Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Tribal Roots of Islam

Anthropologist Philip Carl Salzman analyzes Islam by examining its origin. He shows many of the cultural conditions that influenced the formation of this religious political ideology are still operative today. These include tribalism and its distinctive honor dynamics; conquests, domination, and the need to humiliate; warmongering and seeking validation in military victory. For example:

“Only the victorious have honor. The more vanquished are the defeated, the greater is the victor's honor. As Ajami observes, in the Arab world, ‘triumph rarely comes with mercy or moderation.’Arabs are taught, and many have taken to heart, that honor is more important than wealth, fame, love, or even death. Imbued with such a sense, today's Arab finds himself in an untenable situation: Juxtaposing their recent history to the years of glory under Muhammad, Arabs can see only defeat visited upon defeat.” …

“[T]he Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche, asked Al-Jazeera editor-in-chief Ahmed Sheikh whether enmity toward Israel is motivated by self-esteem. Sheikh explained, "Exactly. It's because we always lose to Israel. It gnaws at the people in the Middle East that such a small country as Israel, with only about 7 million inhabitants, can defeat the Arab nation with its 350 million. That hurts our collective ego.”

36 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I appreciated the analysis of Islam in terms of tribalism, with its concepts of honor, conquest, domination, warmongering, etc. The author explains that much of today’s conflicts can be traced to such behavior, including the obligated holy war of Dar al-Islam upon Dar al-harb. Islam’s concept of right and wrong becomes that of bolstering one’s group, and harming one’s opponents.

Yet whatever the virtues of this analysis, I note something similar to what Jason wrote on the previous topic: “few address the moral issue directly. Some hint at the moral issue; others mention it in passing. Few make it the central point of their criticism.” From my perspective *what is most central to Islam is its immorality*. If one wanted to exemplify the concept of immorality, could he do anything better than to describe Islam?

Now I recognize that my definition of 'moral' (to live-and-let-live) will be denied by some, and interpreted differently by others. Nonetheless, I submit that whether one takes an Objectivist, Kantian, Judaic, Christian, humanist, liberal, conservative, or virtually any rational definition, the conclusion would be the same, namely that Islam is the antithesis of morality.

I also recognize that in our technological and ‘scientific’ age, the issue of morality does not appear to be as important as that of strategy and more tangible matters. Still, I aver that what is moral or immoral is the most central issue with regard to understanding and dealing with issues of aggression and defense. What better way would there be to defend against aggression than to recognize its immorality, along with the morality of defeating it?

Weingarten

12/13/07, 8:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish to note some of Ayn Rand’s views on morality to emphasize the previous points I have raised, and to provide certain insights.

She writes that one must never fail to pronounce moral judgment. To judge, means to evaluate a given concrete by reference to an abstract principle or standard. Here, moral judgments must be objective, and are a necessity for man’s survival. The moral is the chosen, not the forced. Most men will not act without a sense of being morally right, and the power of morality is the greatest of all intellectual powers.

Consequently, moral judgments are essential for the given concretes we are dealing with. Different views (such as religious and atheist) concur that morality requires free choice, rather than coercion. What is deemed ‘moral’ is politically and intellectually potent.

Weingarten

12/14/07, 12:50 PM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

What the author fails to recognize are the more modern and newly ascendant "urban" forms of tribalism that are much more "street gang" and/or "economic/guild-dependent" than any of the older traditional family-based agrarian/pastoral herding forms of tribalism.

And so I think it is to control and prevent their own assimilation and "humiliation" by a populist "urban beast" that the more tradional/blood-based tribal bin Laden's are really reacting when they attack the West. For what the Middle Eastern Kingdoms are now facing, for the first time, is the same Revolt of the Masses that Europe was attempting to cope with in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.... and which lead inevitably to two world wars.

12/14/07, 6:33 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Farmer,
For what the Middle Eastern Kingdoms are now facing, for the first time, is the same Revolt of the Masses that Europe was attempting to cope with in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.... and which lead inevitably to two world wars.

That's an ominous statement!

However, the revolt of Muslims outside the Islamic world--a quiet one, for the most part--only serves to strengthen the tribal mentality.

I do feel that it is significant that internal revolts within Islam prior to modern communications have been rather limited, other that certain sectarian conflicts (still Islamic, all in all).

Over the span of some 14 centuries, Muslims have not been able to coexist in any Western society. In today's multiculturalist and morally relativistic world, the West somehow expects them to. That's an unrealistic expectation, IMO. Various scholars and diplomats are tying themselves into knots in the attempt to make something which has never been so to come about.

12/15/07, 3:12 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Weingarten,
one must never fail to pronounce moral judgment. To judge, means to evaluate a given concrete by reference to an abstract principle or standard.

The West seems to have lost the propensity to do so.

12/15/07, 3:15 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Addendum: But Islam hasn't lost the propensity to measure everything against Islamic standards.

12/15/07, 3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

AOW writes that the West seems to have lost the propensity to render moral judgment. However, that does not prevent any of us from doing so. When we do, others can disregard our judgment, but it remains standing. Were others to deny our position they would in effect be rendering their own moral judgment. Consequently, we are on sound intellectual & tactical footing to declare that Islam is immoral, and that countering it is moral.

I agree that "Islam hasn't lost the propensity to measure everything against Islamic standards." In this sense our enemy is truer to its foundations than we are to ours. It may also be noted that their leaders represent their public when they attack the Great Satan and the Little Satan, while when our leaders appease, they are selling out their public (aside from providing the pretense they desire). An outside observer could conclude that our enemy deserves to win, while we deserve to lose, in the sense that they are working to succeed, while we are striving to lose. So our situation is dire, and might be, or could become, hopeless.

As to "The Revolt of the Masses" I concur with its theme that the West is engaged in destructive practices. However, I view practices (or actions) as consequences of ideas & aspirations, rather than as final causes. Is it not social-democracy that is the cause of our demise (or that "liberalism is the ideology of Western suicide")?

The context of the war of ideas is that of choosing between reason and passions. In this sense, I concur with the analysis in the "Revolt of the Masses" for this behavior places passions above reason. Once society is governed by passions, it loses the desire & willingness to render moral judgment. Nonetheless, an individual can do so if he chooses to.

This last sentence is reminiscent of the anecdote, where a visitor to a university, asks someone "Can you tell me where the Bursar's office is at?" A student responds "You should never end a sentence with a proposition." The visitor says "You are right, can you tell me where the Bursar's office is at, shmuck?"

Weingarten

12/15/07, 5:42 PM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

The context of the war of ideas is that of choosing between reason and passions.

If you mean "harmonizing" them, I would agree with you. If you mean it's either planet Vulcan during mating season or the rest of the year, I think your missing something.

12/16/07, 9:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The relation between reason and the passions is a matter of which governs. If reason governs, it is served by the passions; if the passions govern, there is rationalization.

Ayn Rand writes "There is no necessary clash, no dichotomy between man's reason and his emotions—provided he observes their proper relationship...if he is guided by his emotions and uses his mind only to rationalize or justify them somehow—then he is acting immorally..."

Weingarten

12/16/07, 10:02 AM  
Blogger Ducky's here said...

"Only the victorious have honor."

Wow, exposing the tribal roots of laissez-faire. John Galt couldn't have said it better

12/16/07, 5:21 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Of course it would take a socialist like Ducky to equate the gains of plunder (Islam) with the gains from productive activity (capitalism.)

Naturally, any gain is sinful for a socialist since pain, need, and failure are the only assets of honor.

12/16/07, 9:17 PM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

...if he is guided by his emotions and uses his mind only to rationalize or justify them somehow—then he is acting immorally..."

LOL! Reason may govern the actions of gods, but rationalization is ALL that the human mind is capable of. Period. It's a question of "how much" and "to what ends". Acting emotionally does NOT equate to immorality. Read Plato's Philebus and learn what it means to live a "mixed" existence.

12/17/07, 9:04 PM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

Mans entire quest for knowledge is derived from his passion for power and control. Is that immoral?

What is truth?

Nietzsche, WtP

493 (1885)
Truth is the kind of error without which a certain species of life could not live. The value for life is ultimately decisive.

512 (1885)
Logic is bound to the condition: assume there are identical cases. In fact, to make possible logical thinking and inferences, this condition must first be treated fictitously as fulfilled. That is: the will to logical truth can be carried through only after a fundamental falsification of all events is assumed. From which it follows that a drive rules here that is capable of employing both means, firstly falsification, then the implementation of its own point of view: logic does not spring from will to truth

534 (1887-1888)
The criterion of truth resides in the enhancement of the feeling of power.

12/18/07, 9:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ayn Rand writes "if he is guided by his emotions and uses his mind only to rationalize or justify them somehow—then he is acting immorally..." Farmer John retorts "rationalization is ALL that the human mind is capable of."

Since Farmer John's position is admittedly a rationalization rather than a valid argument, there is no need to seriously consider it, save to note that he exemplifies what he purports to prove.

Weingarten

12/18/07, 9:44 AM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

LOL!

Nice dodge. Try dodging real life, though.

12/20/07, 10:15 AM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Kakistocrat said...

Weingarten,

I don't think you understand the morality of Islam.

Let me pour molten lead in your ear until you do.

;)

12/22/07, 2:52 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Weingarten,
AOW writes that the West seems to have lost the propensity to render moral judgment. However, that does not prevent any of us from doing so. When we do, others can disregard our judgment, but it remains standing.

I see that I didn't make my point clearly enough.

We individuals can continue to make moral judgments. But postmodern Western leaders and goverments have traded making moral judgments for moral relevancy.

We can see the above as consequences and as causes of what I believe is the present decline of Western civilization. I'm the pragmatic sort, I suppose. How can we stop this decline? How can we get our leaders to listen? Or are there just not enough of our voices to be heard at the top of the pyramid?

12/23/07, 9:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

AOW asks "How can we stop this decline? How can we get our leaders to listen? Or are there just not enough of our voices to be heard at the top of the pyramid?"

Perhaps I do not follow her thought. If we clarify the moral dimension, we can compete in the war of ideas, and sway the public. Leaders would then accommodate them. Conversely, if we do not provide a competitive moral vision, why would people or their leaders change course?

Let us note that the left got their moral vision across in the post WWII era, when both parties were anti-communist. Even after the fall of the USSR, the liberals got their moral vision across. This is a matter of competing on the intellectual level, where what occurs politically is a consequence. AOW appears to presume that it is not moral precepts and ideas that determine what happens in the world, but numbers and politicians.

My question to her is would America have its current domestic and foreign policies, if the public viewed them as immoral (and consequentially ineffective)?

Weingarten

12/23/07, 10:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To AOL:

Allow me to give a simpler presentation of the role of a moral vision. Let us suppose that there is one idea that is in vogue, namely that *morality is the use of the government to take from those who have, and give to those in need*. Thus the Democrats will be moral by giving health care to children, while the Republicans will be compassionate conservatives who provide such benefits is a more effective manner. Similarly, in foreign policy, the Democrats will negotiate so as to bring benefits to countries, while the Republicans will bring them other benefits (and preclude collateral damage).

You might be armed with many other ideas, but how could you stop the disaster if the aforementioned moral vision remains in vogue? You can be given 10 million voices, a billion dollars, and 100 politicians. Yet how could you get anywhere if the aforementioned moral premise remains puissant?

Weingarten

12/23/07, 11:22 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Weingarten,
If we clarify the moral dimension, we can compete in the war of ideas, and sway the public. Leaders would then accommodate them.

I see the problem as this: How do we persuade the public? The media control the getting out of the moral vision you discuss, as do the universities.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I see compassionate conservatism as neoliberalism.

AOW appears to presume that it is not moral precepts and ideas that determine what happens in the world, but numbers and politicians.

Actually, no.

IMO, the moral precepts and ideas are what results in the numbers, the politicians, and the policies.

Somehow, in the postmodern world, moral values have become separated from the policies our leaders enact--almost like Jekyll and Hyde. For example, our leaders sound good theory (Jekyll), but in practice do something contradictory to what they stated as their policy and "philosophy" (Hyde).

My question to her is would America have its current domestic and foreign policies, if the public viewed them as immoral (and consequentially ineffective)?

I don't believe that the public worries much about morality any more. But ineffectiveness? The public sees as ineffective that which is ineffective for them and/or does not somehow benefit their personal and financial situations, not how what is ineffective might be affecting the nation as a whole.

As I see it, Americans today are focused on what they perceive as their entitlements and rely on the government to make things right (for example, to rescue them from certain situations which they should have handled themselves so as to benefit this generation and the next). I see people as caught up in day-to-day life instead of thinking of the big picture on the long term. In a way, passions overcome their reason.

Now, two questions for you:

1. What is the definition of morality?

2. Is the definition of morality a constant?

12/24/07, 10:40 AM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Jason,
Off topic....Merry Christmas!

12/24/07, 11:09 AM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

Merry Christmas, Jason!

12/24/07, 2:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

AOW, you see the problem as persuading the public, because of the powerful influence of the media, the universities, and compassionate conservatism. It is true that these bodies are winning in the ring, but what is more to the point is that we have not entered the ring. *Unless we have a superior moral vision, and present it, we cannot be competitive.* Let us note that the public has not heard a different moral position, nor have most people who are repulsed by what is going on. My experience in trying to reach these people (yourself included) is that they resist the idea of providing a better moral position on many grounds. When Ayn Rand for example made the moral case for capitalism, the free marketers restricted the issues to those of economics. Again, if we neither develop a superior moral position, nor market it in a way that makes sense to the public, why shouldn’t the public accept the position of those who have gotten into the ring?

You claim that our leaders have good theory which is contradictory to their practice. Yet their theory and practice is the ‘morality’ of using government to take from the productive, and give to the needy.

Next, you state that the public doesn’t care about morality. It must then seem a mystery as to why the media and the politicians continually speak of helping the needy, be they children, minorities, or other ‘victims’. Do you think that the media and the politicians simply do not realize how to reach the public, when they appeal to the public’s heartstrings? Yet let us note that you have given one of the basic arguments as to why we should neither develop, nor promulgate a superior moral vision, namely that the public doesn’t care. It has been part and parcel of the reasons for not entering the war of ideas, as when it is said that “Ideas do not count, it is action that matters.” Unfortunately, the social-democrats and liberals recognize that ideas, particularly moral ideas do count. As Lord Acton said “Those who would treat politics and morality apart will never understand the one nor the other.”

Apparently, you take a mercenary position, where the public cares solely about its entitlements. Yet, if you asked whether it is moral that those who have been productive, should fare no better than those who have been disruptive, you would not find anyone who holds to this, or claims that conscientiousness should have the same outcome as irresponsibility. Nor do people believe that schools should indoctrinate students, so that the students are bound to accept what happens to be the majority outlook. Ask those who wish to stop purchasing goods from countries with sweatshops, whether they would do so, if the next best choice for someone working there was far more harmful. Also ask, it there are better opportunities than working in those shops, why people would not choose them instead.

When one suggests that government should not have a moral mission, people become infuriated, and insist that it does. Why would they argue so seriously, if morality did not matter to them? I do not think that parents tell their children that there is no difference between right and wrong, or that they should engage in immorality to get ahead. I doubt that what people think is that all that matters to them are the benefits they receive, and that charity is just pretended for the sake of conformity. If that were so, why would it be advantageous to pretend, if all realized that nobody believed it? Why wouldn’t they conclude that we ought give no foreign aid, nor domestic aid, but simply pay as little as possible for all government programs?

Yet you have made your point by example. You do not favor providing and promulgating a superior moral position, so how could you possibly expect the public to not adhere to the vogue position? To repeat, given the vogue position “how could you get anywhere if the aforementioned moral premise remains puissant?”

You ask for my definition of ‘morality’, which I gave previously as to live-and-let-live, or the Golden Rule, or many other formulations. In each, the idea included that of the non-initiation of force. Its purpose was justice, which I defined as “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.” Second, ‘morality’ is a constant as are all aspirations, such as truth, justice, responsibility, beauty, etc. However, we can enhance our understanding of these intangibles. What is basic is that it does not mean coercion, or the initiation of force.

Weingarten

12/24/07, 3:45 PM  
Blogger beakerkin said...

Merry Christmas to my brother Jason.
I am back from California and dedicated to making the lives of Commies and Jihadis more miserable.

Maybe someday, Disney will have a Bolsheviks of Berkley ride next to Pirates of the Caribbean.

12/25/07, 9:49 AM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Weingarten,
I don't have time to address all of your comment, but the following represents my quick thoughts on the topic we've been discussing:

You claim that our leaders have good theory which is contradictory to their practice.

I didn't mean to say that they have good theory; what I meant was that they SEEM to have good theory. What sounds fine turns out to be something else when policies are enacted.

you have given one of the basic arguments as to why we should neither develop, nor promulgate a superior moral vision, namely that the public doesn’t care

No, I don't believe that we should not develop or promulgate a better moral vision. On the contrary, I believe that we SHOULD.

That said, the public has been conditioned (media, education, social doctrine in churches, etc.) to not care about the bigger picture, i.e., the moral vision we need to keep our country from completely sliding into socialism.

Apparently, you take a mercenary position, where the public cares solely about its entitlements. Yet, if you asked whether it is moral that those who have been productive, should fare no better than those who have been disruptive, you would not find anyone who holds to this, or claims that conscientiousness should have the same outcome as irresponsibility.

Yet, on a practical level, these same people who respond as you said vote or support otherwise.

You do not favor providing and promulgating a superior moral position, so how could you possibly expect the public to not adhere to the vogue position?

Actually, as a Christian, I do believe in a "superior moral position." Do you find yourself in opposition to Christian principles?

FYI, I go along with your definition, as I excerpt here: live-and-let-live, or the Golden Rule, or many other formulations. In each, the idea included that of the non-initiation of force. Its purpose was justice, which I defined as “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.” Second, ‘morality’ is a constant as are all aspirations, such as truth, justice, responsibility, beauty, etc....What is basic is that it does not mean coercion, or the initiation of force. Somewhere along the way here, I missed it in the comments section.

Personally, I have trouble "designing" a moral position without using Christian principles. Of course, in the past half century, our courts have ruled on separation of religion and state (instead of separation of church and state).

BTW, don't truth, justice, responsibility, beauty, etc. have definitions differing from yours in some other cultures/social systms (which I suspect you think are not viable for us)?

12/25/07, 10:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To AOL. Thanks for pointing out that I misinterpreted your statement that leaders have good theory. We seem to agree that their theory is as flawed as their practice. I also misread your position which is that we should develop and promulgate a better moral position. We also agree that the public has been conditioned against having a sound moral vision.

You ask whether I am in opposition to Christian principles. I surely favor them, save when they are misdirected to aid the barbarians and totalitarians.

You have trouble designing “a moral position without using Christian principles.” Here, I find that other religions and outlooks (including those of deists and atheists) have much to offer. Even if ultimately it was only the Christian view that was valid, the operational belief in live-and-let-live can be shared by others (such as myself). At this point we need to establish a consensus that morality is neither coercion, deception, nor the abrogation of (individual) rights.

I agree with you that other cultures & social systems have different definitions for truth, justice, responsibility, beauty, etc. My point is that these have much in common, and suffice to reject the vogue position that morality is found in the force of government to take from the productive, and give to the ‘victims’. Here I pointedly exclude Islam, which I aver is anti-religion, anti-civilization, anti-life, and against everything that is holy.

Finally, my thrust is not to establish the proper moral view, but rather to get us to address what it might be. The unfortunate approach today is to not even consider whether policies are moral, but to presume that amoral considerations are primary.

I apologize again for having misinterpreted your position.

Weingarten

12/25/07, 12:02 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

I don't have time to read the above comments. But I want to return the warm Christmas Greatings. Merry Christmas AOW, Farmer, Beak, Allen, and all!

12/25/07, 12:35 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Weingarten,
No need to apologize! With this miserable cold and all the rush to Christmas, I wasn't being clear in my comments.

At most blogs during the past several years, we haven't been having serious discussions--understandable during this time of year.

I've enjoyed having the intellectual challenge here.

The unfortunate approach today is to not even consider whether policies are moral, but to presume that amoral considerations are primary.

This is the result of at least 4 decades of moral relativism, which has become moral amoralism (stupid phrase, but works in this discussion).

Sometimes I believe that world has gone mad and that the inmates are running the asylum!

12/26/07, 7:24 AM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Jason,
We've been having a good discussion here--at one of the few blogs offering an intellectual challenge right now.

12/26/07, 7:25 AM  
Anonymous Bilwick said...

So Farmer John isn't that big a fan of reason? Wow, that's a shocker. His posts always seem so rational.

12/28/07, 12:51 PM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12/29/07, 1:32 PM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12/29/07, 1:33 PM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

Erasmus, "The Praise of Folly"

For what injustice is it that when we allow every course of life its recreation, that study only should have none? Especially when such toys are not without their serious matter, and foolery is so handled that the reader that is not altogether thick-skulled may reap more benefit from it than from some men's crabbish and specious arguments. As when one, with long study and great pains, patches many pieces together on the praise of rhetoric or philosophy; another makes a panegyric to a prince; another encourages him to a war against the Turks; another tells you what will become of the world after himself is dead; and another finds out some new device for the better ordering of goat's wool: for as nothing is more trifling than to treat of serious matters triflingly, so nothing carries a better grace than so to discourse of trifles as a man may seem to have intended them least. For my own part, let other men judge of what I have written; though yet, unless an overweening opinion of myself may have made me blind in my own cause, I have praised folly, but not altogether foolishly.

12/31/07, 12:59 PM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

Acta non Verba!

Happy New Years!

12/31/07, 2:17 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Jason,
Stopping by to wish you all the best for 2008.

12/31/07, 6:48 PM  
Blogger Silly Allah said...

“[T]he Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche, asked Al-Jazeera editor-in-chief Ahmed Sheikh whether enmity toward Israel is motivated by self-esteem. Sheikh explained, "Exactly. It's because we always lose to Israel. It gnaws at the people in the Middle East that such a small country as Israel, with only about 7 million inhabitants, can defeat the Arab nation with its 350 million. That hurts our collective ego.”

Amazing quote from a supposedly unbiased journalist! When will others understand the propaganda coming from the Mideast disguised as journalist?!? One must first understand the culture of dishonest in Islam.

1/20/08, 2:17 PM  

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