Friday, June 20, 2008

More Cultural Tidbits

Young Iraqi soccer player

Here’s a little stumbling block westerners have when trying to work within the Arab culture; Arabs lie. At first I thought that was a terribly racist observation until someone pointed out that it’s in the Qur’an. Muslims, not only have permission, but rather have a duty to lie to non-believers; it’s called, “taqiyya”. Wrap your head around that little tidbit.

When talking to the throngs of Iraqis and other Arabs that we have working for us it’s all but impossible to get a straight, reliable answer to your question. At a minimum you will receive a gross exaggeration, but more likely you will be told a bold-faced lie with no remorse or compunction whatsoever. You will get whatever story, exaggeration, lie or fabrication which will save the most face and honor with the person you are speaking with.

Here’s another favorite of mine; "honor killing". True story as reported by a Jordanian newspaper (see above). Young Muslim wife is married to her husband who is “pimping her out” to his friends to perform sexual acts for them. The wife can’t take it anymore and runs home to her father. The father, injured by the insult that his daughter left her husband, is therefore forced to murder his own daughter to restore his honor. He does so by wrapping her in bare copper wire and plugging it into the household outlet and walking away for 15 minutes.

My final favorite, and another true story, "blood money". A man owns a motorcycle and sells it in good faith to his friend. The friend promptly goes out and kills himself on the motorcycle because he’s never even ridden one before, Inshala. The tribe of the dead motorcyclist then demands some thousands of dollars from the man who sold him the bike simply because if he never sold his friend the motorcycle the friend would still be alive. Failure to pay the blood money results in the tribe killing the man in order to restore its collective honor.


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Anonymous said...

So, Eric, if I read this posting right, then that would mean that there could never be real peace between Iraq and the US? or any non-believer?
I could live a thousand lifetimes and still not understand the human race.

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 06/20/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.

NahnCee said...

Did anything bad happen to either the murdering father or the pimping husband as a result of the way they treated the dead woman?

This, in a nutshell, is why I no longer support being in Iraq and would be quite happy to leave them to their own miseries, taking their oil with us to repay us for all our trouble and efforts.

Anonymous said...

Eric, I smile the knowing smile of one who's been there and experienced similar. THE TRUTH is a very elusive, fluid, transient thing in the region. Good luck finding it. :-)

Unfortunately, the Jordanian dishonor killing you describe isn't particularly more horrid or tortuous than any of the other ones that happen in this world. One of the hallmarks of these crimes is their complete and utter brutality at the hands of a family member. And for every one that is reported, there are probably several that aren't.

Stay safe.

Ellen R. Sheeley, Author
"Reclaiming Honor in Jordan"

Anonymous said...

Ok I just wanted to help clarify something referring to lying and Islam. In Islam lying is actually a major sin; here is some evidence from the Quran:

“And do not say that of which you have no knowledge.” (Al-Quran 17:36)
"Truly Allah guides not one who transgresses and lies." (Al-Quran 40:28.)

And here are some more examples of lying being a big sin from Prophet Muhammad's sayings:
“I guarantee a house in the middle of Paradise for the one who leaves off lying even if it be in jest.” (Reported by Abu Umamah, in At-Tirmidhi.)

“Beware of lying, for lying opposes (true) faith.” (Bayhaqi, Shu‘ab al-Iman.)

There are many more evidences from the Islamic texts the Quran and Sunnah showing how the act of lying is a major sin.

Now what you mentioned about at-taqiyya is the one major exception to the rule against lying. When a person fears for his life and well-being under those circumstances he can lie and cover up his belief in Islam if he sincerely feels his life and well-being to be in danger. God promises to forgive that person under those circumstances.

Nowadays many Muslims themselves are ignorant about Islam; how many of them have you come across who are sincerely trying to practice all aspects of the faith completely sincerely and most of all correctly? I would judge an entire way of life and religion just through its peoples' actions. I would take the time to out to study the faith itself from its texts before passing judgment on it.

Eric said...


My post concerned the propensity of the Arabs that I have daily contact with to radically distort the truth, and the difficulty for westerners to get a straight story from them.

I simply pointed out that there is a concept in the Qu'ran that lends precedent to this phenomenon, whether it is distorted or misinterpreted by individual practitioners is not for me to say.

I'm not sure where you believe I was passing judgment on Islam or anything else for that matter. Good, bad, ugly, beautiful, it all just simply is.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear that lying's become such a bad habit over there. From personal experience I can say that it's because of life in the Third World that almost always leads people to believe that dishonesty is the best policy.
Any Muslim who justifies lying through at-taqiyya is seriously mistaken. At-taqiyya is only allowed when your life is seriously in danger not for when you have to conduct day-to-day living in the Third World.