This Blog Post is Against Our Culture (and is sponsored by Jews)

The demonic child of Mr. Nail and Madame Chalkboard is a term used repeatedly in Pakistan to justify any kind of censorship and moral policing, however ludicrous.

The term, “against our culture” is a curious little brain-bugger. What precisely is “our” culture, and who among us has the privilege to define it? Is it at all possible that your culture may be different from mine, and that it’s unfair to use your government as a platform to promote one kind of culture as opposed to the others?

I’ve frequently been mocked as “excessively Westernized”, which is now a badge I wear with some pride. It’s not that I believe the Western cultures are without their faults, but I do concede that they’re better.

Pakistanis, and I fear this is true for most third world countries, are unable to differentiate between foreign cultures and socially-advanced cultures. The Western nations are often scowled at for their acceptance of gay rights, gender equality and many other concepts that we find outlandish. And an attempt to import these concepts into countries like Pakistan, generates an abundance of angry, full-caps tweets from around the world, hash-tagged with ‘racism’.

The thing is that there’s nothing “Western” about these ideas. These nations share a horrific history of  treating gay people as inglorious HIV-dispensers, and women as decorative commodities. These nations have suffered through a plague of socially-acceptable slut-shaming (not that the disease has been entirely eradicated yet). Traditional America has been a nightmare for transgender people, so has old Europe.

What I’m saying is that what the culture of today’s Pakistan is not too dissimilar to the culture of America in the 70’s. The difference is that they evolved past the hate, the exclusionism, racism, and while they still need to evolve much further, they deserve credit for what they’ve achieved.

Meanwhile, we haven’t evolved enough. Watching the bikini-wearing, gay-accepting, alcohol-chugging and even marijuana-smoking culture of the West is, for Pakistanis, like gazing into a crystal ball at our social future 30, 50 or 100 years from now on. That is, if we survive long enough to allow the transition, and not start devolving into a complete mullah state.

Most of what we see is not a foreign culture, but a ‘developed’ culture.

..which is a message for the people of the West too. I am hopelessly in love with Pakistan’s famous truck art; the Islamic architecture; Pakistani heritage sites; our musical tablas and sitars; countless colorful, wondrous things about various kinds of lifestyles that people live in Pakistan. Just as I admire mardi gras parades, American folk music, hamburgers, European films…

But never, for a minute, tolerate injustice, homophobia, or gender inequality in the name of multiculturalism. You too must be able to draw the distinction between a foreign culture and an outdated culture. Resist the shariah court, or any other kind of religious court that delivers verdicts based on archaic laws that are an insult to human dignity.

  1. Indeed.

    I recall a time, on twitter, where I was called ‘Islamophobic’ and ‘hateful’ for clarifying, with a Muslim woman, her views on woman’s rights (or, as I like to call them, ‘human rights’). Just as she was agreeing with what I thought she meant, this other man was simultaneously labelling me ‘prejudiced’ for repeating what she had said – or, in other words, he accidentally called a Muslim woman ‘Islamophobic’ for speaking openly about her self-assured supposedly Islam-influenced opinions.

    After that, he blocked me. It was quite funny.

    Anyway, my point’s that – while true prejudiced ‘Islamophobia’ is wrong – ‘Western’ progressive moral and intellectual criticism of any culture or religion is nothing but right (as I’m sure you agree), for the sake of people. It’s all about people, and their suffering. Cultural and moral relativism only adds to it – while honest, open criticism is the way forward.

    Great to hear it come from Pakistan, then. A thousand apologies if that sounds patronising, as, like you, I also hate the assertion that humanism – a thought process – has any racial or cultural boundaries or allegiances. It’s absurd. And for some so-called ‘progressive westerners’ to avoid criticising the genuine backwardness of other countries or religions for fear of being labelled ‘racist’ is tantamount to patronising and insulting the victims of the backwardness themselves – after all, ‘they don’t know any better’…

  2. I think you show that a culture is not one. Here in the UK there are vocal opponents of gay marriage, but that Bill will pass. There will still be opponents, and churches which do not celebrate marriages equally. In the 19th century when The Culture was strait-laced, repressed, confused about sexuality but conforming to a rigid hetero stereotype, there were Molly clubs and cross-dressers.

    Has there ever been a strain of Islam which is tolerant of gay people? So, could the tolerance come from those teachers- suspect, but still from .Islamic Culture rather than the faithless West?

    • Aiwass
    • April 24th, 2013

    Define ‘human dignity’ for me, please?

    • It’s an umbrella term for preservation of gender equality, civil liberties, freedom of belief and expression, the Geneva convention.

      You know something violates human dignity if you see it. Whether you tolerate it for religious, cultural or traditional reasons is another matter.

        • Aiwass
        • April 28th, 2013

        Your use of the word ‘tolerate’ has to be looked at. We don’t always ‘tolerate’ violations of what you call ‘human dignity’. Sometimes we celebrate them because of religious, cultural, traditional or other reasons. That’s because different people have different value systems. Asserting your values as superior to another’s is bigotry, unless you both agree on some fundamental rules beforehand that act as the context for decision making. Simply stating that tolerance is better than intolerance is nonsensical.

      • I’m not asserting my values as superior to others. I’m just asking for myself to be spared of YOUR traditions/values/cultures etc.

        Let a homosexual person have gay, pre-marital sex according to his values. Let a Muslim man have heterosexual, married sex according to his beliefs. Neither needs to dictate the other on his personal lifestyle, as long as it doesn’t affect other people.

    • Aiwass
    • April 30th, 2013

    If your lifestyle doesn’t affect other people, they will not bother with you in the first place. Think about it, when stick wielding mullahs descend on a brothel, is it because it affects their personal lives in any direct way? No. Then why do they do it? Out of a sense of moral/religious duty.

    In other words, if something is unacceptable to people, it is so because of a reason. Whether or not it’s a valid reason, or what you think of it, is another matter.

  1. April 18th, 2013
    Trackback from : Us and Them | Clare Flourish

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