In his HBO show last night Bill Maher expressed some opinions about Islam in general and Muslim refugees in particular, in the context of the sexual assaults on women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, in which a sizeable number of Muslim men, some of them refugees who had recently arrived in Germany, participated. Drawing a lesson from those events Maher concluded that admitting a large number of Muslim refugees had ‘not been a good idea.’ Unfortunately he did not indicate where else those refugees should have gone, considering that their options were being cluster-bombed by Assad’s air force in Syria, drowning in the Mediterranean, or getting stuck against a fence in Hungary. But Maher is a comedian and he doesn’t have to solve the problems of the world, only to mock them. However, next to his mindless remark about the refugees he also touched on the real problem, the misogyny and sexual oppression that is an integral part of Islamic culture and appears to be the root of many problems, not only in Cologne but also in the Middle East and other parts of the world.
It is not hard to see that terrorism as practiced by the likes of ISIS is partly an aggressive male response to sexual oppression. In harmony with religious motives, young men are often attracted by ISIS in hopes of finding one or more wives in the caliphate, or by the prospect of being able to rape female ‘slaves’ of an inferior, non-Muslim kind. The Qur’an tells Muslim men that as long as they do their religious duty they will be rewarded with 72 virgins in paradise, and doesn’t hesitate to describe the women’s ‘pear-shaped’ breasts in detail. Women will be provided with only one man, and they ‘will be satisfied with him.’ One can easily see how a seductive recruiter armed with such promises can turn an adolescent young man, who has never seen more than the eyes of a woman dressed in a shapeless burka, into a suicide bomber. As far as sexual oppression is concerned Islam has its counterparts in some Christian denominations and sects, but these groups operate in environments with more legal constraints and at worst produce a limited number of domestic terrorists.
So what is the solution? Understandably cultures are generally perceived as something ‘of the mind,’ rather than ‘of the body,’ but they have a material existence in practices, rituals, and behaviors. To change a culture it is hopelessly ineffective to try and change its basic ideas, but it is mandatory to change those practices, rituals and behaviors. A change process of basic ideas will follow and start simultaneously with the changed behaviors.
In organizations, management cannot change cultures with cultural tools but only with management tools, work rules and policies, that govern and shape behavior. Likewise, the Islamic culture of misogyny will only change if its believers are subjected to rules and regulations, in other words a legal system, that prohibits and punishes its abusive rituals.
From that perspective, having large numbers of Islamic refugees settling in countries with such legal systems is actually a good idea, because they, in turn, will change the Islamic world. But that may be a bit too complicated to grasp for an otherwise funny comedian.