IF one thing that can define the 21st century, it must be globalisation. In the last two decades, the world became flat, for better as well as worse. Internet has brought us all together. It has happened so suddenly that we have not been able to manage our new networked reality in the best way. We are still grappling with the new information shift that has shrunk the world. The niqab issue is a discontent of the age of globalization.
Earlier, people who travelled to other countries were either invaders, missionaries or traders and they were well-equipped for their encounters with the other culture in whatever way they happened. The globalization began with an increased focus on international diplomacy and trade. What gave it a big boost was information revolution. A few decades ago, people went to live in another country mostly as a refugee or a worker. Today, people have been brought together willy-nilly by Internet. Everyone is a global citizen in a way.
Globalisation has intensified the clash of civilisations. Earlier, very few people met across cultures. Those people were aware of the issues surrounding the culture clash. Today, the people who would have never dreamed of venturing out of their village have travelled thousands of miles to go and settle down in another country.
People leave one’s own country for another mainly for economic reasons. Some leave for the freedoms they desire but can’t get in their native countries. The people from under-developed or developing countries reach the first world in search of greener pastures — and, even many won’t say it — the cultural milieu it offers. The first phase of globalisation through missionaries, imperialists and invaders was negative for the humanity. The second phase, heralded by information technology, holds a new promise. Apart from asserting our identity against others, we also have the option to find common grounds. The niqab issue would not have been snowballed into a veritable election platform if a few people had come ahead to say they could sacrifice a bit of their own culture for the culture of the adopted country which they value more than their own culture because that’s why they left their own country for a foreign one. Globalisation requires us to adapt to one another and not to assert our indigenous values against the values of others.
To someone from the third world, the western world offers a refuge away from claustrophobic cultures. If we who come from third-world countries begin to undermine the host culture with our native values, then why are we here in the first place? Contemporary globalisation requires us to open up and come closer and not to clam up and alienate.