By David Bukay
2nd part of 3
The opposite pole of honor is shame. Researchers are not certain what is more important, the notion of honor or the fear of the shame that will be caused if honor is compromised. It is not honor, but shame that is the key issue. Public exposure is what harms a man's honor and humiliates him. The Arab is constantly engaged in avoiding whatever causes shame, in word and deed, while striving vigorously to promote his honor. Beyond shame and preventing its occurrence, there is vengeance, which is also to be displayed to all.4 Arab culture reflects a collective ethos, and esteems tradition and honor. It is circumspect in regard to avoiding insult or causing shame; hence, it is better to lie so as to prevent conflict and not offend someone. Whereas the Jewish approach turns one cheek, on the basis of "We have sinned, we have transgressed, we have done wickedly," and the Christian approach turns the other cheek and discards responsibility, the Arab-Islamic approach is essentially aggressive: "I have a problem? Then you are to blame." This constitutes open and emphatic defiance of everything that is perceived as wrong, unjust, and an inability to accomplish one's goals. There is no effort at compromise, certainly no tolerance and consent to the rights and rightness of the other. Nor is there any comprehension that relative concepts are involved. The phenomenon has been starkly evident in the Arab approach to the issue of
It is commonly claimed that Islam is the political movement of the popular strata, and provides a solution to the social-economic-cultural difficulties of the Muslims. By contrast, we maintain that the Islamic awakening (al-sahwah al-Islamiyah) does not involve the return of Islam as a religion, since in fact it was always there, and never underwent a secularization process. What has occurred is that Islamic religion has become a significant factor in political discourse. Furthermore, there are many different Islamic movements that employ a variety of modes of attaining political ends and of gaining power via political and social mobilization of the masses. These are aggressive and violent movements that use modern technological tools to subvert Arab and Islamic states that are defined as secular. The Islamic movements are not part of the regime, but their functional orientation is strongly political. Islam is, indeed, the most political of all the religions. In contrast to the Christian ideal of the kingdom of heaven, and the Jewish ideal of the messianic age, Islam sees the ideal as immediately applicable via the state as long as it functions according to the shari`a. In practice, this means that Muslims strive for a blend of Arab nationalism and Islam in its fundamentalist formulation. The mixture of the two is tantamount to embark upon a revolution whose ultimate objective is the reinstatement of the Islamic caliphate embodied in the
Fundamentalist Islam has begun its march through Arab-Islamic society. Analysis of the causes of its rise focuses on a number of factors: a reaction to Western penetration, and a fierce animosity toward its presence and influence in the Arab political system. This mindset is prevalent among city dwellers, those who have had more direct contact with the West, and the educated middle class, who have experienced modernity and technology: first there was an economic conquest, then a military-territorial one. And when the Arab states succeeded in liberating themselves from Western colonialism, the Western cultural invasion began. The challenges of Western technology and the global village threatened the foundations of Islamic society. Second is the failure of the secular political alternative. The authoritarian regimes and patrimonial leadership repress and alienate the masses who experience no political participation and exert no influence over how the government functions. The third factor is the collapse of the secular Arab ideologies, not only socialism and communism but also nationalism, Nasserism, and Arab unity, together with the Arab inability to solve the "question of
The processes of vast and uncontrolled demographic growth had a destructive impact. The results are the subversion of the social and traditional frameworks, the widening of the socio-economic disparities, and the frustration and anomie of an alienated society, in states that comprise non-political and non-civil societies. The combination of a frustrated intellectual and religious minority, the force that exhorts and leads, and the indigent masses, the flock with its numerical magnitude, forms the basis for the rise and endurance of the Islamic movements, a raft in the storm that gave the population feelings of affiliation and self-worth.
In such circumstances, the conclusion of the Islamic movements was clear and unyielding: one must return to the sources, to a pure and just Islam that offers solutions for all distress and need, especially for the cultural contradictions and identity crises of Arab society. Arab unity cannot be achieved, and a solution to the
In the view of Lewis and Pipes, Islamic anti-Westernism stems from deep feelings of humiliation among those viewing themselves as the inheritors of the dominant civilization of the past, which was subjugated by those regarded as inferior. The more appealing Western civilization became, the greater the fundamentalist hostility and will to struggle against it.8 It is worth, however, considering a different aspect of this attitude. The resentment and abhorrence are at Western culture, not necessarily at the West. It is not Western politics but rather the cultural ubiquity of the West, and the threat to Islamic society that shape the Islamic outlook and behavior. Under such circumstances, the Arabs put their ears to the ground to listen for ancient drumbeats calling them back to the Golden Age.