Discrimination against members of a different religious background is nothing new in western states. However, when one analyzes such an occurrence in its cultural context, one realizes that there is more at play than mere discrimination. The event under analysis is an attack against an Iranian girl for her style of dress.
Analysis of the incident
The attack took place in London on the 13th of April 2011. Zahra Saleh was heading home after school in the evening. Some four British females confronted her about her Hijab and asked her to remove it. Upon refusal, the four girls beat her up and inflicted substantial facial injuries on her. The Council of Muslim students spoke strongly against the incident. They believed that it was a sign of religious intolerance in the country. The event put a spotlight on other anti-hijab attacks that had occurred in the UK and other parts of Europe. The author also noted that countries like the Netherlands and Belgium already banned these dresses. Others such as France even impose fines for donning the Islamic garment (Press TV, 2011).
As one reads the information about the attack, one realizes that a lot of cultural issues came into play. The notion of individualism is at play here; the UK gives more precedence to independence and personal choices while the Middle Eastern culture gives greater precedence to cooperation and one’s reputation within a group (Lederach, 1995). This could probably be the reason why the Iranian girl insisted on wearing a hijab even though she lives in a non-Islamic state.
To her, the most crucial thing was to maintain her reputation in her ethnic group of Muslims. On the other hand, the attackers probably expected Zahra to have the freedom to decide whether or not she could wear the hijab. Therefore, it did not make sense to the British girls that Zahra was not even questioning or changing her religious values.
The article also gives crucial insights into conflict. The public blamed the British girls, who represent western societies, for the attack; they did not attest their behavior to the government, schools, or the girls’ religions. Conversely, the Muslim Students Council placed the responsibility of the conflict on the UK government as a whole. This shows a collectivist attitude towards disputes; people from such cultures tend to place the responsibility of a wrong on the group to which the wrongdoer belongs rather than the individual involved (Hampden-Turner & Fons, 2000).
One can also learn that getting to the cause of the problem is not always a priority in collectivist cultures. The Muslim council proposed a way forward; it did not suggest therapeutic remedies for the attackers. This would not have been true if a westerner were the victim of the crime.
These findings reveal crucial findings in my own life. I have realized that people from collectivist cultures tend to place more accountability on the group than to one individual. For instance, in high school, some Koreans preferred to stand up for each other when a classmate accused one of them of taking another student’s item wrongfully. To them, an attack against one Korean was an attack against all of them.
The findings from this incident will assist in my future interventions, in a cultural conflict, by questioning my assumptions about disputes, such as placing the blame solely on one person or trying to find out how the conflict started. These approaches may not always be welcome in collectivist cultures. The incident will assist me in becoming culturally tolerant during conflicts by accepting cultural differences and choosing to embrace them.
Hampden-Turner, C. & Fons, T. (2000). Building cross-cultural competence: How o create wealth from conflicting values. London: Yale University Press.
Lederach, J. (1995). Preparing for peace: Conflict transformation across cultures. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press
Press TV (2011). Iranian girl attacked in UK over hijab. Web.