When Cultures Clash

Take a look at this video of a Muslim athlete’s reaction to a scantily-clad woman:

This reminded me of something I witnessed back in 2005 when I was in Korea. I’d been sent out there with a Venezuelan colleague called Juan working with a Kuwaiti client and a Korean engineering team. The Kuwaiti delegation was made up of about 6 or 7 men, one of whom was a little Pakistani whose name I’ve forgotten so I’ll call Wasim. He had a long pointy beard, huge ears, a big nose, and sharp eyes which always seemed to be accusing you of something. He wore his trousers a few inches too short exposing the ankles, and after seeing this a few times around the Middle East someone told me that, when Muslims die, Allah will pick them up by the ankles and lift them to heaven; wearing your pants at half-mast makes his job a little easier.

Wasim was a pain in the arse to work with because he saw it as his job to contest every last point and extract every single concession possible from the Korean engineers. Not five minutes would go by without him raising a finger and with a thick Pakistani accent say: “Ah, wait a minute, my friend. What if…” and spend the next hour arguing over something utterly trivial. His colleagues, young Kuwaiti men, also thought he was a pain in the arse. They told me the Kuwaitis were quite relaxed about religion: those who wanted to be devout could be, and those who weren’t could do as much as they pleased without pressure to do more. But the Pakistani immigrant workers changed that: they turned up and, eager to ingratiate themselves with their new masters, started banging the Islam drum around the offices, demanding to know why Kuwaitis were not taking things as seriously as they were. Wasim was a leader in such rabble-rousing, meaning Kuwaitis could no longer eat at their desks during Ramadan without risking a bollocking from their hierarchy (who’d much rather have just let it slide). Muslim solidarity prevented them openly criticising him, but they’d roll their eyes whenever he went off on one.

As our first week together wore on, we soon realised the Koreans didn’t know much about Islam. We’d be taken to a restaurant in Seoul by our hosts and the Kuwaitis, in broken English, would ask the waiter if the dish contained pork. The waiter couldn’t understand a word that was being said but, in order to save face, would just say yes or no regardless. If the Korean engineers were able to intervene to help out they decided not to, but I suspect they were as confused as the waiters were. It wasn’t just a language problem: I don’t think the Koreans could understand for the life of them why anyone would ask such a question. As such, the Kuwaitis and Wasim found themselves eating pork dishes without knowing. Now this is not a problem from a religious point of view: if a Muslim inadvertently consumes pork he’s still going to be plucked by the ankles and lifted to heaven, assuming his trousers are short enough. But it did make me grin a little watching Wasim dribble a soup full of obvious pig parts into his beard. Actually, that’s a lie: I was laughing like a drain.

At the end of the second week the Koreans decided to bus us all out to some place across town and treat us to a spectacle. We entered into an enormous arena with restaurant-style seating looking down on a central stage. We were ushered to tables piled high with booze; obviously nobody had told the Koreans that Kuwaitis don’t drink either. There was much fuss when Wasim demanded a table which wasn’t littered with bottles of Johnny Walker, but eventually they did enough to make a space which wasn’t haram and all the Kuwaitis and Wasim sat down. Juan and I joined the Koreans and started drinking heavily. The food was served and after the usual pantomime of asking what was in it and the waiters looking confused, we all started eating. Oink oink!

Then the show began. First we had twenty minutes of traditional Korean dancing: lots of drums, ribbons, and colourful costumes. Good, wholesome stuff your granny would like. Then a pair of trapeze artists came out, a Russian man and woman, who did stuff which made me hold my breath. With no harness or safety net these two swung around five metres above tables laden with bottles, glasses, and crockery with supreme coolness. Occasionally the girl – a tiny thing in a spangly leotard – would pretend to slip, and the whole place would gasp. At one point the man – who was topless and looked to be carved from marble – was hanging with his legs out straight while his partner sat on his shins. I don’t think I’ve seen upper-body strength like it.

When they were done, the music got a bit more modern and fifteen or twenty women in loose-fitting costumes came on stage. The first thing I noticed was they were white, some sort of eastern European. They started dancing, showing lots of leg. The Koreans loved it, but poor old Wasim was getting agitated. I looked back to the stage, then at the Koreans, and nudged Juan.

“I think I know what’s gonna happen here,” I said.

As the music reached a crescendo the girls whipped off their tops to reveal a line of perfect young tits the sort of which Wasim only thought he’d see if he martyred himself. He let out a scream which was drowned out by the roars of approval from the Koreans and covered his eyes. Stumbling around in the dark with his hand over his face, he ran for the exit, tripping over feet, trolleys, and table legs. Two Kuwaitis followed close behind him, also covering their faces, and the others left more slowly, one copping a last look as he went through the door. I was laughing so hard I thought I’d die.

But one Kuwaiti stayed behind and, having made sure his colleagues were safely gone, he joined us at our table. He helped himself to a glass of whisky and settled in to join the rest of the show.

“The thing is,” he told us. “Most of the other guys aren’t bothered, but they can’t be seen to be drinking or watching this show, especially in front of Wasim. It’s not about what you do, but who sees you doing it.”

“Are you not worried about being seen?” I asked him.

“No, I don’t care,” he said, and grinned.

It was a good show.

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19 thoughts on “When Cultures Clash

  1. Story on twatter: first aid course in UK had two Muslim women on it but they refused to do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation as it conflicted with their religious views. However, they were duly given the certificate because apparently, the fear was the organisers might be seen as Islamophobic if they were honest and say there were two people who might not be able to save lives.

    Clash of cultures? If you ever need urgent medical assistance you better pray you don’t get a certificated Muslim who won’t do what it takes to keep you breathing. At least you will pass away knowing the one true religion was not offended.

  2. It’s bollocks as the basic first aid course CPR is done with rubber dummies. Because you’d at least do serious injury to, and possibly kill, any human subject not in acute need of it.

  3. “It’s bollocks as the basic first aid course CPR is done with rubber dummies.”

    And there was me thinking CPR was practised on real people.

    Apart from that pearl of wisdom, have you any actual evidence the story isn’t true? After all its quite conceivable that a devout Muslim woman could refuse to countenance ‘kissing’ a man who needed mouth to mouth resuscitation, and therefore refuse to even try it on a dummy. And its extremely likely that the organisers would shit themselves at the idea of having to tell some Muslims to bog off from the CPR course if they don’t want to do what is required, and would just pretend nothing had happened.

  4. I have had quite a few experiences like this and with hypocritical Muslims over the years as well. One like yours took place on a business trip to Tokyo. I was working for Petronas a large Malaysian oil and gas company at the time and was travelling up with Mohammed one of their senior managers and some dudes form ExxonMobil to finalize some big pipeline purchases with the Japanese trading houses.

    The transgression started as soon as we boarded up front on the JAL aircraft, I asked for a tumbler of sake and Mohammed said that he would have the same, I told him that it was alcohol and he said not to worry. He also lit up a fag which you could still do in JAL back then and said words to the effect what happens in Tokyo stays in Tokyo. Not forgetting that in the time that I had known him up to that point he was always rolling out the prayer mat in a Brisbane office, fair enough.

    We had nice rooms at the Imperial Hotel and I used to hang around the bar there when I wasn’t sleeping and for the whole week Mohammad would show up about fiveish have a few, light up and then disappear for the rest of the night. I would say he had about 20% attendance rate at our important finalisation meetings that week, zero input and he was totally hungover all the time.

    So, mum’s the word and we were back in Brisbane the next week with his and my boss Muhammad, he was a bit of hard man and well connected such that Mahathir attended his wedding. He knew nothing of Mohammad’s exploits and we were discussing the requirements for calling tenders for pipe lay barges to lay the pipe that we had just ordered across the Torres Strait from PNG to QLD. So I explained the layout and pointed out that I had allowed for a small separate Halal chef, kitchen and eating area for the 2% Moslem staff that would be on the barge. Well can you imagine my disgust when Mohammad insisted that the whole entire cooking and eating area had to be halal, he feigned outrage and bunged it on about standards, I told them I disagreed but they insisted and it was their project their budget and inshallah. I came close to dobbing the fucker in right there and then but that is just not cricket old chap.

    The project was for a major pipeline from PNG to QLD but was cancelled in the light of coal seam gas coming on line, shame I would have retired by now if it had got legs.

  5. Incidentally, when are we going to stop giving religions free passes for behaviour that if advocated by living people today would get that person arrested? Why does antisocial behaviour get ignored (or even praised) because the people doing it believe in a sky fairy, but if you do it because Bill Smith’s Big Book of How to be an Arsehole told you to, you’d be ostracised or worse?

  6. Brilliant story!

    “It’s not about what you do, but who sees you doing it.”

    He wasn’t worried about Allah noticing then?

  7. We had nice rooms at the Imperial Hotel

    Heh, I stayed there. It is nice. Remote controlled curtains and a talking toilet.

    I used to hang around the bar there

    The one on the ground floor where Japanese men in white gloves serve you expensive whisky?

  8. He wasn’t worried about Allah noticing then?

    That guy wasn’t, no. To be fair to the Kuwaitis, they never laid the religion thing on thick. They saw it, as it should be, as a personal matter. I remember a room of four or five Kuwaiti engineers on one of the plants, all of whom had various standards of compliance with Islam. They all got along fine.

  9. Years ago at FE college I was elected to the student committee where I soon learned the college management dumped decisions they didn’t want to make.
    One of these problems was a student (lets call him Wasim) who wouldn’t use the purpose built pre prayer wash rooms but insisted on going into the gents removing the cistern cover then standing on the loo seat and putting his feet into the cistern to wash them. This got water all over the floor but also broke quite a few toilets.
    So the sh*t scared college management passed the decision on what to do to us. We brought in the colleges Muslim faith rep (or what ever they called him) and asked what was going on and was there a problem with the wash rooms. Said rep told us there wasn’t an issue and that basically Wasim was an idiot. So we asked him to tell Wasim to stop doing this and use the f**king wash rooms. At this point the rep became very vague but the long and short of it was that there was no way he was going to talk to Wasim about this.
    Initially I thought this was because the didn’t like telling Wasim what a load of infidels had told him. Increasingly though I have come to think that he didn’t in case Wasim pulled the “I’m more religious then thou” card and quoted some section of the Koran which allows followers to break toilets in FE colleges in Lincolnshire.

  10. “The one on the ground floor where Japanese men in white gloves serve you expensive whisky?”

    Yes that’s the one, I love bars like that. Mind you it helps if your are on an expense account. I am partial to Japanese malts as well.

    On business trips I can quite easily relax and while away the time people watching, thinking over the day’s proceedings and then meeting up with folk, I always suggest that we eat at the bar and never want to go anywhere after either. Last week I stayed at the Michelangelo in Joburg, that is one of my favourites, not as hierarchical as Tokyo, but a great five star service, lovely grand bar with properly attired and trained bar staff, one must try and find enjoyment in this existence.

  11. One wonders if a cascade is coming. Seems to me that outside a fanatical few, most Muslims are concerned to look devout but really don’t care. If that is right it is only a matter of time before the majority recognise themselves as such and ignore the fanatics. May not be soon but will probably be sudden.
    I am minded to see the various acts of Muslim violence as a sign of the fanatics’ desperation rather than their strength.

  12. Jim, it’s your contention so your burden of proof.

    The CPR ratio varies all the time, and there are variants with no mouth-to-mouth. Current recommended practice (in Germany) is 30 chest to 2 breaths, but if you can’t do the breaths (not just because of the yuk factor, it is actually extremely difficult to do on a human) just leave them out as the chest massage itself facilitates some gas exchange. You’re frankly unlikely to be doing this for more than a few minutes (that will feel like a lifetime). If you are still going after 30 minutes, with or without respiration, your subject is probably long-since dead, but unless you are a doctor that’s not your call, so you carry on.

    It’s academic as when put on the spot most first-aiders freeze or are put off by knowitalls and hecklers. Plus a defib (if available, as in most workplaces which is where you would really care about the number of people with first aid certificates) is about 10 times more effective.

  13. Why does antisocial behaviour get ignored (or even praised) because the people doing it believe in a sky fairy and have form for reacting with extreme organised violence when confronted over it

    I have added an extra explanatory bit.

    Anyway, regarding the original story it shows that it needs only a tiny minority of determined wankers to make everyone’s lives a misery.

  14. “put on the spot most first-aiders freeze or are put off by knowitalls and hecklers”

    This happened to me at one of our workshops. There was an incident whereby a green as the grass young lad was lifting a load way over the capacity of the machine and it rolled over, he got thrown out of the cabin and crushed between the overturned boom against the truck deck that he was loading onto. I heard the bang ran out, the guys head was crushed between the overturned boom and the truck deck, he was still conscious and screaming, diesel flowing into his face, eyes mouth and all. We stopped that and then our workshop guys managed to get a bigger mobile crane on the radio to lift the crane that he was trapped under of off him. It was over five minutes since he was crushed and I knew that to lift the load off would result in all the trapped toxins being released and killing him. I literally had to tell the other guys to fuck off in a big way and that they weren’t lifting the load off him, it was a very testy moment, I also had a paramedic on the mobile who was about five minutes away. He stayed pinned, the paramedic arrived, climbed underneath and drilled some holes into his legs and injected him. The emergency services arrived and took about two hours to untrap him with a system of air cushions and chcoks, slowlys taking the load and relased him. He survived and the medics said that he would definitely have died of toxicity if we had lifted the load off of him.

    His skull was cracked in many places and was egg shaped and he made a complete, at least I never had to kiss him though.

  15. My understanding of the trousers above the ankles thing is that Mohammed said that if a man was vain enough to allow his robes to trail in the dust , it would lead to some additional nastiness whilst he was in the grave waiting for judgement day.
    In Saudi it , together with a totally untrimmed beard making the owner look as though he is swallowing a badger, are good indicators of a matawah

  16. BiG: It’s bollocks as the basic first aid course CPR is done with rubber dummies.
    …and careful reading would reveal that Bardon did not say that it was during CPR training, but mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. CPR is not a component of every first-aid course; I’ve taught several that didn’t cover it.
    As you say: your contention, your burden of proof.

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