How to Identify a Muslim Moderate: Problems of Honor-Shame Cultures

How do we outsiders (i.e., non-Muslims) interpret the polling numbers recently published by Pew and Populus? Despite the positive spins that both Blair and Altikriti tried to give them, the numbers are troubling, especially when considered in the context of the more substantive responses of Muslims to both the numbers and the phenomenon of terrorism in their midst.

I think that one of the major approaches to interpreting both the polling data and the articulated reactions of Muslims to critics comes from considering the dynamics of “honor-shame cultures.”

When dealing with honor-shame cultures, one cannot expect people to show more solidarity with outsiders than with their own group. Indeed, one might paraphrase an honor-culture’s sense of solidarity with the expression, “my group (family, clan, nation, religion) right or wrong.” When it’s a question of someone killing your brother, you don’t ask yourself, “did he do it on purpose? was my brother responsible for provoking him?” You kill him. If you don’t, you lose your honor.

Civil society is built on the principle that justice trumps personal loyalties at least a significant amount of the time. When we speak of “moderates”, we basically mean people who are willing to acknowledge the justice claims of others, especially when it’s obvious… as for example the claim of a civilian not to be made a target by someone disgruntled with the way his government acts. The evidence for solidarity among Muslims — not necessarily ideological, but sentimental — is quite strong, and forbids the assumption that just because people don’t approve of the suicide attacks, that they a) “utterly oppose” them, or b) that they will condemn them.

Take the case of Marie Fatayi-Williams, whose son died in one of the 7-7 blasts (Hat tip MTL). She has asked Maniza Hussain, the mother of her child’s murderer, Hasib Hussain, to declare publicly that the attack was “wrong and her faith does not allow it.” The response so far has come from Hasib’s father, Mahmood, who claimed that, had he known what his son planned, he would have broken his legs to prevent him from doing it. But instead of making the declaration that Marie sought for, he takes refuge in denial that his son did it.

We are the victims, too – and in the same position as you are… We are decent people. I worked hard all my life. Please, please, please don’t say it’s something to do with me or that I know, my son knew, my wife knew. We are very, very decent people… I think it must have been somebody else on the bus. Not Hasib. He was a good boy. There’s not a shred of evidence that he was involved in it.

This isn’t quite conspiracy theory, but it operates as such. The father need not take responsibility for his son’s deeds; he can paint himself as a victim and solicit sympathy; and, apparently, he can avoid declaring the deed un-Islamic. Why this claim of innocence is a reason not to decry the deed — even if by another person/Muslim — is not clear from a moral point of view. But from the point of view of honor-solidarity, it is clear: There is only so far the Hussain parents will go in deploring what their son did, and declaring that it is un-Islamic is apparently too much. Recall the Dutch rapper Yassine SB who wanted to sing a song against the murderer of Theo Van Gogh and decided not lest he be shunned by his fellow Muslims.

We see this particular dynamic which lies at the heart of all the troubles the West in dealing with its Muslims. It’s not clear just what moderation is; not clear just where loyalties lie; not clear, when the peer pressure from radical Muslims is on, just how many “moderates” will resist. Nor is this even clear to the Muslims involved, caught between a civil society in which they find many advantages, and the atavistic call of tribal and religious loyalties enforced by an increasingly aggressive “community” of zealots.

(Note: Dual loyalties are not unique to Islam. Jews also feel them, as in the case of Jonathan Pollard. The issue is not so much whether they exist, but what the threshhold to abandoning the commitments to civil society. In Islam, that threshhold seems very low. Even denouncing terrorism — something the vast majority of Jews will do when a Jew commits an act of terrorism, like Baruch Goldstein — seems too high a price to pay for the tribal loyalties to fellow Muslims. Alas!

No one can say just how bad (or good) the situation is. But what we can say, is that spotting the demopaths and discrediting them, and thereby serving notice on those who inhabit the zone between being (willing) dupes of demopaths — those who support Qaradawi and insist they’re moderates — and knowing demopaths, is of utmost importance.

8 Responses to How to Identify a Muslim Moderate: Problems of Honor-Shame Cultures

  1. cindy says:

    it is facile and ugly,for you to compare muslim behavior regarding lack of loyalty to western nations where they happen to live

    and ALLEGED Jewish dual loyalty of Pollard

  2. RL says:

    i’m sorry. i thought i had contrasted the two. in any case i can tell your post is disapproving, i’m just not sure what your crticism is.

  3. igout says:

    Oh, let’s get on with it. Send the whole lot packing. There, I said it, what none of us dare say. Yet.

  4. cindy says:

    Note: Dual loyalties are not unique to Islam. Jews also feel them, as in the case of Jonathan Pollard. The issue is not so much whether they exist, but what the threshhold to abandoning the commitments to civil society. In Islam, that threshhold seems very low. Even denouncing terrorism — something the vast majority of Jews will do when a Jew commits an act of terrorism, like Baruch Goldstein — seems too high a price to pay for the tribal loyalties to fellow Muslims. Alas!

    you thought you contrasted the two

    3000 plus act of islamic/arab terror against Jews in Israel, Los Angeles,Texas, Argentina, France,England and Israel

    contrasted with ISRAELI TERROR OF Baruch Goldstein..

    …….you don;t see the perversion in this example?

    why use Jews as an example at all? why use the one JEw,to make the example

    same with Pollard,

    why not the scores of Catholics? RObert Hanssen and ALdrich Ames and others

    why bring up a vile charge against Jews from the Protocols ?

    Pollard was NEVER convicted of anything

    It is outrageous to compare muslim behavior and motivation and violence to Jews, Judiasm or anything to do with Jews.

  5. cindy says:

    3000 plus act of islamic/arab terror against Jews in Israel, Los Angeles,Texas, Argentina, France,England and Israel

    arab/islamic terror against Jews in Israel and against Americans in America.

  6. RL says:

    i think there’s a huge difference btw the way the jews handle the problme of twin loyalties and the way muslims do. it’s the same problem, but with radically different approaches. the violence that emanates from islamic circles, even those not in a war zone, suggests profound hostility towards western civil society which is almost entirely absence in the vast majority of jewish responses. that’s why there are so few cases, and the jewish community views them very differently — you may suggest and i would agree, that they may go too far the other way in their effort to show loyalty towards america — but there is such a huge overlap between american democratic and jewish traditions, that even the most intractable problems don’t lead to either violence or zero-sum conflicts.

    and i understand your concern at even making a comparison. but it think that the comparison — and its huge attendant contrast — offer much food for thought.

    an example which i’ll put in my next essay on france. i went to a rally of french jews for israel and against the nasty treatment of israel in the french press. as i approached i went thru a crowd of a people holding a good dozen or more palestinian flags. btw that group and the event there was a block filled with national police who were keeping the two parties apart and determined to prevent any hint of violence.

    when i got to the hall where the assembly was held, i saw one young man with a folded israeli flag under his arm. i asked him why he wasn’t flying it and he said: the cops told me it was a provocation.

    so: a dozen palestinian flags in protest at a jewish event are not provocation, and one jewish flag is. why? because the jews are expected to be mature enough not to react, and the arabs and their gauchistes allies are expected to be so hot-blooded that just to show the israel flag would make them see red.

    nice illustration of the huge gap. and i don’t think the french are handling it very wisely because they have come to take for granted the violent reaction from their arabs and are making others pay the price, instead of asking of the arab and leftist demonstrators that they behave civilly. lost teaching moment.

    as i said i’ll post on this within a week. but in the meantime let me know if i’ve answered your objections.

  7. ploome says:

    Jonathan Pollard never had a trial. At the request of both the U.S. and Israeli governments, he entered into a plea agreement, which spared both governments a long, difficult, expensive and potentially embarrassing trial.

    Jonathan Pollard fulfilled his end of the plea agreement, cooperating fully with the prosecution.

    Nevertheless, Pollard received a life sentence and a recommendation that he never be paroled – in complete violation of the plea agreement he had reached with the government.

    Jonathan Pollard was never indicted for harming the United States.

    Jonathan Pollard was never indicted for compromising codes, agents, or war plans.

    Jonathan Pollard was never charged with treason. [Legally, treason is a charge that is only applicable when one spies for an enemy state in time of war.]

    Jonathan Pollard was indicted on only one charge: one count of passing classified information to an ally, without intent to harm the United States.

    Prior to sentencing, then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger delivered a 46-page classified memorandum to the sentencing judge. Since then, neither Pollard nor any of his cleared attorneys have ever been allowed to access the memorandum to challenge the false charges it contains-a clear violation of Pollard’s constitutional rights.

    The day before sentencing, Weinberger delivered a four-page supplemental memorandum to the sentencing judge. In it, he falsely accused Pollard of treason. Also in the supplemental memorandum, Weinberger advocated a life sentence in clear violation of Pollard’s plea agreement. The implication that follows from Weinberger’s false characterization of Pollard’s offense as “treason” is that the country Pollard served, Israel, is an enemy state.

    Pollard was shown the supplemental Weinberger memorandum only once, just moments before sentencing – hardly adequate time to prepare an appropriate defense to rebut the false accusations in it.

    No one else in the history of the United States has ever received a life sentence for passing classified information to an ally – only Jonathan Pollard. The median sentence for this offense is two to four years. Even agents who have committed far more serious offenses on behalf of hostile nations have not received such a harsh sentence.

    Pollard’s attorney never appealed from the life sentence. The time to file for such an appeal was within ten days of sentencing. Years later, with a different attorney, Pollard filed a habeas corpus challenge to the sentence.
    The Court of Appeals, in a two-to-one decision, rejected the challenge, largely on procedural grounds.

    The majority placed heavy emphasis on the failure to appeal from the life sentence in a timely manner, and on the resulting far heavier burden faced by Pollard in seeking to challenge the sentence via habeas corpus. [Note: “Habeas corpus” is a procedure by which an incarcerated person may bring a court challenge to the legality of his or her incarceration – often long after the underlying case has been concluded.]

    In a dissenting opinion, Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Williams called the case “a fundamental miscarriage of justice,” and wrote that he would have ordered that Pollard’s sentence be vacated.

    Jews are upset that Jonathan Pollard is being railroaded like no other in the hisotry of the USA
    NOthing to do with dual loyalty

    http://www.jonathanpollard.org/facts.htm

  8. […] Muslims” in those countries worked the blackmail: “Hey, we want to keep the Muslim community moderate, but as long as you pursue a foreign policy that offends us, we can’t keep them from acts of […]

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