Here’s an interesting essay from the German website Qantara.de. The writer wonders just what there is in ‘Arabism’ that needs so much protection that it rejects so many aspects of modernity. He suggests that before getting hot and bothered about a ‘clash of civilizations’, it might be useful to resolve the ‘clash within civilizations’ to understand what might be worth keeping. Do read the whole thing.
The well-known writer and media expert Khaled Hroub is critical of those who champion “cultural particularism” in the Arab world. He sees this way of thinking as being nothing more than a method of defending Arab despotism and the backwardness of the region
“Globalisation threatens our cultural particularism: the danger that our culture, language and religion will be wiped out must be firmly confronted!” One often hears such statements in discussions on the relationship between Muslim Arab societies and globalisation. The confrontation is spoken about as if it were a kind of “traditional obligation.”
Two issues require analysis: firstly, what does one understand by cultural particularism, and secondly, what effects does globalisation have on the cultures of the world.
Cultural particularism can mean a variety of things: tradition and religion, conscious and unconscious social conventions, values which regulate behaviour, attitudes towards beauty and ugliness together with the forms of political domination and social conformity which result from them.
What is cultural particularism?
Usually, “cultural particularism” is brought into play from a defensive position, but in fact cultural particularism is a facet of identity – and vice versa. The essence of both cultural particularism and identity can only be grasped when one draws comparisons with the cultural particularism and the identity of others.
Those among the Arab elites who champion the concept of cultural particularism are inclined to assume an inner unity within this particularism. But, in practice, this unity is lacking within any existing cultural system.