"It is against our culture" – Another red card.

“It is against our culture” – Another red card.

How many of us has been faced with this simple sentence when presenting an argument or behavior that is considered outside of the norms of the perspective of the person holding this card?

My intention of this post is to try to address the validity of this argument and its relationship with what we call cultural conflict. I honestly want to debate here my intake on this issue and how I see it more of a social progression rather then a cultural imperialism as some other people see it. I will also try my best not to be as provocative as I have been in other posts.

Let us start by defining culture itself. I went over its definition over wickipedia and picked up the following:

Culture can be “understood as systems of symbols and meanings that even their creators contest, that lack fixed boundaries, that are constantly in flux, and that interact and compete with one another”

The entire Wickipedia page about culture is interesting. It isn’t just the lack of fixed boundaries and the constant flux but also the dynamic nature of cultures is what is really important.

For a lot of us, and for me at a previous stage of my awareness, I used to perceive culture as a static entity, where when anyone referred to *our* culture, I used to think of it as an Arabic Islamic Culture that has been always been the same through out our history and that doesn’t differenciate between the different Arabic and Islamic countries. The general notion of *our* culture is a static projection of our current perception of this culture to cover the entire time and space.

In reality that is very far from truth.

A culture is a dynamic entity – This is very important to understand -. What we call Arabic Islamic Culture these days is different than what Arabic Islamic Culture represented 100 years ago. The nature of cultures is based on the collective sum of all the ways of life at a specified point of time. I added the specified point of time because we all know that “all ways of life” change as we progress in time. It isn’t just that people’s awareness change, but also technological and scientific inventions do have a deep impact on the way people live their lives and thus reflected on the current cultural attributes.

Cultures do as well influence each other. This has been happening through the entire timeline of history. What we call now Arabic Islamic Culture has been influenced by other cultures at different time intervals and has also influenced other cultures as well in the same matter. For instance, what we call Arabic world today used to enjoy more sexual freedom in the 18th century that is has today. The shift of moral codes has been influenced by the European values of the Victorian age.

West and East have never been two separate worlds as the media tries to present it today (especially after 9/11). Cultures from every part of the world have always managed to influence each other. The world culture is more different if you look at it in terms of different historical intervals rather than different point of space. A scientific invention takes no time of spreading all over the world and affecting the different cultures.

Having said that, and looking back to the civil rights people around the world have been able to achieve in the past decades. Gender equality, sexual liberation, and social tolerance have all been part of the progression of the human perception rather than a static cultural attribute that is meant to eat out our own static culture.

I would really want to build a seperation between real social progression and real cultural conflict. I would want to highlight how cultures have been used as much as religions for political agendas and power plays. I would want to erase the inherited fear of colonization that blocks our way. I would want people to realize what is really meant when someone says ‘It is against our culture’!


  1. Dear Arab Observer, I appreciate this post very much. When i think of the word culture, or the Arabic equivalent, i think of positive things, of beauty, of intellect, of wisdom, of experience, of learning, of interaction, of knowledge, of imagination and fantasy, however, when “our culture” is used as it is, it becomes a jail of inexperience, of fear, oppression, limitation, darkness, xenophobia and hostility. like you said, dear Arab Observer, our culture is ever dynamic, expanding and forming, changing and re-changing, of birth and rebirth, an endless interlaced multi dimensional organism of possibilities and perspectives.i feel that it is fear, and fear allows for hate, that pushes anyone to condemn a thought or an act or a dream to “it is against our culture.”


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