
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