Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Why Are We Bad?

It was a rare rainy day in a small sheikdom in the Middle East when I trooped into the mosque to pray Isha. After prayers, I met an older uncle who asked me about my future plans.

"I am going to Canada". I told him.

"Good," he replied. "Go, study and then come back. Don't stay there. It's not a good place for young Muslim men."

I have mused over that for sometime. Even when I go back to Bangladesh, I have seen that attitude from people that somehow, people in Bangladesh are better Muslims then people who live in Canada (or USA). When I went to the UAE, I met people who snobbishly told me, "Why do anyone live in Canada, that too, a Muslim?"

Here are my reasons why I think we Canadians (and the West) are not only better Muslims, but better human beings that those living in "Muslim" lands.

In Canada our buses have spaces for the handicapped.
In Bangladesh you are lucky to make it to the bus stop if you are handicapped.

In Canada we say "Excuse me" when someone steps on our toes.
In Bangladesh we push people out of the way.

In Canada we live respectfully with the Jews and while we disagree on many things, we treat them as our friends and neighbors.
In Bangladesh Jews are the cause of all problems and the reason why there is so much war all around the world and after all, everything is Israel's fault and part of a conspiracy.

In Canada I can pray and fast on my own terms.
In Saudi I am beaten if I am outside on the streets during prayer times.

In Canada we elect our leaders the way Muslims elected Abu Bakr as their first leader.
In the Arab lands ... well, never mind.

In Canada when it is illegal to discriminate against a person based on his skin color.
In Muslim lands it's all about Fair and Lovely.

In Canada I can run my own business and not take interest if I have to.
In Bangladesh I have to pay bribes at every level and not to mention protection money to local hoodlums for every business.

In Canada molesting a women is against the law.
In some Muslim lands molesting a women IS the law.

In Canada we treat work as noble. A labourer at a construction site (work that the Prophet did) is as much a person as a doctor.
In Bangladesh, "they" are second class citizens and not even worth a mention.

We are open minded. We don't think it's a religious duty to beat our women. We don't believe in forced marriages. We don't believe in killing a woman because she doesn't cover her hair or describe them as "meat".

We pay our workers and sue those who don't. We read, discover and broaden our knowledge. We keep an open mind and don't pretend to act on God's behalf. We live peacefully with our neighbors even if they follow a different religion. Or even a different sect of our religion.

So, to reply to that uncle, "you are wrong. It's a great place to be a Muslim."


Nowal said...

You should have a disclaimer in all your blog posts that when you say Canada, you really mean Toronto.

mezba said...

You think? I was actually thinking when I say Canada I mean the West. I have travelled in many parts of the West and these things are similar.

azlin said...

The whole thing abt disability really gets to me. It was so easy for my mom to travel on her wheelchair in Perth. She can even travel on her own if she wants to. In Malaysia, forget abt it. I don't care abt big buildings etc, all I want is for the Muslim countries to care abt their "little people".

azlin said...

Let's take a look at the Masjids in the west. How many of them are disable friendly?

Suroor said...

Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!

Anonymous said...

I'll concede to some of your points, however others give the supposed "West" way too much credit, and too little credit to Muslim lands.

Anonymous said...

waah mezzu... this post is truly one of the finest... so true in every aspect.

If the uncle had said his statement from the point of saving money by earning tax free, then yea, he was 100% right, but I am sure his opinion came from "goras-are-not-good-people" attitude from god knows where he heard that from.


'liya said...

Great post! I think people who assume the West is a such a big bad place to be Muslim never really tried living here or getting to know people who aren't Muslim.

Anonymous said...

Ok I have been following your blog for a while. I am really disappointed at this 'branding' you have established on Islam in the West and East :S Must mention here that one thing I really appreciated in this blog was trying to look through different perspectives which I am sorry to say this post totally lacks. I know coming from Bangladesh that yes a lot of people blame Jews and do some of those things that you mentioned. But are you seriously telling me that older desi Muslim generations in both Canada and USA are unbiased and objective about Jews? :) That they come to the West and suddenly their eyes are opened, and hence also teach the right things to their children. The little liners that you provided of uncles telling you that West is not good for Muslims well I have heard that being uttered manier times by people living/earning here and still complaining. I just picked on this point..there are many I disagree with. Anyway, don't want to start any arguement just putting forwards some thoughts on your labelling. You say you have travelled a lot. Well so have I, Mashallah but that has taught me not to generalize anyone by region/ethnicity/religion. That's just what I experienced.

youngMuslimah said...

"In Saudi I am beaten if I am outside on the streets during prayer times."

lol this is SO not true.
nice post, but mezba it's NOT for us to judge if someone's a good muslim. I mean arent we always harping about judgmental people? everyone has their own trials and tribulations to go thru, regardless of where they live. we have been told in the Quran we'll be tested. it's unfair to rule out a ceratin group of muslims just b/c they happen to live in the *muslim* lands. besides the *muslim* world is really diverse. you just cant clamp down all of them under one category.

Anonymous said...

I liked your post! I should tell my ex husband and his family to read it lol...

saeeda said...

your awesome. i agree with you, like, totally.


the crazy jogger said...

tht is pretty much true ..
I also hate it how ppl start discriminating whn u defend the opportunities there with respect to the Mideast. They always think tht cuz we’re sayin tht it would b a more challenging experience living amongst people from other religions. Where we would b tested on a daily basis and we’d be a lil more free with we do
they thnk cuz livin in a Muslim country they can copy the fashion n everythin from the west n still hate them.. WTH?
Livin in a Muslim country doesnt mean tht u get a free pass

BTW They don’t beat u in Saudi anymore.. I shd knw.. I’ve lived here.. 19yrs n countin
n keep postin!
PS: loved ur Music post too!

Secret Dhaka said...

Very hackneyed post, I am afraid. We are talking about countries that have way too much to do in the way of economic development and human development to debate etiquette-related issues of stepping on toes and equipping buses with facilities. Lets discuss ways of enhancing education in Muslim countries, spreading democracy and secularism, and so on and so forth, instead of stating the obvious and kicking straw/imaginery uncles in their nuts, and showing off our more enlightened socialization thus. Toronto, New York, London, etc have enormous muslim populations, all degreed up, enabling more sophisticated religious discourse, while availing of the west's material progress, so of course if one has the deen in her to be a good Muslim while absorbing the best of the West, all power to her, but lets not assume that all of us who have lived in the West, have such fantastic Muslim lives. That's probably a third degree exaggeration.

mezba said...

Azlin: Islam asks men and women to care about the disadvantage but in Muslim countries it's mostly a rat race and no one give's a rat's ass about the disadvantaged.

One of my cousins was born with a learning disability. Thank God he was born in USA where he could get proper attention and special care and all. These are mostly missing in the third world.

Azlin: In the West, actually most masjids are disable friendly, as they have to be accessible by law (at least in Canada).

Suroor: :-)

Sophister: After more than a decade living in both places I can honestly say these statements are true. There's pretty much disappointing news from all "Muslim" lands, particularly Arabia where as the $ comes in, cultural development goes out it seems.

Behbood: it's the goras-are-not-good-people attitude. And the Middle East being what it is, no one earns tax free there any more. They take it out of you by another means. For example, Dubai has some of the highest rents and traffic tolls and user fees in the world!

They say Death and taxes are universal!

Anon @ 11:48: Noted.

Young Muslimah: I have been in Saudi and yes the muttawa DID beat you (particularly if you are a guy) and on the streets during prayer times.

Can you really deny the gist of what I am saying here?

lovetodaydream: :-)

Crazy Jogger: welcome to the blog.

Another thing that bugs me about Muslims living in Muslim lands is that they label anything foriegn to them as haram, just because they don't do it that way in their country! People are not open minded at all.

In the West there are all types of Muslims and we have to be more open minded and tolerant because we all have to get along.

Secret Dhaka: It's my blog and I will discuss whatever I want to.

The Middle East is rich and should be on par with the West in living and life style (if not ahead) and culture. Yet they don't care about worker's rights, consumer rights, women's rights, etc. In all of Middle East there is not one good university that can lay claim to be in the top 10 in the world. Or even top 50! Why?

Anonymous said...

You have mentioned the points beautifully but not the cause of it.
let west become muslim majority. it will also become like muslim countries, the way you mentioned.
Does that tell something ?

youngMuslimah said...

mezba,it also depends where in saudi you went to! not all cities are the same. for example riyadh is pretty strict and conservative and jeddah they say is cool. plus your post is a HUGE genralization. you seem to think that ALL muslims in the muslim lands think the same way.
Besides arent you contradicting yourself? you say muslims in the muslim lands are intolerant and judgemental when you yourself have this judgmental post saying muslims in the west are more tolerant and have it all right. Allah says in the Quran He'll test EVERYONE regardless of where they live. we all go thru our tials and tribulations and will be judged by Allah accordingly. no one but HIM has the right to judge who is a good muslim and who's not. get over it. if you love the west so much, and if it makes you such a great muslim, go ahead live your life w/o judging anyone for the choices they make.

p.s- comapring the east and west is like comparing the day and night. they are two complete different socities and it's stupid to dismiss the muslim lands b/c they dont follow the shari'ah by word when we know from the Quran, hadith, most of the things that are happening around are the signs of the Last Day. Madinah back from those good ol days doesnt exist anymore.
p.p.s- im not against west. it just pisses me off when someone begins to say western muslims are more religious and us in the muslim lands have it all nice. we have our own unique situations to deal with.

youngMuslimah said...

I just realized my comment sounds sound so rude..sorry, i didnt mean it that way.

mezba said...

Saeeda: welcome to the blog. Sorry, missed your comment before.

Anon @ 5.15:Maybe, maybe not. I am not into hypotheticals, but do look into history. The Muslims conquered Spain, Eastern Europe and India. They did not force Islam down anyone's throats there and those areas have retained their culture and religion.

youngMuslimah: I think people would understand this post is a type of generalization. Not all Muslims in Canada are cool and not all Muslims back "home" are Taliban. Yet ... it's the general ATTITUDE I am talking about.

Musa said...

I have had numerous debates on this issue, and more often than not, I was the one arguing against the "Uncle's" points....

But in this case, Mezba Bhai, I am not quite sure what to make of your points. Most of them resonate with my own experience (as someone who has lived in the UAE and the USA)

However, if murdering women for not wearing Hijab can be attributed to "Muslim countries" (even though it happened in 1 country out of 57), then surely teenagers knifing grandmothers for 10 quids can be attributed as practices common to the "western world".....

That said, there is a great deal of confusion over what constitutes a "Muslim land", and what doesnt. In the opinions of the Uncle and countless others, a Muslim land is any country where Muslims are a majority. And they believe living in a Muslim land is better than living in a non-Muslim one, even though their definition of "muslim land" covers lovely places like Tunisia and Uzbekistan (both places where Islam is less tolerated than most non-Muslim countries).

IMHO, it all depends on whether living in a particular country allows you to practise Islam fully or not, so I agree that Toronto might be as "Muslim" a place as Dhaka, even more so maybe.

Then again, you are wrong to paint the entire "West" with the same brush, particularly as you most likely have never walked into a bikers/truckers diner in rural Kansas or Alabama, which is a world apart from LA or San Diego (the latter's patriotic bumper stickers will feel infinitely more benign than the stares/attitudes you will get in rural Alabama)

Anonymous said...


I was not commenting on history. I am commenting on present state of islam countries. Your post was also about present state. Hatred for jews , kaafirs, non existent human rights or freedom of speech in muslim countries. Subjugation of women. All this comes from where?

Or do you believe in "hate the sin but not the sinner".

mezba said...

Musa: I will concede that this post is about generalizations! :-D

But, having said that, this is my refutal of an uncle's even broader generalization. If I can be wrong, then it proves beyond doubt that his original argument definitely IS wrong. Makes sense?

Besides, in most cases I am talking about attitudes. For example, ALL of Canada's public transportation care for the handicapped. Practically none of Bangladesh's buses do. Or even UAE's, for that matter.

Practially people from all of the Muslim lands from all walks of like now think of Jews as an enemy. It wasn't always like that. Most muslims in Canada know the difference between a Jew and a Zionist.

Regarding democracy, discrimination on color, "hafta wasuli" - again I am wholly right - and it's not generalizing.

Regarding sexual harrassment of women, in Pakistan for example, a woman is raped every 2 hours and gang raped every 8 hours [Source].

I could google for it but I remember reading about the high number of sex harrassment cases in Bangladesh and abuse of maids in Middle East.

Not that sexual abuse doesn't happen in the West but in our lands there are either no laws against it (B'desh sex harrassment laws are not developed) or laws are ignored (Middle East maid abuse).

As for the Alabama bikers, remember - I am comparing MUSLIMS in the West vs Muslims in the "Muslim lands".

Hope this helps.

Anon @ 6.48: You may know if you read my blog that I don't like going into discussions with anonymous commentators. If you are the same commentator above then you have not read my comment.

If Islam told Muslims to hate Jews and kaafirs and subjugate women then Islam would not have progressed so far. Palestine used to be under Muslims as was Spain and India and yet their cultures live today. Jews were better off under Ottomans than under Christian Europeans who labelled them "Christ killers".

Subjugation of women in Islam? That's a whole vast topic and you can google it. I just have to say two of the most populous Muslim countries (Indonesia and Bangladesh) have had women leaders, something that is not very common amongst the West.

As for freedom of speech, we have it in Muslim countries where there is democracy (Bangladesh, Malaysia). We don't have it where there's dictators (propped up by the West too).

Iftekhar said...

The inward-looking attitude that you're bringing to the table here is very needed, and by and large I agree with you.

But I think in some ways our self-criticism can become self-flagellation.

If in Pakistan a woman is raped every 2 hours, in North America, a woman is sexually assaulted every 2 minutes (

I'm not saying Pakistan is better off; it unarguably isn't. What I'm trying to say is that some of these problems are universal, and in Muslim lands, it becomes a highlight because, well... they're Muslim.

The powerful subjugate the weak, and it has always been this way, and this is an endemic problem among people all over the world. That doesn't make it okay, but it makes it a "common problem."

Muslims are most certainly not the only bigoted people in the world. The Buddhist military junta of Myanmar is ethnically cleansing the Muslim Rohingya. The Hindus of India committed genocide on Muslim minorities in Gujaray. Hindu extremist groups went around on Valentine's Day threatening physical violence on young couples "celebrating it" this year.

These problems are real, and third-world Muslims (and third-world Chrisitians, Buddhists, Hindus, Taoists, and atheists) are doing a generally bad job of handling them. But that notwithstanding, many of these problems are inflated by simple association with "Muslims," when in fact, they are fundamental problems that all societies in the world are grappling with.

It's like saying, man, Pakistani men beat their wives. That's true, many do, but so do many North American men. The only difference (that is relevant to this discussion) is that the woman in Pakistan has little legal recourse, whereas in the US, there are protocols in place to handle these kinds of things.

I feel we need to be clear when we look inwards and blame ourselves for our own problems (something very commendable and well-advised), we ought to add a caveat that many of these problems are not Muslim-specific.

It's simply localized bad attitudes, amplified.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Inasmuch as this is a rhetorical rant against your uncle, I'm completely with you on the sentiments expressed. But otherwise, I'd echo one of the above comments on hackneyed generalizations.

Re. the brief discussion above on accommodation of disabilities, it is worth recalling the complex history of the disability rights movement in N.America in particular, and the West in general. Improvements don't come out of nowhere. Said history is, at times, pretty grim.

My eldest brother was born mentally handicapped, and while my parents agree that the opportunities would've been great were they to have raised him in the US, I can say that nobody "regrets" that he was born in BD.

Anonymous said...

You raised important points here and obviously some people would take matters personally,lol. I prefer living in the west too, and that is MY choice. Most of the people who go to work in the ME, especially saudia have it really hard. Most of them don't get paid for the first month or more and yes, this is true, am not making it up. I don't think the manual labourers get over time or time and a half if they work during the holidays. Would any refugees get medical assistance if they needed it and have no *status* while fleeing their countries and landing in most of the middle eastern countries, NOPE, i don't think so but Canada, yap! I know a family that was being detained and about to be deported,they son has a heart problem, he was treated FREE at the sick kids hospital and the family was later given landed status because their son's treatment was still going on, well, don't want to go on and on. Every country has its pros and cons, inshallah we all pray for the better treatment in every country no matter what their religions are. sf

mezba said...

Iftekhar: Noted, but as I said, I was replying to a generality with another generality, to prove the premise of the original argument wrong.

As for records of sexual assault, one has to wonder at the number of cases that go unreported in the East due to social reasons.

One thing I have to say is that I am comparing the MUSLIM community in the West and the East, and in my opinion Muslims in the West are better Muslims and better off in many ways than Muslims of the East (many of whom are uneducated and ignorant).

Meena: I am considering sending it to some places, let's see if they publish it!

Rawi: I wish people in the Muslim countries get in touch with their religion by themselves, not through the lens of an ignorant mullah or the mass media.

mezba said...

Sf: Very Well Said!

sana said...

hey mezba I just read u're post and I was wondering are u clean shaven and do u wear u're islamic clothing to the bank or the post office? the reason why I ask is that. I am from the US came back when I was 3 years old grew up in all white Jersey suburb. I wear a niqab (and everything else that comes along with it)When I am out in public people look at me as if I am this sad oppressed muslim girl, but when they here me talk they gawk " my god the girl speaks english !" The point of all this is to say the west is not the best for muslims who prefer the thobe over jeans and the niqab over maybeline and revlon. People stop and stare, not that different from guy in India does when they see an NRI in their homeland. Striking similarities. I do have a lot more to say but I will keep it in my blog and u r most welcomed to comment, like to know u're insight. Sana
I will send the link to my blog in the next comment

sana said...

my blog

mezba said...

Sana: Welcome to my blog. You have a nice name.

I cannot read your blog. It says the blog doesn't exist.

My views on the niqab are well known.

sana said...

hey sorry about the goof up it's, I am new to your blog please do tell me what your views are about the niqab. As as one who wears it , would like to know a u're male point of view. I think I will put it as topic of discussion in my blog

mezba said...

Sana: If you search for "Niqab" on my blog you will see it. Anyways, since it's not related to the topic here I won't discuss it.

As for how "islamic" a person is and whether Canada is good for that person, remember this debate is about Muslims in Canada versus in so-called Muslim countries. Still, in Canada people are free to wear whatever they want - the only exception is for safety regulations.

Everyone is tolerant and accepting here.

Naeem: said...

AA- Mezba,

While I agree with the gist of your post, you may still want to stick to facts:

"I have been in Saudi and yes the muttawa DID beat you (particularly if you are a guy) and on the streets during prayer times."

In the 6 years I've been here, I've never heard or seen of this (and I live in the more strict Riyadh). Whether they did that in the past is irrelevant - after all, many societies committed wrongs in the past only to come to their senses.

"In Canada we elect our leaders the way Muslims elected Abu Bakr as their first leader."

Abu Bakr wasn't elected. I think you are referring to Uthman who was elected by a shura of top Sahaba.

"In some Muslim lands molesting a women IS the law."

A tad bit extreme, no?

Personally, I'm not into making open declarations that East beats West or vice versa. I think each person has to make his/her own decision. It's just not as black/white as you present it.

Bengali Muslimah said...

*2 thumbs up*

mezba said...

Naeem: walaiks.

We used to play cricket during Maghreb time in Jeddah and muttawa used to come around with canes and hit anyone within an arm's reach who were out playing. I had people come over from Saudi as recently as two years ago who said this is still on.

I think Abu Bakr was elected. The Ansars wanted their own to be leader and Abu Bakr nominated Uthman and Umar (one to be chosen amongst them because they were from the Quraish) and both withdrew and supported Abu Bakr as leader, and all rest of Medina followed suit.

See "Election of Abu Bakr to Caliphate" on the wiki page.

When I was referring to molesting a woman is the law I was referring to Pakistan. In one famous case, the village council declared the legal punishment was the gangrape of one woman.

Today, girls are prevented (and firebombed with acid) in Swat and other areas from going to school, and Pakistan government just signed a deal with the Taliban to establish this sort of extremism as "Sharia" law.

Bengali Muslimah: thanks. I feel Muslims of the world should accept the fact that the West just has a better lot of Muslims than the East.