I was responding to this headline in the Sun: “Muslim girls struggle with 'competing' cultures”.
[original post begins now]
You see those scare quotes around “competing”? That’s to imply that kids who grow up with Muslim fathers who might kill them if they “dishonour” their family by refusing to wear the hijab – as has just happened in Toronto to 16-year old Aqsa Parvez, a cold fact the headline shamelessly dances around - kids who want to dress and look like normal kids at their public schools, are not caught in a totally real clash of competing cultures.
But of course they are caught in a cultural competition, a competition that necessarily implies value, and judgment of what is of lesser value. We, as a postmodern liberal society, live in fear of the reality that conflict and value judgment is inherent to the human condition. And so we put simple references to reality in quotation marks.
You see, it is a matter of unquestionable religious faith, for the liberal-Gnostic Canadians who rule opinion in this country, that in this country there is no fundamental clash of cultures, just a lack of good people willing to live by the singular dictates of “multiculturalism,” i.e. the insistence that all people can get along in Canada just as long as they respect each others’ differences and let the multiculti authorities settle all differences from on high. How such pieties apply to Muslim fathers who think they must brutalize daughters who shame the family among pious friends, and to daughters who want to look normal by Canadian standards, no one really explains, and the article to which this headline refers is full of the usual posturing from liberal elites about how hard it is for girls caught between two cultures:
Many Muslim girls in Canada lead something of a double life when it comes to reconciling religious traditions while living in a secular, Western society, says a researcher at Wilfrid Laurier University.The fundamental questions behind such sentiments are never raised: e.g. just how, exactly, is killing your daughter for bringing shame on the family a “religious” tradition? It’s only “religious” in the sense of conformity to an all-encompassing ritual code – a “total way of life” - that is centuries apart from the Western idea of religion rooted in the separation of church and state, of private religion and “secular” culture.
"At home they're the good Muslim kid, they pray and they fast and go to mosque," said Jasmin Zine, a professor of sociology at the Waterloo, Ont., school. "When they go to school they become a different person. They create a persona to fit with the competing cultural demands of home and school."
The Sun’s article also provides us the opinions of
“Ausma Khan, a human rights lawyer and the editor-in-chief of Muslim Girl Magazine.” “The decision whether to don the hijab is not always difficult for Muslim girls... But, she acknowledges, the hijab has become a flashpoint.I first became familiar with Muslim Girl magazine a couple of months ago when I saw a fellow bus rider, a Muslim educator at Simon Fraser University - with whom I had previously discussed matters covenantal and “religious” when he first saw me on the bus with Israeli and Canadian flags on my Covenant Zone blog hat - showing an edition of the glossy mag with pride (it looks like the Muslim educators want to provide girls with an alternative to the ilk of Cosmo) to what looked like two SFU women students. One was wearing a hijab and the other, of European ancestry, who clearly knew the educator and respectfully deferred to him, may have been a convert to Islam or to the leftist-Islamic (global intifada) alliance.
"It can so easily be taken for a signal of difference and otherness and alienation, but it doesn't have to be read like that," she said. Khan, 38, is now based in Los Angeles, but grew up in Canada. "There is definitely an American-Islam or a Canadian-Islam that has imbibed the reality of growing up in a pluralistic society that accommodates difference, that respects difference," she said.
"I think we see that. We see this in the practice of this generation of young women. They are accommodating. Just as they want to put their own view point forward, have their religious freedom and be protected, they are equally willing to recognize and respect the rights of others."
Previously, this man had been keen to point out to me the apparent hypocrisy that Westerners think they can separate church and state, when in fact they can’t, or so he alleged – and therefore how can anyone expect the same of Islam? – a question provoked by my comments on Western nationhood being founded in covenants that were once religious, but are now largely secular or constitutional. Canada, and our constitutionally-based freedom, I pointed out, owes a historical debt to the first nation and first covenanters, Israel; and it is to remember this that I have the flags on my hat. I don’t think he appreciated the historical subtlety of my point – he didn’t even know the word “covenant” - that just because everything cultural can be given a genealogy that links it back to some ancestry in religion, it is therefore not hypocrisy to say we have progressed to the point where we choose to differentiate church and state, as Jesus did.
Since Canadians’ sense of nationhood is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, therefore we can’t really separate the religious and secular, he seemed to want to argue as I was getting off the bus.
I bring this up because the particular cover of Muslim Girl Magazine that I saw on the bus featured two young and attractive girls, one in hijab, one without, as if to say either is ok, or there’s a debate going on. But that’s the point the Vancouver Sun headliner will (or so it first appeared to me) only recognize in scare quotes. All culture is about conflict, since all signs of culture come into existence to defer humanity’s foundational potential for destructive, intra-specific violence. At least that is the hypothesis, very convincing to me, of Generative Anthropology. So, for example, a hijab was originally "designed" to defer men's violence over women’s sexuality, just as the latest in sexually-charged Western fashion is also a way of deferring conflict over sexuality by making it and its signs mundane. We can’t avoid the realization that there is a conflict, if yet largely non-violent, in our society about which approach (including others) to deferral is better, more valuable, than the other.
This argument from anthropology has all sorts of consequences for how we choose to face, or not, the global intifada that is out to destroy the basis for free constitutional democracies and the global economy that presently feeds over six billion people. Because... there is one sense in which there is not a “clash of civilizations” ongoing, and that is the sense that there is now only one global civilization, one world economy, from which no one and no society can be walled off, and in relation to which all the angry losers and marginal “cultures” in the global intifada are expressing a confict *internal* to the single civilization, and not one between truly independent civilizations.
Because of this, there is no way we can just leave Muslims to their own devices if we have any respect for their lives. There is already a far greater population in the Islamic world than could be fed by Islamic withdrawal from the global economy into some Sharia-bound backwardness. Either we welcome the prospect of a mass die-off (and all the guilt and conflict it would create in the West), or we admit that we are bound to Muslims for the foreseeable future, in which case it would be best if our conflicts were faced and not hidden in scare quotes.
Even those of my friends who clearly see the conflict out there, but who characterize it by claiming that Islam cannot be changed and cannot be negotiated with, are suggesting that we have no choice but to conquer and defeat Islam by force of arms, isolate and starve Islam, or give in to the Jihad. But precisely because they take this line, they have very little to offer by a way of a vision for what might transcend the coming final conflict between us and them. Once we defeat the Muslims in battle, then what?
I wish that they could see that there is value in already anticipating that question in today’s world, and that we need give up nothing by facing it now, if we are confident about the value of Western civilization. By highlighting the question now, maybe we can defer some of the violence they anticipate as inevitable. What if there is another way to conquer “Islam” by forcing it to acknowledge its dependence on the global economy and the covenants guaranteeing the individual freedoms by which this economy operates? In other words, what if we make it our explicit policy that we will only be at war with that part of “Islam” that refuses to play by the rules of the global economy - for example that part which thinks it can come to Canada and still brutalize its women. Only then can we learn what “Muslims” really believe, when they must choose between freedom and death, when the fantasy of a global caliphate, or of a world of second-class women, is truly revealed as an impossibility, if six or ten billion are to be fed?
But then, my friends say, you will not be dealing with Islam” as my friends insist Islam must be, i.e. supremacist and totalitarian, following Koran and Sharia to the letter. That would be fine with me. What if we face up to the reality that a global economy entails, and force Muslims in Canada to do the same? Then we might admit that the editor of Muslim Girl is not simply lying or being un-Islamic when she sees the young Muslim woman as the possible vanguard for a reformation: “Just as they want to put their own view point forward, have their religious freedom and be protected, they are equally willing to recognize and respect the rights of others." If this is true, then “Islam” cannot survive, but maybe something else Islamic can. It’s not for us to decide.
UPDATE: What is a lie is this:
A spokesman for the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) said he is dubious of opinions that the girl's death resulted from a clash of cultures.Does anyone really think domestic violence just happens? Surely it is always a sign of some underlying conflict. Sure, the nature of that conflict will be different from case to case. But in this case, it seems from all the evidence so far that the underlying conflict in this murder was between Islamic and Western values.
"Teen rebellion is something that exists in all households in Canada and is not unique to any culture or background," CAIR-CAN's Sameer Zuberi said in an interview. "Domestic violence is also not unique to Muslims."
The death of Aqsa "was the result of domestic violence, a problem that cuts across Canadian society and is blind to color or creed," echoed Shahina Siddiqui, president of the Islamic Social Services Association.