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How Muslims understand the West

Irfan Yusuf, lawyer and freelance commentator points out some fascinating, and other more frightening, ironies and contradictions that are observable within Eastern and Western relations. They are inevitable consequences of sociological studies. This is especially the case when considering the complexity of the loaded, but at the same time, vague definitions such East and West. Yusuf won the Iremonger Award for Writing on Public Issues in 2007 for his manuscript, Once Were Radicals There is no subtlety in Yusuf’s tongue-in-cheek mention of Australia as a Western country. “What’s our closest neighbour (geographically)?” he asks the audience. “Indonesia”, he answers.

In his 2007 Memoir Unimagined, Imran Ahmad writes of moving to England from Pakistan, attending school, then University, and finally making for himself a successful career. What we experience though in reading is a series of events, probably the most affecting moments of his life, which altogether create a sense that he is different. It may have been the same for him at the time, just a sense. What Imran knows though, beyond doubt, is that England is inherently racist. This was normal. It “had a class system worthy of a doctoral thesis”, and “we were in a hostile environment, particularly for Pakistani’s”. Imran experienced racism and shockingly told today of hotel signs reading ‘’no coloureds’, among other more personal incidents. He claims that the distinctions between East and West are most observable in the hierarchical structures of government and bureaucracy, as expressions of nepotism and corruption in the East. Watch out for more of Imran Ahmad’s story in a later post.

Abbas El-Zein, auuthor of the novel Tell The Running and the memoir Leave to Remain, speaking as an Easterner, said there are still mixed feelings towards the West. There are similar feeling toward modernity. Imagine a person you have never seen coming and telling you that the way you are doing things is wrong, has been and always will be. This person says you are using the wrong tools and your method just sucks. He then instructs you in the correct way. Furthermore, none of your friends will listen to you anymore because THAT person does things better. These are issues that take many forms, but, Abbas says, “the conflicts are the same.”

Guest post by Ryan Butler, of Murwillumbah. Ryan is a student of journalism and creative writing at Griffith University.


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