While we're glued to smartphones, laptops and TV screens with hundreds of channels, we may not even notice that the entertainment industry is setting new norms for American values.
A strong sense of morality has always been an integral part of America, serving as a code of conduct for our society.
But today, it seems that many folks are either unmindful of our moral culture or are cheering as it gets chipped away.
Lately, in my experience with young people, it seems that secularism is forming the basis of their moral standards. Often, their decisions are centered on individual feelings, personal choices and taste — whatever feels right.
The Abrahamic faiths all have basic moral guidelines. In 1798, John Adams said in a speech: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.”
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Islam’s concept of modesty is rooted in the virtue of humility as it affects our conduct, speech and appearance. Men and women are equally supposed to retain both an inner and outer modesty.
God says, “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and be modest. That is purer for them. Lo! God is Aware of what they do.” (Quran 24:30)
Modesty isn’t old-fashioned; it’s an important characteristic of our individual identity. But a trip to a department-store clothing section reminds us that modesty is no longer a priority.
Over the years, I have been witness to the undressing of America on television and in movies. Do we remember back when a woman had to be pictured wearing at least a full slip?
Today, as we’ve become glued to smartphones, laptops and TV screens with hundreds of channels, we may not even recognize — let alone voice our objections to the fact — that the entertainment industry is setting new norms for American values.
I am particularly alarmed by the media’s huge role in pressuring little children to look grown-up faster and to uncover themselves at younger ages.
One case in point: the popular television show, “Toddlers and Tiaras,” on TLC.
It follows a group of girls ages 3 to 7 and their families through the process of a beauty pageant. You witness tantrums and see the children in gaudy makeup and provocative dresses that sexualize them, robbing them of their innocence.
They are being exploited for ratings and greed as the entertainment industry demonstrates that it cares little about morality and will stop at nothing to make a buck.
The troubling part of all this is that there wouldn’t be a market for this immorality if there wasn’t a demand for it.
And without a public outcry, it is almost impossible to change this course.
In 1934, the Catholic Church created the National Legion of Decency, which identified films it considered too objectionable for Catholics to see.
I would never advocate censorship, but I do advocate that in a free society we need to better resist these negative aspects with stronger positive actions.
Perhaps it’s time to ask ourselves if we think the state of our moral values as a whole is getting better, worse — or even matters to us anymore as Americans.
As Americans, we take pride in our freedoms, but with freedom comes responsibility.
By choosing to reclaim a balance in morality, we can begin to restore a wholesomeness that our society once took pride in and valued.
Aziz Junejo is host of “Focus on Islam,” a weekly cable-TV show, and a frequent speaker on Islam.
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