The young muslim

Our Youth from Assimilation, Acculturation, Westoxification, to Deculturation!/Prof. Ahmed Guessoum

AHMED1-386x170The Algerian Youth: Jewels of the Association of Muslim Scholars

The publication of this issue of Le Jeune Musulman (The Young Muslim) coincides with the 82nd anniversary of the launching of the Association of Algerian Muslim Scholars by Sheikh Abdelhamid Ibn Badis and his fellow scholars on the 5th of May 1931. We all know that the association and its scholars, headed by Ibn Badis, has spent lots of efforts on the education of the Algerian youth, males and females alike[1]. The Sheikh’s eternal poem that was read in honour of the Algerian Muslim Scouting official creation included the well known verses:

O youth, indeed, you are our hope…

With you the dawn, now has come near

Take from this life all its weapons[2]

Then fight your battles; be not in fear!


It is well known how these efforts have produced sweet, beautiful fruits like the martyrs Sheikh Larbi Tebessi and the war of independence leaders Larbi Ben Mhidi, Mustapha Ben Boulaid, and Colonel Amirouche, to name just a few of the many who graduated from the schools of The mother of all Associations.


Algerian (and Muslim) Youth Today

I surely would not like to be pessimistic nor would like to over-generalise. I know far too well by teaching at an Algerian university that there are very fine examples of well-educated, smart, respectful Algerian students, a pride for all of us! They make one continue his struggle for the welfare of his country and nation. Hard workers, intelligent, dedicated, decently clothed, good-mannered and, most of the time, committed to the Islamic teachings. I salute all of these; no doubt that Sheikh Ibn Badis would happily re-read the above verses to them!


On the other hand, one feels completely disheartened seeing another kind of youth who need a special attention from the whole society. They are not the culprits… we ARE, as a whole society (and nation)!


Whether in the streets of any Algerian (or any other Arab/Muslim) school, university, or city, one cannot but question himself/herself if he/she is indeed in a Muslim country or whether he/she is just in a nightmare and will soon be awakened by an alarm, the sweet smell of breakfast, or a dear honey voice! We see some people clothed in a silly, dirty, sometimes indecent way… Their hair buttered with gel shows frightening spikes to the point one wonders if the youngster has a mirror to check what he looks like.


Many girls/women, have, praise be to Allah, decided to cover their hair, presumably as a sign of respect for the Islamic teachings of decent clothing (for women and men alike) that does not arouse the animalistic instincts embedded in human nature. Unfortunately, most of these who have decided to cover their hairs (usually with a scarf) often show that they miss the true meaning of the Islamic clothing code system. Often, the hair-covered Muslimah[3] wears very tight pants and/or shirts that defeat the whole purpose. Many Muslim ladies would often spend a long time wearing make up before going out of home, while they would not touch it in front of their husbands, children, father and brothers!


My aim here is not to get into the details of what is or is not acceptable as clothing for a Muslimah and for a Muslim, for these issues have been developed time and again and are well settled by even the “softest” of the Muslim scholars. Besides, through the basics of Islam and some sincere, rational thinking, one would easily get to the Truth on this matter. My aim here is rather to action the alarm that we are going down the drain and nobody seems to care or open his/her eyes to this reality!


From Assimilation to Deculturation!

It is well known that in the dialectical relation that exists between nations, the defeated one always tends to emulate the advanced one mistakenly perceived as being a superior nation. A process of assimilation thus starts during which the former opens up to that which comes from the latter. This not only includes the most valuable features such as knowledge, science and organisation, but also other cultural values that are specific to the latter.


Unfortunately the process of assimilation does not stop there. A stratum of the defeated nation, we shall call them the Westernised here, espouses too closely the values of the defeating nation (the West in this case). Their understanding is that our backwardness is due to all the cultural, including religious, values that our society upheld at some point in time. To be fair, there may be some historical moments where some so-called representatives of our culture, be they rulers, thinkers, religious authorities, or others, adopted attitudes related to day-to-day matters which were completely backwardish, not to say wrong. This got the Westernised, through a process of simplistic sketchy analyses of very deep socio-political phenomena, to conclude that the only way out is to open up completely to the Western values and, implicitly, break all the “ropes” that keep us “prisoners” of our indigenous culture. An obvious example of such Westernised individuals in our nation is Mustapha Kamel Ataturk who went as far as encouraging the Turks to wear modern European attire (suits and ties), introduced the Hat Law to make the use of hats compulsory, and changed the writing of Turkish from the use of Arabic script to the new Turkish alphabet. We nowadays have many versions of Ataturk in our societies.


This process of blind westernisation is often supported by higher officials in our countries who might be in charge of important ministries like education, higher education, culture, Information, etc. Through these whole programs get adopted which slowly, but surely, attack the very cultural and religious foundations of our society. The ones who can easily fall prey to such a concerted effort are the youth, whose immune system may not be sufficiently developed to resist. Our systems thus produce individuals who unconsciously move from a process of assimilation to acculturation. The latter is defined in Encyclopaedia Britannica as being the “processes of change in artifacts, customs, and beliefs that result from the contact of two or more cultures”. Thus a group ends up adopting the cultural traits or social patterns of another group.


The defeated group has now a troubled cultural immune system: whereas a healthy cultural immune system is good enough to accept what is compatible with it and destroys any viruses and bacteria, the troubled immune system is so weak that it starts letting in toxins and viruses. This is the process of Westoxification (also translated as Occidontosis), first coined by the Iranian university professor Ahmad Fardid in the 1940s. The translations of the original Farsi word Gharbzadegi   are constructed in a similar way as intoxication, respectively paralysis. It refers to the state where the body is too ill and gets polluted by destructive western values. This in turn leads to deculturation, where a nation loses its culture entirely, as happened to the American Indians in North America. David Bidney, the Theoretical Anthropologist, explained that in this process of divesting a tribe or people of their indigenous traits: “…for many native peoples brought involuntarily and reluctantly into contact with western civilization, acculturation is all too often deculturation”.


Pants Up!

A striking example of Westoxification is what is called in the USA, the “Sagging pants” movement. It consists in wearing pants below the waist so that undergarments become visible! It was said that this movement started naturally in the prison system since prisoners were not allowed to wear belts for security reasons. They thus often had pants too loose to fit around their wastes. But the more established explanation is that it started with prisoners who wanted to show their inclination and “availability” as homosexuals!!


One is stunned to see in the streets of Algiers or other Arab/Muslim capitals youngsters who blindly mimic such evil behaviours, and walk in the society within their families, on the streets, into schools, and … even into mosques! This is the ultimate form of westoxification / occidontosis.


It turns out that, in the USA, where the whole movement started and was promoted by rappers who have no cultural and religious landmarks, there is now a growing movement to stop this sagging of pants. Needless to say that there are of course many decent people in the West who are very respectable and still uphold societal values that we share with them. One of the well known anti-saggers is New York State Senator Eric Adams who paid for publicities in New York during his « Stop the Sag! » campaign in 2010. His signs encouraged people to pull their pants up: “Raise your pants, Raise your image!” (Daily News, 13/4/2013)   I wish our youth could ponder this!


These days, as we get close to the football cup final between two clubs from Algiers, we get amazed seeing all the flags and colourful banners throughout the capital. We are surprised that we have now become so insensitive that we raise huge flags of Italy, Canada, and Britain (depending on the occasions) in support of such sports events, and nobody seems to find this abnormal! Many of the flags are written throughout the city not only in French (an intoxication we have got used to), but in English, and even … Italian! What is even worse, sometimes we see people walking in shirt-flags, entirely displaying the colours of a foreign country’s flag on their bodies! Some would pray in the mosque with a big mention of the name of a foreign country on their backs!


On the 50th anniversary of independence, and the 82nd of the launch of the Association of Algerian Muslim Scholars, there is clearly some food for thought for all those who still feel that the above are frightening signs of deculturation.


[1] See our article : Which Role for the Muslim Intellectual – The Failure of the Imams”, Le Jeune Musulman, N° 6, April 2013.

[2] Weapons is metaphorical here (knowledge, strength, etc.)

[3] The word is now commonly used in English to refer to a Muslim woman. (The picture was taken from the Internet but could not find a reference for it.)