Discover more from Lorenzo from Oz
Hamas displays a Muslim way of war
Modern technology, recurring patterns.
One of the great divides in human history is that between farmers and pastoralists. A divide that is vividly conveyed in David Frye’s Walls: A History of Civilization in Blood and Brick.
Pastoralists generally eat a lot of animal foods, so tend to be strong and healthy. They need to defend mobile assets (their herds), so their societies put a lot of effort into creating effective male teams.
Lorenzo from Oz is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Conversely, farmers typically have had a rather less healthy diet and typically (pre-gunpowder) much less capacity to be effective warriors — especially as they were often in protection-predation relationship with an exploitive state elite.1 This effect was even stronger if they spent much of their working life in water-logged fields full of pathogens and parasites: the pattern in the Nile valley, Mesopotamia, the Indus and Ganges river valleys and in China (particularly Southern China).
So the pastoralist-farmer divide was between raiding pastoralists, who thought that farmers were weaklings who could not defend their own, and farmers, who regarded pastoralists as thieving, raping, enslaving, murderers. In accordance with stereotype accuracy, they were both correct.
Farming-pattern Christianity and pastoralist-pattern Islam
Christianity, emerging out of the highly ordered Roman Empire, sanctified the Roman version of the farming pattern: single-spouse marriage, law as a human creation, no consanguineous marriage, female consent for marriage, individual wills coupled with testamentary freedom, suppression of kin-groups. On the way through, the Latin Church added extras, such as greatly expanded incest bars and anathematising all sex outside marriage.2
Christianity’s single-spouse marriage and its mutual-support congregationalism — encouraging social cohesion — suited farmers. Its suppression of kin groups suited their lords and rulers.
Islam, emerging out of the pastoralist tribes of the Arabian peninsula, sanctified the pastoralist pattern: polygyny, patrilineal kin-groups, raiding and enslaving non-believing outsiders, law based on revelation and high levels of cousin marriage.
Polygyny in societies where men control the productive assets — land and herds — means that elite males hoard wives, leaving low-status males with no marriage prospects within the community. The Quran, with its repeated references to “those thy right hand possesses” as being exempt from the limits to the number of wives, sanctifies the standard pastoralist strategy to deal with polygyny’s excess of unpartnered males: those people over there have women, take theirs.3 A strategy further supported by Sharia holding that the marriage of any woman captured by a Muslim man is automatically annulled.
Hence, Islam’s sanctification, via jihad, of raiding, enslaving and conquering outsiders included the sanctification of rape of women who had not submitted to the rules of Allah: the Sovereign of the Universe whose rules apply to all.
This pattern is not only endorsed by the Quran (the direct word of Allah) but also the Sira (the life of the Prophet) and various hadith (words of the Prophet). Muhammad killed the men of the Jewish tribes of Medina and parcelled out the woman and children as slaves. Various hadith have Muhammad explicitly saying that sex with captive women is fine.
When the leader of Boko Haram talked of taking girls abducted from a boarding school as slaves and redistributing them, he was following in the example of Muhammad. The treatment, under ISIS of Yazidi women was also doing so. The same theology of sanctified sexual predation has been displayed by Middle Eastern/North Africa (MENA) Muslim migrants in Europe, particularly in the UK.
This sanctified sexual predation has been a feature of mainstream Middle-Eastern Sunni Islam for its entire history. It is also something that one is very much supposed to not notice and will be subject to bitter denunciation and stigmatisation if you wrongly notice; a not noticing packaged with the required affirmation that Islam is a religion of peace.
Steppe-pastoralist Islam generated much the same pattern as Middle Eastern Islam. A major difference is that the steppe societies had rather higher status women than did the oasis pastoralism of the Arabian peninsula. In the vast grasslands of the steppe, the men were often away and so steppe women were trained to fight (or at least shoot). While the men owned the herds, the women owned the dwellings, the yurts and gers.
Mainstream Sunni Islam is very much a religion of dominion: the point is not only to follow the rules of Allah, the Sovereign of the Universe, but to seek to generate submission to those rules by anyone Muslim society comes in contact with. It is not remotely accidental that the unification of the Arabian peninsula under Islam was followed by over a century of the greatest conquest surge in religious history.
Unsurprisingly, a basic pattern of the region between the Vistula and the Urals across the medieval and early modern eras, is that the farming polities all went Christian and the pastoralist polities all went Muslim.4
The farming/pastoralist divide has thus been expressed by rival evangelical monotheisms. Islam recurrently aggressed against Christendom — and every other civilisation it came up against — for its first thousand years. In the process of producing no-local-marriage-prospect males — and then offering them righteous sex from seizing women, or eternal sex in the afterlife if killed fighting for Islam — it motivated that aggression.
Taxonomy of Islam
There are various dimensions that provide a taxonomy of Islam. The first is: is it a majority form of Islam (so a religion of dominion) or is it the religion of a permanent minority (Ibadis, Ismailis, Alevis, Ahmaddis, etc)?
Mainstream Sunni Islam is very much a majority religion, so Islam as a religion of dominion. The various permanent-minority forms of Islam evolved patterns very similar to that of post-Diaspora rabbinical Judaism.
The second dimension is: are there local pastoralists? That is true in Middle Eastern/North African and steppe Islam. It is not true of Malay Islam, Islam of the Indian Ocean Islands, or of Bangladeshi Islam. Without local pastoralists, the pastoralist synthesis Islam was originally based on tends to fade away, with Islam adapting to local patterns.
Conversely, Saudi Arabia is the most recent polity created by pastoralist raiders. Within living memory, they were the core of the Saudi state. It is hardly surprising that Saudi Salafism (aka Wahhabism), which Saudi oil-money evangelised across Muslim communities, doubles-down on pastoral-synthesis Islam. (More recently, Saudi Arabia has somewhat retreated from that evangelism, with Qatar taking its funding place.)
The third dimension is: what is the local family/kin group structure? Islam with kin-groups is very different from Islam without them. Not only as MENA kin-group Islam has generation after generation of cousin marriage but also because kin-groups tend to colonise all organisations and institutions.
In the UK, folk of Pakistani origin are about two per cent of the population but generate around 30 per cent of birth defects, a consequence of 1400 years of cousin marriage. This is the extreme end of a wider pattern of dysgenic ill-health, that drives up health costs.
The fourth dimension is: is it Islam spread by conquest or spread by trade? Mercantile Islam — Islam that spread because Sharia provided a superior commercial law system than was available locally — is rather different from conquest Islam. Indian Ocean and Malay Islam is mercantile Islam. MENA Islam is conquest Islam.
Once again, Steppe Islam is a bit of a different beast, as that was mostly adoption-by-conversion. Though it was a conversion to a religion that sanctified their raiding/enslaving/raping/conquering/polygynous social patterns.
The Shia generally follow the permanent-minority pattern, except Twelver-Shia (or Imāmiyya) in Iran proper, where they follow more mainstream Sunni patterns, though with somewhat higher status women.
The distinction between conquest Islam and kin-group Islam is not as sharp as it might be. For conquest Islam was also slave-warrior, i.e. mamluk or ghilman, Islam. But it was slave-warrior Islam precisely because slave-warriors were a way to avoid having your armed forces colonised by kin-groups.
The Rashidun (632-661) and Umayyad (661-750) Caliphates were essentially tribal confederacies, with Arab tribes providing the armed forces of the Caliphate. Non-Arab converts had to register as a client of an Arab tribe (mawla), creating a two-tier Islam.
The Abbasid Revolution (747-50) — prosecuted out of the Iranian plateau in the name of the equality of Muslims — abolished the tribal confederacy system. Any alternative military system would be colonised by the kin groups, so the slave warrior system developed within a generation. A system that lasted until the C19th, so for about a thousand years.
A slave suffers “social death” so has no tie — except to their master — that anyone is required to respect. Moreover, it is forbidden to enslave fellow Muslims, or a non-Muslim (a dhimmi) that had submitted to Muslim rule.5 So, slave warriors were imported from hundreds of kilometres away.
As their master could offer them freedom as a reward for service, such slaves could be both effective (if well-trained and equipped) and loyal warriors: warriors with no local ties other than to their master.
There does seem to be long-term effects in having military forces without any ties to local communities. Nevertheless, that the family/kin-group systems that prompted the development of the slave-warrior system in the first place still exist does muddy what is the key causal factor here: the slave-warrior system that is receding ever-further into the past, or the continuing family/kin-group structures.
If you have a different institutional structure, different ideas will resonate. In particular, if you have a different family structure, different ideas will resonate.
Thanks to the polygyny of the oil states creating a pool of no-local-marriage-prospect young men, the social pressure for religiously-sanctified violence lives on in the Arab world. Just as the religiously-sanctified belief in righteous access of Muslim men to women who have not submitted to the rules of Allah has generated repeated patterns of coordinated sexual predation by Muslim men in England, the Netherlands and elsewhere.
Hamas being brutal, violent and Muslim
Which brings us to current events. Noah Smith is correct, a three state solution to Israel-Palestine is the only plausible one. It will, however, require the international community to stop paying the Palestinians hundreds of millions of dollars a year, via UNRWA, to be hereditary refugees. Peace means they stop being refugees, so the money stops. In particular, they cannot give up the right of return (that Israel will never accept), for that abandons their hereditary refugee status, so the money stops.
So, we have Hamas systematically killing Israeli civilians (who are presumptively Jews). Out of the first 600 Israeli deaths, 18 have been Israeli soldiers.
One of the more contemptible justifications for Palestinian terror-killings of civilians is that it represents “asymmetric warfare”. Palestinian violence has specifically targeted killing Jewish civilians decades before Israel existed.
We also see systematic kidnapping of young women, mass taking of hostages, and parading of bodies, including of young women. These are all patterns that go back to the origins of Islam and fit in with the sanctification of violence, and sexual predation, that also extends back to its origins.
Hamas is acting as an organisation that believes in dominion Islam: in Islam as a religion of domination. It is not a one-off pattern, it is not an isolated pattern.
Those cheering Hamas on in the name of “decolonisation”, and other progressivist catch cries, are simply displaying the same callous, even sociopathic, serving-the-cause-is-paramount moral instrumentalism that gave us all those Western fans of Stalin, Mao, Castro ... This is where their self-righteous, Manichean oppressor-oppressed template leads one: the politics of mass murder and hatred.
(Many of these same folk would, no doubt, be very vocal on what a moral outrage it would be to wait until folk are adults until we hormonally and surgically sterilise them so they can pass as the opposite sex. Why on earth do we take any of their moral pretensions seriously?)
If you are not in thrall to the notion that claims about oppression are the bed-rock moral “facts”, then you can grasp that a group’s behaviour can be so bad, as to de-legitimise their cause. What means you choose to prosecute your cause matters. Not merely for what it says about you, but because while you may never achieve your ends, your means have immediate effects.
What we are seeing on our screens, if you can bear to look, is horrible. But it is not a mysterious horror. It is horror with a long, long history that way predates the Zionist project.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Prey: Immigration, Islam, and the Erosion of Women’s Rights, HarperCollins, 2021.
Abdulbari Bener, Ramzi R. Mohammad, ‘Global distribution of consanguinity and their impact on complex diseases: Genetic disorders from an endogamous population,’ The Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics, 18 (2017) 315–320.
Lisa Blaydes, Eric Chaney, ‘The Feudal Revolution and Europe’s Rise: Political Divergence of the Christian West and the Muslim World before 1500 CE,’ American Political Science Review, February 2013.
Eric Chaney, ‘Democratic Change in the Arab World, Past and Present,’ Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, vol. 43(1) (Spring 2012), 363-414.
Eric Chaney, ‘Separation of Powers and the Medieval Roots of Institutional Divergence between Europe and the Islamic Middle East,’ in Masahiko Aoki & Timur Kuran & Gérard Roland (eds.), Institutions and Comparative Economic Development, chapter 6, 116-127, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.
Eric Chaney, ‘Islam and Political Structure in Historical Perspective,’ in Melani Cammett & Pauline Jones (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Politics in Muslim Societies,’ Chapter 2, 33-51, Oxford University Press, 2020.
David Frye, Walls: A History of Civilization in Blood and Brick, Faber & Faber, 2018.
Peter McLoughlin, Easy Meat: Inside Britain’s Grooming Gang Scandal, New English Review Press, 2016.
Ahmad Ibn Naqid al-Misri, Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Sacred Islamic Law, trans. & ed. Sheik Nu Ha Mim Keller.
J.B. Orr & J.L. Gilks, ‘Studies of Nutrition: The Physique and Health of Two African Tribes,’ Journal of the American Medical Association, 1931;97(20):1485.
Orlando Patterson, Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study, Harvard University Press,  2018.
Emmanuel Todd, The Explanation of Ideology: Family Structures and Social Systems, (trans. David Garroch), Basil Blackwell, 1985.
It is a good question whether any state-elite is not to, at least some degree, exploitive.
Thus Latin/Catholic Christianity sanctified the Roman (farming) synthesis more thoroughly and expansively than did Greek/Orthodox Christianity.
Other responses are gerontocratic polygyny (wait your turn), polyandry (share a wife, probably with your brothers), monasticism (sequester off the un-partnered males) and no solution, you just have a non-breeding male underclass that can create potentially disastrous bandit problems (China). Tang Emperor Wuzong’s (r.840-846) suppression of monasticism was perhaps not good for China’s social stability. (One can argue that some African societies use life-stage homosexuality as a response.)
Some pastoralist societies further east adopted Buddhism, and so monasticism.