We all find certain things embarrassing, ‘Chuggers’, Mormons, Scientologists, Hasidic Jews, “happy-clappy” Christians, and Morris men. But no one wants them to stop enjoying their lives. In the 21st century, we want everyone to enjoy their lives in peace. But we might shuffle away as they approach.
Islam, of course, goes back to the 7th century. Its values reflect a period in history when brutality and indifference to pain characterised much of the world. The difficulty of making money and creating capital in Arabia and in the rest of the Islamic world from the 7th century onwards limited its ability to progress economically and therefore it was unable to progress socially. We are economic materialists after all.
Modern social progress is a product of capitalist success. In a nutshell the ability of a new middle class to acquire capital from the labour power of others via contract’s rather than slavery or serfdom. This eventually gave the world the principles of Contract, Choice and Consent which in turn drove the demand for these economic principles to take on social character and form the 18th-century democracy that we still have today, and which has gone around the world via the Empire.
Until recently in the West gender relationships were historically unequal. But male and female rights eventually succumbed to the democratising juggernaut of capitalism. Capitalism was back then, as the free market is today indifferent, to the background, sex and race, sexuality, gender identity and faith. Sexual inequality was required socially not economically. In capitalism, its only injustice is its inherent economic unfairness, rich or poor.
Workers of the western world who have lived in the capitalist system and seen their rights extended within it will have a solid grasp that whilst capitalism is an unfair system, some win and some loose, it has created a very broad and far-reaching equality. There is little discrimination in capitalism as the principles of capitalism have no role for discrimination. Discrimination is bad for business.
So, into this well established economic and social environment come a large group of people for whom the egalitarianism of capitalism is completely alien. They have a 7th-century belief system founded on their holy book the Koran and the Hadith, which reflects the economic necessities of their day, for example, the different treatment of women, homosexuals or those of different faiths. There is only one legitimate hierarchy based on submission, man to God, woman to the man.
The penalty for breaking the rules are barbaric. Stoning, beheading, beating are all promoted in the Holy books and by many of the followers of this faith. The clash of cultures, therefore, can’t be more real. There is little to unite these culturally opposed groups. One based on submission and control the other based on contract, choice and consent. But in a desperate bid to be inclusive the Western World elites promote Islam and twist our hard-won western values to meet the needs of this faith. The obvious question is why? Is it part of a global conspiracy? It might be but perhaps we all have a bit part in this drama.
It takes a while to compartmentalise and set aside one’s own irrational bias before one can come up with a possible explanation for this phenomenon of the West promoting un Western values in the form of Islam. Once you reflect on the theology and psychology involved in dealing on a personal level with the shocking values in Islam it becomes easier to see that we are basically embarrassed by the whole situation and don’t like Islamic values one bit. On no level can someone who believes in equal rights, or rights, in general, find any common ground within the Islamic faith.
What could one really say to an earnest young man who would like to see girls married at the age of 8 or the woman who in her hijab reflects both virtue and a differential moral standard for men and women, that feeds male entitlement? Or the brazen self-promotion and narcissism of street praying or the publicly expressed demand for this punishment or that practice. It’s basically embarrassing. The unreformed value base is so backward it makes us behave in an oddly incoherent way, so we can avoid dealing with it. Try and bridge the gap as the political elite do and we overcompensate, smiling at pictures of happy women in hijabs, for example, which just makes us confused and angry.
The solution is not that difficult to imagine at every social, legal and political level it should be acknowledged that some ideas are just basically embarrassing and well out of date in the 21st century and that the advocates of these blatantly out of date ideas make us feel as progressive western workers uncomfortable. The days of neo-colonial toleration of the “don’t worry old boy it’s just their way”, must stop. And moreover there is nothing wrong with feeling uncomfortable about someone else’s idea, it’s not illegal…..yet!
One final point is this. We are where we are because we too have out of date institutions inflicted on us by our near-universal western 18th-century political system. This system will never reflect the rights of working people but whilst we must continue to shout to keep our 18th-century progressive values, contract, choice and consent, we must fight to change the 18th-century political systems that are currently undermining these hard fought for values, once only enjoyed by the men of the bourgeois.