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Questions About the Book

Reader comment on item: The Middle East's Tribal Affliction

Submitted by Fred F. (United States), Jan 25, 2008 at 12:22

Dear Mr. Pipes:

Thank you for your article about Philip Carl Salzman's book Culture and Conflict in the Middle East. It explains a lot but all the same can you please clarify a few things?

1. The article seems to focus on "balanced opposition," which apparently is also called "affiliation solidarity," as one of the "two patterns of rule that historically have dominated the Middle East." What exactly is the other pattern of rule, "tyrannical centralism?"

2. I don't fully undestand why "balanced opposition" leads to honor killing of women. If a tribe's goal is to maximize the number of its male progeny by marrying its daughters to tribal relatives, then why would it practice honor killing, a custom that diminishes the number of its male progeny? "Balanced opposition" and honor killing appear to work at cross-purposes. Why, therefore, hasn't one custom or the other fallen into disuse? A tribe would appear to have a strong motivation, if one of its women were accused by another tribe of immorality, not to kill her but to "punish" her in some symbolic way, or perhaps to rationalize the accusation away as the biased fabrication of a rival tribe, so that the woman might live and produce children in order to strengthen her tribe. Does this ever happen? Why perpetuate a system which helps your enemy get an advantage over you? Does Salzman's book answer these questions?

Thank you.


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Daniel Pipes replies:

Good questions, but may I suggest you read the book rather than have me explain it at greater length?

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