There's More to Life Than Knitting!

Join Suna as she stops knitting long enough to ponder her life, share her joys and concerns, and comment on the goings on in the world.
You are very welcome here, so feel free to comment and contribute!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I Keep Thinking about that Poor Lady

A rant.

I keep thinking about that poor teacher who went to the Sudan to teach and now is in jail for naming a teddy bear the wrong thing. She asked the students what to name it, and they voted on Mohammed. Yeah, she did that all right. Heretic!

You know, Anglo Christians in the US don't like to name children or other representational objects after their Lord and Savior, but no one gets threatened with a public beating if they do. If someone from another culture showed up and named their dog or chia pet Jesus Christ or something, someone would probably just let them know, "We don't do that here--perhaps you could choose another name." And the person would regret the faux pas, but not be scarred for life.

Heck, one reason I hesitated to ever actually visit Japan after all those years of nihongo o benkyoo shimasu (studying Japanese) was that I worried that I would make a cultural slip and be embarrassed. Now, no Japanese person would run go find a whip or a katana and whack me--they'd probably bow and say something at the wrong politeness level, so I'd know I did something I shouldn't do. But, I wouldn't want to insult their culture. I am a well educated person who knows more about other cultures than the average American, yet I can't know all the rules--it's impossible.

And I have no doubt that poor British woman set out to offend Islam. Look, I have been in classrooms my own self, right here in Yee Haw Texas, with multiple students named Jesus and Mohammed (spelled more than one way). It might just give one the impression that people in some cultures name their children after deities. And since in most cultures, children name their toys with the same kinds of names they give themselves, I'd probably be guilty of thinking I could name a class toy Jesus or Mohammed--they are very common names that children are familiar with. It would be to me like naming a teddy bear John or Kamal (only nobody was named Kamal when I was a kid--the black kids and white kids had similar names until a bit after I showed up on earth).

This is what scares me. I could easily have made the same mistake as that lady in the Sudan, even if I had tried to learn the customs where I was, and was doing my best to memorize extremist interpretations of Islam. I guess I could have a cheat sheet under my burka (or whatever you wear to cover your lady-ness in the Sudan--I only knew frightened Sudanese Christians back in grad school).

We are all gonna make a cultural faux pas as the world becomes smaller and different cultures become more prominent. We will all be trying to learn the cultural taboos and lore of the new-to-us cultures the best we can. I think it's my duty to cut people from outside the US some slack if they mess up. Wouldn't it be nice if they could do the same? What is it with the intense drive to whip people in public? Scary. Scary. And ooh, if you get raped, well, you should not have let yourself get alone with a man, missy, never mind that he forced himself on you. 500 lashes!

As sorry as I feel for that lady who tried to do a teaching job outside her native country, I also feel sorry for moderate Muslims. I read on the CNN article a couple of comments from Muslims begging others like themselves to show that Islam is a compassionate and kind religion, to let others know that in most parts of the Islamic world people aren't treated like that (note to self: avoid Saudi Arabia and the Sudan). I know how they feel, when I hear people around the world denouncing the US and acting as if all Americans are power-hungry war-mongers like Bush and his cronies. I, too, want to get all my friends to yell at others, "We are not all like him! Lots of us disagree!"

Too bad all of us moderates seem to be slipping into powerlessness as we watch all kinds of extremists gain control of institutions and try to re-make society in their narrow-minded image.

PS: I am actually feeling a little better today, honest. No job leads, but I had such a nice time last night at the yarn shop and choir rehearsal (where Beccano helped us do music and we laughed a lot) that the cheeriness went all the way into today!

1 comment:

Liz T-G said...

You said: "Too bad all of us moderates seem to be slipping into powerlessness as we watch all kinds of extremists gain control of institutions and try to re-make society in their narrow-minded image."

This is what keeps me awake at night, truly.

Off to avoid such thoughts by doing cross stitch. Gak. What was I thinking by purchasing a cross stitch project as a gift? There was a reason I stopped doing it!

Sending job hunt vibes your way.