"To the impartial eye, the world not only seems an unlikely one-off phenomenon, but a constant strain on reason. If reason exists, that is, if a neutral reason exists. So speaks the voice from within. So speaks Joker's voice." - Jostein Gaarder

Monday, April 28, 2008

Is Islamic culture stronger than Barbie?

"Promoting figures like Barbie, Batman, Spiderman and Harry Potter and the uncontrolled import of CDs of video games and films should alarm all the country's officials," Ghorban Ali Dori Najafabadi was quoted as saying by the student ISNA news agency.

"We need to find substitutes to ward off this onslaught, which aims at children and young people whose personality is in the process of being formed," he added.

Dori Najafabadi's comments came in a letter to an Iranian vice president, urging measures to protect "Islamic culture and revolutionary values".
This was not how I intended to get back to the blogsphere after my long hiatus, but statements like these truly infuriate me.
What is really alarming, and what is a real crisis is what hides behind this pronounced anti-western sentiments Muslims [Or at least those who speak for them] seem to be competing over. I think it hides a serious inferiority complex, one that people seem in complete self-denial about.

Is there any other explanation to all the fuss we get whenever there's a westerner who converts into Islam? Is it that we think it makes our case stronger? Is it that we think they ARE better than us, and their recognition raises us a little bit more? Is there any other explanation for why we keep quoting those western journalists with such vigor [For a wider perspective on this, you might want to read Rime's post]? Why is it that an American reporter who knows close to nil about the region, is always more authoritative a source [To us, that is. Depending which side of the divide you're on, you will have your own list of journalists.] than any local reporter, or even an expat journalist who might happen to know the region [Yes, standards of academic research and reporting are higher, most of the time. But, that is not the reason why we love them so much, if it was, we wouldn't have been so selective about WHO we listen to].

It just seems that those who are most critical of and most aggressive towards the "decaying west" appear to be, at the end of the day, the most desperate for its approval, at least subconsciously.

But, doesn't it make sense? Isn't it the simple law of Identity. Whenever a component of your Identity is in danger [or is perceived to be in danger], you magnify it until it eats up all other parts of your identity. And the poorer your perception of your identity gets, the less confidence you have in it. And the less confidence you have, the more aggressive, defensive and eventually a defeatist, that you become.

And all these Salfis/Wahabis/etc... who present their magical banner of "Islam is the Solution", in the form of letting go of all these "western" influences that we have been misguided to think of as civilization, or at least a collective development for the human race, shut out the rest of the world and go back to the "real Islam". Then and only then will we be victorious again. Then and only then will Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo be back as the centers of human cultures.
The bitter irony of it, is that the main characteristic of that Islamic Empire they pine so much for, in its Golden age, was how confident it was in its own identity, and thus, how open, tolerant and receptive it was towards other cultures.

Only a crisis of confidence in one's identity, produces such a feeling of inferiority, and that of intimidation towards the "west". And this, I believe, has been a major obstacle that kept us stalled at the same spot [if not moving backwards] for nearly 700 years to date. The only real collective attempt to overcome this chronic condition was the Arab renaissance. Unfortunately, it was nipped in the bud.

P.S.: Just to preempt any comments about the subject. Having said that, it doesn't mean I am blind to the role the "west" played in us reaching this low, but since everyone seems to be well on top of their game in pointing the injustice and cruelty inflicted on us [And there has been plenty], I thought maybe "some" self-criticism was in order.

When I started writing, and before it developed into a full blown boring essay, I was only gonna say this:

"النائب العام الإيراني يطالب بحماية الثقافة الإسلامية من دمية الـ"باربي
كس اختها لهي الثقافة, أو الدين, أو القيم, أو... اللي رح تهدمها لعبة باربي. وبس.


Blogger DUBAI JAZZ said...

Hey guys, Yazan is back with a vengeance!

Al Na'eb Al 3am? Okay, that's like state attorney, right?

Isn't he supposed to be persecuting criminals somewhere?

It's quite a problem in the Arab and Muslim world that everyone 'beftee feha'…
But I wouldn't put much weight in whatever he's got to say; you've got to understand that these dignitaries speak too much (I mean like in public speaking), they speak in inaugurations, memorials, weddings and even circumcision parties. They are bound to make mistakes (or to go off the line with their speech)

Now with regards to the inferiority complex; I think it's a very complex matter (as it is conveniently named). It's easy for me to announce that my personality is complete the way it is and therefore I don't feel inferior to anybody. But the fact remains that I grew up in school learning about Faraday, Newton, Pascal, Eisenstein…etc,,. And although laws of physics are abstract (the aforesaid reference is indeed reference to the law named after the persons, not the person themselves), but we just can't just strip the scholar behind the discovery (or the invention) out of the context. I guess the 'center of inertia' (if you like) of the world's science and material and civil power have moved west in the last couple of centuries and I can't deny it. The fact that I still think (or believe) that my belief system is much more spiritually superior than the west's doesn't mean it can compensate for it. I can't just set around and pray for my labs to get equipped and my bookshelves to get stocked with the best just because God loves me. I have to work my way through it. I came to realization that I am actually falling behind and that I need the access to the western privileges (be it scientific or materialistic).

Indeed, Arabs have contributed very little to humanity recently. Some people blame it entirely on Islam (like this guy). I think it's too simplistic to put it this way; simply for the fact that, as you said, the Islamic nation was in its brightest eras where the thinkers and the intellectuals where brought to the court of the Khalifa (and not to his prisons) to debate him or debate other established thinkers or scholars in front of him.

Oh, my comment is getting too long, I better leave it at that but before I leave I must say that I couldn't agree more with your last line!

April 29, 2008 4:32 AM

Blogger Abu Kareem said...


You hit the nail on the head, it is an inferiority complex but few will ever admit to that.

April 29, 2008 12:31 PM

Blogger saint said...

Nice to read you again, Yazan
Back in the 80s, there was the politically corrected Syrian Barbie, I could not find a link for it even my daughter still has one. Nowadays, the new religiously correct Barbie, is Fulla which have all kinds of Hijabs, and her face has more social reflection, in a way.
A smart businessman from Syria might ride on this stupidity talk and send 100,000 Fulla to Iran, make a fortune and the equation could be balanced, However, I doubt that this guy’s protest will reach the Syrian media, since brothers do not tell on each others and free speech does not apply.

April 29, 2008 1:25 PM

Blogger abufares said...

I'm happy you're back. We all need the mental foreplay. This post did just that and went a little beyond :-)

I'm agreeing with you not because I'm simply a nice guy, which I happen to be by the way.

After I went through my own personal renaissance in my early twenties I became fully aware of the devastating affect of religious professionals on the welfare of civilization (any human civilization that is). They are holding us, by claiming exclusive rights to Islam, hostages to a decadent history, ignorant bigotry and crude malformed guilt.
Some of us seek redemption in following these assholes while others throw themselves in the arms of the West. We have to remember their past as well: the history of their church and of their debauched monarchies. We have to keep in mind that their society and culture went through one of the darkest periods of recorded history: the inquisition (as evil as the period of American Emperor Gorge W. Bush, but tragically much longer). However, we have to handed it to Western Society. They got out of this shit hole, at least on the personal level.
No we're not in this shitty state we are in because of Islam. We are partly in this mess because we let religion be anything but a personal relation between the individual and his god(s).
I'm a man who registers impressions and who turns out to be wrong on many occasions. But I have my suspicion that the zealous religious sweeping wave is receding or at least losing momentum. People are getting sick and tired of despotism and shamanism. Our future lies in literature, in art and in science. Until then, we can make dolls of Nancie, Haifa and Alissa; action figures of Arab kings, Sheiks and presidents; DVD's & CDs of angry and tragically ominous preachers who would lose it all once we come to our senses and tell them to all go to hell by screwing themselves to death while the WAWA song invades their last moments of consciousness.

April 29, 2008 7:39 PM

Blogger poshlemon said...


fashaytelleh albeh in this "full blown boring essay".

I will make this simple because the gentlemen behind me made the right points that I agree with.

But, I believe that our biggest problem in the Arab world is religion, be it Islam or Christianity, being the two most common religions of the area. It's that simple. Trying to find practical answers from within the Quran or the Islamic Sharia or the Bible is a big waste of time. These books are for spiritual reflection and not for building 21st century states.

Ba3den shu hal habal yalleh 3am yodrob bi Iran. Ya3neh other than my admiration for the audacity the Iranians and Ahmedinejad have in publicly handling the Americans and Iranians, they're just crazy. What's worse is that these guys actually believe every single word they utter and Islam is not just a power tool as I may have initially thought.

You know what, our states should become secularized. Follow Turkey's example, though it seems to be failing in some areas. Crazy as this may sound, I think with good preparation the Arab world may be secularized. Of course with the exception of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon :)

May 01, 2008 12:13 AM

Blogger annie said...

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your cooperation.

Have you read the book by Amin Maalouf about Identities that kill ? We are full persons, not just Muslims, or Christians or whatever and when we stress excessively one part of our identity it destroys the whole of us. It's happening in Belgium right now. The language identity is killing the country.

May 02, 2008 4:04 PM

Blogger KJ said...

I agree with Abu Fares and DJ on this one. The inferiority complex is letting Muslim preachers fear that the followers are becoming more open and receptive to other cultures and science and art and concepts. So what they do is they form an all-in or all-out situation where you have to follow strictly what they tell you what is best for you or you are no longer considered a Muslim.

Having all religions basing a heavy weight on fear and guilt (when it is actually a misinterpretation because religions as I understand are based on love), you have people who are strongly resilient to anything external. Their kids - our generation and the previous - are getting sick and tired of unnecessary strict rules that we just want to break free, and hence end up at the very ends of the spectrum in either direction.

It's difficult to be "in the middle", satisfying both ends, and this happens when people realize that religion is a relationship between you and God and your society and not a collective communal service to ban Barbie

May 02, 2008 7:20 PM

Anonymous Anna said...

interessante perspectiva!

May 06, 2008 6:04 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

you strike me as particularly stupid. I propose to help you, if you ask me to.

May 07, 2008 10:57 PM


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