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"What is the difference between a realist and a dreamer? The realist thinks that someday a UFO will come down and hover over the UN building, and that the aliens will come out of the UFO and offer to share their technology and solve all our world's problems.

The dreamer thinks maybe we can get our act together and do it ourselves."

Russian joke [It's a joke?] cited in William K. Hartmann, A Traveler's Guide to Mars.

19 November 2006

Bridging the West-Muslim Divide

Please see my current blog (at for this post. It's filed under the same name and date in the Archives.

The material here is being stolen by a cheesy marketer as filler for a linkfarm.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a western muslim, I find your analysis quite sensible. I have to comment, however, on your application of western sensibilities to other societies:

"And then there's human rights. The idea of having to live with the restrictions, uptightness, and all-around neuroticism that most Muslim societies seem to consider normal horrifies the vast majority of Westerners"

While the general idea of human rights is acceptable, the western definition of it is not. The operative part of the above is "seem to consider normal". Leaving aside the matter of actual implementation, the Organization of Islamic Conference, kind of a UN for Islamic countries, actually attempted to define their own version of Human rights declaration: CDHRI .

Now, I believe that some of the gap between western and muslim concepts and sensibilities is emerging from theoretical differences and some from practicalities. In other words, some actions by Muslims that are condemned by Westerns are in accordance with their basic beliefs, and some is due to the lack of education and the corruption typical in developing countries. Treating the two types as equal by Westerns create more problems than differentiating them, as changing the second type of behaviour will be easier than the first. Westerns should not expect their version of sensibilities to be the only one there.

Of course, I have talked mainly about what is required from westerns. You have mentioned some of the things required from muslims, but may be you or another comment will expand on what is expected from them.

11/27/2006 2:01 PM  
Blogger quixote said...

You raise a good point that there is a difference between an actual cultural variation in attitude and human rights violations due to ignorance or corruption. Also true is that only people from a given culture know where that line is. You're absolutely right thast simply imposing western customs is no better than the reverse situation. I didn't mean to imply otherwise.

But I'm not certain that you're taking the principle of self-determination far enough. The right to self-determination doesn't stop with the group, whether that's Muslims, Christians, or lefthanded plumbers. The right to self-determination stops with the individual, and that is where some of the reasoning against "western" concepts of human rights seems to me to fall down. To put it differently, it is not up to any society or religion to tell anyone what music to listen to or with whom people may or may not have sex. These are private matters. Human rights requires that they be left up to the individual, whether that individual is in the West or anywhere.

What I'm trying to say is that you're right, so long as arguing against "western" concepts of human rights isn't a back door to continuing to deprive some people within the society of their own right to self-determination.

12/06/2006 12:08 PM  
Blogger quixote said...

(PS: I assume it goes without saying, but maybe not, so I'll say it. When I'm talking about people having sex, I'm talking about consenting adults. I probably don't need to explain that to anyone who reads this blog!)

12/06/2006 12:11 PM  
Blogger quixote said...

I should probably add one more clarification. Obviously, religions can make whatever demands they like, within the law. What I mean is that it has to be entirely and completely voluntary whether anyone follows those edicts. Legal pressure is unacceptable, but so is economic or social pressure. I mean that it has to be voluntary.

12/06/2006 5:22 PM  

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