Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Pious Youth Rebellion

As a Westerner and member of the militant Enlightenment brigade, I have to be careful about assuming that an increase in piousness and asceticism among younger people necessarily constitutes a cultural step backwards. Still, if the shoe (or burqa) fits...

I got to thinking about this in the aftermath of the Greg Mortenson visit, and the wailing and gnashing of teeth of many Western women as to the pitiful treatment of women in devout Islamic nations. The trouble with such a view, as many Turkish secularists have pointed out, is that a significant number of younger women choose to wear the veil, and demand that Islamic law be carried out more vigilantly than it is in many Islamic countries. In other words, there's no better oppression than self-oppression.

This point of view is underscored in the newest Middle East Report special issue on Youth, in particular an article on blogging within the (Egyptian) Muslim Brotherhood. There is one tendency within the Brotherhood comprised of members who are active Internet users, who discuss the meanings of their faith and their interactions with the secular world openly. However, these bloggers say they represent only about 15 percent of the younger Muslim Brotherhood members. The vast majority of MB teens and 20-somethings make such an issue of their devoutness, they see any exposure to television or the Internet as being a contamination from the infidels. They pride themselves on not learning, not reading, and keeping their focus strictly on prayer and the Quran.

Sorry, I have to insist this simply is evolutionarily backward. We have Christians who are members of voluntary chastity groups, who say that they dislike reading anything other than Scripture, and yes, they're backward too, but it's hard to find something as willfully ignorant as the Salafi/Wahhabist youth movement. The fact that this super-piety trend is particularly visible among younger people should frighten us. But it should also spur us into becoming militant supporters of the Enlightenment faith. To refuse to learn and grow and read and expand your mind is to deny your humanity. This applies to all faiths in all cultures.

1 comment:

Ruth said...

I grew up in the wilfully ignorant Christian culture (not to an extreme degree in my home, thankfully, but many in our church), and maybe the Muslim groups are worse, I don't know.

I agree that women contribute to their plight, in any structure. How many women have I known who "love" the submissive role prescribed (say they) in the Bible? As Ken Wilbur said, women are too strong for us to believe that men single handedly suppressed them through the ages. They had a hand in their own suppression.

I digress. But I agree, there is a lot to fear from those who close their minds so purposefully to "other" points of view.