Cultural Relativism



Culturalrelativism is a concept that asserts that, there are no two cultureswith similar practices, beliefs and values and as suchanthropologists should not be rush to make value judgment aboutcultural variations (Barber, 2009). As a consequence, anthropologypedagogy has specified that the study of norms and beliefs should bevalue free, and that the succinct role of the anthropologist shouldbe that of an observer. Even though anthropologists have been coercedby circumstance to take a particular stance in relation tofundamental human rights, it is important to actively engage inprotecting the diversity, values, beliefs and rights of people whosecultures are under their scrutiny. All culture should have the sameworth since values and beliefs that may not be viewed as important orright by one culture, may be very important in another. This paperwill explore the American system of education and howAfrican-American have suffered in the hand of a system that does notmarry with most of their values and beliefs. In the second part thiswork will also exemplify the way in which cultural relativism facadesthe realism Islamic terrorism. The guiding principle in thisdiscussion will be that all cultures are equal and should be accordedequal opportunity for expression in a neutral perspective.

PartOne: Educationand

African-Americanslike many other ethnic groups in the United States conform to theAmerican dominant culture. Many Americans of African origin arecoerced by circumstance to behave and act like the rest of the middleclass to make sure that their children do not remain in foster careforever (Throop,2009).African –Americans citizens and their children are ensnared indominant culture via the education system.

Thecurrent system of education in the U.S focuses on self –esteemwhich means that children in institutions that are largely occupiedby African –American learn about their culture in appallingmishmash of widely varying African societies. In the precepts of thecultural relativism this is very legitimate goal but the incrediblesimplemindedness encourages African-Americans to remain ignorant oftheir diversity of African cultures (Throop,2009).

Thenational performance of African-American students in learninginstitutions is worrying. The rate at which they are suspended fromschools is reported to be twice that of European Americans and therate at which they are likely to drop out of school is 20 percentbefore they graduate. More often than not many researchers compareAfrican American children with European Americans and, establish thatthey have lower IQ, reading and writing skills and have lowerachievement in cultural and social criteria. This has been ascribedto the fact the notion of first precepts of constructivist concept(Hanley,2002). This deficiency approach ignores the principle that children shouldbe taught from the knowledge base of their roots.

Culturalrelativism informs that practioners should not fault the learners,because the deficiency rests in the system of the American educationthat fails to adapt itself to the cultural differences amonglearners. At the epicenter of the culturally relevant curriculum isthe values, practices and beliefs of the learner. To create aneffective instructional program there is need to have an in-depthunderstanding on the key experiences and values of the learner’sculture (Hanley,2002). In this vein teachers need to comprehend and understand how learnersof different cultures can be supported in learning academic contentand the manner in which the range of approaches to learning can bemet with a variety of teaching strategies (Hanley,2002).

PartTwo: Genesis of suicide terrorism.

Untilthe world leaders understand the cultural arrangements that areuniting millions of people from various countries to wage massiveterrorist attacks on Western countries and any state perceived ascontradicting their view, the world will never enjoy the peace andserenity that is sought by hook and crook. It is imperative toinvestigate the issue of terrorism from a cultural relativistapproach and cease ascribing the cause of Islamic terrorism to thealienation of the contemporary Muslim community (Barber, 2009).

Whileit is certainly commendable to attempt to create an approach aroundthe continuance of the rights of worship and speech, it ispractically impossible to successfully deal with the issue of Islamicterrorism, devoid the knowhow of the interaction between Islam andterrorism and their ramifications when taken together because Islamicterrorism is a unique feature although not a new phenomenon (Barber,2009).

Atran(2003) like many other modern scholars who employ cultural relativismto approach the issue of Islamic terrorism views it as a politicalexpression of the effects of individual psychological estrangement onthe road to modernity. Form the era of Romans, to the Fascism, theBolshevism and at the moment the anti-liberal western right. Inarriving at this conclusion, the Islamic terrorism is perceived as aform of fundamentalism though the lens of cultural relativism. Inthis light Islamic fundamentalism is viewed as a jut another versionof the “fanatical mass movement” with a disguised element ofreligiofication of their beliefs and encompassing the ancientexistential themes (Barber, 2009). This is what has alienated peoplewho are constantly looking for ways to authentic their identity inthe periphery of a society that has forgotten its values and virtues.

Eventhough it is apparent that religion (Islam) has a political ideologyby its very nature Atran concludes that the main cause of Islamicterrorism is the religiofication of ideology (Barber, 2009). It is ofextreme import to recognize that any move to overcome the myriadattacks waged by Jihadist and extremist is bound to fail is no effortis made to understand that the main cause of Islamic terrorism arenot just sociological and political, but are deeply pegged onreligious ideology. In other word Atran states that America and otherwestern countries must address the religious and cultural causes ofdeep-seated Islamic ideology (Atran, 2003).

Itis also true that the Western concept of free speech and civil rightsare a substantial barrier to successful addressing the extremismconundrum. Such rights have prevented government from punishingindividual who propagate inflammatory sermons in places of worship.Islamic terrorism employ the ideological nature of their religionwith the objective of reestablishing past Muslim glory in thecreation of the new global caliphate (Barber, 2009). It theideological nature of the Islam that has made it possible and easyfor terrorists to use digital platforms to continue to functioningeven in the event where there is no clear leadership. It isimportant to note that Jihadism is not a new phenomena as some peopleare want to think.It is also important to remembe that Islamiterrorims did not begin with the 9/11 twin tower attack, or theearlie attacks that had taken place in Nigeria and Lebanon. Inreality modern Islamic terrorism started in the 1880s with the reighof Khedive Ismail, which culminated with the execution of Gordon in1885 in the hands of Ahmen Mahdi who is tauted as the Osama bin Ladenof the 19th century (Atran, 2003).

Americanleader such as Presient Bush and other leaders have often stated thatpoverty is evil that lies underneath the bracket of terrorism. Inthis lght the world leaders have been making frantic effort to removeefforts poverty, create functional governmens and promote educationall in abid to root out terrorism. Even so, numerous interview withcaptured terrorists and Jihadist in Gaza have shown that individualswho participate in suicide attacks and support terrorist groups haveletitimate economic opportunities and education. The many years oflogistical training and religious indocrination, especially of youngMuslims has created a group of redicalized indiiduals ready to killand die for their country and religion. Surveys inPalestinian and Bosnia have revealed that Jihadist look for youngMuslims who have a weak expression of self-esteem, depictingpro-social behavior. Most of these are unmarried, and expressreligious belief even before they are recruited. As rationalindividuals, leaders of extremists are aware that by committingheinous acts and training suicide bombers the benefits far outweighthe losses (Barber, 2009). Evidently these leaders are never ready toserve by example and commit suicidal acts in the name of religion.


Basedon the precept of cultural relativism education should be based onthe student’s culture. Learners whose culture is respected andintegrated with their learning curriculum are empowered to learnsince the aspect of low self-esteem is eliminated. This study hasshown that appreciation of aspects that students already know can bea great motivating element. Majority of the scholars in the westerncountries contend that the anger, poverty, lack of education andfrustrations in reaction to the impacts of modernity are the keyfactors to blame for the rise and increase of Islamic terrorism.Nonetheless, there are many studies that have shown that thisproposition is not only pegged on a weak premise but is alsomisleading and weak. Most of these assertions as projected by Atranare subjective and fail to fulfill the fundamental precepts ofsubstantive empirical evidence. Scholars who adopt such a stance aremyopic to the real cause of divide between the West ad Islam and thealienation that is the root cause of the whole situation. It is alsoapparent Islamic terrorism is inherently, even though notexclusively, an institution-level occurrence that calls for a mixtureof incentives and pressures to convince communities to ceasesupporting institutions that recruit attackers. In the modern world,such a move would not be pragmatic normally justifiable due to thedistribution of terror groups among populations that are separated byvast distances.


Atran,S. (2003). Genesisof Suicide Terrorism.

Barber,S.(2009). Howcultural relativism masks the realities of Islamic terrorism.Available at:

Hanley,M.S. (2002). Schoolof Education at Johns Hopkins University-A Culturally Relevant Lessonfor African American Students.Johns Hopkins School of Education. Available at:

Pesta,D. (2011). MoralRelativism and the Crisis of Contemporary Education. Availableat:

Throop,E. A. (2009). Psychotherapy,American culture, and social policy: Immoral individualism.New York: Palgrave Macmillan.