Monday, March 27, 2006

The Suicide Bachelors Of Polygamous Islam

A cautionary warning for those who want to redefine marriage.

Polygamy might be a handy tool in a society full of widows and orphans. However, in a settled civilization, it leads to hordes of young single men who cannot settle down, and cannot find wives because the affluent older patriarchs in the society hoard them. These young single men become violent and crime prone.

In any human society there are approximately the same number of men and women. Under monogamy, which limits each man to one wife, everyone gets a fair chance to marry. When powerful and successful men are allowed to take more than one wife, however, as they are in a polygamous society, this creates a pool of unsuccessful men at the bottom of society who are constantly in conflict with the system.

Much is made of the current warring between radical Islam vs. the Western World (and radical Islam vs. the Eastern World, come to think of it). What is the source of that fighting? Polygamy!

The history of Islam has been one continuous story of rebel groups off in the desert and deciding that the religion being practiced by the authorities and their harems back in the cities is not the “true Islam.” They come crashing back upon the palaces, overthrowing the leaders (no Ottoman Sultan ever died of natural causes) and establishing a new regime that is just like the old one, where powerful are allowed to take multiple wives.

The Prophet Muhammad had a novel solution to this problem. Go and conquer neighboring societies and requisition their women. If you die in the process, the reward will be even greater – 72 virgins waiting for you in heaven! “Jihad” has been a clever and effective way of redirecting the hostilities of the “bachelor herd” that polygamy inevitably produces.

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"The Suicide Bachelors Of Polygamous Islam":

Terrorism and the suicidal nihilism found in Islam may have its root in polygamism. At least, this is what this interesting article suggests:

Title: The Suicide Bachelors of Polygamous Islam , By: Tucker, William,

IN MARCH, ISRAELI SOLDIERS DISARMED a 14-year-old Palestinian youth as he attempted to blow himself up at a checkpoint on the West Bank. After the bomb was cut from his body, the suicide bomber said, "I don't want to die."

In Osama, the grim cinematic portrait of life under the Taliban, currently making the rounds, a prepubescent Muslim girl passes herself off as a boy in order to get work to support her widowed mother. While on the job, she is impressed into a madras school where she and her fellows spend all day reading the Koran and training to become gun-wielding Taliban. When her disguise fails, she is sentenced to death. At the last minute, however, she is reprieved and married to an elderly mullah who already has several wives. The other wives bitterly tell her how their lives have been ruined by their forced marriages. Nevertheless, in the end, the elderly religious man leads the girl into an attic to consummate her new life of servitude.

Both these stories are emblematic of the key cultural difference that separates the world's major religious cultures--Western Christianity, Indian Hinduism, Chinese Confucianism, Oriental Buddhism, and Japanese Shintoism--from the Moslem world. This key factor is the practice of polygamy.

Anthropologists like to recount how 75 percent of the world's cultures practice polygamy. This provocative academic exercise is true but highly misleading. The vast majority of these cultures are individual tribal units counted as separate entities. Seventy five percent of the world's people live in cultures that prohibit polygamy and sanction monogamy.

Among major population groups, polygamy is largely limited to tropical Africa and the Middle East. In East and West Africa, it is a holdover from tribal society that survived into modern life. In small villages, a successful man may have three or four wives. In contemporary urban settings, leading business magnates and politicians can accumulate anywhere from 20 to more than a hundred wives.

Islam is the only major religion that specifically sanctions polygamy. This has a historical context. The nomadic desert tribes that first embraced Islam in the seventh century were already practicing polygamy (just as the Ancient Hebrews practiced a mild form of it during the wandering years of the Old Testament). The Koran's prescription that a man may have five wives is actually a limitation. (Muhammad himself had this number.) Even so, many sheiks and sultans have managed to skirt the Koran. Osama bin Laden's father had 52 children by an estimated 11 to 16 wives.

When Western Europe first encountered polygamy during the 16th to 18th centuries, the earlier flirtations of Greek and Hebrew culture with polygamy had been long forgotten and monogamy was a hallmark of Western culture. Polygamy was an error of heathenism. Then, as the 19th century concept of Evolution took shape, polygamy was perceived as a primitive form of marriage that had evolved into monogamy as humanity grew more civilized.

It was only the discovery of a few true hunting-and-gathering societies in the early 20th century that upset this thesis. True hunter-gatherers are monogamous, just like contemporary Eastern and Western cultures. Since mankind spent its first five million years as hunter-gatherers, this insight has revised the story of human sexual evolution. Anthropologists now believe that monogamy may have been the first step that led to emergence of human civilization. There are several tantalizing clues in the fossil record: (1) early humans traveled in small bands with approximately the same number of males and females; (2) with the emergence of homo erectus, males and females became approximately equal in size (a wide dimorphism usually indicates polygamy); and (3) our earliest male ancestors had lost their enlarged canine incisors, a common weapon in the intense male competition that characterizes polygamous societies.

It is now fairly certain that we emerged from five million years of hunting-and-gathering as monogamists. After that, certain cultures seem to have diverged into polygamy. (All societies have practiced it at one time or another.) But the most advanced and successful civilizations of East and West have sanctioned monogamy and made it standard practice.

This changes the equation between polygamy and primitive societies. Whereas it was once assumed that small, stagnant cultures adopted polygamy because they were backward, it may be that societies remain stagnant and backward precisely because they have adopted polygamy.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT POLYGAMY that keeps a society from advancing? The answer lies in simple arithmetic.

Biologically, approximately the same number of males and females are born into each society. If the society practices monogamy, then every male and every female has an equal chance of mating--there is "a girl for every boy and a boy for every girl."

If even a small number of predominant males are allowed to accumulate more than one wife, however, the equation begins to change. There is now a "female shortage" and competition among men for finding mates becomes much more intense.

Societies solve this problem in different ways. One is the "brideprice," a fee that families charge for an eligible daughter. (Brideprices are the signature of polygamy, while dowries--a bonus to make a daughter more attractive--are the signature of monogamy.) Brideprices encourage men to be more productive, since it costs money to get married. Older and more established men are favored. If the woman shortage becomes too intense, a society may resort to child marriage--where an adult man is betrothed to a prepubescent girl and must wait until she reaches maturity.

The more common outcome, however, is that young, single men become an unattached cohort with very little chance of mating--the "bachelor herd" of mammalian biology. Life in the bachelor herd is often nasty, brutish, and short. Status competition is endless, with males vying for the few positions where they may get the chance to mate. A handful of "social" species (baboons are the best example) have incorporated the bachelor herd into the troop as a kind of praetorian guard, banished to the perimeter but kept on hand for defensive purposes.

Human societies that practice polygamy have tried various strategies for dealing with the bachelor herd. Long stretches in the military were common. The attendants to the king's harem were made eunuchs. The Mamluks, an all-male Egyptian military culture of the 13th through 16th centuries, dispensed with women altogether and kidnapped their male progeny. The best solution, however, has always been to try to harness the violence and point it outward as aggressive defense or conquest.

IN CONTEMPORARY ISLAMIC societies, polygamy constitutes about 12 percent of marriages. This is not as high as Africa (where it can approach 30 percent), but sizable enough to leave a small, solid residue of unattached men. In Africa, these are the "school-leavers," an amorphous urban mass that creates social unrest and provides easy recruits whenever a revolutionary army arrives on the scene. In Islamic societies, on the other hand, the mass of unattached men is tightly organized by religion.

Fundamentalist Islamic societies quell unrest by attempting to control every aspect of sexual and personal life. Women are a scarce resource, to be hidden away and reserved for parceling out by families and the religious hierarchy. This is why women are required to wear burkas and veils and forbidden to show their faces or feet in public. Nothing can threaten the process of doling out this scarce resource more than a little hanky-panky in the ranks.

Young men, on the other hand, are required to repress their sexual impulses by devoting all their energies to religion. In a recent lengthy portrait in the New York Times Magazine, Mansour Al-Nogaidan, a prominent Saudi Arabian dissident, recounted his own enlistment into the ranks of fundamentalist Islam. "You can't have a girlfriend in this society," he said. "It's too expensive to marry and as a young man, all you're thinking about is sex. So the teachers tell us, 'Don't worry, no need now, when you kill yourself you'll have plenty of girls in heaven.'"

In a society where not all men will be able to reproduce, excess males have very little social value. Therefore, it is not surprising to find among this bachelor cohort three major characteristics: (1) an excess of pent-up sexual frustration, (2) an internalized sense of personal worthlessness, and (3) an extremely nihilistic--shall we say "suicidal"--disposition toward self-immolation and violence. Suicide bombers are easily recruited in these ranks.

For decades we have been taught that all cultures are equal and that intolerance of cultural differences is the only sin. This is not true. Different social customs produce different outcomes.

Monogamy is the ultimate biological fulfillment of the principle that "all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." It is a deeply rooted--although little understood--social contract which says that everyone should have a reasonable chance of finding a mate and having children. The inherent peacefulness of Far Eastern and Western societies is a result of this social contract.

The suicidal nihilism and the love of death proclaimed by Islamic militants, on the other hand, is the fruit of a long and deeply rooted social tradition which says that a certain portion of the male population is worthless, expendable, and not needed for the society to reproduce itself.

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