Aug 23, 2007 6:06 am


Here is an excerpt:

The bigger issue is that Western Europe, while built on tolerance, today lacks a strong cultural life, making it vulnerable to Islamicization. Muslim women shouldn't wear headscarves in the West. If you decide to move to another country and to live within its laws you don't express your disregard for the essence of the culture. It's a form of aggression.

The debate in Britain about detainees held at Guantánamo Bay is evidence of foolishness. People here talk about those people who were picked up by the Americans as “lads,” “our lads,” as though they were people playing cricket or marbles. It's glib, nonsensical talk from people who don't understand that holy war for Muslims is a religious war, and a religious war is something you never stop fighting.

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More Comments:

Ritzy - 9/1/2005

Hi Judith, thanks for the comment, it's on the blog as intended.

I don't understand why Europe should loose the sense of tolerance; recent events such as the murders in the Netherlands, UK's decision to ban/deport preachers of hate is at least to me perfectly compatible with tolerance. That said, I should perhaps read Naipaul's full argument.

Headscarfs is a problem for many women, here in Egypt too; if it's not the husbands it's the extended family, the prospect groom's family, work place, society etc. who pressure women to wear it. But it is also a free choice for many women, for reasons of religion, fasion, socio-economics etc. We should condemn the pressure, but honor the free choice. In a liberal society, we ought to appreciate the differences, or else we are not a liberal society. It is a point of moral right vs. might.

Beards and scarves cannot longer be attributed to Islamists only, unless the larger part of the population in Egypt should be called Islamists. Listening to the tone of the Friday prayers, I'm tempted to think they are, but it's not true.

Your life is certainly easier if you know the local language where you go but it's not an obligation to learn it, no one should be offended if you don't, most people wouldn't be offended; they wouldn't feel you are aggressivley violating their culture as Naipaul would argue. If the local population find a foreigner exotic and strange, that's a completely different matter.

[my first entry: ]

- 9/1/2005

Thanks, Ritzy for commenting again. I tried to place a comment on your blog but had a problem sighning in. I will try again in a bit. Let me focus on the issue of headscrafs for the moment. You are right in principle, that is the reason they are not a problem in the US and I do not believe they should be. (Total cover-up in this day and age of terror does make me uncomfortable and I believe should be removed for officials when I.D. is needed. Wearing such outfits was the way to enter Afghanistan undetected under the Taliban.)
Europe is another matter. Naipul is right. Tolerance in the aftermath of the holocaust along with socialism and secularism is part of European sense of self at the moment. If that is lost, watch out. But there is a more important aspect to this debate. The truth is that for many Muslim women wearing a headscraf is not an option, their men beat them up if they do not. In the US, my very outspoken Muslim friend told me she must wear a head scarf if she wants Muslims to listen to a word she says. Indeed, when I visited Egypt in the Eighties, I was told that headscarfs in the city meant political Islamism.
I lived in China and believe me, the Chinese are the most openly racist people around. They repeatedly told me I do not LOOK Jewish. Their paper refers to Westerners (and Middle Easterners) as "long noses" and since very few Chinese can speak any othe langauge (English is growing), you would have to learn Chinese to get around as my husband and daughter did. I am terrible in languages, so I relied on them.

Ritzy Mabrouk - 9/1/2005

Lacks a strong cultural life? Which countries are he comparing with! If any nations can cope with cultural globalization it's the European, precisely because their firm ground. What a nonsense that Muslim women shouldn't wear headscarf and that it is offensive. If you find that a sign of aggression, it is only because you are not tolerant and lack respect of other people, their belief and cultures. Normal minds tend to appreciate the differences among people. Most people appreciate guests in their country, even if they're staying permanently. And you don't impose your habits on your guests. How rude! In another context, if a westerner move to China, would she have to learn the language? No, it would be preferable for her and the people she meets, but its perfectly acceptable that she is staying there as a foreign guest, no further moral obligation of assimilation.

Naipaul also writes that 9/11 has not changed the word. Some years ago, he readily declared how prostitutes were therapeutically good for him. Did he always lack in respect or is it just his age showing?