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Honour and shame as powerful emotive forces in the Muslim world

Country/Region: MIDDLE EAST

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Islam traditionally prizes power, domination and honour as accruing to it above any other religion because it is God’s final and victorious people of God (umma). As can be seen from the following media quotes, highly emotive concepts of honour and shame are still an important component of Islam and of Muslim and Arab culture. In most Muslim societies it is still true that only blood can really wipe out shame and humiliation. The greater the shame, the greater the bloodshed needed to wipe it out.

Muslims feel humiliated and shamed by the West which they consider has dominated, exploited, manipulated and betrayed them. The repeated defeats at the hands of the small state of Israel, perceived as a Western implant, is doubly humiliating. Jews in Muslim tradition and theology are not a worthy foe. They are a weak, humiliated and despised people under God’s wrath, who can only be tolerated as second class subjects (dhimmis) in a Muslim state, but should never be independent or rule over Muslims. Because of the shame syndrome, Muslim or Arab faults cannot be admitted to, and external enemies such as Israel and the USA are needed as scapegoats who can be blamed for all misfortunes that have befallen Muslims and Arabs and are demonized as evil incarnate, tools of the devil that it is legitimate to fight by all and every means.

Most Muslims accept it as natural that non-Muslims, including Christians, should be subservient to Muslims in state, politics, law and society. Attitudes of contempt and practices of discrimination against Christians are often accepted as normal. Their subservience to Islam must be enforced especially in the public arena. The honour of the Muslim community must not be sullied by any subordination of Muslims to non-Muslims in political authority and in other areas.

No matter what rationally might be the best policies for Muslim states and governments to pursue in the reality of the current complicated world scene, deep down in the psyche of most Muslims and Arabs lies a burning sense of humiliation and a burning desire for revenge. Any one who can hurt the despised enemy who has inflicted such shame on Muslims and Arabs is celebrated as a hero by the Muslim masses. This is why all over the Muslim world there is much admiration for Bin Laden, whose attack on the Twin Towers was seen as a just retribution for Muslim humiliations. Bin Laden himself stated:

“Without shedding blood no degradation and branding can be removed from the forehead . . . Death is better than humiliation! Some scandals and shame will never be otherwise eradicated.”


The following quotes from Middle East based media well illustrate the importance of the honour theme in contemporary Muslim society and the current crisis in Lebanon.
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  • Pray for Barnabas Fund partners in South Sudan who have been supporting Christians forced from their homes by violence. Conflict between supporters of President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar in December and January displaced around 860,000 people. Churches were burned down and a number of pastors killed, while many people lost their belongings and were left destitute. Give thanks that churches in and around the capital, Juba, were able to provide food and other essentials to many families with help from Barnabas. Pray that they may continue to be salt and light in their country at this unstable time (Matthew 5:13-16), and that it will soon be safe for displaced Christians to return home. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 12 hours ago

  • Pray for the residents of a mainly Christian village in Borno state, Northern Nigeria, in the aftermath of a horrific attack by Boko Haram militants on 15 February. Ask for God’s comfort for the relatives and friends of the 106 people in Izghe who were gunned down and slaughtered in their houses or in the open as they tried to flee. Pray for strength for the numerous residents who were wounded or whose properties were looted and torched. Pray too for the many Christians who fled into the neighbouring state after the attack, and ask that the Christian community in the North of Nigeria will be preserved in the face of Islamist violence. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Violent attacks by militants from the Islamist group Boko Haram continue unabated in Northern Nigeria. On one horrendous day of violence on 26 January, at least 138 people were killed. A church in Wada Chakawa village in Adamawa state was targeted; the attackers locked the congregation inside and then detonated bombs, shooting and cutting the throats of people who tried to escape. They then went on a four-hour rampage in the village. Later the same day, Kawuri village in neighbouring Borno state was burned to the ground. Boko Haram is fighting to establish an Islamic state, and Christians are among its main targets. Pray that the Nigerian authorities will succeed in containing its insurgency. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we give You thanks on this Easter Day for the living hope that You have given us and all Your people through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (1 Peter 1:3). We pray that the prospect of an enduring inheritance and future salvation will encourage our persecuted brothers and sisters to persevere in their faith, whatever may happen to them. We pray that we too may be sustained by this hope in the sufferings that we experience for the sake of Christ. We ask that the joy and resurrection power of the Lord will give strength and peace to persecuted believers today and every day. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Give thanks for the Christ-like responses of Christian leaders in CAR to the crisis that threatens them and their churches. They have distanced themselves from the anti-balaka militias, saying that these should not be labelled as Christian and that they hold no mandate from the churches. The leaders have also condemned the violence in the country, whatever its origin, and have called on Christians to pursue forgiveness, reconciliation and healing. Churches are hiding, defending and caring for thousands of Muslims endangered by the anti-balaka, and one of CAR’s most senior church leaders has invited the president of the country’s Islamic community to move into his church compound. Pray that this powerful witness to the grace and love of Christ will help to bring peace to the shattered country. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Apr 2014 00:00

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