Skip to comments.The Islamic Blame Game. "Shame culture" vs. "Guilt culture"
Posted on 02/14/2003 5:03:59 PM PST by dennisw
The Islamic Blame Game
A recent Die Zeit essay by Mordechay Lewy explains some of the fundamental differences between the Judeo-Christian west and the Islamic east, and it's all about guilt and blame -- The west has a "guilt culture" (accepting one's own guilt), while the Arab / Islamic world, which Lewy calls the Orient, has a "blame culture" (blaming others). I summarize and/or quote key portions of the essay:
Lewy examines the key question: why is it that the west can produce so many intellectuals such as Susan Sonntag, Noam Chomsky and Arundhati Roy who are so ready to criticize western civilization and blame the United States for the problems in the Islamic world. The latter, on the other hand, accepts little responsibility for its own inadequacies, and instead embraces conspiracy theories that typically blame the west.
Lewy identifies eight principle reasons:
1. In the Orient, one's own guilt and inadequacies are always assigned to others. Self-criticism is seldom practiced. The ability for self-correction is accordingly limited.
2. In the Orient, the preferred role is that of the victim. Conspiracy theories are forged to rationalize this behavior.
3. Islam does not have the concept of "original sin" and therefore no historical tradition of collective guilt.
4. Islam does not promote the formation of free will and individual responsibility. In the Islamic notion of man, free will is subordinate to Allah's all-encompassing pre-ordained plan.
5. In the West, there is a tendency toward the avowal of guilt, whether rightly or wrongly. Therefore the role of culprit is readily adopted.
6. The guilt society in the West promotes self-criticism, and also the capacity for self-correction.
7. In the modern West, the religious-based notion of "original sin" has been secularized to some extent, and also expresses itself in acceptance of blame for the Islamic-Arab world.
8. In the overt or covert conflict between the two cultures, the West cannot operate with a free hand, by virture of its own self-imposed moral constraints. These self-imposed restrictions will be interpreted as a weakness by the aggressive blame society of the Orient. They will not be respected in conflict situations, but exploited.
Islam does not have the same concept of original sin as in the West. The expulsion from paradise was not a key experience in the Koran. Allah forgives all sins, large and small, if the sinner shows remorse and willingness to change. In the Koran there are no explicit battles between good and evil. In western tradition, Satan can lead men astray (the Faust motif). In Islam the devil disarms himself voluntarily so that he cannot exert any power over man. A practicing Muslims becomes certain of attaining salvation, solely by fulfilling Allah's commandments. This spares him the moral dilemmas that are inherent in Christianity. In the Islamic view, guilt is an entirely personal burden, that can be lifted by the strict ritual adherence to Allah's laws. The Muslim Orient knows of no collective guilt that is passed from one generation to the next.
In the West by contrast the Christian idea of original sin has become an integral part of the civilizational understanding. The original sin has been secularized. One feels guilty for being rich, even when one's wealth is earned through hard labor. Likewise one feels remorse over the use of force, even when it is legitimate force. Anticolonialism, anticapitalism and the anti-globalisation emotions are also fed from the such feelings of guilt that one feels toward the third world. Despite its oil wealth, the Orient is also depicted as a victim. And that is why it is absolved of its role in the violence. Financial contributions to developing countries serve to pay off the guilt. The Islamists abhor the democratic values of man-made origin and therefore stand in contrast with Sharia which descends from God. But if they themselves are politically persecuted, they don't hesitate to denounce the undemocratic treatment and to appeal to human rights. Some guilt-aware westerners are easily taken in by this hypocrisy.
Likewise, Muslims use conspiracies as consoling explanations for strokes of fate, which are due to God's inexplicable wishes. If a Muslim is dealt a hand from Allah that he can't influence, he doesn't take any responsibility for it. And thus arose the tendency to explain events as the intervention of outside forces, rather to attribute them to one's own shortcomings.
by Allen E. Levite
"In Guilt, Blame, and Politics, Allan Levite turns Marxist class theory on its head by suggesting that it is the guilt of the affluent class, not the struggle of the working class, that is most responsible for modern socialism. It is a compelling theory, well-researched and entertainingly argued." --J. Neil Schulman, author of Alongside Night, Stopping Power, and other works.
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