09.10.2004Charlotte Wiedemann - Ghazala IrfanAcross Continents
Charlotte Wiedemann, 8 July 2004
You are attending a philosophers' conference in China while we exchange our first letters – how interesting! What do scholars from different countries and religions say to each other at a philosophy conference in China?! Surely we won't learn the answer from the news, for the only thing that interests them about China are its production figures.
Besides, the daily beheadings in Iraq are more important. People peacefully sitting down together somewhere outside a Western country in order to exchange thoughts and worldviews seems like an occurrence from a long-vanished world, in any case, the world before September 11, 2001.
I've never shared the view that this date marked an "epochal change," as many in the West claim. But the Western view of the rest of the world has indeed changed – and narrowed – radically since then.
The world "outside," that is, beyond our small islands of European affluence – and security, now only appears to be chaotic, dangerous and violent. Hard to believe that happiness, love, family pleasures, career ambition and marriage quarrels occur "out" there as well, that is, normal life.
Now that Iraq may call itself sovereign again, it is time to take stock of what has happened to us during the past three years. A large German newspaper recently wrote about a "historical hangover" (you see, dear Ghazala, for the profound Germans, everything is always epochal or historical…!): The hangover is supposedly caused by "global frustration" over a crusading America, but also by doubts as to whether so-called Western values can really cure the rest of the world.
Voilà, I'm happy about such hangovers. Praise be to doubt! But how much have we paid for our intoxication.
How did you experience this period? Has the worldview in Pakistan also radically changed since September 11? Certainly not for everyone in the same degree – in your last letter you mentioned the alienation of the educated from the masses, for whom religion is their only tangible support.
And you, a woman Muslim laying no claim to any religious arguments, have you more or less fallen between two stools?
Best regards from Berlin,