2006 October 07 Saturday
Stephen Browne: 12 Lessons About Arab Muslims

Stephen Browne, an American who writes the Rants And Raves blog, has worked in a number of countries including Saudi Arabia. He's written a list of 12 observations on Arabs which I strongly recommend you read in full.

5) They do not think of obligations as running both ways.

With us, contractual and moral obligations tend to be equal and reciprocal. They don’t see it that way. The obligations of the superior to the inferior do not equal those of the inferior to the superior. Obligations within a family or clan outweigh all others. That is why we had to take care not to sit members of the same clan near each other during exams. If one asks another for help, he has to give it. In spite of promises to the school and even when the clansman is a total stranger. Obligations to other believers outweigh all obligations to unbelievers and especially when the believers are fellow-Arabs. And in contracts with unbelievers, the obligations of the Believer to the kaffir are not equal to the obligations of the kaffir to the Believer.

Consider that Muslims in England have quite un-selfconsciously demanded that a pub near a Mosque be shut down as offensive to their religion – in spite of the fact that the pub had precedence by six hundred years! Or that they demanded the right to broadcast the prayer call on loudspeakers in London while it is illegal to have a church at all in the Kingdom.

Their view of what constitutes fair play is so different than our own that people who expect all cultures to have the same basic assumptions on what is fair will misunderstand Arabs. What, they feel aggrieved? We expect their grievances to be based on reasoning that we'd apply if only we knew that they knew.

People who have different rules for what is fair are not going to be happy playing games (whether in business, marriage, or personal friendships) with each other. The inevitability of the disputes and misunderstandings is a reason to limit how much cultures with different rules come into contact with each other.

What we call dastardly terrorism they call normal rules of conflict.

6) In warfare, we think they are sneaky cowards, they think we are hypocrites.

In our civilization, when two men get down, either seriously or just “woofing”, what do they say? Some variation of “I’m going to kick your ass.” Am I right? Here’s what I heard in the Kingdom, “Hey, don’t f**k with me, or someday you get a knife in the back.” I’m not saying that wouldn’t happen to you in the West, but most men would be ashamed to make a threat of that nature. We don’t understand that direct shock battle is not necessarily the law of nature. When overwhelming force is brought to bear on them, they become cringing and obsequious. To put it bluntly, they lie their heads off to get you to turn your back on them. Try to see it from their point of view – how else do you expect them to act when you have the overwhelming force? You expect them to meet you on equal terms when the situation is so unequal? What other tactics are available but prevarication and delay followed by a sneak attack?

Folks, what we call “terrorism” is quite close to the historically normal way of warfare among these people.

Again, people who play by different rule books should not try playing games with each other. We should instead separate Muslims from Western Civilization in order to avoid disagreements, violent conflict, and the development of parallel separate societies within our own civilization.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 October 07 04:50 PM  Culture Compared

Stephen said at October 7, 2006 10:14 PM:

I agree with the sentiment, the idea of a State comes a distant third to family and tribe. Indeed, from an arab cultural perspective, anything that doesn't belong to the family and tribe is fair game - if it belongs to another tribe and you can carry it away, its yours. That's why corruption is endemic in the region - there's no concept of the civil servant, instead service is merely a great way to get your hands on other peoples money. Sure, you can say that its not that much different in the west, but the west doesn't have the problem to the same extent.

John S Bolton said at October 8, 2006 12:32 AM:

Our officials congratulate and vet each other, on how blind they can be on moslem duplicity and pretenses of friendship and honorability.
At the same time, the palestinians are so forthright in their refusal to even look like they might be capable of pretending for a diplomat's moment, that they might be friendly or bargainable towards Israel;
that one could wonder if they've lost the lying moslem touch.

Lexcen said at October 8, 2006 2:11 AM:

What the people who preach tolerance and understanding of Islam fail to recognise, is that Islam doesn't accept any other authority or law above Islam. This in itself means that Islam cannot and never will be integrated into western culture. Islam cannot and never will allow allegiance to any government that isn't comprised of mullahs. What were governments thinking when they decided to allow muslim immigrants into their countries? Now, we wring our hands in desperation on how to deal with this problem. No amount of understanding and tolerance of other "culture" and religion is the answer when the other culture/religion is Islam.

Stephen said at October 8, 2006 2:47 AM:

John, the Isrealis and Palestinians are a thorn in each other's side. Both are working toward the extermination of the other (sooner or later), its just that one has a more sophisticated media management strategy.

Steven said at October 8, 2006 1:05 PM:

Israelis aren't working to exterminate Palestinians. That would be easy. They're trying to limit the violence that Palestinians can do to them. There's no equivalence here. Stop trying to force a square peg into a round hole out of politically correct sensibilities.

Stephen said at October 8, 2006 11:39 PM:

Steven, to believe that you first have to believe that the Israelis think that they can have a jewish state with the Palestinians in their midst. If they don't think that, and if they reasonably except that the Palestinians will remain adamant their demand for the return of their own lands, then something has got to give.

Its not going to happen tomorrow of course, but my guess is that if the pattern of the last 25yrs continues, in 75yrs there'll be either an Israeli state or a Palestinian state, but not both. Alternatively, there'll be niether because the area will be a trifle radioactive.

Rob-ot said at October 10, 2006 4:10 AM:


To think the jewish Israelis(as opposed to the arab muslims who are citizens of Israel:they may well be planning to exterminate the Jews)are not working to exterminate the palestinians, all you gotta believe is that the palestinians are still around. If the Israelis wanted them dead, they would be. No one remembers the holocaust like it's survivors. Certainly they would have done it before a Muslim country developed nuclear weapons.

Brett said at October 10, 2006 6:58 AM:

Even if the Palestinians are able to properly develop their own state, could they even live with each other??
I think people should take a step back and reconsider if it is all Israel's fault, or if all the corruption and in-fighting of the Palestinians themselves are to blame for them not having a proper state.
I don't think Israel would particularly like having a Palestinian state in their "midst" but then again, neither do most the other surrounding Arab countries (Lebanon, Egypt & Jordan)...

Donald O said at October 12, 2006 3:49 PM:

that Arab [double-standard] mentality seems [in my opinion] to be based on an admiration of the American old West's treaties with the Native Indians. When there was a reason to stop hostilities, the 'settlers' agreed to stop expansion and make a nice 'peace treaty'. Within a short time it was a meaningless joke and further expansion/atrocities were justified until they ran out of territory to conquer. I know the fat modern American with his little flags everywhere would like to disagree about how noble the cause was, but this experience didn't go unoticed as to it's effectivness in other cultures. Of course, since only 12-15% of the planet subscribes to the Islamic belief system they have a long way to go.

Randall Parker said at October 12, 2006 7:22 PM:

Donald O,

It is a huge mistake to try to interpret the Arabs with reference to American history. They've been the way they are for many centuries before Columbus discovered the New World.

Donald O said at October 13, 2006 5:20 PM:

yes I Understand that Randall. I was referring to a basic human nature[or military]. If you see a weakness, you exploit it for all you can. The British, French & Spanish saw that in the North America as well as other continents and the Islamic world, for whatever reason feel the pendulum is going their way now. The fact that the law bends to allow this to occur in the form of student visas or any other legal form is another cloaking device and a tragedy to see it in slow motion.

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