Kwame Anthony Appiah examines the myth of the ‘West’. The subtitle for his article acts as an abstract: “The values of liberty, tolerance and rational inquiry are not the birthright of a single culture. In fact, the very notion of something called ‘western culture’ is a modern invention.”
“So the very idea of the “west,” to name a heritage and object of study, doesn’t really emerge until the 1890s, during a heated era of imperialism, and gains broader currency only in the 20th century. When, around the time of the first world war, Oswald Spengler wrote the influential book translated as The Decline of the West – a book that introduced many readers to the concept – he scoffed at the notion that there were continuities between western culture and the classical world…
Theo Hobson identifies that though there is a stronger secular liberalism, which he acknowledges as more aggressive, he does spell out the existence of a softer, more inclusive one too. He asks the Muslim panel if they recognise and acknowledge the latter, softer type. I sense it is this question that is perceived as being (apparently) ‘skirted’: an accusation from the non Muslim party. The way the Muslim panel respond is as though this softer type of secular liberalism either doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter even if it existed. Presumably, this is because of soft liberalism’s perceived irrelevance given the current context of tighter measures around freedom and self autonomy ostensibly against terrorists but actually against mainstream practicing British Muslims. I sense the non Muslim cannot fathom the motivation for the Muslim panel’s defensiveness. They are accused of ‘playing the victim’. They respond: they’re merely representing reality.
1. The Real Captain Jack
“The legendary Captain Jack Birdy, once sung about by every balladeer in England, might have all but been forgotten, yet his memory remains as the spirit behind the fictional character Captain Jack Sparrow played by Johnny Depp in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film franchise… Who was John Ward, the British Naval officer? Who was Captain John Ward, the privateer endorsed by the Crown of England? Who was Captain Jack Birdy, the privateer turned pirate betrayed by that same Crown? And finally, who was Yusuf Reis, formerly Captain Jack Birdy, formerly Captain John Ward, who would rescue thousands upon thousands of Spanish Jews and Muslims fleeing the Moriscos and Conversos expulsion of the 16th and 17th centuries? These were all one man. With so many characters wrapped in one, the stories of his adventures are exponentially more exciting than anything a Hollywood film could capture…” Read More here >
“Eurocentrism cannot be found amongst the ancient Greeks or Romans, who did not identify with each other or with the tribes of Western Europe. Romans thought Germanic and Celtic tribespeople were barbaric and inferior, owning them as slaves in Rome and depicting them as savages in art…
…After the fall of Rome, in one of the most remarkable cases of Stockholm syndrome in history, the conquered identified themselves with their conquerors and adopted Roman [and later Greek] history and identity as their own to make claims to power and lineage.”
More Info > Thinking Past Eurocentrism.
You are free to take a range of stances. If I disagree with you (or you with me) it doesn’t necessarily mean that I am against you (or you against me).
When reading Adam Deen’s post on ‘Muslim-Tribalism‘, which I enjoyed – and felt there was much truth to what was said – it immediately reminded me of two things:
There was a brief extract about ‘Identity Politics’ in Tariq Ramadan’s ‘Islam, the West and the Challenges of Modernity’ (2001), and I’d like to quote it here and add my own thought-additions in square brackets:
“The West which we [Muslims – but also possibly others as well] are still confusing with the universe of Christianity [good point – but this point might deserve its own post to unpack], finds no favour in the statements of some Muslim theologians and thinkers [and indeed with some Muslims, generally] who assert their Muslim identity in opposition to the United States and Europe. They are Muslims against the West, and all their reflection is fed by this cast of mind. Continue reading
“The rules for having a productive and insightful conversation across religious and cultural lines are not all that different than the rules for having meaningful interpersonal relationships.”1
I stand on one side of the space
– This “great divide” –
From the other, where stand you…
I, a part of my culture,
You a part of yours.
You see how representing our own we only ever appear
Apart. Continue reading