Speaking of provocation ...

Monday 30 October 2006 3:18 AM

It would be a pity if the community's natural outrage at Sheikh Hilali's now infamous comments did not occasion some honest reflection on mainstream western culture. In the cultural world which is home to the mufti - and most of his hearers, western civilization is commonly regarded as somewhere between decadent and downright evil. The core of this is our hedonism generally, and our public sexual morality in particular.

One could debate endlessly the boundaries between unashamed beauty and shameless display. But drive down any freeway in Melbourne, and you might well be confronted with a giant billboard displaying a woman fully naked but for a pair of shoes or a lacey bra. Or open a lifestyle magazine or visit the milkbar, and chances are you'll see more exposed flesh than some new immigrants have ever seen beyond the sanctity of the marital bedroom. Are we actually surprised that some ethnic or religious communities are scandalised?!

There is something hypocritical about demanding that the mufti be silenced, if we will not subject our own fashion, entertainment and advertising industries to the same critical analysis. Most of us want to take pride in our burgeoning multiculture. Just don't ask us to do any of the adapting.