Mullahs and supposed “holy men” have undue influence over the hearts and minds of a huge swath of Muslims – many of whom are frighteningly, tragically uneducated and wholly ignorant of the truths of their own faith. Of course, the same can be said for hundreds of millions of Christians – their level of ignorance about the forces that really shaped their beliefs is also terribly disheartening.
But there is another, much deeper problem that keeps most Westerners shaking their head as they watch the unfolding horrors in West and South Asia and North Africa. This problem has to do with axiology.
To boil it down – axiology is the study of value. In this case, cultural value. There are three main axiologies operating in the world today. For our purposes, we want to focus on the one that covers the areas under discussion. Axiologies were established, it’s assumed, at least 35,000 years ago. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that they are virtually hard-wired into our DNA.
The foundation on which all cultural interaction takes place is man-to-man. In other words, familial, tribal, ethnic relations DEFINE the entire cultural universe for these peoples. It isn't to say that Europeans, Westerners, don't count these values as important. It's just that, for us, our entire waking world is not suffused with man-to-man axiology. For the Arab it is. EVERYTHING revolves around one's relationship with a brother, sister, wife, child, mother and – this is the MOST important – FATHER. This IS your universe. Always.
Some might be making the leap now – nodding. Patriarchy. Yes, to an extent this is it. But it goes deeper than this. It isn't just that one does what father says. Here, what father says is LAW. And “father” is any authoritative male figure. There is no questioning him – unless you wish to not only put yourself in peril, but risk your relationships with everyone in your universe.
Keeping this foundation in order are the words HONOR and RESPECT. And it is here where the definitions of those words, from a Western perspective, become so warped as to be virtually unrecognizable.
I should add right here that they are distorted, too – to any honest observer WITHIN that culture. Just as the West, with its own axiology, has warped what we consider key values/attributes (but that's a whole other article).