By Akif Abdulamir (Desert Classics)
I gave my children a choice where to eat when I decided to treat them. I knew the answer but I was hoping it would be some restaurant that served healthy traditional food.
Our childrenâ€™s choice of eating at a famous fast food restaurant never surprises us. To them, burgers and chips never tasted so good. A plate of rice never has the same appeal since it is an old fashioned tradition from our ancestors.
To our kids, anything that has been handed over from the past generations is backward. If they see it in the movies or the Internet than it is â€œcoolâ€, anything else is â€œrubbish.â€ The fear of losing oneâ€™s culture and customs has never been real. As we move on deep into the twenty-first century, we gradually but surely leave behind the richness of our heritage.
The truth is that very little is being done to stop the erosion. Donâ€™t get me wrong. I am not blaming the West but the East for ignoring the basics. There is no doubt that we can still drive a car and surf the net but ignoring what is more important to life has dreadful consequences. I am very convinced we are fighting a losing battle because we welcome unreservedly a culture that has a few problems. Let me give you an example. One of my younger relatives chose to stay behind in UK to celebrate Christmas to be with his friends but flatly refused to join his family for Eid.
There was nothing his parents could do about it. Should they blame themselves for sending him abroad to study or the lack of firm upbringing? I donâ€™t know but youngsters ignore the basics even at home. One youth told me that, â€œwearing a shirt and a pair of trousers does not mean I am a Westernerâ€ when he went with me to a mosque on his friendâ€™s wedding night.
I asked him what it meant not ever wearing the traditional clothing. He said that tradition had nothing to do with appearance but what was in his heart. I probed deeper and asked him what was in his heart. He thought about it and said, â€œI know who I am and my background, isnâ€™t that enough?â€
I dropped the subject seeing him getting agitated. Todayâ€™s youth are increasingly letting themselves get confused by a clash of cultures. For instance, more than half of the youth celebrate the New Year and stay out late. On face value, one would argue there that there is nothing wrong with that. On closer scrutiny, less than ten per cent of them ever notice the Islamic New Year let alone celebrate it. What has really gone wrong in the past thirty years or so? International integration of people cannot be blamed nor the fast pace of development. It is also not fair to point accusing fingers at Western education. We invited it because we need it to overcome many challenges otherwise we would have been left behind.
The ever decreasing number of traditionalists live in fear that the Gulf would soon fall under the hammer of whole-sale Westernisation. The auction is gathering momentum, so they say, and the highest bidders are examining prized exhibits.
I am not endorsing that theory nor opposing it but I would like to be an observer and write about it at a later date. To many, it is not about fast food restaurants or other external influences. It is about preserving an identity before the hammer falls down.
Akif Abdulamir is an Oman-based writer