Notes & Dialogue on Family and Liberty
December 19, 2006 § 5 Comments
In the recent policy switch – a change of heart if you will, both personally and professionally – and overall philosophical turn, I have opened my doors to new opportunities, exchanges and experiences on the Internet and in the blogosphere. This turn resulted in an intriguing dialogue with a community of conservative, right-wing Americans that I would not have ordinarily entertained within the blogosphere, although I’ve desired to for some time. In the process there have been some conflicts and staunch opposition to political views; there have also been aggressive attempts to deligitimize my work and this blog. However, the bright-points of these exchanges make it all worth while.
One of these bright points materialized in a response to the Katy (Texas) Islamic Association’s recent controversy. Where a Red State blogger indulged me in a dialogue concerning: liberty, justice and the role of family in Islam. The discussion was refreshing, and for the first time I was aware of the potential effects of the Internet as a medium for socio-political awareness. The discussion however, evoked several questions from our right-wing constituent, which I will attempt to address in this article.
A common ground that I think we can all accept is that family is both important to Western civilization and the Muslim World. I think there is no disagreement that social order begins with the family unit. Likewise, I think we all can accede the notion that “sociability” is a common feature of human nature. And we may or may not I agree, that it is the fetters of our social relationships that play a pivotal role in the shaping and forming of society. It is in this case that differences, real differences begin to surface. Often individualism and collectivism go hand-in-hand but this terminology is far too vague to “get to the nut” of this topic. So much is left to include or exclude from each term, that what we are left with is liken to the weather-beaten sail of a run-down ol’ pirate-ship.
Therefore, a shift from conventional psychological terminolgy, often used to analyze politics, must be made. I would like to borrow the identifiers inclusive and exclusive, coined by former Ambassador, Professor Akbar S. Ahmed throughout this article. Within the realms of individuality and community there are varying degrees of expansive and limited behaviors, correlating to an entire spectrum of socio-political classes, however the most comprehensive for our purposes are found in global and national initiatives. These initiatives – I think – allow us to understand the fundamental status of our present day society, from a very generalized, macrocosmic view of the global sphere.
Similarly, the smaller societal structures are bound to the same conditions of inclusivism and exclusivism. Which is why, in terms of interests, you find a parallel between American Neo-Conservatives and the Saudi Royal Family’s overall alliances.
Yet even smaller still, the basic unit of society, the family, is subject to the same conditions by default. During the Industrial Revolution and the urbanization of this country, the family structure took on different values. One should note that this is also when the second period of American Feminism took place (hat tip Human). Likewise, Muslim nations – Saudi Arabia in particular – have also had periods of societal shifts. For example, Arab Nationalism a broad ideology that occurred throughout the Arab World as a result of World War I, inspired a complete overhaul of the family and social structure within the region.
But what lay unnoticed in all of this development was the slow reclusion into Nationalist exclusionism. For the West it was odd to have Muslims, in the West yet, in a reclusive and rather compromising state of rejection. For the Muslim World – who have been the hosts of a long standing colonial imposition by the West – it was provocating that the West and particularly Americans would trample the world as a “morally bankrupt” superpower, “unwilling to halt the suffering in the world or stop its own obsessive consumerism.”
Where this leaves us is not a conflict of family values, but an obvious difference. I state earlier that,
“A common ground that I think we can all accept is that family is both important to Western civilization and the Muslim World.”
But I disagree that there need be no agreement between nations concerning liberty and how a value system (be it family or otherwise) in this global society should exercise it. In terms of understanding the global situation, inclusivism should be applied as preventive method to violence. Only violence and revenge can result from extreme exclusivism because ultimately, someone gets used while other stands on his shoulders.
If this happens, which it has, Liberty as a modus operandi becomes a euphimism for recklessness and justice is reduced to revenge or negated from further discourse. The effects of these conditions like all effects, domino and eventually reach the fundamental unit of society, which also has occurred. This is how Liberty has or the “American Way” as seen by foreigners may “lose its luster”. Its is true that for social stability and security a certain level of exclusion must be acceptable, however a “well-meaning adult person” may – upon their decision of which constraints are acceptable and which are not – judge based on societal the allowances provided, notwithstanding the legality of things but of a more refined matter of honor in this post-honor society.
During my final thoughts on this issue it is difficult for me to think of the greater points that have been discussed not having an effect on the smaller but fundamental family unit. I think we all will agree that liberty in the true sense of the word should protect society from “enslavement”, but remember it is the execution of ones liberties exorbitantly that enslaves. One might wonder where do we find the judgements to preserve the power of the individual and at the same time protect society from exclusivist individuals or groups. I am a Muslim and I believe in Allah (the One and only God); the Qur’an, the word of Allah (the One and Only God) which identifies how this is done in two categories.
The first is the individual duty of each and every man (and woman), which is to believe in God, abstain from evil (best performed in ritual fasting), prayer, charitable giving of material substance and interpersonal communication and as well as a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia to perform the time honored tradition that has been passed down from the Prophet Abraham and Muhammad, may peace be upon them.
“The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practise regular charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger. On them will Allah pour His mercy: for Allah is Exalted in power, Wise.” (9:071)
While the second category suggests the scope of social interactions and therefore global relations:
“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).” (49:13)
In the Qur’an it says that our duty to each other while on the Earth is to be steadfast in justice, compassion, kindness and balance as well as the acquisition of knowledge which is not obtainable without society. Knowledge is girded by society, and it is when knowledge becomes exclusive to smaller groups that oppression rears its ugly head.