Saturday, March 12, 2005


The emergence of the global economy and the political ascendancy of the West dictated a global trend that threatened individual culture and identity. Globalization is viewed as a successor to imperialism. The extreme flows of outside culture can eliminate vulnerable culture. Many anthropologists have become interested in how dominant societies can shape the culture of less powerful societies, a process some researchers call cultural hegemony. This is an era of worldwide social change bringing a new form of cultural imperialism that they associate with globalization homogenizing other indigenous cultures in the Western image.

The power struggle to assert competing claims to the cultural constructs such as labels, ideals and symbols has come to be known as a politics of culture. It is believed that cultural dependency robs one of faith and identity, far more effective than political rule. The use of culture in advertising is a subtle and subliminal attack that corrupts not only the nation’s consumption pattern and economic behaviour but also its cultural orientation. Advertisements in movies, TVs, magazines etc is seen as cultural pollution intended to eliminate cultural identity and replace it with a homogenous global consumer culture.

Globalization is not strange to Islam. In fact it is being encouraged when it says:

...We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). ...(Quran 49:13).

The following among several hadiths that delve on the subject demonstrate how Islam is design to co-exist peacefully with other cultures who are member of the human race.

God will not be merciful to those who are not merciful to mankind (hadith).

“I have forbidden oppression for Myself and have made it forbidden amongst you, so do not oppress one another. O My servants, all of you are astray except for those I have guided, so seek guidance of Me and I shall guide you. (Hadith Qudsi)

Having read the bad effect of globalization which can extinguish existing weak culture, how can then Islam protect its identity? Will Muslims be submerged with the western image?

Islam is no just a set of religious ideas and practices, but also a political community endowed with a system of law designed to protect the collective interests of believers as well as to regulate their relations with the outside world. Nothing is neglected in the Quran so we can read in the following the assurance that Islamic culture will not just be a component of western image:

O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is most suitable, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.(Quran 33:59)

Veil then became not only a sign of modesty but also a strong symbol of resistance to cultural imperialism. Islam encourages a global society where there is an acceptance and respect of individual cultures. It is not regarded as oppression since Islam advocate freedom of religion. Anybody not comfortable with Islam is free to choose his religious affiliation.

Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error (Quran 2:256)

Veiling no matter how some consider it to be, becomes necessary not just for modesty but for the survival of Islamic identity or the Muslim Ummah. Modesty is beneficial for maintaining a certain moral fibre in various cultures and should therefore be maintained not just for the Women but also for the Men.
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