Solidarity: Integrity vs. Honor Styles

I recently had an exchange with a Muslim Dartmouth student who came to a talk I gave. I had made the point that American Muslims, rather than complain that Americans were treating them with suspicion after 9-11, should rather have explored what is wrong with Islam that it could produce people who, in its name, and believing themselves to be (the only) “true” Muslims, would do such a deed.

He responded by commenting that, as a Muslim, he feels no obligation to do anything of the sort. For him, these men had not behaved as Muslims should and that was the end of it. I found this attitude remarkable, especially given the sense of solidarity (asabiyya) that Muslims are enjoined to feel towards each other.

In thinking about this, I’m struck by what one might call the difference between integrity and honor in the matter of solidarity. A person driven by integrity feels solidarity with his group in matters of morality, and breaches of that morality concern him or her. In some senses, the behavior of self-degrading Jews exemplifies an extreme version of this, in which the immoral behavior of other Jews so dishonors them that they must denounce it in the most ferocious terms.

A person driven by honor (in the tribal sense), feels solidarity with his group in matters of survival, self-defense, power. In the doctrine of Walla wa bara, love [for fellow Muslims], hate [for the enemies of Islam], we find a large array of attitudes that enjoin such solidarity – my side right or wrong – that a Muslim is not to help an infidel against a fellow Muslim, even if that Muslim is a criminal.

Thus, for helping convict five Muslims who were plotting to kill American soldiers in the Fort Dix terrorism trial, Mahmoud Omar has been ostracized by the Muslim community. Why? Because “in a twisted way…their [the terrorists'] actions are understandable in the Muslim community.” Omar adds, “For Muslims, we are all brothers, and I betrayed a brother”— echoing Muhammad’s injunction: “A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim.”

I’m not sure my interlocutor at Dartmouth has thought these matters through. I did not get the sense he was a demopath so much as genuinely unreflective. But I do think that, unconsciously, he reflected an attitude which needs to concern Muslims and infidels alike. In this sense, the Obama administration’s attitude – that to even speak of radical Islam is an insult to Muslims – enables and empowers this attitude. Rather than worry about “insulting” Muslims who insist that their religion is one of peace and thus zealots who use violence in the name of Islam are not “true Muslims,” we should be worrying about why Muslims don’t agonize over these men who – if we had the moral courage to assert the proper response – actually shame Islam.

It’s as if we were embarrassed about shaming Islam even when it deserves to be shamed.

I remember a dialogue session during the height of suicide bombing in 2002. I stated that suicide terrorism was morally repugnant. A Palestinian, a very nice and sincere man, objected that I was “dehumanizing” his people. It never occurred to him that his own people were dehumanizing themselves. And all the Jews in the group told me to shut up and stop provoking the Arabs in the group.

14 Responses to Solidarity: Integrity vs. Honor Styles

  1. Cynic says:

    I think that in many cases it is not shame in the philosophical sense but fear of stepping out of bounds that maintains a rigid culture.
    If it were not so there would be no need for the “religious” police, the constant spying by the Imam’s helpers and the tattletaling one comes across in these communities.
    They cannot be accused of dual loyalty.

    Amazing how the behavior of self-degrading Jews exemplifies an extreme version of this in attacking Jews accusing them of “Dual Loyalty” while ignoring completely the Muslim citizens of the US whose loyalty is only to Islam.
    Glenn Greenwald Does His Israel-Firsters Dance Again
    A comment by one, Arthur:

    I assume Greenwald et al. were as sickened by the actual findings that the late Sen. Teddy Kennedy and other Democrats proposed quid pro quos with the KGB and Soviet leadership to deal with President Reagan during the early 1980s? I mean, that potential act of treason was supported by internal KGB documents found only after the USSR fell, ….

    helps expose the duplicitous state of affairs when it comes to the Jews.

  2. Diane says:

    Your analysis (brilliant, as usual) brings up a necessary discussion. Is Islam really a religion of peace? Many on the right, people well versed in the texts of Islam, will tell you that it is not. They will say that the reason moderates cannot denounce radicals in the Muslim world is, in part anyway, because the radical interpretation is well supported by religious texts and historical precedent. You cannot delegitimize a reading of your religion if it is theologically sound.

    Now you raise the question of your Muslim interlocutor’s sincerity. You say he did not seem like a demopath. Now it may be that he is ignorant of the theological foundations for Muslim radicalism, but he probably has absorbed compatible worldviews all his life.

    Daniel Pipes has proposed a litmus test of radicalism. Such things smack of McCarthyism, and our innocent-till-proven-guilty culture recoils instinctively from the like. But, sadly, I believe some such tool is probably going to be necessary if we are to understand who is our enemy and who our friend. Look at a Major Nidal. Our unwillingness to distinguish in this way led to 19 deaths.

    I don’t know if our liberal traditions are up to the task, frankly. We still carry guilt from the Japanese internments and worry that every form of profiling is a prelude to that kind of thing.

    With respect to the hyper-self critical Jewish phenomenon vis a vis Israel, I would suggest you add to your analysis the concept of “schande vor de goyim” and refer you of a long line of “ganefs” — the Rosenbergs,, Jeffrey Levitt, Jonathan Pollard, Michael Milken, Jack Abramoff, Bernie Madoff — who have elicited a collective cry of shame from American Jewry quite irrespective of leftist politics or Palestinian suffering. We ritually beat our breasts in shame every Yom Kippur. It is a religous duty to do so. Where is the corollary in Islam?

    • Richard Landes says:

      Actually Islam has a fairly developed religiosity built around atonement. I’m just not sure how much it permeates current trends in what Ahmed calls the hyper-asabiyya of a very defensive Islam. It takes a certain emotional confidence to admit wrong, especially before others. Jews, who do it often, tend to take it for granted when it’s actually quite rare.

  3. [...] Richard Landes I recently had an exchange with a Muslim Dartmouth student who came to a talk I gave. I had made the point that American Muslims, rather than complain that Americans were treating them with suspicion after 9-11, should rather have explored what is wrong with Islam that it could produce people who, in its name, and believing themselves to be (the only) “true” Muslims, would do such a deed. He responded by commenting that, as a Muslim, he feels no obligation to do anything of the sort. For him, these men had not behaved as Muslims should and that was the end of it. I found this attitude remarkable, especially given the sense of solidarity (asabiyya) that Muslims are enjoined to feel towards each other. [...]

  4. gsk says:

    //He responded by commenting that, as a Muslim, he feels no obligation to do anything of the sort. For him, these men had not behaved as Muslims should and that was the end of it.//

    But in an Islamic honour-based culture, that’s rarely the end of it–especially if a woman has breached a norm. In that case, the tribe has to repair the damage by taking care of the one who commits an offense against Islam. I think this fellow is either disingenuous or ignorant, for he cannot honestly suggest that Muslims don’t take the behaviour of others in their group seriously.

    I recently spoke on this topic at Yale, and was roundly denounced for “hate-filled speech” and for not having read the Qur’an in Arabic (which they insisted would have provided more context). All the logical groundwork and carefully defined words meant nothing, since I dared to suggest that it’s nearly impossible for women to give a total gift of self given the Islamic parameters in marriage. There was no reasoned discussion or thoughtful response, just hysteria.

    I went to an Ivy League school looking for an honest discussion, and left with utter disappointment. Thus the search for integrity again comes up empty.

  5. E.G. says:

    Cued by Diane

    When does or should a Moslem feel shamed?
    I can think of examples such as when he loses a battle/a war or when his honour is hurt by a family member. I’m not sure whether being humiliated makes him feel ashamed, nor whether offending his religion gives way to shame.

    It looks like our notion of shame is a distinct one. It’s more linked to doing (something) wrong. Whereas for Moslems it’s more linked to losing (face, status, power).

  6. Tomcpp says:

    A moslem doesn’t feel ashamed. A moslem feels threathened. Like a dog. ANY victory, of whatever meaningless nature is assumed to lead to direct violence against his person in short order. Therefore any victory, including the “victory” of a starving child managing to pick up a few breadcrumbs from between his feet, must be met with immediate violence.

    Of course, the root of this attitude is simply the truth : if he were to not respond like this, it would be taken as weakness and exploited (in this case by strapping bombs to a few starving children and …).

    People think terror ends if you become a muslim – it doesn’t. If you thought the terror muslims use against infidels was bad, the terror used against muslims is MUCH worse.

  7. dcdoc says:

    This was cross-posted on Solomonia.com and below is what I said there:

    …9-11, should rather have explored what is wrong with Islam that it could produce people who, in its name, and believing themselves to be (the only) ‘true’ Muslims, would do such a deed.

    He responded by commenting that, as a Muslim, he feels no obligation to do anything of the sort. For him, these men had not behaved as Muslims should and that was the end of it. I found this attitude remarkable…

    This is a clear, and very consequential, example of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy as you are ever likely to encounter. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman

    Just substitute Mohammed or another Muslim name for “Hamish McDonald” and different place names and publications for the ones that follow and you have the “No True Muslim” version: “Imagine Hamish McDonald, a Scotsman, sitting down with his Glasgow Morning Herald and seeing an article about how the ‘Brighton Sex Maniac Strikes Again.’ Hamish is shocked and declares that ‘No Scotsman would do such a thing.’ [Brighton is not part of Scotland.] The next day he sits down to read his Glasgow Morning Herald again and this time finds an article about an Aberdeen man whose brutal actions make the Brighton sex maniac seem almost gentlemanly. [Aberdeen is part of Scotland.] This fact shows that Hamish was wrong in his opinion but is he going to admit this? Not likely. This time he says, ‘No true Scotsman would do such a thing.‘”
    —Antony Flew, Thinking About Thinking (1975)

    And to that, I’ll add here that the combined flow of the Alpheus and the Peneus were sufficient to clean the mythic Augean stables, but I don’t think their equivalent would be enough to overcome the figurative “no true Muslim” Islamic stables. What it amounts to on the part of the speaker, or speakers, of whom there are so many, is a refusal to accept any due bills on behalf of their religion and co-religionists who profess to be perpetrating their barbarous acts in the service of that religion, with the expectation of a place in heaven for their efforts, that expectation encouraged by religious texts and clergy.

  8. Rich Rostrom says:

    Your Dartmouth acquaintance and the shunners of Mahmoud Omar seem to be operating at cross-purposes.

    Mr. Dartmouth Moslem says Moslems have no responsibility regarding 9/11 because the perps were not “true Moslems”.

    But Mahmoud Omar’s denouncers apparently regard the Fort Dix plotters as “true Moslems” and condemn him for not protecting them.

    Either Mr. Dartmouth Moslem and Omar’s denouncers have different rules about who is a “true Moslem”…

    Or they’re just taking the side of Islam – cover up and enable Moslem terrorists until they strike, and then claim they’re not Moslems if they get caught.

  9. E.G. says:

    Not as O/T as it might seem:

    November 11, 2010
    Muhammad al-Dura Incident: Philippe Karsenty, Jonathan Halevi, Elias Hazineh, Jon Elmer
    http://www.ctstv.com/michaelcoren/index.php?vidID=20588

    Journalistic honour, defamation, etc.

  10. J. Arnon says:

    Here is a context for the al Dura hoax:

    http://news.google.com/news/search?aq=f&pz=1&cf=all&ned=en_il&hl=en&q=%22Never%20again%3F%22%20%22Leon%20de%20winter%22

    Reviewed by Leon de Winter

    “”A New Shoa: The Untold Story of Israel’s Victims of Terrorism,” is a hard read. Not because it is badly written; it is clear, precise, and eloquent. It is a hard read because it is deeply moving—many times, I had to stop reading and catch my breath, wipe away the tears. Giulio Meotti, an Italian author and journalist, has written a monumental study of pain and grief, of mourning and remembrance, of hatred and love.

    The book’s title is well-chosen. From the very first pages, Mr. Meotti makes clear that he considers Palestinian terrorism and Arab hatred of Israel and the Jews the continuation of Nazi anti-Semitism. He shows that Palestinian and Arab rhetoric is focused on Jews—not just Israelis. The dream of the Islamists is to destroy the Jewish people, not just the sliver of land called Israel.

    This is not a matter of opinion but of facts, which Mr. Meotti’s well-researched book provides in abundance. Take just this recent example from a public speech by Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, aired on Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV on November 5, 2010:

    “Allah willing, their [the Jews'] expulsion from Palestine in its entirety is certain to come. We are no weaker or less honorable than the peoples that expelled and annihilated the Jews. The day we expel them is drawing near. . . .

    “There is no place for you [Jews] among us, and you have no future among the nations of the world. You are headed to annihilation.”

    These words move far beyond a conflict about territory—the underlying emotion is genocidal rage. Mr. Meotti’s list of murderous anti-Semitism by Palestinian leaders and media is exhausting. But it is a list the Western media ignore as it would destroy the prevailing narrative that the Mideast conflict is about land and Palestinian suffering. It isn’t. It is about that old sickness, Jew-hatred….”

    Read the rest

  11. E.G. says:

    BTW, al-Wala al-Bara is Loyalty and Mistrust rather than Love and Hate.

  12. Here is a context for the al Dura hoax: http://news.google.com/news/search?aq=f&pz=1&cf=all&ned=en_il&hl=en&q=%22Never%20again%3F%22%20%22Leon%20de%20winter%22 Reviewed by Leon de Winter “”A New Shoa: The Untold Story of Israel’s Victims of Terrorism,” is a hard read. Not because it is badly written; it is clear, precise, and eloquent. It is a hard read because it is deeply moving—many times, I had to stop reading and catch my breath, wipe away the tears. Giulio Meotti, an Italian author and journalist, has written a monumental study of pain and grief, of mourning and remembrance, of hatred and love. The book’s title is well-chosen. From the very first pages, Mr. Meotti makes clear that he considers Palestinian terrorism and Arab hatred of Israel and the Jews the continuation of Nazi anti-Semitism. He shows that Palestinian and Arab rhetoric is focused on Jews—not just Israelis. The dream of the Islamists is to destroy the Jewish people, not just the sliver of land called Israel. This is not a matter of opinion but of facts, which Mr. Meotti’s well-researched book provides in abundance. Take just this recent example from a public speech by Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, aired on Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV on November 5, 2010: “Allah willing, their [the Jews'] expulsion from Palestine in its entirety is certain to come. We are no weaker or less honorable than the peoples that expelled and annihilated the Jews. The day we expel them is drawing near. . . . “There is no place for you [Jews] among us, and you have no future among the nations of the world. You are headed to annihilation.” These words move far beyond a conflict about territory—the underlying emotion is genocidal rage. Mr. Meotti’s list of murderous anti-Semitism by Palestinian leaders and media is exhausting. But it is a list the Western media ignore as it would destroy the prevailing narrative that the Mideast conflict is about land and Palestinian suffering. It isn’t. It is about that old sickness, Jew-hatred….” Read the rest

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