By Michael Axworthy, taken from Resurgence July/August 2006, No. 237 (see

Picture a country in which women have no vote and in which few are employed outside the home. A country in which, through conviction or social pressure, most people attend religious gatherings once a week; in which the state religion and the law ban homosexuality; where there are powerful religious movements urging abstinence from alcohol; where it is normal for women over thirty to wear black, and where they only appear in public if their bodies are completely covered; in which married women have only recently acquired property rights; and in which there is a strong social stigma against divorce, illegitimacy, and any form of sexual activity outside of marriage.

An Arab country? A Muslim country? A third World country? No, none of these - this is a picture of Britain in 1900.

From the traditional perspective … many features of Western society look dangerous, ugly or repellant: rampant materialism, widespread family breakdown, sexual promiscuity, drug addiction, the universal display of women’s bodies in images in public to sell merchandise, and news and entertainment media in which violence, paedophilia and a variety of other problems and abuses are exaggerated and portrayed as commonplace. … This particular picture of Western society … is one which many outside the West … have acquired …. To many in more traditional societies the western way of life looks both seductive and aggressive, and its global success is an affront.

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