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Honour among them
December 28, 2006 2:25 AM   Subscribe

Pushtunwali: Thieves, murderers, rapists; and how the Pushtuns' ancient tribal code is fighting for survival against radical Islam. via The Economist. More about Puhktuns and Puhktunistan and some history together with a brief explanation of Afghan ethnic groups. There is an interesting discussion of the main article on Sunni Forum.
posted by adamvasco (21 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Some things in culture that contradict the Quran and the Sunnah must be prohibited and garbaged. So if any culture commits to an act that contradicts the quran and the sunnah that culture should fix it and perhaps admit it.

Sunn...I mean Funny, I tought I was reading LGF. Anyway whoever disagrees with me is a bloody fool and I challenged them to the traditional The Holding of Breath till you turn metablue.
posted by elpapacito at 5:49 AM on December 28, 2006


Ancient tribal code? These cats are just a bunch of gangbangers.
posted by three blind mice at 5:56 AM on December 28, 2006


elpapacito: Which page is that from? I couldn't find it on any of the links.
posted by matthewr at 5:59 AM on December 28, 2006


from the sunni forum
posted by elpapacito at 6:08 AM on December 28, 2006


Thanks adamvasco - an interesting exposition of the reason why no nation in its right mind, the western ones especially, should ever attempt anything in that neck of the woods. The image of a hornet's nest comes to mind.
In tribal terms this holds true for Iraq also.
posted by Cennad at 7:01 AM on December 28, 2006


It seems pretty amazing to me that people who have multi-billion-dollar intelligence services to tell them about things like this should be so oblivious as to think that they can turn societies like Iraq or Afghanistan into the American model of liberal democracy overnight, as though this was what everyone there clamored for but were too childish or stupid to put into effect themselves.
posted by clevershark at 7:16 AM on December 28, 2006


...an interesting exposition of the reason why no nation in its right mind, the western ones especially, should ever attempt anything in that neck of the woods. The image of a hornet's nest comes to mind....
posted by Cennad at 10:01 AM EST on December 28

Hornets, hornets, whatcha gonna do about the hornets?
Hornets, hornets, whatcha gonna do??
Hornets nest, hornets nest, the Middle East is just a crazy hornets nest.
Hornets nest, hornets nest, whatcha gonna do??
Pakistan…
Hornets nest!
Taliban…
Hornets nest!
East Sedan…
Hornets nest!
Mongolia…
Hornets nest!
London, England…
Hornets nest!
Miami, Florida…
Hornets nest!
The whole damn thing…
Hornets nest!
Put on a protective suit.
Dive straight into the hornets nest
Searching for the queen hornet
Sipping the delicious honey


Transcript/mp3
posted by ND¢ at 7:18 AM on December 28, 2006


Interesting article. Tx.
posted by jouke at 7:45 AM on December 28, 2006


Clearly manditory literacy, hospitals, and a heavily armed police force are called for.

Western Civilization has a history of referring to these kinds of societies as uncivilized. Reading this suggests a new problem to me... is there a step below uncivilized but above animal?

This may sound inflamatory, but we are dealing with people who see other people as property. In our own history, this was a cause for the obliteration of a society.
posted by ewkpates at 7:56 AM on December 28, 2006


It's funny that, with a few minor details changed, the same article could be written about the North Caucasians, Arabs or indeed Sicilians. It's well noted that honour codes are a common and effective tools for social cohesion in societies lacking a stable and sufficiently powerful state structure or ruling class. It's also not been missed that an appeal to religion is common among fractious groups when faced with a common enemy (cf. N. Caucasus in the 1990s, Algeria in the 1950s etc etc).

But once again a journalist sees only the specifics, and fails to draw broader lessons.
posted by claudius at 8:13 AM on December 28, 2006


Interesting reads all round on a subject I was only dimly aware of. I particularly enjoyed the analysis on the Sunni forum as to why the Taliban wouldn't give up bin Laden.
What was grist to my ideological mill was the example of cultural values that allow for social cohesion without a strong state. I fantasise about a version of this (perhaps minus the misogyny, religious nut-jobbery and tit-for-tat killing) as the most sustainable route to to a better way of living, but when you consider the circumstances that created and maintained Pushtunwali perhaps that boat's sailed for the rest of us citizens and serfs of the spectacle.
posted by Abiezer at 8:14 AM on December 28, 2006


claudius, nicely said.

This comment in the forum linked offers what sounds like an educated overview.

Thanks for the post adamvasco. The additional links about Afghanistan and the Afghani ethnic groups are superb.

Interesting article on The Western Mind of Radical Islam.
posted by nickyskye at 8:17 AM on December 28, 2006


Excellent post, adamvasco!

One of the points raised in the links -- the potential for conflict between Islamic law and traditional tribal law -- is something I've wondered about for a while.

It seems pretty amazing to me that people who have multi-billion-dollar intelligence services to tell them about things like this should be so oblivious as to think that they can turn societies like Iraq or Afghanistan into the American model of liberal democracy overnight

Me too. It seems pretty fuckwitted to think that the presence of American soldiers will inspire people to put aside centuries of cultural conditioning and start building shopping malls and hanging up pictures of Thomas Jefferson and FDR.

Western Civilization has a history of referring to these kinds of societies as uncivilized. Reading this suggests a new problem to me... is there a step below uncivilized but above animal?


What we're seeing here isn't as alien to human nature as you might think. Societies all over the world have constructed honor codes, prescribed violent retaliation for offenses against those honor codes and treated women as property. You could probably find examples of these behaviors in Western culture up until a few hundred years ago. In fact, if I remember correctly, duelling was fairly common here in the USA, especially in the South, until the first decades of the 19th century. So it's not as animalistic as you're making it out to be.

In a way, it's almost like looking at a cultural version of a living fossil, as repulsive as these values might be to me.
posted by jason's_planet at 9:08 AM on December 28, 2006


I agree, jason's_planet. Treatment of women as belongings and frequent, socially sanctioned murder are nearly universal among traditional cultures-- including our own, until the past few generations. Human advancement is about moving beyond the traditional and the natural.
posted by ibmcginty at 9:26 AM on December 28, 2006


i think I read somewhere, or did I hear it said, or maybe I just made it up...

Anyway, the biblical code of 'an eye for an eye' can be seen as a moderate response, when supposed tribal overeaction once entailed decimating one's rivals in a perpetual feud. It could be read as 'ONLY take one eye, if one eye has been blinded; all else is extreme'.

Having said that, I prefer a legal code (with an independent judiciary, etc etc) to any honour code. Under the latter, the bigger eller, and the bigger family, will always predominate.
posted by dash_slot- at 9:41 AM on December 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


Dash_slot-

That's one of Karen Armstrong's schticks
posted by IndigoJones at 9:52 AM on December 28, 2006


The thing with tribalism (where you are only morally obligated to members of your own group and can be as aggressive and deceitful as you want to members of other groups) is that it precludes the emergence of science, shared infrastructure, trade agreements and the like.

Personally I feel that a culture and society where science, shared infrastructure etc. emerge is more civilized in the sense that it took a long time to get there, the results are fascinating in their complexity and it's easy to fall back to tribalism.
posted by jouke at 9:53 AM on December 28, 2006


Clearly manditory literacy, hospitals, and a heavily armed police force are called for.

Western Civilization has a history of referring to these kinds of societies as uncivilized. Reading this suggests a new problem to me... is there a step below uncivilized but above animal?

This may sound inflamatory, but we are dealing with people who see other people as property. In our own history, this was a cause for the obliteration of a society.


Those fools. People aren't property. They are resources.
posted by srboisvert at 10:15 AM on December 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


According to the tribal code, which is called Pushtunwali, Mr Khan must honour his father and also slaughter anyone who messes with his lady. Which way should he choose? Tribal code vs. the greater law. Say, isn't that the plot of Orestes? Of Hamlet? Of the Finnsburgh Fragment? Maybe Afghanistan is becoming more westernized.
posted by CCBC at 1:52 PM on December 28, 2006


dash_slot - you could say the same thing about the Islamic law code: that it was a reaction against the massive retaliatory violence of tribal law codes. It's ironic that now we are holding up the tribal law code as a saner (or at least safer, less extreme) alternative to the particular brand of Islamic extremism that's prevalent in this part of the world.
posted by wandering steve at 2:21 PM on December 28, 2006


An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.
Origin: From the Code of Hammurabi. Hammurabi was King of Babylon, 1792-1750 BC.

The code survives today in the Akkadian language. Used in the Bible, Matthew 5:38 (King James Version): Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.


The Code of Hammurabi.
posted by nickyskye at 7:10 PM on December 28, 2006


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