I’m taking a class in population geography. Because a big part of the class is demographics, the class exists in uncomfortable places. Native issues, multiculturism and the war on terror(which is code for war on Islam) routinely come up and we all get squeamish.
We would sit quietly and squeam like good Canadians, except my professor is really bombastic, and has no shame. He will, if you engage him, call you on everything. He will challenge, poke and dig at you. I started out thinking of him as my nemesis. And I felt he was a nemesis I couldn’t attack, because he is from Ghana and works for the department of Indian affairs. Yes, that fucking untouchable, from a politically correct viewpoint. So, as a good student who cares about my grades and the money I spend, I shut the hell up. Bazinga!
No, this ape never knows when to shut up, and I started arguing with him on line and in class. On the one hand, my voice encouraged the rest of the class to speak their own voices. On the other, that prof got past my neurotic feelings and engaged my brain. It had been sitting in a dusty corner, untouched for some time.
Fast-forward to the present and I am trying to find some way to segue this into a paste up from an online class dialogue. The professor had challenged a student who questioned whether we want to be embracing Islamic culture, and he challenged the idea that there is an Islamic culture. He suggested that Islam is a religion, not a culture. I’m only pasting my response because there is probably some kind of privacy violation otherwise, and really, it’s my blog, I don’t ever have a soapbox outside this space. So, clumsy segue:
“To be fair, Religion is a strong element in culture. I was raised atheist by lapsed catholics, but my parents unconsciously lived beliefs that would be considered catholic. When I listen to a stand-up comedian joke about catholicism, I relate, big time. More so, I was raised in a Christian culture. Christmas and Easter are high holidays in my national culture, but the biggest celebration in my own religion is Samhain. I recited the lords prayer every day in public school though it meant nothing to me, consciously. Of course, we also sang God Save the Queen, which meant even less. my daily bread was far more intrinsically meaningful than the queen. On the odd occasion that i have found myself in court, I was really confused as to why I should swear on a bible, and what did my swear mean if i was not Christian? I'm just lucky i wasn't afraid of the bible.
One quarter of the planets humans are Muslim, and Islamic cultures are nestled among other cultures. i.e nation based cultures, regional cultures, and cultures of immigrants. As a person who belongs to a minority religion, I always find it astonishing that people can so readily draw rigid lines between essentially similar religions. When I studied religion at Concordia University, years ago we referred to Judeo-Christian-Islamic religions as a type. And they aren't just similar; they share the many of the same source materials. Buddhism, Shinto, and Hinduism are far more "different" than Christianity and Islam. Native Indian religions and paganism are also much further away from Christianity than Islam is, and ironically have more history as being Canadian.
While all the "one god" religious cultures have been empirical, I'd have to say that Christianity holds the title for being the most aggressive and defensive. There is a bit in the bible about who should cast the first stone. Christian peoples and Muslim peoples routinely demonize each other despite the similarity of their values. What would the world look like if they joined together and opposed the military culture or the corporate culture?
That said, many Islamic cultures are pastoral and carry much better egalitarianism than our own culture. Perhaps "Islamic Culture" can bring something really meaningful to the table in Canada. One of the wisest men i have ever known ran a convenience store that actually stocked good food and fresh nuts and dates, not just soda pop and chocolate bars. He was from Iran and taught me a great deal about Persian culture and history and he had a gentle kindness that Ghandi would have envied. Unlike university, this education cost me nothing. His store was vandalized after a terrorist bombing in London. Trace the abstract cultural patterns in that.
Didn't mean to end on a bitter note. . . Joyous Samhain! Blessed be! (That is a religious freedom I enjoy in Canada)”