September 29, 2006

Pushtun Proverbs

With the Taliban back in the news, I have an excuse for posting more items about the tribe in Afghanistan and Pakistan that provides most of the Taliban's support. A reader writes:

Here are some Pukhtun (=Pashtun = Pathan = Pushtun) proverbs (from “Generosity and Jealousy: The Swat Pukhtun of Northern Pakistan,” Charles Lindholm, Columbia University Press, 1982. Also by Lindholm, and strongly recommended is The Islamic Middle East: Tradition and Change, Blackwell, 2002)

On war and peace (p. 31)

The Pukhtun is never at peace, except when he is at war.

On women (p. 113)

Women belong in the house or in the grave.

Women have no noses. They will eat s***.

One’s own mother and sister are disgusting.

On family life (nepotism and neposchism) (p. 161)

Where there is the sound of a blow, there is respect.

When the floodwaters reach your chin, put your son beneath your feet.

On friendship (p. 240)

God, grant me a true friend who, without urging, will show me his love.

Curiously, the Pukhtun have a strongly idealized notion of friendship. They say that it is honorable for a man to lie for a true friend, even with his hand on the Koran (which means that the liar goes to Hell!). While other Pukhtun are potential allies, and often must be avenged for the sake of honor, they cannot be true friends, because the element of rivalry is too strong. The ideal friend is a foreigner, providing he comes as a guest, rather than an enemy. Lindholm, although no sociobiologist, argues that a universal human nature is rearing its head here– the desire for human connection expressing itself in the cult of friendship, in what is otherwise a bitterly individualist and cutthroat culture.

My impression is that Pushtun support for the fundamentalist Taliban is tied into a vague feeling among tribe members that they have a dysfunctional culture which they hope could be improved by stricter obedience to the Koran. One of the precipitating events of the Taliban's rise to power in the mid-1990s was a small civil war between two non-Taliban warlords over a young boy they both fancied. A Taliban squad rescued the boy, which helped their reputation.

When the Taliban came to power, they implemented reforms to prevent this sort of thing, much to the amusement of Andrew Sullivan, who chortled in 2001:

THE TALIBAN'S DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL: All the rest of NATO may have given up on policing their militaries for homosexuals, but the United States can rest easy knowing that one military that still supports U.S. policy is the Taliban. Any consorting with beardless young men in the army is strictly forbidden. This story from the Daily Telegraph tells of a weird and fastidious obsession.

Uh, Andrew? Please tell us you didn't realize that "consorting with beardless young men in the army" is a euphemism for an old Afghan custom. James Michener's informative 1963 novel Caravans refers to it frequently, such as in a description of the butch-femme warrior couples Michener frequently saw. Call me "weird and fastidious," but on this one issue, I've got to come down on the same side as the Taliban against the alliance of Andy Sullivan and the armed pederast warlords.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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