A People's Ecology: Explorations in Sustainable Living edited by Gregory Cajete. Clear Light Publishers, Santa Fe, NM, USA, 1999. Pp: 283. Pbk: $14.95.
HOW DO WE TELL THE WORKERS? THE SOCIOECONOMIC FOUNDATIONS OF WORK AND VOCATIONAL EDUCATION by Joe L. Kincheloe. Pub: Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, 1999. Pp. 450. Pbk. US$28.00. By Yusuf Progler
THE CULTURE OF DENIAL: WHY THE ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT NEEDS A STRATEGY FOR REFORMING UNIVERSITIES AND PUBLIC SCHOOLS by C. A. Bowers. State University of New York Press, Albany, NY: 1999. Pbk: $18.95. Pp: 276.
CULTURE JAM: THE UNCOOLING OF AMERICA by Kalle Lasn. New York: Eagle Brook and William Morrow, 1999. Pp. Xvii & 251. Hbk. US$25.
They opened fire with cannons and bombs on the houses and quarters, aiming specially at the mosque, firing at it with those bombs. They also fired at suspected places bordering the mosque, such as the market. And they trod in the mosque with their shoes, carrying swords and rifles. Then they scattered in its courtyard and its main praying area and tied their horses to the prayer niche They ravaged the students' quarters and ponds, smashing the lamps and chandeliers and breaking up the bookcases of the students and the scribes.
The long history of encounters between Western civilization and Islam has produced a tradition of portraying, in largely negative and self-serving ways, the Islamic religion and Muslim cultures. There is a lot of literature cataloguing (and sometimes correcting) these stereotypes. It is not my intention to rehash this corpus here, though I do rely upon some of the more important works. What I want to do instead is focus on a particular dimension of these encounters, and examine why the West has consistently constructed and perpetuated negative images of Islam and Muslims. My focus will be on the utility of Islamic imagery in Western civilization.
Here we reprint a paper delivered by DR YUSUF PROGLER at the Kalim Siddiqui Memorial Conference in London in April 1999, on the damage that western hegemony has done to Muslim thought, and how it can be addressed.
There is also a problem between dichotomizing between Islamic and Western, since many Muslims, for all intents and purposes, are following the modern Western lifestyle, including in their expections of what purpose schools should serve. So, is it the job of an Islamic school to teach Islamic to non-Muslims?
I would recommend exploring the work being done around turning schools into something more like community centers, that would be open all year round, and in the evening and on weekends, providing a range of services not just for children but with community needs in mind. This is a way of keeping the system intact but redistributing the money and power among those who the system is supposed to serve, not just distant and detached bureaucrats, politicians and business men.
While there are growing global discussions about the role of education in people’s lives, most ongoing discussions focus on children and schools. In many cases, the role of adults and the family in education is neglected or marginalized in these discussions. Part of this problem, perhaps, stems from a general misunderstanding of education, which is most often equated with merely going to school. An important first step, therefore, is to make clearer distinctions between education and schooling.
Education is about a process of becoming, and so the education one seeks is a crucial factor in what one will become. However, it is also important to broaden the definition of education beyond formal schooling, to include all the informal ways we learn. In this context, Islamic education is the process of becoming a Muslim, which can include learning a vocation or various forms of abstract knowledge, but first and foremost it is becoming a Muslim.
Despite the current socio-political tensions between the Islamic and Western worlds, there is a largely unquestioned allegiance on the part of many Muslims to the normative modes of thought and action associated with Western modernity. Since the days of gaining limited independence from direct colonialism after World War II, most discussions on education in the Muslim world have been concerned with seeking empowerment in the modernist world system.
With the increasing American colonial presence in the Muslim world, beginning with the 1991 war against Iraq and gaining momentum on the heels of 9/11 with recent invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, there have been numerous efforts aimed at reforming school curricula and revising textbooks. From Saudi Arabia to Indonesia, American officials have been pressuring local governments to eliminate anything that the Americans say promotes “violence and terrorism.”
The quality of the school will depend on the quality of the community it serves. But the majority of them are just cesspools. There’s no way your children can go to these, without getting ‘soiled’, not to mention that it could even be very dangerous for them.1
By the late 20th century, the recognition emerged that this system had largely run its course or that it was becoming obsolete and in need of some sort of reform. The main benefactors of this aging system—America, Europe, and Japan—fought each other in horrifically violent wars, which were called “world wars” because they involved the colonial spheres of influence of those powers, and which spanned the entire planet.
Colonization, as you know, is often formally seen as a period of history when the European and American powers forcibly and physically held colonies throughout what is now called the Third World, and from which they drew fabulous wealth. This organized plunder by the Western powers began with Spain, whose adventure in the Americas was ironically funded by gold from the Islamic caliphate they had just destroyed. Spanish colonial power soon gave way to other powers, so by the end of the 19th century, most of the world was physically colonized by Britain, France, Portugal, Spain, Holland and America (which was a British colony that itself became a colonizing power).
Imagery is the key to understanding TV, and there are several angles we could select in order to evaluate the impact of this imagery on our lives. We could look at biological or physiological impacts, or we could look at cultural or social impacts, even political and economic.1
Schooling is a relatively new phenomenon in human history, really only extant for about a century in most of the world, less in some places and more in others, but relatively new. It is an institutional response to several social needs, such as the need for social order, the need for acquiring marketable skills, the need for passing down one or another state ideology or identity.
Culture is nothing more than the way we live our lives, and it can be informed by religion or not. If you are asking about a more monolithic entity like "civilization" then maybe we can say that Muslim civilization has declined, but that is nothing new. All civilizations rise and fall, including the Western civilization. It is somehow natural, and civilization is what we make it. Culture, on the other hand, is more local and regional, more amorphous and less linked to material objects like monuments and cities, which are what we usually use to judge civilization.
Generally speaking, there can be no single culture, since culture, as understood by social scientists today, refers to the way of life of a particular people at a particular time and place. Culture also has two dimensions, the material dimension and the symbolic dimension.
The title is a way to get us rethinking the simplistic notions of globalization being Americanization, which is endlessly, and often fruitlessly, debated. In a way, framing a discussion in terms of going "beyond" Americanization, is way to encourage thinking about globalization as a complex topic. Many of those who say globalization is Americanization miss the positive aspects of globalization - with our without America.
Understanding mental illness in the modern world entails grasping two issues: 1) how mental illness is defined over time and across cultures and who does the defining, and 2) accepting the recent evidence that the causes of many mental problems lie outside a person's head, e.g. in the realm of culture and society.
This paper begins by reviewing the history of modern universities, noting their changes in terms of societal demands and the availability of funding and with an eye toward understanding their different roles and new outcomes. Based on this understanding, the paper then raises questions about the relevance of curricula to the needs and concerns of our students, communities and societies.
It is important to recognize the possibilities of globalization as well as the challenges. As a business venture, it does not bode well for most of humanity, if the WTO and other trade agreements are any indication. One way to combat this is to "go global" with a resistance movement, that is create or link up with movements that are already identifying the problems of economic globalization and join their efforts.
TV has provided a way for people to consume images and ideas that the ordinary person would not have access to in the course of a typical life. However, while this might sound like a benefit -- and we are constantly reminded of this alleged benefit by the industries themselves -- TV is not simply about seeing new things. It is primarily about selling.
What makes a particular sound art "Islamic." I have to say that any comments I make on this are indebted to the late scholar of music, Lois Lamya al-Faruqi, who really helped to define an Islamic epistemology of music. Rather than using Western categories of analysis, she developed categories that were descriptive of the sound arts based on Islamic principles and proceeding from the Quran.
There is an effort afoot all over the world to "reform" education. The overall message is "west knows best, we lead and you follow." More specifically, practically everyone in the West has realized that the old factory schooling system they have been using for a hundred years is obsolete intellectually. Socially, the move away from government to corporate control calls for privatization.
US needs some one now, as it has needed in the past, to position as an "evil other" in opposition to its good self. The "evil other" in history has taken on many names and shapes, from despots, to pirates, to bandits, to terrorists. In Western civilization, which is ferociously dichotomous, there is a necessity to define through opposition, and therefore a "terrorist" or some other nefarious character -- real or imagined -- is actually necessary for the maintenance of a western self image.
In the past human beings lived very close to nature and it was unthinkable to be separate from nature, including animals, weather patterns, and other things that are rarely part of "human" life today. We have enveloped ourselves in cities and buildings, living in so many boxes, controlling every feature of temperature and light, in an artificial environment. We no longer have a sense of where our food comes from. If we have contact with animals, they are for the most part domesticated. I think the Qur'an presumed a kind of human existence that was somehow closer to nature than most of us are today.
There are two different types of consumerism. One is associated with shopping and advertising, the other with consuming in general, which can include consuming ideas, thoughts, practices, behaviors, what have you. On one level, a consumer society is that which likes to shop a lot, but on another level a consumer society is a derivative society, one that has no sense of itself other than what it consumes, and this can be with respect to knowledge, education, technology and many other things.
The idea of "knowledge is power" has well served the Western world elite over the centuries, and some of the most brutal wars have been fought to protect its exclusivity. It still underwrites the international system of recolonization we are calling Western development. But this just makes it more difficult to see why Bacon's dictum is today splattered all over the mental environment.
Even the most casual observers of current events will notice a tension between Western civilization and Islam. This tension is often made explicit in Western public discourse about "Islamic fundamentalism" and the "clash of civilizations." Similarly, Muslim public discourse often focuses on the Zionist occupation of Palestine and the destruction of places like Bosnia and Iraq.
In the early nineteenth century, an African Muslim was living out the rest of his adult life in chattel slavery on a plantation in Antebellum America. Before dying on the eve of the Civil War, he left a handwritten Arabic manuscript with an acquaintance of his slave master.
Despite the proclamations of a post-modern era, of an age driven by information, many of the trappings of modernity drive western civilization. Mechanization, reductionism, and rationality are pervasive in most of the supposedly newly-emerging realities in western science, technology, economies and politics.
Among the western civilization's more dubious claims is that western man possesses the ability to define and delimit all knowledge. While colonization used murder and bribery to great effect, a lasting impact of the western incursion is in the area of epistemology, the nature of knowledge.
It has become fashionable, even dutiful, for techno-utopianists and their disciples to extol the virtues of the ‘information superhighway.’ Proclamations abound, praising the brave new world of cyberspace and its potential for easy access to information.
In certain quarters of western civilization, especially among those who design, sell and use digital computers, there is a rush toward digitization. The new technology makes possible various forms of colonization and enclosure that have been unthinkable until now.
One hears a lot of talk about ‘the millennium. There’s a daily countdown - one can buy watches that number the days. And there are numerous academic conferences involving Muslims in programs like, ‘interfaith dialogues for the new millennium’ or ‘new thoughts for the new millennium.’
The whole idea of the millennium is intertwined with something deeper that is going on in Western civilization right now: the West is unsure of itself. It is unsure of its institutions, educational policies, business practices, social norms, and political understandings of the world.
A quarter of a century ago, Alex Haley’s autobiographical oral history Roots sparked controversy among historians because Haley claimed that his African ancestors kidnapped into American slavery were Muslims.
As the Christian millennium looms, Muslims - rather than joining the celebrations - might fruitfully use the occasion to consider the Christian and western influence and impact on Islamic civilization.
The Muslim legacy in African American history is receiving a lot of scholarly and popular attention lately. Even Hollywood has had to include Muslim characters in its historical reconstructions.
During the last hours of ‘Operation Desert Fox,’ the murderous Anglo-American pre-Ramadan assault on the Muslim population of Iraq, the Associated Press broadcast a photograph of a US Navy missile ‘festooned with disparaging graffiti.’
To casual observers, the Turkish tourist industry may appear to be somewhat harmless and only superficially damaging to Islamic culture in Turkey. But this is facile and misleading. Tourism brings with it more insidious, and clearly damaging, trends
The Turkish carpet industry has felt the increasing weight of tourism. New carpets reflect the confusion and rootlessness so prevalent in modern western civilization
Istanbul, once a magnificent city of Islamic civilization, known to Muslims of another age as Jannatu dunya (paradise on earth), is today laid open for inspection by the prying eyes of western tourists.
At a recent conference, a number of Muslim scholars joined with western scientists, politicians, and Christian clergy to discuss visions for the ‘new millennium.’ No one, however, seems to recognize that the event they celebrate is the Christian millennium.
METAL OF DISHONOR: DEPLETED URANIUM - HOW THE PENTAGON RADIATES SOLDIERS AND CIVILIANS WITH DU WEAPONS. By the Depleted Uranium Education Project. International Action Center, New York, US. 1997. pp. 238. Pbk: US$12.95.
After nearly four of decades of cold war conflict, accompanied by apathy and acceptance of the general population, the ‘no-nukes’ movement finally arose in the early 1980s to protest the ongoing threat of nuclear conflagration.
Turkey appears once again to be headed for turmoil. In this 700-year old country of 70 million Muslims, the seven-decade old military government is at war with Islam, imposing western secularism under the boots of Mustafa Kemal’s generals.
'I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids - and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you sometimes see in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass.
In 1922, an American farmer and electronics tinkerer by the name of Philo T Farnsworth invented a scanning device that would lead to the development of television. Farnsworth's 'image dissector' solved many of the problems faced by European and American technicians who sought a way to electronically transmit images. Control of Farnsworth's invention would determine the success or failure of all television development.