Everyone has heard of the word Honor. Most even have a basic idea of what honor is, shaped largely by medieval and fantasy movies. To most, it’s a bit funny, maybe a joke, but not something people take seriously. We’ve lived for hundreds of years without a real sense of honor, and several generations without practicing any form of honor in our society, so when people come from a Western idea of Honor and see perhaps an Islamic practice of honor, there is a bit of a disconnect. Some say “That’s not honor,” while others insist that being worried about one’s honor is bullshit and should be done away with.
The truth is that Honor, be it Western, Eastern, or Middle Eastern functions along the same rules, but the central principle that guides what is honorable is different for each group of people.
Our western ideal of Honor comes largely from the Germanic, with bits of Celtic and Roman thrown in. The central tenant of Western honor is the individual, but more importantly how that individual keeps his word and what his deeds are. Does he keep his oath when times are hard and doing so might cost him heavily. Does he fight for his kin in times of need and how well does he fight? And if he is called a coward or a false-speaker, then yes, he would rise up to strike down the one who insults him. Because honor is a currency, acting much like one’s credit rating today. Insulting a man’s honor was like stealing one’s credit identity. It could prove costly if not defended.
In the East, places like China and Japan, it partially remains the same, but the “credit” that honor provides isn’t placed as much on the individual, as that person’s clan. Japan is a perfect example, they introduce themselves by family name first, and are addressed by their family name by everyone until people become close enough to know them by name. A person’s deeds can reflect on them, but it focuses primarily on their family. Failure of an individual is a failure of the clan, a glory of the individual is a glory for the clan. The clan is the central focus of Japanese and other Asian societies.
So what about Islamic Honor? It too works the same way, with honor this time being a bit of a focus on both the individual, as well as the clan, but extending up to the Nation of Islam. However, the central focus of Islam is not the individual, or the clan, or even the nation. The central focus comes from it’s central tenant, submission to Allah. Where as the honor of Europe is in Mighty Deeds, and in Asia much the same, in the Islamic nations it is how well you submit to Allah, how holy you are.
That’s why if a woman is raped in Europe, her rapist is attacked, because he has insulted her personally and attempted to steal her honor. But in Islamic peoples the raped woman is the one killed, because the holiness of her family has been attacked and stolen. In European honor, the way to reclaim that honor is by slaughtering the attacker.
This is why you will see a Muslim shooting up an office of cartoonists who draw Mohammed, but you will rarely see a Heathen do much beyond laugh when a cartoonist makes a joke using Odin. This is because by drawing Mohammed, the cartoon is has insulted the holiness of Islam. But to the Heathen, or even the Christian, if it was truly an insult the God involved would take his vengeance. Because the individual must reclaim his lost honor in European Honor, no other may reclaim it for him, in fact it could cost him more honor by needing the help.
So do not foreswear honor as a thing of evil. Judge for yourself which honor you would hold, and then use that honor. I hold to honor because honor keeps me honest, as it does others. Reputation and Honor allows one to have an idea of if you should trust a person, because how honorably they are judged lets you know how they are valued and what system their honor comes from lets you know if you face someone who values themselves, their family…or a totalitarian religion.
Because what we value is what we kill and die for. Ourselves (so we only kill when our lives are threatened), our Clans (and kill when our families are threatened), or in the case of Islam…the complete submission of all life to Allah (and kill because an all powerful God apparently cannot defend himself).