Cultural Appropriation has become a confusing, intellectually inconsistent, and fanatical modern notion. Whatever value the term may have had in the past has since been cheapened by the social justice warriors who see oppression and victims everywhere they look. Muslims should stop using the term and stop participating in the increasingly crazy trend surrounding it.
Modern leftist ideologues have led themselves and social justice warriors to now believe that harmless acts such as learning, sharing, and experiencing other cultures amount to deliberately mocking a culture, stealing ancient artifacts, and engaging in imperial rape. This egregious revision of modern morality’s boundaries has led to a culture of contradiction. One moment you have liberal hate mobs demanding that we segregate cultures based off of race and ancestry in order to avoid Cultural Appropriation. The next they talk about the importance of multiculturalism, tolerance, and diversity. The vast majority don’t seem to see any problem with this.
So what does Cultural Appropriation mean these days anyway? I tried to find a clear definition but found different explanations depending on where I looked. Like all modernist morality, the definition, interpretation, and understanding of Cultural Appropriation differ depending on whom you talk to and in what year. What’s clear is that the concept is becoming increasingly radicalized and nonsensical as time goes on because it has no clear foundation or boundaries. Susan Scafidi, a “Fashion Law” professor (yes, she literally made that field up), coined the term, defining it as:
“Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission.”
This definition leads to many more questions than answers. Who defines what culture is and isn’t? What sage do people consult for permission before they experience a culture that is different from their own? Is culture predominantly based simply on one’s ancestry or race? Do you own the culture you were born into? Who defines the boundaries of one culture from another and how far back do we have to go in time to figure it out? Is one born with a static culture or can other cultures be adopted somehow? You will find no consistent answers to these basic questions, and the more you think about it, the more confused you become.
Some Muslims have been engaging in the Cultural Appropriation trend by expressing outrage over ridiculous things. There are Muslims who are now getting triggered whenever a non-Muslim wears a hijab, as if Muslim women own the rights to covering hair and it’s part of our “culture” and ours alone. When you look at certain social media platforms, non-Muslims are tiptoeing around the idea of trying on a headscarf, hoping they won’t offend any Muslims thanks to fear of the Cultural Appropriation police. Some are even wondering if they can become Muslims themselves or if being a Muslim is strictly a cultural thing. What a disaster!
Certain Muslims have become so delusional that they feel they’re victims whenever white people apply Henna on themselves or wear modest dresses that are different from their cultural norm. The way many Muslims merge culture and religion these days, I wonder, what’s next? Will the Pakistani living in Egypt be angry when some locals wear the Dupatta style of hijab instead of the Khimar style? Will the Turkish brother who adopted the Hanbali madhab be reprimanded by his Saudi neighbors? Will Muslims begin to shout “Cultural Appropriation!” whenever a non-Muslim expresses interest in Islam, buys a Qur’an, participates in a prayer, or converts, arguing that this person wrongfully stepped out of their permanently static race-based cultural boundaries?
The cultural appropriation madness has gone so far that it is now wrong to share, experience, and adopt other cultures. You can no longer eat, cook, or sell the food of a culture you weren’t born into, style your hair a different way, wear a certain type of jewelry or piece of clothing, or even study abroad without walking on eggshells. Doing these things, even if you have sincerely good intentions or truly believe this piece of culture is a part of your own, can now get you assaulted, fired, or be a reason why your business closes.
I am “guilty” of Cultural Appropriation and stepping over the cultural borders I was born into because of the transition I have gone through as a white convert to Islam. Whether it be my new found love of Arabic and South Asian cuisines, to the thobe and kufi I wear to Jummah, to the Arabic expressions of peace I give fellow Muslims, to the traditional knowledge and wisdom I have learned from Muslims from well over 50 countries, I have indeed experienced many different cultures on my journey as a Muslim and adopted many aspects of them into my life.
In the end, Muslims should avoid the absurdity that Cultural Appropriation has become. Sharing your culture and experiencing the cultures of others is a good thing so long as it is done with sincerity and doesn’t contradict your deen. Every culture in the world has been influenced by the cultures of others and every culture is constantly evolving. Culture is the product of countless people throughout many generations and no single person owns any culture. This new understanding of Cultural Appropriation, whatever it means, is just one more addition to the moral house of cards that modernity has built. It is based on nothing but the constantly changing whims and desires of people who are increasingly distant from their Creator. Let’s be thankful that as Muslims we have the Rope of Allah and don’t need to partake in this madness.