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<nettime> Osama Vs Spice Girls in Titanic Culture Clash
Bruce Sterling on Sun, 21 Oct 2001 11:15:50 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Osama Vs Spice Girls in Titanic Culture Clash

Geri Halliwell, Menace to  World Peace;
What Were Those British Thinking   *8-/


Spice Girls: Exactly the Reason Why Bin Laden Hates the West

By Ali Asadullah


For almost a month now, we have seen commentaries in which hatred of
freedom, liberty and democracy have been fingered as the core causes for
terrorist rage and aggression against the United States. But the media have
it all wrong. If the pundits, experts and sages would simply stop
pontificating and postulating for just a minute, they would see the answer
to this seething discontent right in front of them; and that answer has a
name: The Spice Girls. This may sound absurd, but I think the following
anecdote will clarify this assertion.

On October 6, the BBC reported that former Spice Girl, Geri Haliwell, had
entertained British troops performing military exercises in Oman. 

Accompanying the report on the BBC's website, was a full color picture of
Geri performing in a halter-top and hotpants flanked by a number of female
dancers clad in bikinis that used the British Union Jack as the motif for
the top part of their outfits covering their breasts. Interesting choice of
design; the Queen must be delighted at the show's producer's taste in

Apparently the concert was a type of reward for the hard work put in by the
soldiers, many of whom have trained in Oman under harsh conditions for over
three months. After trekking eight hours across the desert, troops watched a
football/soccer match between England and Greece and then were treated to
Haliwell's concert in what the BBC described as "a special arena ... dug out
of the sand for the show."

As the British might put it, the event must have been "top drawer" - that
is, if you're a British soldier.

If you are a practicing Muslim however, the event was yet another reminder
of why Westerners often aren't welcome in the Muslim world. And if you are a
terrorist - using religion to justify your acts of destruction - that event
was confirmation that fighting the West is truly a jihad (struggle). In
fact, Osama Bin Laden is probably in some mountain fortress right now,
handing out copies of the report while preaching to his minions about the
decadence of the West and how it has once again visited the Arabian
Peninsula in its most impudent form.

What the British were thinking, I don't know. However if a picture speaks a
thousand words, then the message Haliwell's concert sent was that the
British are on some kind of grand adventure, some sort of Western safari
with all the amenities of home living, including the indulgence of dancing

But Oman isn't 19th century India or Africa. It isn't the playground of
empires. And in this time of delicate coalition and consensus building, one
would have though that Britain's Foreign Secretary would have informed
troops abroad to be on their very best behavior and not "piss off the
locals", as it were.

What ever happened to the "When in Rome" ethic of foreign relations? It's as
if the "Ugly American" syndrome has found a new footing all of a sudden.

The issue at hand is the following: Muslims want their cultures, traditions
and religious and societal standards to be respected. And those Muslims with
extremely conservative or even radical views of the religion sometimes see
disrespect in these areas as pretext for armed struggle. The sad thing is
that the rhetoric from the West supports that pretext right now. It is
rhetoric loaded with language that suggests that if Muslim culture isn't in
step with a Western way of living and outlook on life, then it doesn't
deserve to compete in the world's marketplace of ideas.

So much has been said recently of the Taliban's treatment of women, thus
focusing inordinate attention on women in Islam. In the West, hijab (modest
clothing and behavior) has become almost a symbol of oppression. Yet for a
vast majority of Muslim women, hijab is simply a religious mandate with
which they are all too happy to comply. And in Muslim cultures, it is a sign
of modesty, and is looked upon favorably by the majority. When visiting
Muslim countries, Westerners should be cognizant of this fact and respect
the standards of modesty there.

Having a Spice Girl and her bikini-babe dancers prance around in the deserts
of Oman like so many trampy tarts, isn't showing respect.

Think of it like this: If I ask you to remove your shoes before entering my
house because I want to keep my white shag carpet clean, you probably would
oblige me. It might seem ludicrous in this day an age of steam carpet
cleaners and Scotch Guard, but it's my home, and my rules.

The same applies on a macro-level in the Muslim world. Sure, it might seem
ludicrous to bemoan an event that took place in the remote deserts of Oman,
out of site for all except British soldiers. But it's the principle of the
matter that counts, and perceptions of disrespect are very real to those
with delicate sensibilities. And right now, with tempers and tensions
running high, a message of disrespect was maybe the last thing that needed
to be sent to the broader Muslim world. Because somewhere, there's an angry
young man sitting by himself, reading this BBC report and becoming angry,
and saying to himself: "They just don't get it, do they."

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