“I feel like there’s a lot of philosophical and academic backing to our very simple argument while we are at dhabbas: yar ye sab angrezo ke dor ka kamal hai (dude, all credit of it goes to the British colonialism).
Colonialism and the contemporary imperialism have impacts on societies, who are on the receiving end, beyond our imagination. Distorted texts, confused social values, and polarized political behaviors are to name a few.
“Cultural superiority” rooted in western colonialism
I want to briefly explain a couple of key points learned in the first few weeks to enrich ourselves who are consciously and unconsciously concerned about being judged as “primitive”, “narrow-minded”, or “backward”.
Firstly, all these ideas related to “cultural superiority” are rooted in western colonialism, British in our context. For instance, the colonizer understood and explained things by separating them in different categories and rankings. Let’s explain three key assumptions that make a remarkable impact in our daily lives:
A) All religions are like Christianity and should have the separation of Church and state and the notion of “high and low religions” on the basis of how close they were to Christianity or how “progressive” they were as compared to Christianity. It seems surprising to see many amongst us buying those ideas blindly even today while they were rooted in a separate historical, political, social, cultural, and religious context. And those who don’t want this separation are labeled as “Islamists” or “Mullahs” or whatever.
B) All nations should be progressive and vie for technological advancement. Thus, the only way to go forward is technological innovation, and the ones spending peaceful lives in rural South Asia without diving into the material competition of capitalism are deemed as “backward”.
C) Social and personal aspects of peoples’ lives must be separated bringing in the idea of “individual privacy”. A middle class kid in a post-colonial state wants privacy at home despite the humble financial background that his/her family has. He/she thinks they are not “rich” enough to afford that privacy because of the embedded-ness of these ideas.
All of us are absolutely fine if we want Islam and Politics, or Islam and Science, or Islam and Rationality/Reasoning in both theory and practice, or if we appreciate the rural values/life of our Punjabi or other cultures, or if we take pride in our extended family systems.
There are other local issues with all these matters while implementing them on ground, but just a humble salute to you all if you don’t like ideas that are so trendy nowadays: being secular, being progressive, and being individualistic. They all have very specific connotations attached and one should think about their ideological underpinnings at the back of his/her mind while using them.”
Muhammad Souman Elah is pursuing a Master’s in Theological Studies at Harvard Divinity School. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.