74 years ago, in San Francisco, the United Nations charter was drafted and signed by representatives of 50 governments. In the very first chapter of this charter is established the right of all peoples to self-determination, which Merriam-Webster defines as the people’s choice of their own political destiny. This right is so essential that it forms the basis for modern international law. The importance of it comes from the fact that without the freedom to self-determinate, a people cannot truly live in peace and prosperity. Although a common concept nowadays, there are aspects of self-determination that many people have not considered. Most of them stem out of the fact that self-determination can mold a country to perfectly reflect its people’s culture and values. This creates multiple advantages for all involved. Through self-determination, a country can be unique, have more just laws, and establish a community for its people.
Through self-determination, a country is built around its culture’s unique little quirks and traditions, making it as unique as its culture. Norman foster, a prominent architect, once said that “Everything we design is a response to the specific climate and culture of a particular place.” Examples of this can be found all over the world. For instance, many buildings in the UAE feature Arabic architecture. Many Arabic restaurants also include booths without chairs or tables, as sitting on the ground and eating with your hands is also Arabic custom. A country designed around its culture preserves it, takes pride in it, and transforms it into an everlasting way of life.
Self-determination includes the shaping of a country’s laws around its people’s culture and values, which serves to make them fairer and more appropriate within the context of its people’s lifestyle. The truth is that every culture differs in what behavior it deems acceptable or unacceptable. Therefore, each country’s laws, which are shaped around its culture, must also differ to reflect that. For instance, during Ramadan, a holy month in which Muslims fast between dawn and sunset, it is a crime to eat, drink, or even smoke in public in the UAE. This is because it is considered a taboo in Islamic culture to consume food or beverage in front of fasting Muslims, even if you are not fasting yourself.
Through establishing the aforementioned environment and laws reflecting a unique culture, a community is created where natives can feel at home. They can perform their traditional functions and activities among others with whom they share a common history, culture, and language. In my experience, that is vital. For me, what makes Eid al-Fitr so special is that everyone in my neighborhood would come to the mosque at the break of dawn to perform the Eid prayers. There, you could see your whole community, greet your neighbors, and listen together to the Imam’s speech. That is the true meaning of self-determination. It’s a special kind of bond that can only exist when a community is bound by shared values and beliefs.
The right to self-determinate is the right to choose your own political destiny. However, it is much more than that. It is the right to choose your own environment, your own customs, your own way of life over all others. It is a right from which all freedoms stem, and it is what makes this world so diverse and interesting to behold. The right of a people to remain unique in the face of the growing uniformity of the modern world. That is self-determination.