Thursday, December 28, 2006

Now if you shoot my dog, I'ma kill yo' cat

Via Metafilter, an article in The Economist looks at Pushtun tribalism in the Mid-East.

What interests me is that Islamic law codes, when they arose, were really a response to the extremism of tribal law codes (with their sanctions of massive retaliation for insults). Indeed, the sharia law code was significantly saner, in many ways, than codes used by tribes similar to the Pushtuns.

Now, of course, the Pushtuns are seen as possible allies for their resistance to the Taliban in Afghanistan - but this is overly simplistic:
But once the Taliban restored order to most of Afghanistan, Pushtuns began recoiling against their rulings. Their public executions and other outrages to public decency were anathema to them. So too when the Taliban—despite their celebrated chauvinism—outlawed wich pur and advocated female inheritance. No wonder if the lives of the vast majority of Afghan women have not eased since the Taliban were bombed from power.

I'm reading George F Kennan's memoirs right now, and although he's a Soviet expert, he had some interesting things to say while on a stopover in Egypt. He saw that the Mid-East would appeal to Americans in the same way the American frontier did - and that we'd be tempted to make grand political experiments there in the same way we did in the west, and this worried him immensely.

Much as I support America's democratic intentions in the Middle East, the Pushtuns are but one reason that America could do with a touch more humility in the region.



Blogger Matt W said...

Islamic law emerged from the tradition of the "blood-feud" - death for a death between tribes, basically.

10:41 AM  
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