Patriarchal Honor/Shame: The Common Thread in so-called “Islamic” Terrorism

Somali boys are taught by their parents to hit first whenever someone insults or taunts them. So explained Ayaan Hirsi Ali to a social worker when she was a translator and student in the Netherlands (see her book, Infidel). In the West, this is a recipe for juvenile delinquency and prison. But in a Patriarchal Honor/Shame (henceforth PHS) culture like Somalia’s, this is how boys are taught to defend their honor.

Three recent so-called “Islamic” terrorist events of high enough profile to be mentioned in Western media include

  • April, 2014. Boko Haram abducted 276 students from a rural school for girls in Nigeria. They were forced to convert from Christianity to Islam and marry to their abductors. So much for #Bring Back Our Girls.
  • December 2014. The Pakistan Taliban gunned down 132 children at the Army Public School in Peshawar.
  • January 2015. Three self-radicalized gunmen killed more than a dozen people at the offices of a satirical magazine called Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

While the perpetrators of these three atrocities are all self-professed Muslims, the common thread of religion running through these events diverts our attention from the more critical common thread of PHS culture. Women are objects for men’s gratification, perpetual minors who cannot conduct business without a male escort, even if he is their minor son. PHS values are the only true values, no others shall be taught. PHS Girls shall not be educated. PHS boys strike first.

The conflation of culture with religion is almost universal, because culture seizes upon religion for support. Medieval Christendom imagined that its hierarchy imitated and emanated from the hierarchy in Heaven. The current example is the use of Islam by some adherents of the world’s PHS cultures. They claim that Islam is more than a religion: it is a total way of life, i.e. they claim their PHS culture is mandated by Islam, and is therefore identical with Islam. Indeed, the idea that a satirical cartoon or essay depicting the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) needs to be answered with violence is equivalent to claiming that God participates in the Honor/Shame culture of the perpetrators. This is idolatry, even in Islam, because Allahu Akbar, God is greater (than everything). God is greater than any culture or its values, including PHS culture.

Modern, Western cultural influences are everywhere. Ayaan Hirsi Ali tells of how liberating it was to read trashy romance novels in English when she was growing up in Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria in her book Infidel. Western cultural ideas were leaking into PHS cultures even before the internet. Now the leak has become a flood.

And so the boys of PHS culture strike first. It is incorrect to ridicule Islam and its Prophet. The boys of PHS culture, who remain too immature to contain their own lust, and make women do it for them by concealing themselves from society – those are the ones who need to be ridiculed.

We are having a clash of modernity with Patriarchal Honor/Shame cultures. Although this clash should be a conversation within Islam, the terrorists drag the rest of us into it. The ideas of a clash of civilizations or religions are simply diversions from the underlying reality.

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