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What's a Culture You'd Like to Know More About?

Ganondork

you touch her butt and she moves away
Joined
Nov 12, 2010
Throughout the world, we have hundreds of distinct cultures, all with different languages, traditions, and religions. It's difficult to know everything about all of them, so I was wondering what cultures you'd like to know more about. Personally, this is a topic that I can go on for days about, so I hope that people will share a similar passion as me. I also hope that if you know about a certain culture that someone is interested in learning about, you go ahead and give them some information, or at least links to some.

For me, I'd like to learn more about Indian culture. I know about Hinduism, Jainism, and parts of Buddhism, but I still feel like I don't know the whole story of India's rich history. I try to read up on the stuff, but their philosophy can sometimes be overwhelming for a Westerner like me. I've been on a big Buddhism kick, though, and I feel like it's starting to give me a better idea of the culture.

So what about you guys?
 

Azure Sage

Spread Smiles!
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I'd like to know more about Islam and Muslims and their culture and history; partly because a very important friend in my life is Muslim and it'd be cool to understand them more, but mostly because my mom is very Islamophobic and it'd be nice to be able to counter the racist things she says.
 

Sadia

Have a Punderful Day!
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Apr 28, 2013
I want to learn more about African culture. And I'm frustrated at myself because Africa is such a diverse continent, consisting of so many different people, religions, languages; but my mind pretty much meshes all those nations together. When I think of Africa I picture the starved and helpless. I know there's more to it then that, obviously. I want to know the countries' history, how they differ from each other. Heck, I don't think I could name 10 countries in Africa. Sad, isn't it?
 
I'd like to know more about Chinese culture. It's hard to comprehend how expansive the country's history is and how much its social and political landscapes have changed, especially across the last few centuries. I think looking back at such an ancient culture provides a lot of insight into the development of human civilization, and I've always enjoyed learning about the history of countries and their traditions in general so the more, the merrier.
 

Ganondork

you touch her butt and she moves away
Joined
Nov 12, 2010
I'd like to know more about Islam and Muslims and their culture and history; partly because a very important friend in my life is Muslim and it'd be cool to understand them more, but mostly because my mom is very Islamophobic and it'd be nice to be able to counter the racist things she says.
I could definitely help you out on this one. I plan to study Middle Eastern history with a specialization on Kurdish history, so my area of knowledge will revolve around Islam. Right now, I'm writing a 5000 word research paper on the rise of the Islamic golden age, so I have a lot of data on early Islam, as well as their history in the Middle Ages. Unfortunately my knowledge fizzles around the 15th through 19th centuries. I know a great deal of 20th and 21st century Muslim history, though.

With that being said, I can write to you for paragraph upon paragraph about their history, the story of Muhammad, the rise of the global Arab empire, you name it. I can tell you about the adventures of Salah ad-Din Umar ibn Ayyub, who is romanticized by Western historians as almost a walking god. Or I could tell you about Al-Ghazali, whose philosophy is viewed with mixed feelings, as he rejected neoplatonic thought, while simultaneously ushering in a new era of Muslim thinking. I could tell you of the struggle in the early years between the supporters of Allah, against the pagans who would chant, "Hubal is high!" before Muhammad's side would exclaim in response, "And Allah is higher."

One of the important things to understand is that three major divides exist between Muslims. The first are the Sunnis - the most populous of the Muslims. There's a very long list of countries that have Sunnis as their dominant religion - Iraq, Turkey, and Egypt, to name a few. They followed Abu Bakr (Abdullah ibn Abi Qhuhafah being his full name) as the next caliph following Muhammad's death. He was Muhammad's father-in-law.

The next sect would be the Shi'ites. We see this group in Iran mostly, but they still have a decent following. They chose to follow Muhammad's cousin, Ali, as the next caliph. What you need to understand between the Sunnis and Shi'ites is that there are centuries upon centuries of conflicts that have torn the two sects apart. One of the most notable events that further separated them would be later called the Abbasid Betrayal, in which the Abbasid Caliphate turned on the Shi'ites, declaring themselves Sunnis and assuming power (source: Assassins and Templars: The Militia of Heaven by James Wasserman). They later became a very powerful group, and actually usher in the Islamic golden age.

The final major group would be the Sufis. They are Muslim mystics. I regretfully don't know very much about them, but they've definitely seen their fair share of discrimination. Sufism is something I would really like to learn more about, but my current research topic demands focus on Sunni intellectualism and conquest. If I find anything particularly interesting, and you have any interest in reading what I have to say, I may update this post in the future when I know more.

I can keep going for quite some time, so I'll ask you this: what are you interested in learning? I know more about history, mythology, and certain sects and extremists.
 

Azure Sage

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I can keep going for quite some time, so I'll ask you this: what are you interested in learning? I know more about history, mythology, and certain sects and extremists.
I'm mostly interested in learning what Islam stands for. My mom thinks it's an evil religion (heck, she even called it a cult once) and I know that's not true, but I don't know enough about it to counter what she says. So I'm mostly interested in learning about what it promotes and what it stands for and stuff like that.
 

Ganondork

you touch her butt and she moves away
Joined
Nov 12, 2010
I'm mostly interested in learning what Islam stands for. My mom thinks it's an evil religion (heck, she even called it a cult once) and I know that's not true, but I don't know enough about it to counter what she says. So I'm mostly interested in learning about what it promotes and what it stands for and stuff like that.
Before I get into anything, keep in mind that Allah is Arabic for, "The God." Therefore, if you see, "God," ever mentioned, assume I am referring to Allah. As a Jew, I'm not allowed to use my god's name, so I refer to him as Adonai.

Well, Islam is certainly a religion of peace. People love to take verses of the Qur'an (the Muslim holy text) out of context. There are about 117 references to Allah's love for man, and only about 19 that mentions his wrath. I could probably name off the top of my head more instances of the Jewish or Christian god showing His wrath - the Great Flood, the Golden Calf, etc. I don't say that to take a shot at the god that I worship, but one has to understand that Allah is most certainly viewed as a loving god by the people who take the time to actually read the holy text.

"What Islam stands for," is an unfortunately very broad thing to request. Islam isn't as rigid as the modern Muslim fundamentalist would have you believe. Sikhism is a religion that is birthed from the mixture of Hinduism and Islam. These two religions could not be more different - polytheism v monotheism, reincarnation v afterlife, respectively - and yet Islam is malleable enough to do this. For this reason, it's entirely possible to practice how you would like. I would certainly compare it to Judaism in this respect. It's also why the religion is as widespread as it is.

See, the Five Pillars of Islam are as follows:

  1. Shahadah: declaring there is no god except God, and Muhammad is God's Messenger
  2. Salat: ritual prayer five times a day
  3. Zakat: giving 2.5% of one’s savings to the poor and needy
  4. Sawm: fasting and self-control during the holy month of Ramadan
  5. Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime if one is able

These are the core tenets of Islam. While praying five times a day may seem difficult, keep in mind that I, as a Jew, am supposed to pray three times a day. I've also seen a number of Muslims pray, and it's honestly not a time-consuming ordeal. In fact, I saw a group of Muslim men and their sisters (who wore burqas) praying in Disney, and they were done after a few minutes.

The Hajj is more difficult for some, however. Throughout history, Muslims worldwide have been unable to afford the trip to Mecca, the holy city of Islam. However, for those who are able to go to Mecca are able to engage in a tradition older than the religion itself. The walking around of the Ka'aba (the shrine to Allah) seven times is a pagan tradition that Muhammad kept. Another tradition that I know of (sadly I don't know the Hajj very well) is the stoning of Satan as Muslims walk down the path Abraham did when Adonai commanded him to kill his son, Isaac. The stoning of Satan happens in three different places, and it is to symbolically relieve oneself of their temptations.

One remarkable thing about the Hajj is this: everyone who enters Mecca, man or woman, elderly or child, wears the same clothing. Socioeconomic status is struck down during this time to show that all men are made equal. Even the most wretched of beggars is alongside the most wealthy businessman in the eyes of Allah.

While many people love to say that Muslims treat women like absolute garbage, the Hajj is also a lot more accommodating to women. Towards the end of the Hajj, one must shave their head. However, women have the choice of cutting a single lock of hair off. I've always particularly liked this, as it doesn't force them to shave their heads like the men do.

On the topic of women: did you know that the Qur'an says that women should not be forced to wear a hijab, niqab, or burqa? That's right, every Muslim-run government that forces women to cover up is actually committing an act of haram (Muslim sin). People who believe that the common Muslim forces their sister, their daughter, and their mother to wear these religious garb are mistaken, as it goes against their holy book. I've also poked around the subreddit to women who wear the hijab, and many of them do it willingly. They find it liberating to not have men looking at them like a piece of meat, and thus prefer to wear it. But at the end of the day, it's as optional as me wearing a kippot is.

Now, I'm going to discuss next the philanthropic nature of Islam. As one of the Five Pillars mentioned, you have to donate 2.5% of your savings to the poor and needy. 2.5% isn't a lot of money, no, but it really adds up after a long time when you figure that every Muslim is giving that much away. Do keep in mind that 2.5% is the minimum, so it isn't out of the ordinary for someone to give more than that. I'm going to copy and paste something.

The World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists (WCMP), was formed to help Islamic donors and nonprofit groups and other Muslims around the globe to organize contributions to humanitarian causes. It estimates that Muslims contribute anywhere from $20 billion to $200 billion annually.
Things like this is evidence that Muslims are just as philanthropic as any Christian, any Jew, any Hindu, any Buddhist, or any other religion out there. They are not horrible people looking out for themselves, and are rather quite giving.

As far as your mother calling Islam a cult, I'm going to say this: Islam is exempt from taxes. That is the sign of a religious institution, as cults are required to pay taxes still. Another important trait is that most cults die once the founder passes away (See: David Koresh and the Branch Davidians). When Muhammad died, there was an immediate schism over who would be his successor. Had he been a cult leader, the movement would have fizzled away.

Next up I'll discuss the holy month of Ramadan. This is comparable to the Jews' Yom Kippur, except instead of a 24 hour period of fasting, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. This goes on for an entire lunar cycle (as the Muslim calendar is lunar). This is another one of the Five Pillars, and it's a time of reflection, as well as repenting for one's sins.

That's all I can think of right now. If you have any more questions, feel free to let me know.
 

Mudora

Innocent, but not fearful.
Joined
Jul 27, 2012
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Canada, eh
I would love to know more about the Chinese and Japanese culture. Those are some of the many locations I would like to travel to at least once in my life.
 

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