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comment of "the superiority of Western civilisation" have provoked outrage in Arab countries
September 27, 2001 11:04 AM   Subscribe

comment of "the superiority of Western civilisation" have provoked outrage in Arab countries not such a smart or nice thing to say right now.
posted by m2bcubed (43 comments total)

 
But correct, nevertheless.
posted by dagny at 11:11 AM on September 27, 2001


"We must be aware of the superiority of our civilisation, a system that has guaranteed well-being, respect for human rights and - in contrast with Islamic countries - respect for religious and political rights."

Aside from being poorly timed, what is wrong with this statement? If you believe in fundamental rights (women's/gay rights, tolerance, democracy) you would have to accept that the western world is superior to what is presently in the Middle East.

""The billionaire [Osama] Bin Laden and the billionaire Berlusconi are cut from the same anti-communist cloth," [communist] party spokesman Alfio Nicotra said. "
Do Taliban comparisons invoke Godwin's law?
posted by phatboy at 11:23 AM on September 27, 2001


Indeed. Those in democracies hold values that we deem are "superior" - otherwise we would not hold and defend them. Freedom of speech, religion, the press, etc... These do not exist under extremist Islamic regimes. Perhaps not wise words from a diplomat, but reality.
posted by scottfree at 11:26 AM on September 27, 2001


relativism? absolutism? relativism? absolutism? AAAGH!

::sound of brain popping::
posted by kahboom at 11:35 AM on September 27, 2001


I think Mr. Forman says it best:

"DUMBASS!"
posted by Qambient at 11:50 AM on September 27, 2001


The Truth is dangerous to utter.
posted by eas98 at 12:08 PM on September 27, 2001


How much you want to bet that the Middle Easterners who hate America already will hang this one on us as well? Doesn't matter that it was the Italian Prime Minister who said it; you can be sure America will be blamed. Furthermore, I think that if we keep tiptoeing around the idea that one culture *can* be superior to another, we limit our objectives and aims in this "new war". This is absolutely a war of cultures, of symbols and idioms.
posted by mrmanley at 12:14 PM on September 27, 2001


If you believe that your race is superior, then you are racist, apparantly. However to believe that the system of government and society that you choose is superior, is not racist.

If they got their rags out of their ears and learnt to speak a proper tongue then they may realise that. [now that if i meant it, would be racist, or would it?]
posted by Wet Wednesday at 12:26 PM on September 27, 2001


Of course, it had to come from the mouth of Berlusconi: a bigoted crook who wouldn't know a civilised value if it bit him on the arse.
posted by holgate at 12:33 PM on September 27, 2001


he may well be on to something, but he exercises neither caution nor judgement nor any sense of diplomacy.
posted by kahboom at 12:49 PM on September 27, 2001


lotta trolls today. i guess the whole WTC mourning thing is over, after all -- isn't it?
posted by moz at 12:52 PM on September 27, 2001


Some people should try distancing themselves from their feelings of superiority (dagny) and try viewing other cultures through the eyes of that culture.

If you weren't brought up to believe that women must be clothed head to foot (to use a most obvious example), or that your basic rights must be behind the rights that God has given you, then you can never understand what these people think and feel.

Walk a mile in their shoes, then make your comments.

I'm with kahboom on this one.
posted by ashbury at 1:07 PM on September 27, 2001


Not to nitpick, but I'm pretty sure bin Ladin is still just a multi-millionaire. No matter, Berlusconi is pretty much the Italian equivalent of having Bill Gates for president -- extremely rich, arrogant about his power and not taken very seriously by anyone except his lackees and direct competitors.
posted by me3dia at 1:10 PM on September 27, 2001


ashbury: Some people should try distancing themselves from their feelings of superiority (dagny) and try viewing other cultures through the eyes of that culture.

I'm not viewing cultures through any eyes but my own, thank you very much.

It really doesn't take that many peeks, you know, to figure which culture is better between the one which at least strives to protect the individual rights of all citizens regardless of sex, race and guiding philosophy/religion -- and the one which tells me to shut the fuck up, get myself covered from head to toe again and get my ass back lined up together with my husband's other seven "wives".
posted by dagny at 1:19 PM on September 27, 2001


although america is the only country to maintain an unofficial gender and religion requirement for our presidents/vice presidents, albeit an exception made for a catholic (handsome male):
america's views on women's intelligence

(unlike pakistan, india, indonesia,central america, slovakia, phillipines....)

and as an fyi all of these other civilizations also have created alot of the technology that we have today (in their 'inferior' way!).
posted by m2bcubed at 2:01 PM on September 27, 2001


Have you "checked your assumptions" lately? I can't believe that, with all the attention given to Arabs and Moslems (two different but overlapping groups, in case you haven't heard) in the past two weeks, some people are still ignorant enough to lump them all together.
posted by harmful at 2:20 PM on September 27, 2001


who are you talking to harmful? if you are referring to the title, i copied and pasted it from the article itself. it was ,actually " the leader of the 22-nation Arab League" who spoke of his outrage and it was also a belgian PM who disagreed.
posted by m2bcubed at 2:26 PM on September 27, 2001


I just noticed that this article omits the important following line:

Berlusconi went on to say that he trusts "the West will continue to conquer peoples, like it conquered Communism," even if it means a confrontation with "another civilization, the Islamic one, stuck where it was 1,400 years ago."

This is quite a bit more inflammitory!
posted by phatboy at 2:32 PM on September 27, 2001


There are over 1 billion Muslims, and several very large Muslim countries, and many smaller ones. There are only a handful that requre women to cover themselves, and only a handful that officially allow polygamy. And far from telling them to "shut the fuck up," women play a very central role in Islamic society. It's not coincidental that many of the world's few female PMs come or came from Muslim countries.

That being said, Islam is also the youngest of the world's major religions and was the first monotheistic faith to take hold in many 3rd world countries. Many 'Islamic' countries are actually practicing tribal rituals that get folded into religious rule. There is little doubt that in the eyes of someone who has profited from the West that these cultures are inferior. However it's important to distinguish between history, people, religion, and culture. Otherwise you come off as an ignorant idiot.

It's also a good thing to keep your own history, both recent and ancient, in mind.
posted by cell divide at 2:33 PM on September 27, 2001


Not you, m2; I'm sorry if I gave that impression. I was referring to those who believe that all Arab cultures follow the same ultra-patriarchal distortion of the Islamic faith that the Taliban has imposed on Afganistan. cell divide has already expressed the variety among Muslim nations better than I could.
posted by harmful at 2:44 PM on September 27, 2001


sorry i got defensive harmful ;)
i think that dagny is possibly one of those that is not able to learn from those that are different from him, be it females, males that are not his height :), different cultures, different religions, etc., that's cool, we're all different right...some of us want to learn new things, see differnt points of view, etc, and some of us don't perhaps.
posted by m2bcubed at 2:55 PM on September 27, 2001


no offense dagny
posted by m2bcubed at 3:01 PM on September 27, 2001


Of course, we could make comments about the position of women in Italy, given that the main contribution of Berlusconi's TV channels to Western Civilisation was the "stripping housewives' game show".
posted by holgate at 3:02 PM on September 27, 2001


which culture is better between the one which at least strives to protect the individual rights

Culture has nothing to do with it. Governments, and the powerful who are running them, alternately oppress and protect. In the 60s, when Afghanistan had a wildly different regime in power, the country was comparatively progressive.

The culture you describe above — the gender war, the executions for minor offenses — are mandated by the Taliban, not by Islamic culture. Berlusconi holds “Western Civilization” above “Islamic countries,” totally insulting Egypt, Turkey, Kuwait, Morocco, the Phillipines, etc. Had he just said, “Western Civ is better than the Taliban” I don’t think anyone would’ve blinked.
posted by raaka at 3:02 PM on September 27, 2001


Dagny
and the one which tells me to shut the fuck up...

Are you confusing a totalitarian regime with religious doctrine? There are differences that you don't seem to know about. As mentioned (thank you, cell divide) in an earlier comment, women have had the freedom to do as the wish in most "inferior" societies. Go ask Indira Ghandi.

I'm not viewing cultures through any eyes but my own, thank you very much.

Maybe it's your eyes that are flawed, not the culture.
posted by ashbury at 3:06 PM on September 27, 2001


hmm... being as we don't fly commercial airplanes full of innocent people in commercial buildings full of innocent people, then yes, i think we are just a *little* more superior.

oh, and we don't circumcise our women.
posted by jcterminal at 3:31 PM on September 27, 2001


What an idiot. Diplomacy wasn't high on the list of qualities to get him elected I see.. Probably that bank balance..

The thing is, there is no current country in the world that can claim to be a truly Islamic one - in all cases, local cultures and traditions have been tacked on. In addition, many countries with a muslim majority declare themselves to be secular states..

The recent events have thrown up a wealth of information as to what Islam is like straight out of the Qu'ran and hadith, as opposed to influenced by local and regional oddities. Look there and you'll see that religious intolerance is forbidden - hey, when Jerusalem was taken, the muslims used the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Fridays and the Christians used it on Sundays as normal until the muslims built the Dome of the Rock - compare to when the Crusaders attacked and slit open the bellies of tens of thousands of uncivilised barbarians to look for gold..

Multiple wives are only allowed if you can insure you care for them equally, and they both agree, and it is meant only for times of inequality of numbers, ie after a war when the guys are dead..

I could go on, but in my opinion, Islamic society is a nicer one than Western capitalist society - hey, its even in the religion to give to charity.. Shame that the main 'examples' of Islamic civilisation like Saudi Arabia aren't the most Islamic of states..

Without Islamic civilisation you wouldn't have things like a 0 either. Think about that.

and just in quick reply to jcterminal, we don't circumcise our women either - its mainly south western african tribes that do that.
posted by Mossy at 3:34 PM on September 27, 2001


Thank you cell divide and ashbury for making some important distinctions. Nice to see such smart points being made so thoughtfully.
posted by Zettai at 3:42 PM on September 27, 2001


er, I meant Indonesia, not the Philippines. The Philippines is predominately Catholic.
posted by raaka at 3:46 PM on September 27, 2001



hmm... being as we don't fly commercial airplanes full of innocent people in commercial buildings
full of innocent people, then yes, i think we are just a *little* more superior.


No, "we" drive trucks filled with fertilizer bombs up to federal buildings full of innocent people.
posted by electro at 3:51 PM on September 27, 2001


The truth hurts, eh?

And while there is considerable hand-wringing and punditry, it seems to me that the key difference between the types of countries & cultures that are being compared here come down to theocracy versus non-theocracy. THAT is one of the true culprits in this mess. Religion is, once again, one of the primary causes of death, (possible) war, and intolerance.

To anyone who doesn't agree that Western civilization is "better" in any sense of the word: wanna put your money where your mouth is, and go live in Pakistan, Iran, Indonesia, or (insert country name here)?
posted by davidmsc at 3:54 PM on September 27, 2001


jcterminal, yes, 'cause western culture has produced only the most upright, moral citizens.
I suppose Adolf Hitler was middle eastern, and we just never knew about it.
posted by Doug at 4:08 PM on September 27, 2001


I would rather live in a mansion in Jakarta with 10 sumptuous bedrooms, decadant night life for pennies on the dollar, amazingly rich cultural tradition, beautiful women... than in a rat and roach infested studio apartment in a bad neighborhood where I fear for my safety, and the only restaurants are McDonald's and Popeye's chicken. And I have lived in both.

I think you've hit the nail on the head, Davidmsc, when you say put your money where your mouth is. The West is rich, the East, for the most part, is not. We are from the west, have access to computers and the free time to use them for chatting, and prefer to live in a style we're accustomed to. I can tell you, though, that I have had some of the most fulfilling and interesting experiences of my life as a guest in the East, because of the people, the culture, the food, the music... etc.

If anyone were to suggest to me at that moment that we were enjoying something 'inferior,' I would have laughed in their face. Especially thinking back to my friends in the west, locked in their apartments, alone, their only regular human contact through a television screen-- but comfortable beyond most humans' imaginations, with the finest clothes, furniture, electronics, and pre-packaged meals available on this planet.
posted by cell divide at 4:10 PM on September 27, 2001


Berlusconi is just a crafty politician. Of course our current political system is better, but our civilization or our race are not superior. And we don't have to conquer peoples, unless they "ask".
posted by See-Threepio at 4:41 PM on September 27, 2001


Mossy, maybe the mainly south african tribes that do that explains the term "Pharaonic circumcision." When I lived in Mauritania, a limited form of female circumcision was practised. Along with a benign form of slavery. I still respected the people I lived and worked with...
posted by Kami at 4:50 PM on September 27, 2001


wow, that's just brilliant. Forget whether you can support the veracity of his claims -- making them was stupid.

As soon as this starts to look like a struggle between "civilizations" or cultures, we'll lose the support of the rest of the Middle East, we'll never catch bin Laden or whoever did this, and everything will be all set for more waves of terrorism, not to mention military conflicts. And silly me I thought Bush's capacity for unfortunate remarks was the biggest threat....
posted by mattpfeff at 5:07 PM on September 27, 2001


That being said, Islam is also the youngest of the world's major religions
- posted by cell divide


Almost there Cell Divide. Not to nitpick, but I'm afraid that distinction belongs to the Chuch of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons). With over 11 million members and a membership that at least doubles every 15 years I'm afraid we can't just consider it a cult anymore. No matter how much of a charlatan Joseph Smith very obviously was. Founded in 1830.

See, we can have religious intolerance in our own country too!!
posted by xochi at 5:11 PM on September 27, 2001


Female circumcision is an icky business, and ickily done too.. In some countries the husband carries a knife to open up the wife for their first night.. Eww.. Anyway, its not Islamic, so thats besides the point. Although it is an example maybe of traditions and customs being imposed upon standard Islamic type civilisation?

I love my time in Pakistan actually, it kicks the UK's ass into the ground.. Bangladesh too - its the little things like not putting our parents in homes so they go mad, as well as the big things like massive houses and servants..

Has Bush actually made any stupid remarks yet btw?
posted by Mossy at 5:12 PM on September 27, 2001


"No, "we" drive trucks filled with fertilizer bombs up to federal buildings full of innocent people."

that was our own people. that makes it ok.

"jcterminal, yes, 'cause western culture has produced only the most upright, moral citizens.
I suppose Adolf Hitler was middle eastern, and we just never knew about it."


no, but he was german. just as bad.

only kidding. on both counts.
posted by jcterminal at 6:18 PM on September 27, 2001


...what Islam is like straight out of the Qu'ran and hadith, as opposed to influenced by local and regional oddities. Look there and you'll see that religious intolerance is forbidden...

I keep seeing comments like this, but I have looked and that's NOT what I found. One example among many:

2.191: And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers.

Maybe something is getting lost in the translation...
posted by JParker at 10:10 PM on September 27, 2001


drive them out from whence they drove you out
sounds like retaliation

do not fight with them... until they fight with you... but if they do fight you, then slay them
sounds like observing rules of war

I'm not trying to make a positive point, but, come on, if we start playing "quote [INSERT RELIGION]'s scripture to show how disgusting and ludicrous it is," (A) it could be done much better, (B) the results are well known.

For that matter, take your favorite secular scripture and polemically quote it to make it the basis for madness... easy enough. Now, people who can't resist the most uncivilized bits, and the most uncivilized interpretation of those bits, they're the enemy of civilization, whether Islamic civilization, secular civilization, or any other.
posted by Zurishaddai at 12:42 AM on September 28, 2001


Maybe something is getting lost in the translation...

I think that something is being seriously lost, not only in translation but also in context. It has been a while since I have had a class on Islam, but this sounds like a section that is focused on a very specific historical event (although it is hard to see that when you pick up the text and start reading, because it isn't aranged as a "history" and it is not "chronological" if I remember correctly). Also unbelievers is a very very very loaded word, if I remember correctly, and is referring to a specific group in that place and time, rather than having the broad definition that we tend to used in English. Perhaps I am remembering wrong about the specifics, but I still find that excercizes such as this are filled with lots of pitfalls, especially since the Qu'ran is such a different type of text. Dang, I need to go to storage and get some of my old text books out.
posted by eckeric at 9:36 AM on September 28, 2001


Vncle Galba?...anyone seen my bike.
posted by newnameintown at 10:07 AM on September 28, 2001


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