"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Monday, January 21, 2013

Changing the Culture

I was reading a book the other day about women in Afghanistan.  So much of what happened, many Muslims would argue is not true Islam. Among other things, these women were denied inheritance, made to marry men they didn't meet until their wedding ceremonies, traded for gambling debts or because their fathers wanted second wives, beaten and so forth.  Often I read blogs about things happening in Saudi Arabia with the disclaimer that those are tribal practices, not Islam.  Female circumcision, again, cultural. Even Christians do such things, I've heard.

I understand in pre-Islamic Arabia that little girls were often killed, and Islam put a stop to that.  Additionally men and women were able to practice polygamy, and Islam did away with women marrying multiple men while limiting Muslim men (except Muhammad) to only four at a time.  So some good stuff, some bad (if you were a woman wanting more than one husband anyway.)

I was wondering how good is it for religion to influence and change native cultures.  Where is the balance? Do we seek to bring "correct" scriptural teachings to these people so their cultures will value girls, honor women and just be nicer? Or do we live and let live, and allow people to do what is traditionally best for them and stop caring what they do to each other as long as it doesn't hurt us?



Amber said...

I had to think about this one for a little bit, to try and word my answer the way I want it to come out! :)

I think that coming in from the outside and saying, 'Your culture is wrong. You've been doing this all wrong for thousands of years and isn't it a good thing that we're here now to tell you how to be better people and not be so wrong.' is the wrong way to go about things, no matter how good your intentions or how you go about doing it. Meaning, whether you come in from a strictly secular point of view or if you come in from a religious point of view.

The changes that Islam brought (or tried to bring since so many cultural artifacts remain) came from inside the culture. Mohammed was an Arab trying to change the culture around him, as were his original followers. The same thing with Christianity. Jesus was a Jew, agitating for change in a Jewish culture.

Ultimately, I think that any changes that are attempted by outside force will not last and be damaging to the culture that we are trying to 'help'. So, in my opinion, what we need to do is support and encourage people from within the culture who want to make changes in ways that these people tell us that they need support.

Susanne said...

I enjoyed your answer, Amber! Thank you!

So in the case of the Afghanis who claim to be Muslims, but do not practice marriage in an Islamic way, we just let them know their rights in Islam, and allow Afghani men and women lead the way for change. Makes sense!

Wafa said...

no, not everything is Islamic or not Islamic.
I watched a video yesterday that made me think "are people the problem or is it the religion they follow?". Women are treated badly in this part of the world, but honestly everyone treated them badly, the Muslim, the christian, the religious and the non religious equally.
so I guess it's part of the tradition, maybe? because Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran are Muslims with different tradition, so again is it religion? could be.

I used to believe that Islam treat women greatly, but not anymore. and I do believe that all religions are bad for women, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism. etc.

So it's maybe more of treating the weaker badly and in that cases women and children are always the weaker, but the different between the west and east and the middle east is the existing of somehow a better law!!

I don't know if I answer any question or not :)

Malik said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this very interesting subject; culture and religion. I think your question is difficult to answer. Some cultures are very strong and unfortunately they take over religion teachings.
Unfortunately, the Othman empire did the most damage to the Muslim world by spreading illiteracy and ignorance. The bad habits you mentioned are done by uneducated Muslims. I think the worst place for Muslim women is Afghanistan because this place has the least educated people.
But as Wafa mentioned when it comes to how women are treated I don't think the West is an idealist. For example, women in Muslim women in Turkey and Tunis were treated very badly. They were forced to quit their higher education and work because they chose to wear decent clothes. In Tunisia, women were asked by police officers to show their arms to see where the tan line is. Yet, we have never heard people in the west defending these women who chose to wear hijab. Why?
In the case of Turkey and Tunisia the unjust law was stronger than religion and culture.
Anyway, to answer your question of how to replace bad cultural habits with religion teaching is by GOOD education.

Susanne said...

Wafa, thank you for your thoughts. It's sad that religions treat women badly. Or it seems that way. :-/

Malik, so you think if the West had been good it would have protested when Turkish and Tunisian women were not allowed to wear the hijab? Thanks for your comment as always.

Anonymous said...

I think sometimes the west has double standard, they only complain about treating women badly when it is done by Muslims. There are many stories of treating Muslim women badly in some secular countries but we don't hear anyone say anything to stop the unjust there. Muslim women in Malta and former Yugoslavia were not allowed to wear hijab. Something that was against these women's will.

Susanne said...

Thanks for your examples. I see what you mean. I think most of us have double standards, unfortunately.