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Moral Decay and Hollywoodization in the Muslim World

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Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid on the moral degradation of Muslims today


" Verily, you have in the Prophet of Allah an excellent model,… " (33:22)

" Let there be among you a group of people who should invite to goodness, and enjoin equity and forbid evil ". (3:105)

"Verily, Allah enjoins justice, and the doing of good to others; and giving like kindred; and forbids indecency and manifest evil and transgression. He admonishes you that you may take heed." (16:91)

MORAL DECAY.

1. In the present age of material progress there is great paucity of love for learning, nor is the love of religion much in evidence. The instinct of hunger has completely dominated human existence. Everywhere people now talk of problems concerning the flesh. Conversation on the problems relating to the spiritual or moral aspects of life is rarely to be heard in society. The moral teachings of the Prophet is yet again challenge by the ebbing tide of the changing times. Moral degradation had spread a great deal in the Muslim lands. The age-old ideals of the Islamic ways of life had fallen into oblivion although there is still domestic and social virtues were still valued beyond all things contrary to the atheist west lifestyle.

Moral degradation is worse than a complex and serious disease with devastating long term consequences. It refers to the process of declining from a higher to a lower level of morality and is seen as preceding or concomitant with the decline in quality of life as well as the decline of societies and nations. It has destroyed individuals, families, dynasties and nations alike from within. It starts slowly with seemingly harmless choices by some individuals but then it spreads like an epidemic affecting the society at large.

Moral decline or degradation begins when transcendent moral values, which have proven to be beneficial over time, are discarded for vain lustful desires. A study of human history suggests that moral decline begins with prosperity. In early America, the tendency to drift away from faith in times of prosperity was observed by a Puritan preacher Cotton Mather (1663-1728) who stated, “Religion begot prosperity, and the daughter devoured the mother.”

Secular society, perhaps in the name of freedom of choice, is unwilling to condemn or prevent the spread of moral degradation; and even when it tries to it is unable to because of human limitations of knowledge, reasoning and wisdom. Such society goes in circles chasing the symptoms and dressing up the outcomes rather than addressing the root cause. In our times, examples of this phenomenon abound; like immodesty, adultery, cohabitation, teenage pregnancies, drinking, drugs, pornography, homosexuality, financial and political corruption, etc.

Just to list the many moral decays that has spread amongst Muslims:

#1. Increasing Sexually transmitted disease.

#2. In schools and even pre schools sex education is now introduced.

#3. Prevailing Teen pregnancy

#4. Rampant 15 to 24-year-old age bracket have engaged in sex.

#5. Increasing incidence of rape cases , attempted rape and sexual assault.

#6. Rampant Internet traffic now goes to adult websites.

#7. Rampant spreading of pornographic materials.

#8. Unmarried adults on the increase and prevalence ummarried couples " living together ".

#9. Increasing divorce rate .

#10. Babies being born out of wedlock.

#11. Dumping of babies and illegal abortions

#12. Increasing Alcoholism

#13. Rampant Drug abuse and drug addiction.

#14. Indulging in Gambling

#15. Increasing emotional and mental stress leading to Suicide .

#16. Widespread Corruption

#17. Violent criminal activities and gangsterism amongst youth.

#18. Increasing influence of modern gadgets hand phones applications, internet, addiction to video games.

#19. Prostitution and human trade.

#20. Rampant smoking habits.

#21. Domestic violence (child and women abuse)

#22. Sexual and violant behaviors from films and video games.

#23. Home run aways.

#24. School drop outs, deliquencies and illiteracy.

2. World history has never seen a period where a proper sense of morality prevailed. Only Islamic history projects a period of about 13 years where the Holy Prophet (PBUH) established a society in Madina which can be termed as immaculate: free of evil and exploitation.

3. One of the major objectives of Islam is to extirpate all social evils from society. In order to achieve this, Islam instilled a high of morality amongst its first followers. The Prophet was a living role model amongst them; the Quran describes him as one of exalted character (68:4). Morality is a subject that deals with and determines the veracity of human conduct, e.g. good or bad, right or wrong, etc.

4.. After the Quran, the life of the Prophet is the best source of guidance. While elaborating on eternal verities he simultaneously exemplified through his scrupulous conduct. His life is full of such incidents, where he projects a proper sense of morality.

Even his staunch enemies confessed that his ethics were great. His thought for human benefit, his deeds of kindness, his words for love, his effort for peaceful coexistence and his prayers for human salvation are shining examples for all to emulate.

5. Contrary to such superb teachings, a cursory look at our society today reveals an all-round state of moral decrepitude; it faces numerous problems, but the most horrendous is ethical degradation at every level. Lack of moral scruples at committing evil can be observed in markets, offices, factories and public places where people interact in a most discourteous manner. Most appear to be individualistic, self-centred and over-ambitious in pursuit of wealth, power and social status.

6. There have been concerns voiced on moral degradation by scholars , preachers and Islamic organizations. However the ummah has seen declining moral and ethics amongst Muslims which is worrying. In many Muslim government offices, are infested with corrupt dealings reflecting the moral degradation has creeped in the way the ummah are been governed by the beaucrats and the power holders. The governments in Muslim states are now imaged as amongst the corrupt states in the world.

7. A Muslim who loves his fellow being feels pain when he sees decay all around. There are a number of reasons for this but the foremost is drifting away from the ethical goals set by Allah. We have gone far from the ethical teachings of Islam. Success lies only in adhering to these teachings in letter and spirit.

People interact mainly through word of mouth. Words represent our inner attitudes; they can create friendship and animosity among individuals. It is on the record that words have been the cause of many disputes and wars and also a good cause of peace and friendship in many areas of the world throughout history. Therefore, the Quran emphasises that believers utter words that are best and be cautious.

8. Ever since independence of many Muslim nations, education was given the highest priority especially in the Islamic education. There have been continous meetings, seminar, workshops and conferences on this subject. However the creation of schools, madrasah, colleges and universities have not stem moral decay that is becoming rampant within the ummah .There is an urgent need to rethink the contents of Islamic textbooks, training of teachers and evaluate them vis-à-vis the objectives that are supposed to be the aims of education in Islam.

It may be an uphill task but it must be undertaken, with the teachers engaged in teaching Islamiat made conscious that their task is ordained as guides. They must be instilled with a sense of mission and commitment and spirit to build their students’ character to shape a future society that is free from exploitation, corruption and chicanery.

9. Islam prevents moral decline by:

(a) Explaining the nature of man (i.e., his strengths and weaknesses, his potential to do good and his propensity to do evil)

(b) Differentiating right from wrong

(c) Warning about the risks and dangers of moral degradation

(d) Providing complete guidance (dos & don’ts) on avoiding those risks

(e) Presenting the Holy Prophet Muhammad s.a.w as a model of moral excellence:

HOLLYWOODIZATION of world cinema represents cultural colonialism

1. Corporate Hollywood, led by international multimedia conglomerates such as Viacom, Time Warner and Disney, not only dominates moviemaking worldwide, a process accelerated in the 1980s, but also employs a colonialism-style of storytelling that may aggravate cultural relations. The stories stress that only hard work produces success with the hidden message that poverty, instead of being a societal problem, results from laziness and incompetence.

To appeal to many audiences in different countries, most movie storylines are now simplified to emphasize action and spectacle over character development, ignoring or trivializing complex issues.

2. Historically, Hollywood and foreign film industries have had a symbiotic relationship since the early days of moviemaking. In the 1930s, European audiences, even in communist countries, flocked to seek American films. By the early 1950s, the big studios sought to cut costs by making many of their movies overseas and using foreign labor, an early form of global outsourcing.

In the past 30 years have brought the growth of media conglomerates that absorbed the old Hollywood studios and merged them with TV networks and high-profile news magazines. Currently Hollywood producers increasingly concentrate on making fewer, but more expensive, blockbuster films.

This change in turn has had several consequences. Hollywood movies, even when not intending to, often reflect the American Protestant ethic (eagerly embraced by Reagan) that hard work inevitably results in worldly success, with the hidden corollary that poverty must be self-inflicted.

Blockbuster movies -- which combine the technologies of film and TV -- have a penchant for reducing debate over crucial social and economic concerns to mere entertainment. Blockbusters tend to emphasize spectacle and action over character development, resulting in a flattening out of important issues. Most movies' storylines are now simplified and do not reflect the complexities of life in the United States and other countries.

The trend also suggests that blockbusters made for a global audience will continue to reduce issues of race, class and gender mobility to entertaining terms which condone capitalism's global colonization of domestic and foreign labor markets.

3. The growth of worldwide communication empires also has resulted in an enormous amount of power being concentrated into the hands of a few individuals such as Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner. Some of these media moguls, especially those with film connections, carry more clout today than some governments.

The political influence exercised by media conglomerates was demonstrated, for instance, in 1992, when the European Union opted against removing trade barriers and tariffs on movies and television programs, says Jordan. Time Warner, Turner, Disney, Viacom and NBC circumvented this decision by forming partnerships with European television producers, broadcast stations, cable and satellite networks, and telecommunications services.

Nonetheless, Hollywood's ongoing production of Reagan-era movies and their commercial popularity worldwide suggest that the movie formulas that prevailed have enduring appeal both as franchises for the major studios and as consumable cultural commodities for an expanding global audience.

Cultural Imperialism: Hollywoodization

4. The domination of Hollywood movies in film industry is the American ideological medium of mass communication, it influences the movie industries around the world. This process is called Hollywoodization, in which Hollywood affects the movie industries in Asia to adopt the production style, dressing, or even imitate the name of Hollywood. Despite many other countries have developed their own film industries to suit the local audience but Hollywood’s style of production, storylines and set designs are still seen in such film. It can be said that Hollywood has come to dominate the way of thinking of filmmakers and the audiences.

5. The promotion of American culture through Hollywood movies is seen as a form of cultural imperialism. Hollywood movie become a cultural product where it could have cultural effects to any society that the film goes through. It seems that America is trying to imperialize the world by using a soft tool. Hollywood is an octopus with tentacles extending across the globe.

6. With the innovation of Information Communication Technology (ICT) has prominently influenced the transmission of American culture to the rest of the world. ICT is ever-present in today, with over three billion people having access to the Internet and it would be unusual to find anyone between the ages of 13 and 50 who does not own a mobile phone, a computer or have access to the internet .

The emergence of ICT allows American culture more imperialism to the rest world because most of the movies we watched are the production of Hollywood. U.S. always remained the dominant player in the global cultural trade, especially in the audiovisual sector. Of the films shown worldwide, 85% are produced in Hollywood, according to UNESCO.

7. A study on Hollywoodization, observed that the world audience became consumerist after watching American movies, for example, the culture of eating fast food in the American movies caused the popularity of global consumer brands like McDonald’s, KFC, pizza, and so forth. Apart from the impact on consume patterns, by watching Hollywood movies, people have come to see America as an ideal society where good always prevails over evil.

8. A good example of Hollywoodization is the Bollywood in India. Bollywood is a name of Indian movie industry, the name is primarily based on the Western city of Bombay. In the early Indian films, the audience enjoy the melodious songs and the dance that accompany the actions in the movies. However the influence of Hollywood has brought to a new trend in the costume and settings of such films. The Bollywood began to touch more on the love scenes and sex scenes. The movie portray pictures that taught us to dance rhumbas and sambas; pictures that taught us to kill and steal; pictures that taught us to utter “Hi” and “Gee”; pictures that taught us devilry and divorce and pictures that took us to jinks and drinks. It seems that Bollywood relies too much on the Western idea and Hollywood, where it going to diminish the real and traditional cultural identity of India.

9. Besides that, with the popularity of Hollywood around the world, the imitation and transformation of actors in the movie into game has been done by many game creators in game industry for profits. The children play computer games on the Internet and some of these games are violent which in turn tends to promote violence among children. Children are easily influence by what they see and do in the game and are not mature enough to weigh what is right and what is wrong. This unfortunately, may lead them to practise harmful behaviour in real life.

The lifestyel Effect of Hollywoodization.

10. The Hollywood has come to dominate the way of our thinking. We tend to adopt the lifestyles represented in the movie to our usual lifestyle. For example, the way we behave, we dressed and we expressed our feeling or rights will accordingly to the movies we have exposed to. The main lifestyles appeared in the movies are partying, smoking, and drinking alcoholic beverages. These kinds of lifestyle were mutually and commonly include in every of those 30 movies. Many societies nowadays seemed to absorb and adopt these lifestyles to their routine life.

11. Others might be the language effect as people may turn to speak American accent, adopt those American slangs and jargons to their daily life, and value and ideology effect which has cause the changed in people’s behaviour and thought. For example, the ideology of freedom being promote in Hollywood movies has made people believe that fight was to gain freedom and it could bring to peace.

Hollywoodization is Americanization.

12. In short, the interest of American in promoting its culture through Hollywood movies is seen to dominate the other cultural communities around the world in order to become the only culture of the world. We may used to hear that we all could make our culture becomes unique, while we also need to accept other cultures. However, America is doing differently. America is likely to make its own culture as a universal culture in which every nation or community has to accept American culture and adopt those American cultures as their own culture. Cultural imperialism is not the process of cultural expansion, but it is a cultural loss process. This process makes our local cultures vanish from time to time.

Hollywood and cultural influence

13. A new study out of Dartmouth College confirms what savvy parents have known for years: Hollywood movies are sexually charged, and that fact negatively impacts teenagers who watch them. The study by psychological researchers at Dartmouth and published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, found that youth who regularly view movies with sexual content have a greater tendency to begin engaging in sexual activity at a younger age, have more casual sexual partners.

Much research has shown that adolescents’ sexual attitudes and behaviors are influenced by media.

Prior to the study, O'Hara and his fellow Dartmouth researchers surveyed nearly 700 of the top-grossing movies from 1998 to 2004, rating the movies for sexual content ranging from heavy kissing to sexual intercourse. According to O'Hara, the research found that those youth who had been exposed to sexual content in movies tended to be more highly sexualized than those who are sheltered from such content.

14. It's little wonder that Hollywood movies have such an impact on young people. In analyzing films over the past six decades, the researchers found that among Hollywood films produced between 1950 to 2006 around 85 percent contained sexual content. By Hollywood ratings, 88 percent of R-rated movies had sexual content, 85 percent of PG-13 movies, 82 percent of PG-rated movies, and, surprisingly, 68 percent of G-rated films.

The researchers found that sexually explicit content has increased steadily over the past decade for both PG-13-rated and R-rated movies. They also found that 70 percent of the sexual acts depicted in movies from 1983 to 2003 occurred between newly acquainted partners and 89 percent of those sexual acts resulted in no consequences.

Impressionable children and teens are influenced by the media they consume.

Over 60 years of research and over 3,000 studies now have linked violent media content and aggression, cigarette smoking in films and the likelihood teens will take up smoking, and more recently, exposure to sexual content in entertainment and early onset of sexual activity in teens.

THE SOLUTION : Rebuilding the Muslim Character Project

Short term:

1. Advocacy for strong legal tools to ban the negative elements that promote moral decay ( media , films, dramas, advertisements, literatures )

2. Organizing local communities to combact social ills.

3. Organizing Muslim Civil societies to take on the role of building morally upright Muslims.

4. Using the Muslims forums e.g effective khutbah and every Islamic celebration to raise conciousness on moral development.

5. Rehabilitation programmes of Muslims who have gone astray from Islam.

Long term:

1. Reforming Islamic Education

2. Mass education on Islamic Akhlaq amongst all levels of the communities.

3. Continuos engaging with leaders and government authorities to focus on moral issues of the ummah.

4. Campaigning, spreading and reading of powerfull Islamic literatures ( Quranic Guaidance to Daily Living )

5. Project "Back to the Quran"

6. Project IMARAH : Revitalising the function of Masjids as an effective institution to strengthen the character of the Muslims.

7. Engaging with Muslim public preachers to effectively raise the problem of moral decay amongst Muslims.

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