I’m not quite sure how to put this. I’m generally quite dispassionate, I’m not interested in my own feelings, never mind anyone else’s. I’m unmoved by insults and motivated by a deep and apparently inexhaustible curiosity and I have a fascination with other cultures. Partly I blame Star Trek for this because in Star Trek it’s made obvious that different cultures really are different and there’s this utopian, humanistic, thing about understanding the differences between cultures and also understanding cultures on their own terms.

So having said all this I’ll point to a fact and ask a question. We live in a multicultural society, can anyone tell me about the differences between Western and Islamic culture? Can anyone tell me how their worldviews differ? Like a culture has a psychology of it’s own so there must be psychological differences between Westerners and Muslims, right? Just like Humans and Vulcans or Vulcans and Klingons have different psychologies produced by their cultures.

So what are the differences? Nobody knows, do they? In fact I suspect that a lot of people reading this are getting a bit uncomfortable at the idea that Westerners and Muslims might not be psychologically identical: the curious thing about our multicultural society is how homogenous it’s supposed to be and, essentially, how not all that multicultural it is supposedly. It’s also interesting how uncomfortable people get when you point out what is implied by the word “multiculturalism”, that there are multiple cultures, that there are differences, that we are not the same.

Then I read this by a Danish psychologist called Nicolai Sennels and I found it fascinating, but unsurprising. It’s nice to finally find someone who can give a technical description of Islamic culture. Even if it is entirely wrong and mistaken, at least someone is trying. Really this is something anthropologists should have had nailed decades ago because at the moment we look at Islamic culture through an extremely Eurocentric lens which leads us to do bizarre things like deny what Islamists say is true and give our own Eurocentric reasons for Islamic extremism.


One thought on “Culture.

  1. Thanks for posting this, I enjoyed reading Sennels’ entry. Honestly I’ve never heard of ‘holy anger’, that made me chuckle! I think people ought to dissect “Islamic culture” and understand that at its conception, Islam is just a religion. People infuse culture into it and boom, apocalypse! Cultural practices “destroy” Islam and its image, not only a Eurocentric perspective but from the eyes of its followers.

    I feel that the media is biased when they refer to “Islamic culture” because let’s face it, generally, the “hardcore” Muslims are from the Middle Eastern, west and south Asian countries. People from that part of the world are vicious, and historically, Islam was brought down to calm them down (from what I understand). It is unfair to put a blanket over the entire Islam nation because the Muslims in Southeast Asia aren’t like that at all and I believe it has to do with our ethnicity, traditions, and culture, way before Islam spreads.

    A lot of Muslims are nothing like those “hardcore” Muslims. They tarnish the image of the religion and its followers and I hate them for that. I have encountered different types of Muslims when I travel, and instead of asking “where are you from?”, I’d ask “what’s your ethnicity?” This is important because the place where you grew up in shapes your ideology (if integration occurs) but ethnicity is rooted within you, it’s a nature VS nurture. When I was in Turkey, I met a Turkish who grew up in the US and she differs from the Turks there. She was really cool, and fun, and just…different. Another case in point – I have never been to Pakistan but in India, I stayed with a Pakistani family in Old Jaipur. The Pakis call that village home since 300 years ago; the ambience is different from the rest of Jaipur, or India. I see no/llittle integration (they speak their own dialect, houses were different, etc) Women in that village are covered up, revealing only their eyes. When I went out one evening (with a shawl covering my hair), EVERY single man looked at me, virtually raping and eating me! I had the opportunity to spend some time with practising Pakistanis (prays 5 times a day) and a liberal ones (party, drinks, etc) and guess what, they’re all assholes. See? This again, confirms my theory – it’s the culture of the ethnic group, not religion.

    Sennel highlighted some statistics of a great percentage of Muslims don’t feel belonged to the country – this I believe are migrants from the “hardcore” part of the world. There are places in the world where religion doesn’t overrule national identity, like Singapore for example. I remember having conversations with a Pakistani traveller in Singapore. He kept asking why aren’t religion used to govern Singapore. I was wasting my time and energy; he just didn’t get it. He also doesn’t understand that there are different ethnic groups, “Who are SIngaporeans? Why are there Chinese, Malays and Indians?” Duuude. I understand though, he comes from a country where everyone is Pakistani and Muslim, he probably doesn’t travel and read much, therefore his limited worldview.

    I’m rambling on and on, it’s 4am and I don’t know if I’m making any sense. My point is, I think people should study the culture of ethnic groups in religions (e.g. Pakistani Muslims culture), instead of studying a religion’s culture because there’s no such thing. A Muslim in Saudi is different from a Muslim in States, Singapore or Somali. I applaud Sennels for giving birth to his theories but he might want to do something about his premature baby.

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