Tonight’s edition of Cutting Edge (SBS, 8.30pm), Embedded with Sheik Hilaly, made for interesting watching. The defining nature of Aussie attitudes to Islam is profound ignorance and Dave Zwolenski, the unassuming Aussie bloke sharing the Sheik’s house for two weeks, makes a reasonable fist of remaining open-minded in his quest to understand the workings of Islamic society in Australia.
I was surprised and pleased to learn that Muslim men, at least the Lakemba mob, sit down to do a pee, a practice I have long advocated. They also wash their bums with water as well as wiping after a poo, which strikes one as much more hygienic and aesthetic than the Aussie norm of smearing with paper alone. Then again, they also apparently shave their armpits and pubes, a practice I have long railed against for both man and woman, if for no other reason than who has the time? Wiping with the left hand is a dictum shared by many cultures, and makes sense if proper hand washing is difficult to obtain. I would have liked to ask the Sheik which hand Muslim men use to pleasure their wives (I’ve always wanted to know) but that’s probably why Dave was in the show and not I.
Dave did bring up the ‘fresh meat‘ thing and here the Sheik struggled to bridge the impasse that bedevils Aussie/Islamic relations. Personally I think women can wear what they like and the less the better a lot of the time, and it doesn’t absolve men one whit from the restraints of gentlemanly behaviour. But I am a child of the womens’ movement, it’s the way I was growed up and yet, as far as I can tell, Aussie society is rampant with sexual violence. While I think the Sheik is misguided in seeming to place the majority of the blame for rape on women not obeying the behavioural dictates of the Mosque, I must at least admit we share an abhorrence of sexual violence against women, a fact of life in all cultures.
I guess we look a bit hypocritical, criticising Islamic culture when our own culture leaves much to be desired. Secular, capitalist, humanistic, democratic, individualism may seem to us an unshakable edifice of sanity in a backward, superstitious and/or just plain crazy world, but from an oriental perspective, it can easily be imagined as a short-lived and rapidly crumbling experiment, a degenerate skyrocket, an amoral bellyflop of a civilisation bent on destruction as it self-destructs. And we have stinky bums.
Fortunately it won’t be an issue for long. As resistant to cultural evolution as Australia’s Islamic immigrants may be, there is no way of escaping the process by which this country’s numerous influxes of foreigners become Aussies. As bigotted as the people of places like Camden may be, Australia will inevitably embrace its Islamic people. Shows like Embedded with Sheik Hilaly help. That is all.