It would be a pity if the community’s natural outrage at Sheikh
Hilali’s now infamous comments did not occasion some honest
reflection on mainstream western culture. In the cultural world
which is home to the mufti – and most of his hearers, western
civilization is commonly regarded as somewhere between decadent and
downright evil. The core of this is our hedonism generally, and our
public sexual morality in particular.
One could debate endlessly the boundaries between unashamed beauty
and shameless display. But drive down any freeway in Melbourne, and
you might well be confronted with a giant billboard displaying a
woman fully naked but for a pair of shoes or a lacey bra. Or open a
lifestyle magazine or visit the milkbar, and chances are you’ll see
more exposed flesh than some new immigrants have ever seen beyond the
sanctity of the marital bedroom. Are we actually surprised that some
ethnic or religious communities are scandalised?!
There is something hypocritical about demanding that the mufti be
silenced, if we will not subject our own fashion, entertainment and
advertising industries to the same critical analysis. Most of us want
to take pride in our burgeoning multiculture. Just don’t ask us to do
any of the adapting.