The fundamental difference between Western and Eastern societies is …

Really nice quote in an article of the current issue of Time. I had never looked at the differences in this way before. The actual comparison here is done between Islamic societies and the west, but you can mostly replace “Islamic” with “Eastern” over here.

“That’s the big difference between us,” he shrugged. “You Westerners make love in public and pray in private. We Muslims do exactly the reverse.”

The author raises a very important question in this article:

At the nub of debates over Muslim integration in Europe lies the question: what’s decent to do in public? Display your sexuality, or your faith? The French have no problem with bare breasts on billboards and TV, but big problems with hijab-covered heads in public schools and government offices. Many Muslims feel just the opposite.

The article is an interesting read.

4 thoughts on “The fundamental difference between Western and Eastern societies is …”

  1. have to seriously disagree there (because it overlooks history and how the culture developed). The point of organized religion being a public spectacle is true for both societies, I think the main difference is more the ethos of rationalism and scientific inquiry developed during renaissance. Eastern societies never began that, and now live in glorious world of the past. In addition, there have been developments in understanding individual rights that are still subsumed in eastern cultures.
    On the other hand and a little more trivial point, the French showed their own particular brand of intolerance by not allowing hijab to be worn in public. Liberty implies that I have a right to wear to what I want as long as it does not hurt anybody or impinges on anybody else’s liberties.
    As far as radical islam is considered, the religion suffers from serious inability to introspect presently as does hinduism or catholicism for that matter.

  2. Nishant, I fail to understand how the ethos of rationalism and scientific query could relegate religion to confined quarters. It could disprove religion or make it seem out of place. But the reason for making it more private is probably deeper than that.

    My guess is that somehow the fact that public display of religion causes somewhat of a “peer pressure” and disallows individuals to practice their own interpretation of religion, a very bad example might be (shudder) someone might be ok with praying once instead of several times a day. By taking religion indoors brings individuality back to religion, and this might be related to the awareness of individual rights that you rightly point out is missing in most eastern cultures.

  3. I probably did not phrase myself well. I meant to say this – the whole edifice of organized religion depends upon public display of faith, be it christianity or islam. The european nations are a little better off, because they have gone through the dark ages where religion ruled supreme, have challenged it and suffered through its persecution. today their reliance on religion as a guide to their daily life is minimal. That is the main difference between eastern and western societies. Not private vs public display of faith. If you walk down Commonwealth Avenue in boston on a sunday and happen to witness the catholics with their crosses and ash on their visages, walking together in the fog, you will be reminded of the best of zombie movies. All organized religions are the same. They depend on public spectacles. Christianity is no different. It just matters less in the minds of europeans cause they have lessons from history, and their material progress makes them a little immune to the promises from the messengers (read priests, imams etc) of the allmighty. Though, in southern US, you do start to see some very disturbing signs at times.
    And yes, I will say this again – the fact that French found it fit to ban the hijab for no good reason, speaks volumes about their pompousness and their irrationality.

  4. The main reason may be due to the difference in the development of cultural consciousness. If you have a chance to read Bertrand Russell’s “A History of the Western Civilization” it presents a detailed view of philosophies that form the foundation of the western thought. No such treatise exists for the Asian (Indian) civilization, since the era of philosophical growth and identity development was marred by foreign invasions. What we have now is mix of varying philosophies that may or may not influence the progress of eastern thought. Strange that the east is forever trying to westernize itself, and never the other way round.

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