Thursday, January 13, 2005

Rambling Post (2)

Dr. Wardi summarizes that the (unfair competition) attribute in the Bedouin character makes a Bedouin wants to plunder not to be plundered, to assault not to be assaulted, to be the donor not the receiver, others to head for him not the opposite, pursuer not pursued, to relief not asking for relief, to be thanked not the opposite…etc.

Iraq underwent a harsh deterioration in its civilization during the Ottoman period (about four centuries ended by WWI). Moreover, it was open to receive Bedouin tribes from the desert of Arabia. As a result, Iraq became a social melting pot in which the new coming tribes interact with the former inhabitants. This interaction, according to Dr. Wardi, caused what's known as (clash of cultures).

Dr. Wardi says that the Bedouin culture is neither suitable for rural community nor for urban one.

Through close observation of Bedouin tribe's migration, he noticed that the main entrance for these tribes into Iraq is through the north west lands. He enumerates several reasons for that, which are not to be dealt with in this post. The newcomers push the older deeper toward the agrarian lands in the south & the east. As a result they change into farmers and settle down near their lands. Their community changes from Bedouin to rural. But the effect of Bedouin culture does not vanish. It reshapes itself into new traditions.

Dr. Wardi notices that the tribe, which changes to the rural community, changes from Sunnism to Shiism after years. He attributes this transformation to the exposure to the effective Shiite propagandists. These are consisting mainly of clerics who study in Najaf (a city of about 1000 years old). Najaf represents the main center of Islamic studies for the Shiism. People have used to head for it from all over the Islamic world. Philosophy, jurisprudence, intellectual sciences, logic, linguistics, eloquence, literature, speech art, theology and many other theoretical sciences are taught in Hauza of Najaf. For that, according to Dr. Wardi, Shiites are more organized than Sunnis. He considers the Shiites closer to the urban society than the Sunnis. Still, the Shiites do have tribal traditions.

Wardi resembles Iraq and its contents of tribes to a pickles fermenting vat. According to his hypothesis, the newly migrated tribes are in the top (north) of Iraq, while the old tribes are in the bottom (south) of Iraq. So, one would find the good pickles near the bottom. I think it is clear now why the unstable triangle is at the north west of Iraq.

It seems that Bedouins are trouble makers since very long time in history. Koran (the holy book of Islam) addressed them 1400 years ago saying "…the Bedouins disbelieve in God and hypocrites. They do not know God's law…" and "…the Bedouins said 'we are true believers'. Don't say that; say 'we are Muslims' since true belief does not reside in your hearts…"(Not certified translation)

Many Arab countries emerged after WWI, since the British could not fulfill a promise they made to Hussein ibn Ali (sheriff of Mecca 1908-16) to establish one united Arab state, as I mentioned in a previous post (mistrust). Arab peoples started to work to unite their countries. As a result the Arabic nationalism movement originated calling for Arab world unity. I may classify this movement as one of the tribal sectarianism traits.

A political party called (Arab Baath Socialist Party) was established in the year 1947, adopted the Arabic Nationalism as a central ideology. For unknown reasons, at least for me, it started to attract irrational people. One of these was Saddam.

To be continued…


Blogger Gadfly said...


I'm confused about the (unfair competition) term. Is there any way to explain that any further?

Perhaps these English terms could be of help (perhaps not):

Function: verb
Etymology: from Latin usurpare to take possession of without legal claim. 1 a : to seize and hold (as office, place, or powers) in possession by force or without right (as in: usurp a throne) b : to take or make use of without right (as in: usurped the rights to her life story)

Function: verb
1. to claim or take over in a high-handed manner

That may be well off the mark, but it was worth a try. We all know that you work hard to translate your world into English for us. I hope you understand how important it is to us that you do this. Thank you.

7:10 PM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

All of this is quite fascinating. The history of Arab cultures is not a common class among American universities. There is some semblance of scholarship available, but mostly from a graduate program.

If anything, it has opened my eyes to the diversity of backgrounds the Arab community is made up of. I hope to find more information on Arab culture as your societies begin to open.

I'm sick of learning about decadent Old European culture, the Russians and autocracy, and typical liberal twists on American culture. I did find a Chinese professor at my university that had some very interesting classes on China and Japan. Otherwise, I can only find classes that give overly simplified and generalized histories of Arab culture.

As I have noted in my own blog, I am overwhelmed with what one can learn about Democracy (a truly universal concept) from those in the Arab world that have never truly experienced it. The topics and values that you delve into truly open my eyes to the possibilities of a Democratic world. I see that helping to create a free society in Iraq truly was the right decision. We can learn from each other.

Enough about Democracy, though. Fill my mind with knowledge of Arab culture and history. I will keep reading as long as you keep writing.

11:49 PM  
Blogger Joe Rose said...

Dear Ibn, Thanks for your input. I certainly am interested in your input because it gives me insight into something I am pretty much ignorant of. Thanks, Joe

2:53 AM  
Blogger WC said...

Two Rivers Son,

Great post, as usual. I am also pretty ignorant on these matters of Arabic history and culture. However, being a lover of history, I find this post in particular quite rewarding.

Your post reinforces a notion I was kicking around today. I was thinking that Iraq seems much more diverse than its neighboring "Arab" countries (with the exception of Lebanon?). I was thinking that this diversity is it's potetially greatest asset. If democracy can take root in your country, then the diversity of its people and extravagence of its natural resources will quite likely transform the entire region. I know that sounds over simplistic and unoriginal, but it seems so tantalizingly true.

I was also pondering on another aspect of Arabic culture. Is it supremist? By that I mean, does Arab culture presume superiority over all others. I heard a radio spot on the ongoing tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia. In the spot it was strongly contended that Indonesian Muslims felt that Arab Muslims could never view non-Arabs as "first class Muslims". Does this seem true? The conflict in Darfur, afterall, is between Arab and non-Arab Muslims. I know that indiviuals rise above their culture. I am just wondering if "Arab Supemacy" is a notion that any intellectual Arab would take seriously. If it is, then the potential for a democratic Iraq to become a first rate world power is much higher.

Higher because it seems that your nation has all the "melting pot" strenghts that have served American democracy so well. But, you better buckle your seatbelts, because it's going to be a bumpy ride!

(Is that a Betty Grable line?)

Happy Trails!
May God Bless!

5:49 AM  
Blogger Ibn_Alrafidain said...

Thanks for the try. Now allow me try to make mine.

I hope that other visitors may help in directing me to a word that consists of the sense shared by:

1. To surpass others in every matter.
2. To defeat others.
3. To overcome others.
4. To be always triumphant.
5. To get the better of.
6. To compel others.
7. To have the upper hand.
8. To be preponderant.
9. To be predominant.
10. To beat everybody to the punch.
11. To beat the rap.

For example: Grazing in the desert is very rare. So when there is one, tribes may fight for a takeover of it. The winner may let the loser to graze in the area.

A contemporary example is Saddam's invasion of Kuwait. He offered the poor countries free Kuwaiti oil.

Looking forward to reading your suggestions. Thank you all.

5:09 PM  
Blogger Gadfly said...

Dear Ibn,

That is an interesting word. I don't think we have any single word in English that means all of that. Do you have an English spelling of the Arabic word? I would like to know how to say it.

These three terms would probably be a starting point to describe what your word means. This is about as close as English can get, I believe:

1 : showing or suggesting a lofty and courageous spirit
2 : showing or suggesting nobility of feeling and generosity of mind.
Sometimes this word can be used in a sarcastic manner, so that it’s meaning would point out a person who performs some magnanimous gesture, but for selfish reasons. To appear admirable to others, or to treat the subject of the gesture in a condescending or patronizing way.

To enhance one’s power, wealth, position, or reputation for the purpose of appearance. As in: “He exploited the situation to aggrandize himself”.

:having or showing no regard for the rights, concerns, or feelings of others.

In English, we are always taking words from other languages and incorporating them into ours. For instance: The French word "douche" means "to wash" I think, but in English, it is used to imply a very specific type of washing.

Maybe this will be an Arabic word that becomes part of the English language. In this country, we, unfortunately, have some people who would fit your definition. :)

I hope your day is going well.


10:49 PM  
Blogger Pat in NC said...

Hello my friend, Since I do not know how to address you properly, I am asking you is Ibn satisfactory? The only words I think might fit your terms would be benevolent dictator. One who must be the boss but who will share so long as others recognize his superiority and that he is the one who gives. If somewone else tries to assume that role he will fight to gain it or regain it.

3:27 AM  
Blogger Kat said...

Kharaillah Tulfah, Saddam Hussein's uncle and future father-in-law, along with Gen. Rashid Ali and the so-called "golden square" cabal of pro-Nazi officers, participated in a failed coup against the pro-British government of Iraq in 1941. Operating behind the scenes in Baghdad at the time, and arranging for Nazi weapons and assistance was the notorious pro-Nazi Haj Amin al-Husseini the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. The Mufti had been on the Nazi payroll, according to testimony at the Nuremberg and Eichmann trials, since 1937 when he had met with Adolf Eichmann during Eichmann's brief visit to Palestine. Saddam Hussein was born in 1937.

Kharaillah Tulfah, participant in the 1941 pro-Nazi coup and an advocate of a pan-Islamic Nazi alliance along with the Mufti, raised and educated his nephew Saddam Hussein from age 10. In 1959, the 22-year-old Saddam failed in an attempt to assassinate Iraqi leader Abdel Karim Qassim. He subsequently fled to Egypt where he received refuge from fellow Mufti disciple Nasser. At the time, Nasser, along with the Mufti himself, who resided in Cairo after the war and his conviction by the Nuremberg Tribunal of war crimes, was spearheading what was known as the Odessa Network, which facilitated the settlement of thousands of Nazi criminals in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world. In 1962, Saddam married Sajidah Tuffah, the daughter of his uncle and mentor.

Saddam triumphantly returned to Baghdad in 1963 after a successful coup by the Ba'ath Party against Qassim where he assumed control of State Security. The Ba'ath seizure of power in Iraq was followed by firing squads and murder of political opponents reminiscent of Castro's seizure of Cuba. Saddam was chief interrogator and torturer at the infamous Palace of the End set up as a torture chamber under the auspices of State Security.

Saddam became absolute ruler in 1979 after assassinating over 20 leaders of his own party. He immediately proceeded to implement the Nazi vision of his uncle and the Mufti. In Iraq, Saddam annihilated of his opponents and, using his absolute power, developed a personality-cult around himself reminiscent of the Nazi Furherprincip. Like the Nazis, who sought to implement a new social order based on socialist and nationalist principles, Saddam has sought to develop a united Arab order under his personal control. Imitating the example of Hitler, Saddam set up concentration camps and began to carry out a planned program of genocide against the Kurds.

Someone asked if it was about "supremacy" of the race and I believe part of the answer is "yes" and that the ideas of nationalism propagated by socialist parties through out the ME and mirrored on the socialist juggernaut of the Nazism in Europe, gave a place for the Arab "unity" to begin since they were unable to overcome their tribalism and incessent infighting for small tufts of land in order to insure the very thing they were demanding from the British: 1 unified Arab state.

During the time of the Sharif of Mecca, al Aziz al Saud was just starting to gather his base of power from the Bedu in the arabian peninsula to take back what he considered his hereditory place as the head of the bedu. He attacked and threw out the Sharif of Mecca and then his tribal mujihadeen troops continued to raid "transjordan" and "southern Iraq mandate" until he had to put them down in his own land. The British, trying to facilitate the handover of these mandates as quickly as possible, informed Al Saud of their displeasure.

At the same time, Oil had been found and the British were paying Al Saud a pretty royalty for obtaining that oil. MOney which he used to consolidate his base of power. In order to control his new kingdom, he knew he had to institute government ministry, a standing armed force and technology that allowed him to govern all parts without continuously having to ride to, rely on others and secure his position.

To this end, he brought in new telegraph and radio technology. The very mujihadeen who placed him into power, who were the old bedu tribes with their own form of superstition and unelastic belief system (wahhabism), not only ignored his edicts on raiding but found this new technology to be "unIslamic" and began to speak against Al Aziz. who, in turn, raised up an army and was forced to crush the very ones that brought him to power. this also protected his agreement with the British and the money he needed to establish his kingdom (circa 1924)

In short, Bedu's have been both the backbone of an enduring culture and many a rising leader (see Abdullah and Hussein-Lawrence of Arabia-WWI) as well as the threat to rising states.

Recall that Abdullah of Jordan joined with the British and marched into iraq to overthrow the pro-nazi socialist party (precursor to the Ba'athi) and re-instate his brother to the throne.

However, the socialist party did not die nor their dreams of a nationalistic socialist Arabia.

I believe this is in large part because the bedu continued to be unable to organize on their own part that many were induced to support this organization as a twisted extension of their own struggle for supremacy, pride and recognition. They were co-opted and like all entities that are unable to organize and produce their own, they were soon subjugated once again by the people they put in power and thus got even worse than they would have gotten under the old.

12:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Son of Two Rivers,
To me, the word that comes to mind in the context that you describe with Bedouins wishing to be on top, in control, not to lose face, to be the givers and not receivers, etc, is "macho." I don't know if it totally fits, but there seems to me to be a strong undercurrent of 'manliness' to what you describe with those tribes. To be 'macho' is to be all the things you list, and to be virile, as well. It's sometimes used with a negative connotation here, and I think it's actually a Spanish word and concept that has become mainstream American lingo. I'd be interested if other readers think that it fits, too. (In suggesting 'macho,' I'm probably also influenced by currently reading _Baghdad without a map_ which is a slightly old--1991-- travelogue through the Middle East by an American writer.)

(PS to WC- the "bumpy ride" line is Bette Davis, I believe :))

Thanks for once again posting such interesting, informative commentary.

5:36 AM  

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