Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Further things that matter in Arab society

Further ideas from Honor & Shame by Roland Muller...

Shame is not only an act, but the discovery of the act by outsiders. The view here would be, ‘he who has done a shameful deed must conceal it, for revealing one’s disgrace is to commit another disgrace’ and ‘ a concealed shame is two thirds forgiven’. The shame that comes from failure produces an unwillingness to accept challenges and responsibilities while an Arab out of his own safe context can change temperament drastically. Outside influences will be blamed for failure, and anger, resentment and violence will be displaced. It is easy to offend an Arab – they have a detailed code of conduct which includes pouring too much coffee or making a visit too short. Shame will result for an Arab when he is not made a special case – rules are expected to be bent for his convenience and he will expect to be the favourite, with friends constantly reassuring him that he is preferred above others.

‘Ask’ and ‘tell’ are the same word in Arabic – so I don’t ask you to lend me something, I tell you, as it would be shameful to be refused such a request. When such a thing is ‘asked’ the claim of the tribe is greater than the opinion of the owner of the object.

Revenge – eliminates shame and is sanctioned by the Quran. Payment of a blood price (agreed between the two parties) can be substituted for bloodshed. Honour killings, especially of women who are deemed to have dishonoured the family/tribe with unsuitable relationships would come under this heading. Increasingly, younger Arabs who have been educated in the west, where such treatment is viewed with horror, are questioning the appropriateness of such killings and are demanding that the criminal code and justice system should reflect this.

Peace – has a secondary value in Arab culture in comparison to shame and revenge. Thus the western impression has grown that in the Arab context, peace is the temporary absence of conflict. The permanent state of peace is reserved for the Islamic community and jihad for the non-Islamic states. ‘There is honour within Islam and shame without’.

To be continued...