Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The pushes & pulls of modernity and mediavilsm

How do you define modernity and traditionalism very much lies with the person who is defining it. To some the dichotomy of modernity and traditionalism is a parallel to the duality of Oriental and Occidental. To name a few, just the notion of use of technology, especially those related to means of communications are very modern, very Western, to those who got them as ‘imported; foreign technological goods. In some cases, to a father in a village in Pakistan watching an advertisement of sanitary napkin while his young daughter is around is a ‘modern’ and ‘foreign’ idea and in this context modernity is of course not taken very positively. A scholar might reflect differently on this and consider the acceptance of a female to lead Namaz (Muslim prayer always led by a male) as "modern". The idea of modernity is also very temporal though there are many who remain fixated with the idea of maintaining the 'purity' of a practice or concept by following the 'words' of the law rather than the 'spirit.' However, with the passage of time there is an acceptance of certain technologies or social norms as traditional which originally started out as radical and modern. For example, though the Muslims do not eat non halal meat (non Kosher) but those residing in Western countries where access to such food is hard or impossible, many Muslim scholars have given the verdict that it is allowed to eat the non halal meat of those animals permitted by Islam. Similarly, there is a considerable amount of debate going on regarding the issue of female seclusion and purdah, both in the Occident and the Orient. Some call it a privilege and some a sign of oppression, and how it is practiced and to what degree it is observed is also a matter of preference for different people and is according to their reading of Islam. While Modernity by itself is a complex, dense and multi-layered concept which does not have very specific contour and shape, I considers the current transition of Muslims towards adoption of more secular values a sign of "modernization".

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