Pashtunwali or Pakhtunwali is a non-written ethical code and traditional lifestyle which the indigenous Pashtun people from Afghanistan and Pakistan follow.
There are nine main principles of Pashtunwali. Although Pashtunwali is believed to date back to the pre-Islamic period, its usage or practice does not contravene basic Islamic principles.
- Melmastia (hospitality) - Showing hospitality and profound respect to all visitors, regardless of distinctions of race, religion, national affiliation as well as economic status and doing so without any hope of remuneration or favour. Pashtuns will go to great extents to show their hospitality.
- Nanawatai (asylum) - Derived from the verb meaning to go in, this is used for protection given to a person who requests protection against his/her enemies. The people are protected at all costs, in many cases even people running from the law must be given refuge until the situation is clarified.
- Badal (justice) - To seek justice against the wrongdoer. This applies to injustices committed yesterday or 1000 years ago if the wrongdoer still exists.
- Tureh (bravery) - A Pashtun must defend his land/property, family and women from incursions wherever he or she might reside. A Pashtun should always stand brave against tyranny and he should always be able to defend his property, family, women and the honour of his name.
- Sabat (loyalty) - Loyalty must be paid to one’s family, friends, and tribe members. Loyalty is a must and a Pashtun can never become disloyal as this would be utterly shameful towards themselves and their families.
- Imandari (righteousness) - A Pashtun must always strive towards thinking good thoughts, speaking good words and doing other good deeds. Pashtuns must behave respectfully towards all creations including people, animals and the environment around them. Pollution of the environment or its destruction is against the Pashtunwali.
- Isteqamat - Trust in God. The notion of trusting in the one Creator generally comports to Islamic idea of belief in only one God.
- Ghayrat (self honour or dignity) - Pashtuns must maintain their human dignity. Honour has great importance in Pashtun society and most other codes of life are aimed towards the preservation of one’s honour or pride. They must respect themselves and others in order to be able to do so, especially those they do not know. Respect begins at home, among family members and relatives.
- Namus (Honor of women) - A Pashtun must defend the honor of Pashtun women at all costs and must protect them from vocal and physical harm.
The Ridiculousness of Relativism
Chuck Colson, Breakpoint, Feb. 20, 2012
Last year, an Afghan woman named Gulnaz was the victim of rape. In a case of what you might call “adding injury to injury,” it was Gulnaz who wound up in prison.
Now, according to reports, she faces yet another assault to her dignity: She can stay in prison or marry her attacker.
Gulnaz was initially sentenced 12 years for adultery because her attacker was married. If that sounds grotesque to you, welcome to what is known as Pashtunwali, the Pashtun ethical and social code that, it must be noted, predates Islam.
Under Pashtunwali, if Gulnaz had spoken publicly about her rape, she would have damaged her family’s honor, so she remained silent and was imprisoned.
That would have been the end of her story had not international pressure occasioned by a European documentary prompted President Karzai to “pardon” her.
In another bizarre Pashtun custom, Gulnaz is requiring her rapist’s sister to marry her brother as part of the deal. This custom provides a way of deterring Gulnaz’s husband-to-be from harming her. Think of it as the Pashtunwali equivalent of mutually-assured destruction.
According to the New York Times, Gulnaz’s story reveals the “limits of change in a society where cultural practices are so powerful that few can resist them, not even the president.”
I draw two important conclusions from this appalling story. First, the U.S. policy in Afghanistan is hopelessly misguided.
We have spent billions trying to turn Afghanistan into something resembling a modern nation-state. While some of our efforts have been well-intentioned and laudable, the project as a whole is naïve in the extreme.
As Gulnaz knows from bitter experience, large parts of the country are, culturally-speaking, living in the sixth century. The idea that we can just fast-forward 1,400 years is absurd.
Instead, we are sacrificing lives and spending money we don’t have to create a corrupt government. This cannot be justified by the just war doctrine.
Something else that can’t be justified, which brings me to my second conclusion, is the kind of cultural relativism that is still fashionable among “right-thinking” people in the West. Their appropriate horror over stories like Gulnaz’s shows that, as philosopher Marcello Pera has written, “relativists contradict themselves” and “deny what they state.”
As Gulnaz’s case shows, the elites don’t really believe that “there are no moral values or standards which can be applied to all cultures.” What they are really doing is denying what makes the values they believe in possible: the West’s Christian heritage.
Because it is the Christian belief that man bears the image of God that makes the very belief in “fundamental and universal” human rights possible.