Friday, April 21, 2006

Arabization as Globalization

Reihan Salam, whom I've quoted before, has a great post on the spread of radical Islam as a particularly insensitive and destructive type of globalization. [HT: Jonah Goldberg] First he points out (citing Fareed Zakaria's Future of Freedom):

India has grown progressively less Western as it's grown more democratic and more affluent, and a wide variety of cultural forms that are both modern and indigenous have flourished. (Bollywood comes to mind.) There is a place for English, to be sure, but it is an indigenized English. At the same time, dozens of regional languages have parallel publishing industries and even film industries all their own, and many are thriving as profitable niche markets.

He then contrasts this with the "Arabization" going on in Southeast Asia. There indigenous cultures are being revitalized by new technology, but are being simply eliminated as not being truly "Islamic," when what is meant by Islam is simply "what they do in Saudi Arabia." So the native Mak Yong style folk music of Muslim Malaysia is going extinct, after being banned by the Parti Islam in the local government.

He concludes:

Rather than offering a precise cultural pattern that demands the displacement of indigenous traditions, Western cultural exports, certainly in recent decades, take the form of techniques and practices that can in fact revitalize indigenous cultures [This is what he's described in the case of India]. Even anti-Americanism is a kind of American export, spreading as it does via popular music and a cultural pose perfected by American provocateurs. But the "soft power" of the Arab world takes a different, more pernicious form.

You can see this in China too. I have put up two pictures of mosques in northwest China, where the Hui (Chinese-speaking Muslims) are a widespread commercial minority, with some districts of rural population. The smaller one is a typical pre-Cultural Revolution style mosque (one in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia), which was basically Chinese in style, with Koranic calligraphy and a minaret. But after the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), when destroyed mosques were rebuilt and religious expression was given more leeway, young Huis began building mosques. Having had their own indigenous traditions assaulted and being more familiar with the Arab world, and often funded by Saudi oil money, they built all the new mosques in the style of cheap knock-offs of Middle Eastern mosques (the large picture is of a new mosque in Linxia, traditionally known as "the Mecca of China"). The difference is symptomatic of the globalization of Islam.

In other words, rather than being an "tribal" reaction to "globalization" (Jihad vs. McWorld), Islamism is simply another globalization agenda, another program for standardizing all the world according to one template.