Ken Lydell who has an excellent blog comments here often and left this series of questions as a comment to my radio interview. I think they raise excellent points particularly since they address issues of what lies behind outrage and indignation in terms not of what’s been done to you, but who did it.
Great interview! Your view has much in common with mine.
Some things to think about. From 1517 until France and England took charge of the Arab world the Turks bled the Arab world dry through taxation, treated Arabs as inferiors and with great cruelty suppressed Arab dissent. Arabs were docile subjects in spite of the honor-shame dynamic of Bedouin culture. Nevertheless, Arabs bear no ill will towards Turks. Why not?
Excellent question. Churchill, the Orientalist racist, once famously remarked that the Arabs don’t mind being oppressed as long as it’s by one of their own, which seems to mean, any Islamic regime. They admire the fierce independence of the Beduin, but they are caught in the humiliating hierarchy of bureacracies at work for “aristocratic empires.” Patai, whose book has significant flaws, but nonetheless is right far more often than the current crop of (anti-)Orientalists, has a chapter on this aspect of Arab character in hierarchy — lots of authoritarianism, humiliating those below while subservient to those above. He cites a particular Arabic term for the personality type, I think, if you can find it.
France and England did not ruthlessly exploit the Arab world. In fact, they did quite the opposite and it is likely that they spent more money improving the lives of their Arab subjects than they earned from their colonial possessions. This was a sea change from the systematic oppression of the Ottoman empire. So why the great resentment at this brief episode of European colonialism?
Another excellent question. I’m not a specialist on the imperial period, so can you offer some examples of this argument “ei bono” (to their advantage). People are understandably reluctant to believe these kinds of claims. I’d investigate the problem in terms of the classic split between a powerfully positive-sum formula (european technology and civil society) in the hands of aggressive capitalists and messianic missionizers aiming at maximum exploitation.
The honor-shame dynamic of Arab culture is pre-Islamic. There are other elements of Bedouin culture that interact with Islam and contribute to Arab irredentism. What are they?
What is the traditional role of Muslim clergy in Muslim societies? In what ways is modernity incompatible with that role?
Another excellent question. My working hypothesis is that what I call demotic monotheism is, when consistent, hostile to the dynamics of honor-shame warrior culture. Indeed its demotic (popular) dimension, monotheism challenges the domineering attitudes of this mentality of honor to the strong, shame to the weak. That’s why Nietzsche called it a slave morality — it treats strong and weak equally before the law and in principles of fairness. That’s why some apologists can legitimately argue that Islam is against honor-killings. But the kind of monotheism that gives into honor-shame reverses the attitudes: you are wrong because we are right; your humiliation proves us right; our God is honored by the subjection of unbelievers. That’s where theocracy justifiably gets its bad name.
Answers to these and other interesting questions can be found in David Pryce-Jones “The Closed Circle” and Raphael Patai’s invaluable “The Arab Mind”.
Bring some passages you like from these books and we can discuss them. I don’t have my copies available.