Middle Eastern Globalization
The world is a global village, and no corner of the globe is immune to this phenomenon. The truth is that no matter how remote a place is the penetration of other cultures due to the increased communication and contact taking place between the world is inevitable. Resistance to this global force has come from many quarters, but none stronger than that from the Middle East. This region of the world has opposed this effect with a lot of vehemence, citing that this globalization is synonymous with Westernization.
This accusation is true, and without a doubt the overwhelming influence of the west, particularly America, has been the main transmitter in this affair. Through its multinational corporations, America has promoted a certain kind of consumerist culture, in which standard commodities, promoted by global marketing campaigns exploiting basic material desires, create similar lifestyles–`Coca-Colonization. ” Backed by the power of certain states, Western ideals are falsely established as universal, overriding local traditions–`cultural imperialism.
“Modern institutions have an inherently rationalizing thrust, making all human practices more efficient, controllable, and predictable, as exemplified by the spread of fast food–`McDonaldization. ` The United States exerts hegemonic influence in promoting its values and habits through popular culture and the news media–`Americanization. ` The question this paper seeks to address is whether this force of globalization has anything positive to offer the Middle East, or is it detrimental to their life, culture and esteemed religion: Islam.
My premise is that this force is good. My first pointer on the positive aspects of westernization is one that has feminists all over the world raging. The traditions of the Middle East promote women abuse, placing the female helplessly under the man. The role of the woman in some parts of the Middle East has been reduced to that of being a mother. They have no exposure to the outside world and are kept within the confines of their homes. They are fully controlled by their families, to the extent where they have no say whatsoever on the course of their lives.
In some instances, when the woman is married off, they are kept inside the house to reproduce and rear children. In the event of the husband’s death, the woman is left without access to food and basic necessities, and is fully at the mercy of her male relatives. If the woman is not attended to and tries to by engaging in morally or culturally wrong means, she inevitably becomes the victim of honor killings by her relatives. This is the course of the women. In the Middle East, most women are subject to a harsh chauvinist society, strongly holding on to these practices in the name of religion (Kamguian, 2003).
There are other practices still that undermine the role of the woman in the society as a productive contributor. Part of the Middle East denies the women the right to vote, to participate in governance and take up leadership positions in civic and corporate posts. In other places where they are more lenient, they experience segregation in every level, such that there is “gender apartheid”. They remain ever veiled and in fear of the men of the society. So what has globalization done to reprieve this? The truth is, the reaction is mixed.
It is through globalization that the Middle East in the first place got to obtain the notion of women’s rights. Globalization being a mixture of cultural diversity and influences exerted by global forces caused this mental reform to begin to crop up. The west, America in particular, has told off the Middle East severally about the extent to which they oppress their women. They have supported women emancipation in the Middle East in a various number of ways. Through the use of media and public statements, western scholars, feminists and politicians have condemned the practices carried out to oppress the women.
The west has sent journalists to expose the mess, created a new avenue of education aimed at understanding the Middle East and its oppressive practices all in the aim of helping these women to free themselves. But other scholars think otherwise. They deem the meddling of the west as hypocritical and not effective. Some even go ahead to state that it is due to these interference models that the practices continue to thrive. AbuKhalil states scathingly that the rest of the world, America in particular is very biased in its criticism.
It supports the Saudi regime that blatantly oppresses women but goes ahead to champion the rights of the women in another setting. This is contradictory. Some quarters disagree with this notion stating that the women must be allowed to fight for themselves, thus vindicating the west from this “double standardness” (Afary, 2004). Another advantage I dare to tout is the economic progress the Middle East has come by. The Middle East traditionally has no resources that would entice the rest of the world to invest in it.
The discovery of oil, however, changed this drastically. The age old conflicts to control the Middle East directly or indirectly took a whole new twist with the post-colonial era. It is through globalization that the country has experienced massive inputs in its energy sector. As rightly stated by Ahmad (2007), the existence of Dubai is as a result of international influence and investment. The west in particular has been very keen to invest in economies that show potential and that have displayed positive economic growth. Of more recent interest is the Qatar economy.
With its high consultation with western financial experts, Doha has succeeded in using its oil revenue to make it one of the world’s best performing economies. With the case of Dubai, the same is to be said. Dubai experiences one of the largest capital inflows into its economy largely due to its openness to investors. It has a large expatriate population, with some figures putting the local Emirate population at 10%. They have been able to successfully channel their revenues to systematically put structures and infrastructure in place that will enable them to survive even without their oil.
The large expatriate workforce is necessary to keep trade alive and to carry out their large construction projects. This progress is as a result of the globalization phenomena, where maids from Asia work in the UAE. Let us not leave out the oil sector, with multi-nationals rushing in to aid in the extraction as testament to the effects of globalization (Noland and Pack, 2004; Anup, 2009). The Middle East has indeed profited from globalization in this respect. The high economic growth enjoyed by the hydrocarbon economies is a sign that the process of globalization has good things in store for the Middle East.
It has transformed places that were once desert land area being the battle grounds for tribal wars. However, globalization also has another side to this economic phenomenon. The discovery of oil marked the beginning of the end for some countries. For countries such as Saudi Arabia, their oil brought about new opportunities. The west sang to their tune and as some scholars note angrily, their foreign policy in this respect has been largely biased. America in particular has been cited as the culprit. AbuKhalil (2000) states categorically that the US helped build, train and equip the Taliban regime.
It opposed Saddam Hussein openly and even helped to remove him. However, the “help” extended by the US government did not assist the countries involved in all honesty. The west sang the song with the background of their oil interests in mind. It is an open secret that there is human rights abuse perpetrated by the Saudi regime, but the west is surprisingly quiet about it. Other western countries have funded corrupt and brutal regimes with one aim in mind, to secure their liquid gold. This phenomenon has led to removal of such figures such as Saddam with the aim of removing dictators.
However, many have read into these intervention strategies as ploys by these foreign powers to grasp a hold on the oil resources (Shah, 2009). The third effect I will explore is the effect of globalization on the political stability of the region. The Middle East is particularly a turbulent region, from pre-colonization periods. It is touted as the most militant region in the world, with the indigenous population traditionally being cited as very hostile and aggressive. The region has seen a number of conflicts: from the continuous Israeli conflict to the Iran- Iraq stand off.
This region has simply been the world’s volatile stop. Has globalization helped change this trend? The region is the oil bed of the world. With the major players of the oil producing countries coming from there, it is inevitable that there would be much interest in the political stability of the region. During the oil embargo in 1973, prices soared to 4 times their original level. The necessity of oil in the present world is a real issue, with small fluctuations having huge financial implications. The developed countries have the biggest oil requirements and therefore have more to lose than others.
Therefore with globalization, political stability is necessary for the rest of the world to gain from you. This is what the west, America in particular, has tried to do. With the west leading peace talks in Gaza and monitoring the rest of the Gulf with interest, political stability is assured, or is it (Shah, 2009; naturalhub)? The real scenario is somewhat different. While there are those countries in the Middle East that have achieved political stability, if you count undemocratic monarchies as included, others have been reduced to ruin.
The population in the Middle East countries is rising at an alarming rate. Yet little is being done by the governments to cater for the new labor force by arming them with education and jobs. Instead, they get recruited to renegade military outfits and freedom causes. Direct meddling with the government of the day also does the same. With the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, the stability of these nations literally went to the dogs. A huge military presence is needed in Afghan to maintain relative order, suicide bombs occur all too frequently and the death toll of American soldiers constantly rises.
No political stability here! In other areas, stability is maintained through the use of oppressive regimes, all in the interest of keeping the peace. One can argue that their way of life must be changed by their people but this does not justify the selective application of silence so as to allow the sovereignty of the people to change their processes (naturalhub). Globalization is real, and no matter how hard the Middle East tries to resist it, the effects are obvious. The question as to whether it is good or bad is highly subjective in my opinion is highly subjective.
The truth is that both the culture and the global influences intended for application have their own serious flaws. The case of the women’s rights shows that there two sides to the story, as there also are to the others. This reflects poorly on the measurement scale we have to measure the achievements of globalization by. It is important to hold on to the traditions, but it is also important to embrace change or it will break you. Take for example the case of the young labor force. They have not been subjected to the effect of education.
The result is that they are unskilled, jobless and despondent. This is a recipe for social disaster. At the same time, leaving traditions and subjecting wholly to change indiscriminately subjects one to all the effects, both positive and negative. As Rubin (2003) states, the only way to gain is to choose what to inculcate in one’s culture and ignore the negative, like the Japanese have done. If this prudence settles in the Middle East then maybe there will be more to gain from there than just oil.
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