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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Are Muslim youth cultured?

Do Muslim teens know their Bach from their Rachmananov or their Shakespeare from their Blake? Can they hum Beethoven’s symphonies, name Shakespeare’s tragedies or simply count in Greek?!

I am not emotionally prepared to face the humiliation I might get for answering the first five questions- as for the last, that’s more debatable and that’s what I think needs to be established. What does being cultured mean!?

The dictionary might say it’s to abide by or appreciate the rules, traditions and rituals of a certain type of people/nationality. If this were the case then being a world-class henna artist and knowing how to roll choice Samosas would certainly put you in the top 10 most cultured Asian lists. To reach the same position in the Arab list you need to know how to belly dance and recite the entire works of “Badir Shakir Al-Sayab” (Iraqi poet).

So basically being cultured doesn’t mean being cultured western style i.e. appreciating music, drama and the arts etc… it means being cultured in the style that you feel suits you. Wahey! Now merely binging on chocolate and lazing in the sun/cinema can be made to sound impressive! Hear it from Mr-Culture himself; Aristophanes (famous Philosopher) said: “Let each man exercise the art he knows”.

On a more serious note, if we are to see how cultured (western culture) Muslim Youth are, a different league of questions has to be asked. I’m not exactly sure how many of us answered “yes” to the first five questions. My guess is that it isn’t too many. You might think that this is an issue, or you might not. I personally would be slightly happier and more content if a higher proportion answered yes.

I think being in touch with the history, heritage and “culture” of the society you live in can’t do you much bad. In fact the only effect it may have is that it makes you more integrated into society, which makes the rest of your life a lot easier. This should be in conflict with our identity as understanding or appreciating British culture, is not contrary to Islam in any way, and its advantages all around.

Everyone’s interests lie in different areas and so nobody should be forced to “culture”-ify themselves if they have no wish to. However it would be nice if youth that did want to, were not discouraged by their families and communities (“See how westernised Zahra has become!!”) and rather had their interested fostered, nurtured and encouraged.

I strayed quite badly there didn’t I!? So back to the original question- how cultured are Muslim youth? Hmm… the answer can range from not at all to very very much so- depending on what you classify as culture. Now that’s a true test of culture for you.

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