Now prying open this article: "Rogue Males" from The Guardian,
which was posted here on the Extropians list, about a month ago.
I strongly disliked this article for a number of reasons. To gain
some facts regarding some Middle East cultural aspects, of which
I was ignorant, I talked with my neighbor, an egyptian muslim.
We went through this article line-by-line. (He was even more
upset by the article than I was!) I learned some things.
Maybe others here will too.
>Tuesday October 2, 2001
>What makes young Muslim men turn to terrorism? Leaders such
>as Osama Bin Laden know just how to distil a deadly fuel
>from their anger, excess energy and religious devotion,
>writes Lionel Tiger
Author/editor immediately starts with inflammatory words.
>An outstanding characteristic of the miserable band of worshippers
>responsible for the savage events of September 11 is that they are
>all male. Virtually all the fist-shakers we see in news clips of
>anti-American demonstrations in Pakistan and elsewhere are men, too,
>usually relatively young ones. What does this have to do with
>September 11, Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban, and the future?
>One of the most difficult tasks for any social system is
>figuring out what to do with its young males. These are
>invariably the most impressionable, energetic, socially
>exigent, and politically inept members of any group. They
>cause trouble for their elders and ruthlessly hassle each
>other. They pose chronic danger to public order when they
>drive, drink and take drugs.
The author makes a HUGE assumption that Muslim teenagers are
different from teenagers all over the world, and the author
continues to place links before the reader that
Muslims == terrorists.
Has the author spent any time in the Middle East? In Egypt, teens are
like teens in the West: they like video games, like to go out with
their friends (male AND female!), *occasionally* they drink, but
please note that their Muslim religion strongly discourages drinking
and drug use, and so their "drink and take drugs" is less than in
>Various communities cause their young men to endure a startling and
>often gory array of harassing rituals and trials in order to become
>acceptable adults. In his autobiography, Nelson Mandela says that
>only after his circumcision at the age of 15 did he feel ready to
>assume the chieftaincy he inherited.
>The terrorism of Bin Laden harnesses the chaos of young men, uniting
>the energies of political ardour and sex in a turbulent fuel.
The structure of al-Qaida -
Inflammatory words again, mixing Muslims and terrorists again....
And what % of people in Egypt (for example) are associated
with al-Qaida ? Perhaps about 1% ...
According to my neighbor, dividing the religious groups in Egypt
shows that about 1% are Jewish, 12-15% are Orthodox Christian,
about 85% are Muslim. Any people associated with the al-Qaida's are
a tiny percentage and not liked.
Almost all of the Muslims strongly dislike the activities of the
terrorists, including bin Laden. The only possible reason that bin
Laden has any favorable perception by people there is that he is
"successful". He is like a pop icon. In a country where people are
extremely poor, there is a distorted appreciation for
something/someone that appears to be successful, especially against
a country (U.S.) that is far more rich and powerful
(not to mention, arrogant, IMO).
>an all-male enterprise, of course -
"of course" ?
>Their comfort in an all-male world begins with the high sex
>segregation of many of the Muslim communities from which the
>While there are great variations among Islamic
>communities, the sharp tendency is toward sexually segregated
>societies. Contact between the sexes is tightly restricted by
>draconian moral codes. Not only are women's faces veiled, so is
>their behaviour. This means that men and women have relatively
>little to do with people of the opposite sex. Therefore, they
>develop a great deal of reliance on those of their own.
"high sex segregation" ? "tightly restricted" ?
"draconian moral codes" ? "women's faces veiled" ?
Wrong. In Egypt young people, men and women, are mixed in their
interactions with each other. The only segration occurs inside of a
mosque. Women vote. Women participate in almost all aspects of
society. It's not perfect and could be better, but the author's
sentences above paint a very fictitious picture.
I asked my neighbor about Egyptian daily living- do women dress any
particular way under religious and social pressure? He told me that
40% wear veils, and this has a wide spectrum: from covering the
whole head (showing only their eyes) to a light piece of brightly
colored cloth over the hair. In Egypt, it's extreme to see a woman
veiled with only the eyes showing, and there must be a strong
explanation for that because most women there do not experience
pressure from the men to wear veils. In general, the women like
(because of fashion and comfort and tradition!) the brightly colored
light cloths that some call "veils".
>Most men in most societies marry, or try to. This is more difficult
>than usual in polygamous societies in which powerful men may have as
>many as four wives, leaving three potential husbands without a date
for Saturday night - or any night.
"in polygamous societies" ?
Polygamy is not common there. Not in Egypt. It's slighly more common
in the Gulf states than in Egypt, but it's still very unusual. Of
men, you find mostly the richest (in Saudi Arabia, for example) or
the most powerful politicians living a polygamous lifestyle (even
though their religion permits it).
>The sexuality and reproductive potential of such young men
>is not an unimportant matter politically. The United Arab
>Emirates, not normally considered forerunners of the
>progressive movement, have taken an inventive action that
>reflects how difficult it is for men and women to mate in a
>traditional manner. To marry a local woman, men of that
>nation must provide gifts, feasts, and ritual performances
>that may cost as much as $40,000 (£27,000) - an impossible
>accumulation for all but a few.
Now we hear the author's scientific theory about breeding in the
Muslim societies ...
(excuse my heavy sarcastic tone.. but I *hate* science being
insidiously applied to a whole culture, attempting to give a
collection of erroneous assumptions some validity)
"$40,000 (£27,000) - an impossible accumulation for all but a few"
is a peanut amount of money for the many in the United Emirates.
>It is in the crucible of all-male intensity that the bonds
>of terrorist commitment and self-denial are formed. [...]
>They are not lonely psychopaths but demented special forces
>wearing anonymity like a uniform. They share and catalyse
>swirling energies and religious absolutism [...]
Inflammatory words again, mixing Muslims and terrorists again....
>It's all something grand to do. So much better than the few
>jobs available, the threadbare economies, the ramshackle
>societies run either by altogether corrupt cynics,
>autocratic monarchies feeding princes foie gras, or
>theocracies that mistake reading ancient books for action.
"autocratic monarchies" were put in place by outsiders (for example,
the U.S. government).
So now a few words related, but not criticizing this article, which
came out of the discussions with my neighbor.
In the last 50-60 years, Islam has become mixed with politics, which
has many bad consequences for people practicing their religion.
These bad consequences, many of you know about. If one considers
that the major religions have an "evolutionary lifecycle", then
Islam is probably overdue for a "reformation" similar to
Some Muslims have tried, and continue to try, to put Islam and the
Koran into a different light, to bring a healthier dimension to the
religion. The most recent Muslim scholar that I heard about via my
neighbor is a man: Nasr Hamid Abu Zeid. He an Egyptian teacher who
has written some works that interpret the Koran in the context of
life at the time that the Koran was written (~600AD). He is now
living in exile with his wife in The Netherlands. The story about
him is here, but I will quote the main elements.
Background on his story
On 5 August 1996, Egyptian academic and writer Dr Nasr Hamed
Abu-Zeid was ordered to divorce from his wife after being branded an
apostate by the Court of Cassation.
(20 June 1995)
The court ruled that Dr Abu-Zeid was an apostate, confirming a
decision by the Cairo Court of Appeals in June 1995 where the
"The court announces the separation of the first defendant [Dr
Abu-Zeid] from his wife, the second defendant, because of the
former's apostasy and because she is a Muslim. And the court calls
on the first defendant to repent to God Almighty and to return to
the Islamic religion which was brought as a light to the people to
being them happiness in this world and the hereafter."
The charges of apostasy date back to 1993 when Dr Abu-Zeid, a
professor of Arabic Literature at Cairo University, was denied a
promotion after a colleague made accusations against his writing on
the basis that it insulted Islam. The accusations followed the
publication of Dr Abu-Zeid's book "Criticism of Religious
Discourse", in which he criticised Islamic investment companies for
which the colleague was acting as a consultant.
The charges related to several of Dr Abu-Zeid's books and articles.
In "Criticism of Religious Discourse", he states that religious
texts have to be re-interpreted in their original historical and
social context. He writes, for example, "Since language develops
with the development of society and culture, providing new ideas and
developing its terminology to express more developed relations, then
it is necessary and only natural to re-interpret texts in their
original historical and social context, replacing them with more
contemporary interpretations that are more humanistic and developed,
while keeping the content of the verses stable."
Is this kind of political persecution of religious beliefs common in
Egypt? No. But it _does_ happen (what is even more wierd is that the
"colleague [who] made accusations against his writing" is now
undergoing a similar kind of persecution in Egypt, and this is
what I mean that the religion has become political.
I tried hard to find Abu Zeid's works in English, but so far, I've
been unsuccessful. You can find his most important work translated
into German however:
Nasr Hamid Abu Zeid
"Ein Leben mit dem Islam"
I hope that my discourse, here, is helpful.
Amara Graps, PhD email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Computational Physics vita: ftp://ftp.amara.com/pub/resume.txt
Multiplex Answers URL: http://www.amara.com/
"Take time to consider. The smallest point may be the most essential."
Sherlock Holmes (The Adventure of the Red Circle)
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