Tuesday, 30 August 2011

What it takes to make a sheikh

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

What makes a man honourable enough to become a sheikh?

- Money. There is great respect for wealth and to use it to help a good cause (the poor) is considered very honourable. It allows hospitality and generosity – the two things that can obliterate shame and restore honour. It can cover a multitude of sins.

- Heritage. Great leaders in one’s history are an advantage while shameful characters are expelled/killed to preserve the tribe’s honourable heritage.

- Wisdom. Elders are listened to with respect as repositories of wisdom. They are the traditional counsellors and are often wealthier than their younger family members.

- Charisma. Good looking, confident, such leaders have often accomplished something of note and capitalised on it. Often they are also good communicators and shrewd politicians, finding honourable solutions to difficult problems.

- Physical strength. Arab lore is full of heroes and Arab boys are brought up to highly value manliness and strength. Physical strength + charisma + financial strength = winning combination!

- Alliances. Strong alliances give influence and can give an individual great power. Combined strength can be relied upon.

- Bravery. The act of bravery is honourable in itself, though Arab stories often have the hero overcoming overwhelming odds.

- Loyalty. Loyalty to the family/tribe is paramount in order to maintain family honour. The tribe sticks together in order to survive and the rightness of the elders (and the tribe) is never publicly questioned.

- Violence. ‘Life is a fearful test, for modern Arab society it is ruthless, stern, pitiless. It honours strength and has no compassion for weakness.’ Violence is a way of demonstrating honour and removing shame from the tribe.

Most societies accept that everyone has to deal with a measure of shame – how it is dealt with is the revealing thing. And can a person move from a position of shame to one of honour? Arabs would agree that you cannot honour yourself – someone else has to honour you and this seldom happens without a cause.

To be concluded...