Thursday, July 06, 2006

Is this a case of women "married to the mob" ? Or is the mob married to a matriarchal jihad?

At Frontpage magazine Robert Spencer makes some useful comments on the recent Globe and Mail investigative reporting into the internet postings that the wives of some of the seventeen recently-arrested alleged terrorists in Toronto have made over the last few years:
But if they are not oppressed, what would possibly have inspired the hatred and contempt these women feel for their own country? When asked what she thought was unique about Canada, Nada Farooq replied, “Who cares? We hate Canada.”

Why would someone who lives in Canada and benefits from its freedom and prosperity hate Canada? Almost certainly because she has been taught to do so. Nada Farooq and the other women who wrote the comments above have no doubt been taught that all non-Muslim society and culture is jahiliyya – ignorance or barbarism, worthless and to be despised.

The Egyptian Qur’an commentator and Muslim Brotherhood theorist Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966), whose writings are popular today among Muslims in the West, emphasized this: “It is not the function of Islam to compromise with the concepts of Jahiliyya [the society of unbelievers] which are current in the world or to co-exist in the same land together with a jahili system….Islam cannot accept any mixing with Jahiliyyah. Either Islam will remain, or Jahiliyyah; no half-half situation is possible. Command belongs to Allah, or otherwise to Jahiliyyah; Allah’s Shari’ah [law] will prevail, or else people’s desires: “And if they do not respond to you, then know that they only follow their own lusts. And who is more astray than one who follows his own lusts, without guidance from Allah? Verily! Allah guides not the people who are disobedient.”[Qur’an 28:50]…The foremost duty of Islam is to depose Jahiliyyah from the leadership of man, with the intention of raising human beings to that high position which Allah has chosen for him.”
This is a matter of religious conviction. These ideas will not be dislodged by education about Western values, which are all part of the jahiliyya these women and their husbands despise, or by better access to jobs or housing. One primary lesson that authorities should draw from these Internet postings is that Islamic terror is not a problem that can be solved by social engineering. It cannot be assuaged by gestures of good will, negotiations or concessions. There is in Western countries today a large and growing population of Muslims, among whom are many who have no intention of assimilating or adopting Western values and perspectives, and who regard the West with as much or more disdain and contempt as these women show in their Internet postings. The jihad ideology as such must be confronted and combated, or it will continue to spread, and breed terrorists and subversives.
We might begin by noting Spencer's argument that "this is a matter of religious conviction. These ideas will not be dislodged by education about Western values, which are all part of the jahiliyya these women and their husbands despise..." Spencer implies that the western values these Muslims disdain are less those of a high culture, of which they are probably wholly ignorant, and rather more those associated with popular freedoms and the encouragement for everyone to follow her desires as part of the consumer culture. And similarly, the values western governments might wish taught to Muslim immigrants are less those of the philosopher or cleric as they are, say, a carefree tolerance for public displays of sexuality, as in the Dutch video that prospective citizens are forced to watch so as to learn that in Holland women are free to go topless at the beach while homosexuality is out in the open (like it or leave being the message). And this is indeed what we might guess the wives of the Toronto 17 hate most about us. As Qutb put it, "who is more astray than one who follows his own lusts, without guidance from Allah?"

This all adds up to something of a paradox: we have a picture, from the Globe and Mail reports, of a group of women who whip each other, along with their men, into states of hysteria because they feel the westerners among whom they live are themselves nothing but lustful and perhaps hysterical demons who refuse the basis of all reason and wisdom: submission to the will of Allah. And frankly, who could look at much of decadent western culture today with, for example, its deep immersion in pornography and other rough passions, its worship of a cult of victimhood and its attendant self-hatred, and say that the women of the Toronto Jihad are entirely wrong to condemn us?

These women's mixing of a hysterical Jihad with a committment to the restraint of lusts (a restraint, however, we know many Moslem men fail fully to engage), reminds me of an insightful comment made by Salman Rusdie last August:
The Koran was revealed at a time of great change in the Arab world, the seventh-century shift from a matriarchal nomadic culture to an urban patriarchal system. Muhammad, as an orphan, personally suffered the difficulties of this transformation, and it is possible to read the Koran as a plea for the old matriarchal values in the new patriarchal world, a conservative plea that became revolutionary because of its appeal to all those whom the new system disenfranchised, the poor, the powerless and, yes, the orphans.
Rushdie does not seem fully to know what to do with this insight, and little more do I. But let us take a moment to speculate on what we could gain from opening an inquiry that hypothesizes that Islamic Jihad is at root the product of a matriarchal worldview, one not yet fully in harmony with the nascent world of patriarchal law and religion.

Even as western feminists prefer to avoid criticism of Islam in deference to the cult of multiculturalism (since the honour of the victim group known as Muslims has greater authority than the individual rights of the millions of oppressed women in the Muslim world) we have nonetheless been trained by feminist assumptions to think of Islamic terrorists as tough angry "patriarchs", toxic men who keep their oppressed women under many wraps and insure that no Muslim man ever has to be dominated by a woman's opinion. And of course there is much truth in this assumption: all we need to do, for example, is look at how often women in the Islamic world are blamed for adultery and for being raped, and are consequently stoned or imprisoned.

So, given my assumptions about the subservience of Muslim women, it was with a bit of surprise and a laugh that I read in the Globe about the wife of one of the Toronto 17 who declared in one web posting “ if [my husband] ever refuses a clear opportunity to leave for jihad, then i want the choice of divorce.” Just who is boss in these families anyway?

Well I think the men mostly are, but part of the answer to what is going on in these bumptious ladies' web postings may be that we need to stop thinking of the oppression of women as being caused by "patriarchy". It may be just as much a function, if not more, of a matriarchal culture whose boundaries are violently enforced both by men and women; and it may be, as Rushdie suggests, that the problem with Islam is that it does not have enough of patriarchal culture, not that it has too much. It may well be that patriarchal values help liberate both men and women whatever our feminists, who don't seem to be too active in demanding liberation for Muslim women, may think.

But what would the boundaries or shape of a matriarchal culture actually be? This is not the time or place for a serious essaying of this much under-theorized question. But let me make a few preliminary suggestsions based on a Thomas Bertonneau essay I have found most helpful. We might start, for example, with the notion that a matriarchal god or cult is that of a people deferring to a primal group identity; in contrast the patriarchal encourages highly individuated identities such as are constructed in the course of learning the demanding worldly tasks imposed by the needs of human freedom whose expansion, in recent centuries, has required people with many kinds of specialized knowledge engaged in honest and cooly rational essayings of cultural and natural realities and necessities. The matiarchal culture generally turns attentions towards a demanding but all-protecting mother figure (or perhaps a totemic animal symbolizing nature's powers or fertility), a jealous guardian of all her children, of the clan who are to be equally rewarded for their collective submission to her cult. In contrast, the patriarchal God seems to be a rather personal God who demands each of us engage Him in an individuating moral conversation that is separated from the worldly ethical conversation of the human community. Instead of allowing our resentments of the limits to equality or freedom that the pragmatic needs of worldly ethics dictate, to grow into some irrational act of violence, the patriarchal God demands of us a personal discipline and integrity to be maintained whatever our success or failures in this world.

This is to suggest that a key difference between matriarchy and patriarchy has to do with their respective indulgence in, or restraint of, our violent, often irrational, sacrificial or ritual practices, and with the means by which our sacrificial forms perform the essential task of all religion, which is to mediate our resentments and save the community from itself, from the resentments which all human society inevitably engenders. In other words, the test of any religion is its capacity to turn our resentments to productive ends. While the strategy of the matriarchal may be to turn resentment towards a cult of an alternately offended and mollified (by violent sacrifices) group identity, the patriarchal may demand much more of individual responsibility. On the matriarchal, Tom Bertonneau argues that :
Anyone who knows the mythic material... also knows what the reign of the Magna Mater [Great Mother] required. The Chaldean shepherd Dumuzi, like his Syrian counterpart Adonis and his Egyptian counterpart Osiris, suffered being ripped apart by demons to appease her wrath and, as the story tells, to fecundate the fields as an offering to her vegetation cult. The same story appears all over the archaic world, as James G. Fraser showed in the multiple volumes of his Golden Bough. Nor is it mere myth. Gimbutas extols the Minoan civilization of Crete, as one of the final holdouts of the realm of the Earth Mother in her many guises, before the Indo-European onset. In Aegean Civilizations, Peter Warren cites an archeological find at Anemospelia, on the slope of Mount Jukta, near Knossos. In "a remarkable three-roomed shrine… there were four human skeletons, one of which, on a low table, appeared to be a human sacrifice being enacted when destruction [of the site] came, perhaps about 1600 B.C." (6). At Knossos itself, "remains of several children in the basement of the building also appear to be from sacrifices, made at the time of the great Minoan destruction about 1450 B.C." (6). These phenomena date from before the massive Greek (hence Indo-European) presence on the island. In the Near East as well as in Crete, images of the Great Mother in all her varieties are associated, in the iconography, with images of demons. She is either the obese, globular divinity from whom all things are born or the ecstatic virgin celebrating the Matriarchy; and they are the toothy, frightening Nachtpolizei of the realm. In the Greek world especially, a revulsion against human sacrifice appears only with the ascendancy of the upstart Olympian cult of Hesiod and his fellow religious reformers. Robert Graves gives a sense of what the return of the Magna Mater would entail in his amusing but frightening Let the North Wind Rise: the reduction of adulthood to perpetual adolescence; the abandonment of the technical infrastructure; the reintroduction of archaic religious forms. Far from being exclusively nurturing and protecting, then, the Goddess is also savage and voracious. She devours the blood of children.
And then, making a comparison to the west's decadent victimary culture today, Bertonneau draws on the work of psychologist Howard Schwartz in The Revolt of the Primitive to note that:
the roots of political correctness run deep psychically, anthropologically, and historically. The parallelism of the primitive, matriarchal societies with modern intolerance and contemporary hysteria, remains [clear].
While the target of Bertonneau and Schwartz is primarily today's academic culture with its countless rituals in support of the many supposed victims of the supposedly victimizing reason and knowledge of the "phallogocentric" white male patriarchy, they also make a connection to the popular culture with its worship of sexuality and its resentful mass cults, e.g. rock concerts.

And we might see just this decadent pop culture as being what is most hated about Canada and the west by the wives of the Islamic terrorists with whom we began. They may see in today's westerners a conformity, for example, to the lusts of the woman-dominated porn industry or to more "mainstream" fare like the wildly-popular television programme Sex in the City.

But if Rushdie is correct that Islam is as much a matriarchal as patriarchal religion, why should Muslim fundamentalists resent the western return to a primitive matriarchal ethos? Well, it may have much to do with their sense of competition between the two cults for the protection and advancement of one clan over another. Or it may be that Moslems are just patriarchal enough to see the west's return to irrationalism as a distracting threat to their own independent manhood. After all, if Moslem men are seriously to aspire to rule the world, perhaps they too need to improve their personal discipline in order to face up to the harsh and unbending demands that a cold, uncaring, unmotherly reality will impose. On the one hand, the lustful violence of the Jihad may be an essential part of defending the boundaries of a matriarchal group identity, since Jihad is primarily a matter of defeating the other as infidel; on the other hand, the values of Jihad may be of much less use when the other one must deal with is a member of one's own group, or when it is nature that must be turned to productive ends if mother and her children are all to be fed, especially if the Muslims are to compete in a global economy.

It may well be in denial of patriarchal imperatives that we witness the perennial declaration of internecine Muslim wars, as one or another disaffected group seeks to quash what it sees as Muslim decadence, and thus to reimpose the essential faith. Could the seemingly patriarchal critique of urban decadence actually be more a sign of a refusal to take up the patriarchal law and its demands for individual differentiation and pragmatic worldly goals, in favour of a quest to return to the primal equality and belonging of the maternal, as symbolized by the faithful in their daily massed prostrations to Allah?

No comments: