Not too long ago, I published a post entitled Morality Does Not Come from Holy Books. It Comes from Us. The post drew lots of interesting comments, some of which I think adequately challenged, not my argument itself, but a big troublesome consequence it leads to that I failed to adequately address: moral relativism.
I am not a fan of post-modernism’s relativism. Morality can be and indeed is objective. Just because there are moral issues that are complex, does not mean thereis no objective difference between right and wrong.
How do we achieve such objectivity if morality does not come from holy books? Well, for a start, religion’s esoteric aspects and mysticism have a lot to teach us about human psychological well-being. On top of that, we have the insights offered by perenial philosohpy. Both have a great deal to teach us.
But today though, we have Sam Harris discussing his approach to this issue in a brilliant TED Talk that probably made many politically-correct liberals in the audience cringe uncomfortably, thanks to their postmodernist leanings.
Be sure to watch it.
While Sam makes one hell of a compelling argument, I do disdain his portrayal of burka-wearing women and the Taliban’s nuttiness in a way that attempts to make them seem representative of Muslims. There was also no effort on his part to clarify that the practice of honor killings is mostly cultural, and has no basis in virtually all Islamic interpretations, even the most traditionalist.
Dear Sam, I know you hate religion, but applying some nuance and taking into account differences in interpretation and how the faithful practice their faiths, will make more in your audience more receptive to your ideas.
Other than that, awesome stimulating talk. Thumbs up.
Let’s face it. Claiming that Jews control the US government is utter nonsense. They don’t. They do however have very significant influence through AIPAC in regard to matters related to the state of Israel, which brings me to the shift that I haven’t been alone in noticing lately. It started with this, but now it’s progressed into this: [click to continue...]
Two months ago, and after nearly five continuous years of being abroad, I returned to Khartoum for a short and much-needed visit that turned out to be rather rejuvenating. As soon as I was out of the airport cruising in my uncle’s pick up truck, the change was instantly noticeable.
It was already night time, and yet, it didn’t feel gloomy. Unlike before, most main streets were bright with lamps that stretched as far as the roads they lit. Most cars weren’t ancient moving chimneys anymore. The majority seemed to be Korean-made and manufactured within the last couple of years probably.
Everywhere I looked, there were new restaurants full of people. The few old ones I hung out in five years earlier like Amwaj and Steers were still in business and seemed overwhelmed by the demand of the endless hungry crowd.
Street advertisements launched by the new cellphone network provider Sudani One against Zain were hard to avoid. Anywhere you drove, there they were – again and again, in your face. Oh, and I also saw an Addidas store, and when I asked a friend about it later, he told me it’s genuine.
And it made sense. Addidas, after all, is a German brand. Hence, American sanctions have no effect on it.
It was a little hard to absorb everything all at once. My uncle was right. “It’s been five years since the last you came here. What did you expect,” he said.
Not everything was rainbows and butterflies though. Different things left me with different reactions. So without anymore further delays, yours truly will now begin sharing some of the many observations he’s made during his recent trip to the convergence of the White and Blue Niles.
Elections? What Elections?
Given that the elections are just around the corner, I was expecting to sense some excitement in the city. Posters everywhere for candidates, preparations, conversations centered around this historic event, something, anything, but soon, I found out that I had arrived with excessively high expectations.
“Here, in this part of Khartoum, hardly anyone cares really. People here just want to eat, dress nicely, talk for hours on their cellphones, drive nice cars, and live in comfortable homes,” my uncle began explaining the next day. “The ones who care about the elections are the people in Omdurman. You’ll notice the activism there,” he continued.
Ah, Those Pesky Turkish Soap Operas. Where’s a Fatwa When You Need One?
Arabic-dubbed Turkish operas spreading their “bullshit secular Turkish values” are the craze right now. Young and old, male and female, many just seem to enjoy watching them in Khartoum these days.
Where Did All the Southerners Go?
This one took me a while to notice. Five years ago, it was always so easy to spot crowds of Southern Sudanese walking around together in big groups in different parts of the city. Now, their numbers have dramatically gone down.
Drima: Where did they disappear to?
Friend: They were gradually pushed out of the city and forced to head to the South back to where they came from.
Drima: Interesting, I thought so. Well, there’s another reason to add to the list of reasons for why the South is going to separate into its own country soon.
Friend: Good, because I’m tired of this shit. Let them have their country.
The Jihad Lectures
So one day I got into a little amjaad van, and told the driver to take me to Solitaire to meet sommmmmebody. On the way there, the amjaad driver listened to some seriously horrifying shit preached by some seriously horrifying lunatic who probably escaped from a zoo.
“The infidels are the enemies of Islam. Everywhere, they are the enemies of Islam. If they respect the law of God and the rule of Islam in a country, they may go around minding their own business peacefully. However, if they transgress our ways and attempt to affirm their disbelief in the face of our creed, then we must fight them.”
Sigh. I thought this garbage lost its popularity within Khartoum after Turabi’s fall from power. Looks like I was wrong.
“Girls Who Smoke Shisha Are Sluts!”
There was this other time when another amjaad driver was listening to a lecture on some Sudanese radio channel. The whole thing focused on the “shisha-smoking trend amongst Sudanese university girls” and how it’s “a disturbing phenomenon that is spreading quickly within society.”
Sadly, the trend isn’t seen as a bad thing due to public health concerns, something which would be absolutely legitimate. Instead, it’s seen as a disturbing trend because ” a girl who smokes shisha, isn’t a worthy future wife or mother” because “she cheapens herself by engaging in such immoral behavior which is against our values” and “no wise young man would want to marry such girls.”
Meanwhile, the boys can smoke all the want. Yes, having a penis makes you exempt from criticism apparently. Not a single thing was mentioned during the radio lecture concerning shisha-smoking amongst young male Sudanese adults in universities.
The Other Side of the “Indecent for Wearing Trousers” Story
Drima: What a bunch of assholes. How can they do this to her just because she was wearing trousers?
Friend: Man, that woman is an opportunist. You don’t have all the facts. They bothered her and arrested her because she writes shit against the government in newspapers.
Drima: Oh, how nice, so now everyone who writes against the government should get harassed?
Friend: No, no, cut the crap, that’s not what I meant. The woman is an opportunist. She used her arrest to get media attention, and now she’s milking her fame for all its worth promoting her book in France. Man, she freaking met the former French president.
Drima: She’s sharing her story, what’s the problem with that?
Friend: Well, obviously you don’t know that she was married to a wealthy man who was over 80 years old, do you?
Drima: Eh, really? No effing way!
Friend: I’m telling you, it’s true, just ask around.
Dear Sudanese readers out there, can any of you confirm this?
The Day I Almost Cried Tears of Joy:
My First Visit to Burj Al Fatih
I’ve seen it in pictures and on video, but never in real life. The first time I entered the building’s compound, I was in disbelief. Finally, after all these years, a well-constructed large modern building worthy of admiration rose up from the sands of Khartoum. It actually happened. And days later, I saw more buildings rising up as I dined at the top of Burj Al-Fatih in the sky view restaurant and inspected Alsunut project.
For all of you dear non-Sudanese reading this blog (and especially you dear uninformed ones who think Sudan is all just about genocide, genocide, and more genocide), here’s a video featuring the plan for the ambitious project known as Alsunut.
While there is progress, it’s not going as well as expected at all. Insiders tell me Osama Dawud had a fallout with corrupt government officials who wanted to grab a piece of the action. Some of his companies also got caught up and paralyzed by American sanction restrictions. Although now, with the monumental Darfur peace agreement signed at Qatar, thanks to the efforts of the Qatari government and other beebull, I predict we’ll gradually begin to see positive changes in Sudanese American relations.
My Visit to Maygoma
This one is going to require a whole separate post. But I gotta tell you though, visiting shelters for abandoned children left to die by “mothers” who gave birth to them out of wedlock, is no fun experience. It was tragic.
Anyways, as a conclusion, and simply put, Sudan, (erm, actually Khartoum to be specific) has made some very real progress in terms of infrastructure, living standards, and a bunch of other stuff impacted by the oil boom. However, all of this has also created distinct differences in lifestyle. On the surface, Sudanese in Khartoum love to portray the impression that they’re conforming to long-accepted social “guidelines” if I can call them that. However, once you dig a little deeper, you begin to discover lots of contradictions.
Meh, I’m gonna need a whole separate post for this one as well.
Here’s a quote I read recently that I absolutely fell in love with. It’s from the book In the Mystic Footsteps of Saints, by the Naqshbandi Sufi, Shaykh Nazim Adil Al-Haqqani.
“Don’t worry about bringing people “in line” but rather concern yourself with making sure that your own practices are becoming a means for attaining inner peace and are not becoming an end in themselves. If your practice brings you inner peace and wisdom others will emulate those practices voluntarily.”
Where can you find Shaykhs who are well-known around the world, with this kind of thinking, nowadays? Answer? Sadly, not many. Or maybe I just haven’t come across them yet.
Shaykh Nazim is a breath of fresh air. I’m glad I discovered him and his beautiful insights. Yay to Sufi mystics who speak the language of love.
Location: Deep, deep down the orgasmic rabbit hole of epistemology.
The Bio of Awesomeness: Fundamentalist Muslim, turned hippie Sufi and fan of science. Total blogging junkie since 2006. Social entrepreneur and digital media and marketing consultant. Proud Sudanese and cultural nomad. Author of upcoming book on Islam and new media. Pro-democracy guitar-strumming activist. Loud and drop dead gorgeous. Fan of integral theory and spiral dynamics. Sarcastic Afro-Arab goofy genius. The High Priest of Mischief. Welcome. You've Been Warned! ;)
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