18. February 2007 · Comments Off on IN SEARCH OF ROOT CAUSES… · Categories: Fun With Islam, General, History, Pajama Game

I am not alone in obsessing what fuels the radical elements of Islam in their apparent desire to hasten the end of days. The various mechanisms that contribute to its propagation (indoctrination in the schools, grinding poverty, corrupt leadership and so forth) are nothing new, but this whole thing seems to be something of a different phenomenon. While I do not by any means consider myself to be a scholar of theology, anthropology or, for that matter, history, all of these topics provide insight into the pickle we find ourselves in. Nor is it my intent to write a scholarly paper on the things that I’ve been reading, but to rather tell a little about them and why they are interesting.

In his recent book “The Enemy At Home”, author Dinesh D’Souza posits that the motivation of the Islamic radicals in recent times, and more specifically the cause of 9/11, is Muslim outrage over the values of the cultural left. In the introduction to the book he seems to be saying that traditional Muslim societies are victims of the overwhelming influence of secular values, and that the religious war is a consequence of this perceived threat. While, as I will explain below, there seems to be precedent for society’s corruption having influenced the Muslim religion, I don’t buy into his theory. For one thing, there are many of us that are outraged by the antics of the secular left that are not slaughtering innocents and threatening the extermination of entire nation states and religions. A good example is Christian fundamentalism. There is no doubt that many of that ilk are outraged in the extreme by some of the things going on in our society, but, last I looked, they are willing to leave the smiting to God.

Stanley Kurtz, in a two-part article in National Review Online “Marriage and the Terror War” (here and here) reports that there is an anthropologic explanation – it’s all about marriage practices. More specifically, he examines and compares cross cousin marriages versus parallel cousin marriages. He explains that “…in anthropological parlance, descendants of same-sex siblings are parallel cousins, while descendants of opposite-sex siblings are cross cousins. That is, if a man marries his mother’s brother’s daughter, he is marrying a cross cousin. If, on the other hand, a man marries his father’s brother’s daughter, he is marrying his parallel cousin.” Cross cousin marriages, or “marrying out”, tends to encourage family bonds with other blood lines, thus reducing the likelihood of wars and the like, but also results in reduced cultural continuity. On the other hand, parallel cousin marriage practices, while not as likely to create bonds with other families/blood lines, result in significantly greater cultural continuity. Put otherwise, cultural stasis and isolation. According to Kurtz, no war on terror or success in assimilating Muslims into non-Muslim societies can be successful unless accompanied by a strategy to counter, or undercut, the effects of parallel marriage practices. He also makes a case that these marriage practices largely drive much of the egregious violence toward women in many parts of Muslim society as punishment for “lineage dishonor”.

As an interesting side note to this theory, the article informs us that the bans on marriage between cousins adopted in the U.S. between the 1840s and 1920s were motivated by a desire to force immigrants from other societies and cultures to assimilate into U.S. society. The evidence suggests that it worked.

I think Kurtz may be onto something, but do parallel marriage practices tell the whole story? I don’t think so, although I don’t think one has to go any further to understand much, if not all, of the sectarian violence that we see daily in the news. It may also be significant that the time and place of acceptance of this marriage practice coincides with the area of the eighth century Islamic caliphate, but it would be interesting to learn whether this practice commonly occurs in other societies and religions, and what the end results are.

Equally illuminating are the writings of British Orientalist George Sale who, in 1734, published an English language translation of the Koran with detailed explanatory notes and a fascinating preface (Gutenberg Project transcription here). He takes considerable effort in describing the societal and religious environment during the period of the prophet Mohammed. To some extent he supports D’Souza’s theory of the secular left being a cause for the terror war in that his description is of a society of idol worshippers and Christians and Jews having corrupted their religions almost beyond recognition.

There is undoubtedly some bias and a readily apparent dose of skepticism in the writings, nonetheless, it provides the earliest and certainly the most in-depth study of the rise of Islam that I have seen. It is a lengthy read but worthwhile to those with an interest in the subject.

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