Individuality versus “Respective Manner”

September 25, 2006 at 12:05 pm (History, Islam, Islamism, Pakistan, Religion, The Rest, The West)

Alaa said:

We are ordered to recommend the right to other Muslims and to prevent them from doing anything wrong or against Islam so that the society stays in a respective manner. I think the society is preferred over ones’ acts. Right?

I would have to say no. One major contrast between The West and The Rest is the prevalence of individuality and individual autonomy in The West. No religion or even way of life is imposed on anyone. Crimes are prohibited, and punished accordingly. But as long as one does not commit a crime, one is free to do what one wants or free to not do whatever one has decided not to do. It is for this reason that The West has flourished while The Rest are mired in backwardness.

In The Rest, people ar bound, by law or convention, to a group, whether it be a religion or a tribe or a class. One must operate only within the bounds (official and unofficial, explicit and tacit) set by the relevant group. Deviation can be cause for punishment and even expulsion. As such, initiative is stifled.

Let me draw a contrast using Pakistan. Under the regime of feudocracy – rule by feudal lords, namely Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif – television was strictly controlled. Its content was restricted because of communal rules and values. This is a vestige, indeed, of General Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamization of Pakistan. But after Pervez Musharraf overthrew the government, such restrictions had been lifted. Whereas in the past people watched mainly non-Pakistani channels, Pakistani channels – domestic and international – have proliferated at a stunning rate. Initiative – taking the risk of producing a show that might be controvertial, that people will condemn – is paying off financially and in other ways. Now, Pakistanis in Pakistan and all over the world watch a plethora of Pakistani channels (some based in Pakistan, some based in The United Arab Emirates, some based in London, some based in New York). As one interesting indication: the music scene in Pakistan has exploded. Music channels like Channel V and MTV, music videos as trendy as the latest ones by Western artists, male and female singers and bands, women in scandalous clothing – the list goes on, but the changes are almost world-rattling. One can listen and watch Pakistani pop, Pakistani hip-hop, Pakistani rap, Pakistani hard rock, Pakistani soft rock, Pakistani R&B, Pakistani slow and traditional music. Just imagine the opportunities available to people now! Imagine the increase in the entertainment industry! Imagine how this encouragement of initiative and entrepreneurship has affected the economy and its direction! But this is so precisely because people have abandoned communalism for individualism – asserting oneself instead of and even against society. Debates that take place now among various sectors of society were unheard of a few decades ago. Now, in front of millions of people throughout the world, even religious clerics are debated and challenged and questioned! These mullahs who only a few decades ago were stiffling the people’s senses of creativity and spontaneity and skill!

This demand for conformity by Islam will be Islam’s own undoing. Without the impulse to strike one’s path, Muslim lands – and all such communalist lands – are doomed to remain behind while The West, and those who value what it values, forges every further. Such lands that discourage individuality and the develop of one’s own way will continue to suffer and despair.

It does make sense. Individualism is what The West is partly based on. And The West is successful. Although correlation does not equal causation, one simply cannot ignore this coincidence.


1 Comment

  1. Alaa said,

    sorry but when we ban music it doesn’t mean we are doomed to remain behind!!!
    just take this example: the society is like a ship with a ground floor and an upper floor so if people of the ground floor want to make a hole in their “own” part and we agreed we will all drown but if we stop them we will all survive. that’s why we see that (early) Muslims were actually superior to current western societies. I think that our idea of a society is about 10 times more advanced than your individualism where people “ignore” each other. I am not that stupid that I see my fellow Muslim doing something wrong and I can’t stop him or even telling him that it’s not right.

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