Stanley Kurtz on The Enemy at Home on National Review Online
For the greater part of human history, almost every society has been structured around the bonds of marriage and kinship. A man’s security, health, prosperity, and religious standing all traditionally depended on his relatives. We moderns continue to marry and trace our descent through our parents, especially our fathers. Yet in comparison to societies in other times and places, the bonds of kinship are now thin and watery things.
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The Muslim world is different. Guided by powerful cultural rules and preferences, Muslims commonly arrange the marriages of their children. A Muslim family’s economic well-being, social standing, and much else typically depend upon those arrangements, and as we learned in “Marriage and the Terror War,” large sections of the Muslim world prefer to arrange marriages between “parallel cousins,” cousins who are members of the same paternal family line.
In the first part of this piece, I showed that, on a world scale, the radical form of in-marriage represented by the union of parallel cousins is highly unusual. Parallel-cousin marriage is confined almost exclusively to the region once ruled by the original eighth-century Islamic empire, and this involuted form of marriage stands in sharp contrast to the relative value placed on out-marriage, inter-group alliance, and interchange favored by almost every other culture in the world.
Anthropologists once identified exogamy — the tendency to form alliances with strangers by “marrying out” — as a core component of human nature. Of course, every society identifies boundaries outside of which legitimate marriage cannot take place. Nonetheless, within those boundaries, most societies frown on close marriages within existing family lines, and this sets a nearly universal value on the practice of alliance and interchange between insiders and outsiders.
Yet the very strong form of endogamy uniquely practiced throughout much of the Muslim world shows that it is possible to construct a human society on the basis of another fundamental strategy. Instead of cultural communication, adaptive development, and mutual trust, this strategy stresses intense in-group solidarity and unbreakable cultural continuity. Understanding the distinctive kinship principles around which Muslims structure their social life may tell us a good deal about why we’re engaged in a war against terror — and what we must do over the long term to win it. In particular, we want to understand the “functional connection” between the marriage practices prevalent in the Muslim world and Islam itself. How do Muslim religion and social life fit together, and what is it about both that makes the Muslim adjustment to modernity so difficult?
Here's part II of the article on Muslims marrying their cousins.