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Druze Profile: Perceptions and Prospects: Druze Value System

Part two: Social Values

Most importantly, the indispensable parts of the religion are the social values. In the Middle East, they are an integral part of the Faith, but the Druze social values are not forgotten nor relinquished in other parts of the world. The strong bond and dedication to brotherhood among the Druzes has endured.

Druze emigration to North America began in the nineteenth century.  The Druzes were settled in the areas of southern Syria, Lebanon, and Galilee. These people have preserved their identity wherever they have resided, and they have remained a closely integrated society. They have always defended and preserved their independence, and they have upheld their virtue. Since a Druze considers his body a mere robes for the soul, he does not fear death for it is only a tearing of his robe. In Epistle 35 of the Druze Scriptures, Imam Hamza ibn 'Ali says, "Whoever fears a human being like himself falls under his sway; the Unitarian Druze is valiant by virtue of his faith."  Belief that the number of days of one's life is fixed, and will not be exceeded or diminished by a single day, and that the soul after leaving one body is immediately reborn in another, enhances courage and dispels fear of death. (11) When the Druzes began to emigrate, they were not running away from the changes and the upheavals that constantly surrounded them in their fatherland.  On the contrary, they merely intended to have a short absence from their countries to be able to better provide for their families and do away with poverty for their families. Married men left their wives behind, and those who were single returned to their homeland for a bride when they decided to marry. Few brought their wives to live with them in the West until well after the turn of the century.

The first Druze immigrants landed on the shores of the North American Continent in the late 19th century, and as the numbers of these immigrants rose, there was a strong desire and need for brotherhood, fellowship, kinship, and camaraderie among them. In 1907, those Druzes who had settled in and near Seattle, Washington organized the first fraternal organization, which they called El-Bakaurat Ed-Dirziyat or the Druze Society S.M. James recalled. In July of 1914, the Druze held their first convention in the Middle West. At times during the convention, there were 500 or 600 people present. (13) As the years in the United States passed, the need for brotherhood among the Druze immigrants grew very strong. The candle had been lit, and the Druze esprit de corps which began in Seattle, spread elsewhere. One of the Seattle settlers moved to the large Druze community in Cleveland, Ohio where in 1916, he was instrumental in organizing the first branch of the Druze Society.

Branch #1 El-Bakaurat Ed-Dirziyat in Cleveland fulfilled an urgent need for cohesion among an ethnic community scattered over a large territory in a foreign land. It met that need bravely and creditably without regret or tarnish. Though lacking a recognized National Authority, El-Bakaurat Ed-Dirziyat kept a lively exchange of dialogue, correspondence, and visitation among its several branches. By the year 1946, there were ten branches of El-Bakaurat Ed-Dirziyat throughout the United States.

Until 1946, the Druzes lacked an opportunity or occasion to meet in large groups other than at weddings and funerals. The immigrant members of the El-Bakaurat Ed-Dirziyat then realized that they had to establish a means to create a greater fellowship among all the Druze in the USA. They had to acquaint the younger generation with one another and bring together a large number of Druze, once a year, at different locations in this country. Thus, they formed the American Druze Convention fulfilling the need for brotherhood. In 1996, the American Druze Society celebrated its 50th Anniversary Convention in Detroit, Michigan. The strong bond among the Druzes and dedication to brotherhood, thus, prevailed abroad, as it had at home.               

About sixty-five thousand Druzes now live in Latin America, especially in Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Buenos Aries, and Mexico, with smaller communities in Chile and Colombia.  There are also about 20 thousand Druzes in Australia, the West Indies and the Philippines, as well as in Africa. In the United States of America and in Canada, the Druzes are estimated about 35 thousand. In Europe, there are about 30 thousand Druzes.

In the United States, the Druzes have established fraternal organizations: El-Bakaurat Ed-Dirziyat with branches in various states, as well as, The American Druze Society, which is a national organization (see below).  The Druzes in Toronto, Ontario, Canada have formed The Druze Association of Toronto. Those in Brazil have founded the Lar Druzo Brazileiro in Sao Paulo. In Mexico, there is La Lega Drusa.  A Druze Association has also been established in Buenos Aires, Argentina, under the name of Asociacion de Beneficencia Drusa. In Adelaide, South, Australia, The Lebanese Druze Community Incorporated has founded The Druze Hall, where the Druze community meets on occasion.  In Melbourne, the Druzes have established The Australian Druze Association of Victoria, and in Sydney, they have established The Australian Druze Association of New South Wales. (12)  The European Druze Society (EDS) was established in 1972.

The Druzes in Europe who established The European Druze Society organized the Society where each Druze community throughout Europe has a representative. The European Druze community is organized like the European community (EU) of 15 countries.  They are: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. There are two Druze communities in Germany; one community is in Munich and the other is in Westfalen, Germany in North Germany. Through research, I was able to locate other established Druze communities in Golan Heights, Jordan, Upper Galilee, Israel, and Kuwait. In the United Arab Emirates, Druzes reside in Abu Dhabi, Alain, Dubai, Ras el-Khiemie, and Shargha. In Canada, there are a significant number of Druzes who reside in Montreal, Toronto, Van Couvar, and in St. Paul.

I have written to the representatives of many of the Druze communities throughout the world, and I have received replies from a number of them. I hope I will be able to get an estimated number of Druzes in the world.  Julia Makarem

In other areas of social life, especially marriage, change   
has been very slow in coming.  Few young Druze question the role of their family in arranging (or helping to arrange) suitable matches, and deviation from the family choice is relatively rare.  These traditions remain strong among the Druze, and the massive socioeconomic transformation that has taken place in Lebanon has not changed  in the basic marriage patterns; on the contrary, the basic nature of Druze marriage patterns shows a truly remarkable resilience. (14) Thus, there is mutual         understanding between the husband and the wife about the importance of upholding the high moral standards of the Druze family. In fact, this small community of people has kept its identity in the midst of recurring changes and upheavals around them since their inception one thousand years ago. (15)       

Marriage is sacred to the Druzes. Epistle 25 by Imam Hamza ibn-'Ali, which is called "The Imam's Proviso," instructs those missionaries and judges during the Call  to follow the rules  regulating the rights and duties of husband and wife . The principal of equality is established. "When a Unitarian Druze takes to himself a Unitarian sister, he shall treat her as his equal and share with her all that he possesses."  If separation becomes necessary, and it is the wife who wishes to leave her husband  (although he is fulfilling his obligations towards her), then he is entitled to half of what she owns. If he fails in his obligation, and she chooses to leave him, he has no right to anything that belongs to her.  Should the marriage be dissolved through no fault of the wife, she is entitled to half of all his possessions. (16) However, if any of the spouses should seek divorce, the one who has requested it, may only be granted it after a full investigation by the trustworthy  (ath-thiqat) in the community. Divorce, however, may be granted only when "there is no alternative.” (17) In practice, divorce, contrary to the    teachings of Sayyid 'Abdallah, has been the husband's privilege.  However, inhibitions of kinship and other social considerations have its use.  Marriages are, as a rule, successful and lasting. (18)

It is quite evident that the germ of reform in the Islamic marriage preceded Unitarianism's Call.  It began in and stemmed from al-Sunnah.  Druzism approved and gave it precise and formal expression and body in strict accordance with the intent of the Quaran and its explicit Ayats on the subject. (19) Not surprisingly, the marriage code has remained intact for  the one thousand years of Druze history.

In an impending marriage, having a spouse who is Druze is the only consideration.  The Druzes are endogamous, marrying within the community. Emphasis on the couple's social class, political affiliation, and kin relationship conforms to prevailing custom; however, in the United States, although the first immigrants persevered, the Druzes failed to consider any of these factors in a marriage within the Community. 

Many marriages in the United States are sect-exogamous, marrying outside of the Druze community.  The Druzes in America have also had to maintain religious tolerance and accept marriages to non Druzes.  Before 1960, such a marriage between a Druze and non Druze was completely unacceptable to the Druze community. The couple was banished from the family of the Druze partner, as well as from the Druze community. The Druze family considered this person a traitor mainly because he had been raised in the Druze traditions and taught the Druze social values and, then, had forsaken them. Invariably, however, after the birth of the couple's first child, the Druze family would reconcile and  accept them into the family and the Druze community again.  In the late 1950's, the family of the Druze person marrying a non Druze began to accept the impending marriage, and often, they would arrange and attend the marriage ceremony and the festivities after wards. The Honorary Representative of the Mashiakhat Al-Aql, however, could not perform the marriage ceremony for the couple. The marriage would usually be only a civil marriage. After 1960, more marriages in the United States began to occur within the Druze community, using a civil ceremony.

Presently, all marriages within the community are performed by the Honorary Representative of the Mashiakhat Al-Aql living in or near the state where the marriage ceremony will be performed. Those Druzes living in the United States have been able to maintain this strategic and critical social value through the efforts of the American Druze Society. Those Druzes living in the United States and Canada often have one of the fifteen Honorary Representative of the Mashiakhat Al-Aql perform the marriage ceremony. There is an Honorary Representative of the Mashiakhat Al-Aql in Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Washington, as well as two in
California, and four in Canada in Ontario, Edmonton, St. Paul, and Quebec.  In the past ten years, there has been a strong trend in the United States and Canada among those Druzes born in North America to be married with a Druze ceremony by an Honorary Representative of the Mashiakhat Al-Aql.

From the 1950s onward,  the wave of male students from Lebanon who came to the United States to study caused more sect-exogamous marriages than usual.  A number of these students, however, returned to Lebanon with their non-Druze wives.  In most of the cases, the children from these marriages were raised in the Druze traditions.  In such  marriages, the Druzes accept the female child of a Druze man more a male child of a marriage to a Druze woman. In the United States, this has not caused problems, and the instances have been inconsequential. In a Michigan,  an Honorary Representative of the Mashiakhat Al-Aql performed the marriage between a Druze man and a girl whose father was a traditional Druze and her mother  a non-Druze. Their marriage was dissolved in just a few years.  Soon afterwards, the couple remarried, but  after only a few years, it was again dissolved (This time permanently).  The girl, then, married a non-Druze, but this marriage also failed.  Now, the girl lives with her only brother who has never married.                                                    

Contracting Marriage                     
The Druze marriage contract resembles that of Sunni Islam.  The Druze legal code and the legal code of the Sunni Hanafi school differ only in the higher legal age for marriage among the Druzy, and  the Druze practice of monogamy; whereas, the Sunni has a lower age limit, and the Sunni practice polygamy. Also, the Druzes require two witnesses for both the bride and the groom, where the Sunni require just one witness for each. The strong social sanctions among the Druzes require marriages within the sect.  Druze marriages are almost always arranged, and the parents of the bride and the groom  make the arrangements for the marriage. The preferences of the individuals coincide so frequently that this practice is still seen today. For those who marry outside the sect, there are serious implications for them, as well as, for the out-marrying person's kin who have been sympathetic toward such a marriage. These persons may also be severely penalized: being  excluded from the Druze community life, as well as, the final blessing of the initiate by the (uqqal) at their funerals. This ritual is assigned great importance by the great majority of the believers.20) 

For those Druzes who have immigrated to other countries, this is an important matter.  In the United States and Canada, the importance of these rituals can be seen in the desire among those born in North America to be married with a Druze ceremony by an Honorary Representative of the Mashiakhat Al-Aql. For those who have wandered from the rules of the Faith, there has been an almost complete break with the Druze community. Unfortunately, this occurred with those Druze who left their mother countries in the late 1800's and married outside the sect.  Apparently, the stigma imposed upon them made the situation too difficult to bear, and most of those first immigrants slipped into anonymity. Amazingly, a number of the early Druze immigrants who married non Druze and chose to remain in the Druze community lived with their non Druze wives and children in a very traditional Druze life style.  The Druze parents made a sincere effort to make their children aware of the importance of a marriage within the sect.  Little emphasis was put on the selection and negotiation process when the marriage was within the Druze community. However, those first-generation Druzes tended to stray from marriage within the sect. Obviously, that proved a difficult time for the first generation Druzes who so desperately wanted to be in the main stream dominant society, as it was in most all other first-generation ethnic groups.

During the early to mid 1900s, first generation children from all ethnic groups wanted to fit into the main stream dominant society. For whatever reason, the majority of the marriages among the Druzes that were outside the Druze community have been unsuccessful.  Some first generation Druzes have had two, three, and even four unsuccessful marriages; all of which were outside the Druze community. Within the past two decades, this has not been such a serious matter for  Druze immigrants  to the United States and Canada within the past two decades.  The trend among their offspring has been to marry within the sect.  This may be partly due to the comradship they have found in the American Druze Society in the United States and the other societies and associations in other countries. Like the Druzes of Lebanon and Syria and Jordan, the great majority of the Druzes born abroad have been carefully socialized into viewing themselves as members of a family unit to which they have unquestioned obligations.

In the absence of established research, this information is based on memory and can only be authenticated by other Druzes who have experienced the American scene. The law regarding divorce, however, has undergone considerable change in most countries in the Middle East except in Lebanon. Only in Lebanon are the Druzes bound by the Druze Religious Court. Yet, this, too is a change from the first concept of divorce. Divorce was first granted by the respected elders in the families.  Then, the 'Uqqal, the spiritual leaders, were the ones to grant a divorce, and from them, it has passed to the judges in the Druze Religious Court. In the Druze religion There is no civil marriage, nor is there civil divorce.  When a divorce is imminent by the husband, he must pay Mahr. Mahr is the sum of money to which the wife has a right to as an obligation of the marriage contract and as a price for the husband's enjoyment of her. (21)  Mahr  serves a number of functions, "primarily serving to deter divorce."  Since it is relatively easy for a man to obtain a divorce, Mahr, the brideprice, is a form of insurance for the girl herself. In a society where the prerogatives belong largely to the male, the brideprice gives the girl tangible goods to reinforce her position.(22) Divorce is relatively easy for the man because if he lacks any moral reasons for the divorce, he has only to claim that his wife is mentally incompetent, and that is sufficient grounds for the divorce in the Druze Religious Court.  The man has only to  recruit a doctor to testify that his wife is insane, and the grounds for the divorce are established.

The faithless husband is more common among the Druze than the faithless wife. The consequence is hardly less severe for him to the wounded wife.  When he is caught in the act of adultery, divorce from the wife automatically follows, and he is then, compelled to marry his mistress and provide for any children she may have. (23) In this case, the Religious Court considers payment of the Mahr to his wife. The Druze Court, unlike most other courts, unfortunately, is not always omniscient. In some cases, the unruly husband can persuade the judges of the Religious Court to exempt him from renting his wife a domicile away from his own and providing for her support, especially, if he holds a prominent position in the Druze community.  When the husband does not  pay his wife the Mahr, she  has the right to sue!

The Druzes in the United States have few divorces, but should there be grounds for a divorce, the laws of the United States apply, and not the laws of the Druze Religious Court in Lebanon. In a recent case, a man tired of his wife for another, and even though the couple was married in the United States and had signed a Druze Marriage Contract before an Honorary Representative of the Mashiakhat Al-Aql, the husband with relatively ease obtained a divorce from the Druze Religious Court in Lebanon by declaring his wife insane.  But the husband could not return to the United States with his new wife since he would be considered a bigamist.

Family Life
Every culture has a social structure, which is an organized web of mutual rights and responsibilities based at least on differences in age and sex, and usually on many other differentiations.  A universal element is the family system, which regulates sex and behavior and provides for the care of children.

When a child arrives, the marriage becomes a family. As with marriage, family life holds a high position among the Druze values. It is from their mothers and grandmothers that the Druze children learn what is right and wrong; this is commanded in the Druze religion. Subsequently, the children's character is, from their very earliest years, shaped for life. The Druze children are taught that the body serves on this earth as a temporary home for the soul, and all souls being created with an equal capacity for good and evil are free to choose between right and wrong, and they are responsible for the consequences of their choice. (24)

One of the mother's major roles is to guide her children in the path of righteousness throughout her lifetime. Since the woman has an integral role in family life, she must be a perfect role model for her children.  A woman's honor is the single most important factor in Druze family life, and its defilement is the greatest humiliation that can occur.  The pressure of the community is such, however, that few Druze women have the opportunity to blacken their honor, and even if given the chance, few would. (25)

In the changing family patterns in the Arab East, these functions of the family are the ones more affected by the world-wide trend toward an urban industrial society. However, for the Druze, the stability of culture is such that many customs and traditions remain persist essentially unaltered. Family life, personal habits, and religious beliefs of the Druze immigrants are usually much the same after immigration as they were before. The steadfastness with which these traditions and social values are maintained is remarkable.  This derives mainly from to the relationship between the parents and the children as  taught by the Druze religion. These values hold steady from one generation to another and the status is clearly defined in terms of privileges and obligations. In a traditional Druze family, the child is constantly supervised, and great emphasis is placed on 'love.'  The child is made emotionally dependent on his parents who demand good behavior as the price of love.  They also prod him to compete with his peers, with whom they constantly and anxiously compare his behavior and achievements.  Inside the home, the child has been trained for submission and dependence; therefore, the 'love' the child has been taught to need demands that he succeed outside the home.  The Druze child who comes from the family that has adhered to teaching him all the social values can now develop independence, firmness of purpose, and some aggressiveness.

The modern Druze families in the United States seem in many ways to have altered their minds more completely than they have changed their Druze social values. The typical American Druze children regard the prevailing ideology of the United States as a modern way of life; however, there is a deep gulf between the two opposing views concerning social values. According to the Druze family structure, the authority resides in the parents, who confer it voluntarily upon their children.  The children act as agents of the parents and are accountable for their actions to the parents. Parents, however, are limited in purpose and method according to the norms of the main stream dominant society. Yet, in a number of cases in the United States, Druze children have married outside of the Druze community only to return to the community after a divorce or estrangement. There is high incidence of this among the Druze emigrants, especially among those who traveled to the United States for further education. One might ask what the diversity in norms has accomplished. Is the whole "sorry scheme” of things entirely smashed into bits, and then remodeled nearer to the heart's desire? to paraphrase Omar Khayyam.

An important element of culture is that it furnishes a set of patterns for the behavior of individuals and groups within a society.  These norms are the conventional expectations that people mutually hold concerning the behavior of others. In the United States, the Druze parents try to enforce the norms that they regard as essential and enforce them with great vigor and intensity of feeling because they are considered vital to the welfare of the Druze community.  There are obviously Druze parents who are more permissive in disciplining and in teaching the Druze social values to their children and that has caused a stormy and confused family. In our changing society, the children often become rebellious and have a strong drive for ego satisfaction given the confusion of values presented them. Druze parents in the United States become similarly confused and bewildered.  On one hand, the Druze parents want to instill in their children the Druze social values; on the other hand, the parents are particularly vulnerable to the plea that 'everybody does it.”

Human beings are never free of culture; it is culture that gives them their human nature. They are born into an ongoing social group, and in their most impressionable and helpless years, they are taught its ways as if there were no others.  Their actions, thoughts, and feelings are given form and content in these years, and forever after, their personalities bear the influence of the culture of their childhood.

Many families have worked out effective techniques for relieving frustration and finding prospects for a healthy and happy solution. There are families in the United States that depend heavily on Druze socialization, such as strong ties with other children in the Druze community and the American Druze Society. Some families insist on spending their summers with the extended family in their villages in Lebanon which has basically produced good results in the socialization of their children.
Yet, prominent Druze families in America that have abided by the code of the Druze family structure still have children who do not follow Druze marriage patterns.  We profess in one breath that if Druze parents follow the pattern of the Druze family as established throughout its history, there will always be marriages between their children and other children in the Druze community.  When the results  prove otherwise, we are surprised and dismayed.  The patterns are not clear!  Conformity has its very real uses. When each person knows what to expect from the others, much wasted effort and many possible conflicts are eliminated. There is a disparity between the ideal and the real. This disparity in culture in the United States between the generation of the immigrants and the generation of the immigrant offspring is typical of almost all the ethnic groups in the United States. Each society has its own characteristic quality.  Yet, the ethos for all of the ethnic groups has changed gradually, without planning, as a result of the convergence of many individual actions and decisions that were not oriented toward change at all. A socio-cultural drift emerged as an inescapable change in the values and the beliefs of the ethnic group's myth or ideology.  In a modern society, like the United States, the rate of change is so rapid in many areas of culture that the way of life of a child's generation is strikingly different in many respects from that of his or her parents.’                                            

A large majority of the Druze immigrants in America have instilled Druze social values in their children, and they have continued the practice of endogamy, marriages within the Druze community, in their children's marriages. The majority of the Druze immigrants in the North America have clung steadfastly to the Druze social values in which they themselves were raised, and they have bestowed the same values on their children. Through sheer inertia, customs tend to persist long after the original reason for them has disappeared. Also, many elements of culture continue because people feel more at ease doing things the customary way and tend to resist change; for the Druzes, however, endogamy is the survival line for the Faith, and Druze parents will emphasize greatly the reason for endogamy. In the Druze families in America, the parents teach endogamy with particular emphasis because they know there is no alternative for the Faith to survive.  The beliefs of the Druze Faith are predominantly sacred, and they are rather elusive. They are based on the qualities that pervade and saturate the whole culture.  When the norms, the beliefs, the knowledge of the ethos remained intact, there has hardly been any evidence of discord in the Druze family social structure in the United States. The life-line of the Druze Faith has prevailed. *

Marriages among the Druze immigrants to non-Druze systematically affect their family structure, as well. Apparently, the teaching of the Druze social values from the Druze parent has helped in attaining good results in the family structure. Their children are obedient, and openly declare their stringent upbringing. This is the case in numerous marriages between Druze and non-Druze partners in the United States.

In closing the discussion on the 'Druze Family,' it is pertinent to note here that a Druze may be considered unique in that he is conditioned from childhood on good or bad marriage risks.  Though similarity in backgrounds does not always ease marital adjustments, the Druze child is told of the ill affects resulting from exogamous marriages, i.e., marriages outside the Druze community; the social difficulties that arise from such marriages, as well as, the difference in language, cultural values, customs and manner of living.  The parents from exogamous marriages, during their period of courtship, seriously renounce their childhood faiths; yet, the values and philosophies often become irreconcilable when the first child is born, and the parents feel both the religions of their own parents. (i.e., the new baby's grandparents) pulling at them. Those problems will result in emotional instability, which is a hazard to marital happiness and good family structure. Social scientists find that in most successful marriages, like tends to marry like, in racial, religious, and ethnic background, in intelligence and temperament, and in general physical characteristics. In predicting success in marriage, sociologists claim that people are conditioned from childhood on to be good or bad marriage risks. The similarity of background eases marital adjustment.  Certain personality traits are distinctly favorable to successful marriage. The sociable conventional person is a good marriage risk, and similar interests and values are very important. One sociologist once noted in a study of couples in successful marriages that none had mentioned ‘love’ as a factor in their marriage decision.  The sociologist laughed off the omission as stemming from college courses in which they were gravely warned against being trapped by the romantic fallacy.

* At the end of the chapter on Druze Social Values, there is an article which appeared in Our Heritage, April 1995, Volume 15, Number 1, page 18 by Badeha N. Shaban from Richmond, Virginia. Badeha gives an accountof growing up Druze.

Druze marriages have always been known to be mostly successful. When the marriage becomes a family, a Druze mother's role is to teach her children the seven Druze Commandments which are: listed here for the reader.

 Ethics And Morality Commandments         
*Seven Druze Commandments according to Imam Hamza ibn-'Ali (26)
1. To be veracious in the broadest sense of the word, i.e., to profess the truth, act according to the truth and live for the truth,
2. To safeguard and help one another by guiding one's fellow men along the path of truth and live for the truth,
3. To renounce all beliefs leading to the negation of the oneness of God and consequently leading to falsehood.
4. To dissociate one's self from those who are perplexed and unable to see the right path and from those who transgress righteousness and justice.
   Such people hinder man from knowing the truth and from reaching knowledge and consequently, happiness.  Man cannot reach this stage unless he dissociates himself from selfishness.  This is the first step man has to take in order    to be able to realize himself in God.
5. To recognize the oneness of God and to strive for achieving the real purpose of man, namely, to be in union with the One     as much as is humanly possible.
6. To be always in a state of peace of mind and contentment (rida) in relation to God because God is absolute Good; whatever issues from Him must be true and beautiful. Only then, can Man realize this state of peace of mind and contentment if he truly takes joy in the One instead of  indulging in his own selfish desires and living in a state of [contrariety] disharmony, discord or rebellion.
7. To submit to God's actions and will (taslim). By doing so, man enters the 'kingdom of God' wherein there is real life, true happiness, and absolute goodness.

* As explained by Sami N. Makarem in his Druze Faith.
Druze Consanguinity (Kinship)
In the Middle East, the entire Druze social organization may be based on kinship.  The Druze family is the unit of economic production, and the chief unit of consumption.  Traditionally, the family protects and cares for its disabled, indigent, and aged members.  Many recreational and religious activities and services are family functions.

The Arabic kinship terminology appears to be basically the same wherever Arabic is spoken. It allows for the very precise designation of a large number of close relatives. Each parent is distinguished from its siblings, mother siblings are also distinguished from father siblings, and aunts are distinguished from uncles. These distinctions are continued in the children's generation simply by prefixing IBN (son of) or BINT (daughter of) to the appropriate term for the paternal and the maternal uncle and aunt. The Arabs regard all their first cousins as people to whom they are bound equally closely by blood and affection, and this is a rather important matter. The distinction is between all the various types of first cousins and carried to the ultimate in precision.  This distinction is also made by prefixing IBN or BINT to the appropriate term for the maternal and the paternal cousins.
The mother's brother, KHAAL and the father's brother, 'AMM, though continually distinguishable and impossible to equate, have behavioral distinctions.  The father's brother, in the event of the loss of the father, is automatically expected to assume the care of his brother's widow and her children. Women are legally and morally entitled to support by the nearest male relative. He, 'AMM, is expected to assist his nephews in their endeavors.  The mother's brother, KHAAL, is not.
The Druzes practice monogamy.  It is a patriarchal family, and the father's word is almost law to his wife and his children.  It is accepted in many areas in Lebanon among the Druzes that without question, there will be a patrilaterial parallel cousin marriage. For the Druzes, among whom this type of marriage is preferred and very often practiced; this interpretation seems clearly to be correct for in such cases, the father-in-law of one spouse is necessarily also his or her father's brother.  Thus, the use of "AMM (my father's brother) in address to the father-in-law seems to accept this without question as an introduction of patrilaterial parallel marriage.  Children, in the Druze family tend to regard their parallel cousins as potential spouses. Therefore, 'AMM, the reference to father-in-law, may have originated as an extension from father's brother, but its continued use in Arab cultures is due to the fact that 'AMM has this extra kinship use.  This clearly shows the respect for the traditional extended family. 'AMM is the standard term of address used by a younger person to a man of his or her parents’ generation even if they are not relatives at all.  Very frequently, in this use, the term 'AMM is prefixed to the addressee's name.  Respect is synonymous to kinship, so the usage is not due to mistaken assumptions of kinship; nor to a means of establishing fictional kinship; rather, it is an honorific.

Another important tradition is the frequent use of the term 'cousin.' As often as not, an Arab is referring to cousins more distant than first cousins. In such cases, in Arabic, IBN 'AMM or BINT 'AMM (paternal cousin) is regularly used, even when the relative in question is related through his mother. A matrilateral kinsman ('ARIB NIS AA'I) more distant than first cousin is often not felt to be very much of a relative.  In English, to designate exactly a patrilaterial second cousin, it would be something like 'my father's father's father's brother's son's son.'  In Arabic, it is exactly the same, e.g., each word is spelled out. So we can expect from an Arab for such a distance to simply say, 'IBN IBN 'AMM,' but of course, everyone knows that he is not my father's brother's son. He is my IBN "AMM, but he would continue to say that there were six faces, SITTI WUJUUH, between them. Here, we can see that 'face counting' is an important aspect of the family.  It is a device for reckoning the degree of relationship between two people.  In other words, the family tradition or kinship, is a very important matter in the Arab East. (27)

There are situations in the United States, where the strong family ties have persevered.   The Druze children born abroad have been carefully schooled and taught the Druze social values; thus, the children view themselves as members of a family unit to which they have unquestioned obligations. Presently, a family of nine children lives in the United States.  The children are the offspring of two brothers, one who has died, and they are all raised and educated by the remaining brother. This brother also supports his brother's widow.  This is the moral essence of kinship as commanded in the Druze social values.

It is not uncommon in modern America to encounter 'uncle' with
the individual's first name, used by the younger people for very close friends of the family, to whom the first name alone would be unseeingly because of great difference in age, but with whom 'Mr.' would be too formal.  To a limited extent, the Arabic and the American usages are analogous; but of course, the extension of it to include nearly every older person in the community is peculiarly Arabic.  Perhaps it would be going too far to say that this particular usage in itself includes a general conception of the entire village as a sort of kinship unit, but nevertheless, it is important to note the use of a kinship term in definite preference to a formal title among villagers. (28)                                   

The Druze Woman
A Druze woman's appearance is impeccable, and if she is poor, she always has an outfit suitable for a funeral or a wedding and even a visit, for that matter. This is a family matter, and she is representing her family at all times.  A Druze woman holds her head high, and she does not allow her emotions to reveal her agony when a father, husband, son, or any endeared man becomes a martyr for he has another opportunity to redeem himself and face an equitable sentence on the day of Judgment. Her breeding does not permit her to abandon decorum in her behavior regardless of the situation.  She does not show her anger in public for she is a lady in every situation and in every sense of the word. Sobriety, gravity, decorum are qualities expected of, and admired in Druze women. 

In joy and in sorrow, women should maintain a dignified reserve.  Composure and self-restraint, imposed by social standards, are achieved by strict self-discipline and watchfulness. Taqwa, the fear of God, must always be present, a guide to the right and a guardian against error. Patience (sabr) ranks high among woman's qualities: the most excellent of Unitarian Druze women are those richest in mind and of an abundant patience. Pious Druze women reflect a luminous serenity in their faces that comes from trust in God and surrender to His will. (29) The Arabic word 'Irdh is defined as relating to the deed, and to the character of a man; to his worth, to his honor and good repute. The Druze, however, compresses and reduces the range of 'Irdh's meaning; they apply it to their women, be she mother, wife, sister or daughter.   Sensitive-(rich or poor), they want it pristine in its purity and spotlessly white.  They regard it as the title to their worth, the parchment to their pride and honor.  In their checkered and tumultuous past, the Druze gave ample and convincing proof of  undeviating loyalty to this principle.  They want their women good, clean and beyond doubt or suspicion, and they, consequently, try to protect her from all forms of injury at hand or tongue at all costs.  They toast their women and boast of her virtue and spill their blood bravely and recklessly to keep her respected and secure.  The Durzy warrior on the battlefield would initiate his head-long charge by shouting, "I am the brother of so and so (giving his sister's name)"; (sic) and heroically wins or dies without a whimper.(30)   Thus, we can see why the Druze women hold a revered position in the Faith. "The woman who is resolved to be respected can make herself so even amidst an army of soldiers. (La mujer que se determina a ser honrada entre un ejercito de soldados lo puede ser.)" Cervantes, La Gitanilla  paraphrases a Druze woman.

Woman was given an important part in the religious sphere.  She served as a strong repository of Druze faith and dogma, and she provided ample evidence of fitness and staunch support.  Epistle 52 by Baha al-Deen addressed to the people of the Valley illustrates a woman's zeal during the early stages of the 'Call.' He says, "I have dispatched to you my daughter Sarah the paragon of chastity and purity, accompanied by my brother abu al-Hassan Tiqi." (31)

A woman messenger would easily be accepted by the spirit of the divine Call because the Movement, in fact, preached equality among the sexes, i.e., a man is not necessarily superior to a woman. (32)  This idea of complete equality of the sexes was very strong in early Druze times but became progressively weaker as the Druzes came under unsympathetic regimes, such as the Ayyubids, the Mamluks, and the Ottomans who suppressed progressive movements in Islam and imposed traditional and backwards way of life. (33) The teachings of religion, combined with the status of the Druze community itself as the dominant element in the Mountains, have given women the self-assurance and self- reliance enjoyed by their people as a whole. 

It is not by chance that remarkable women in Lebanese society have been Druzes.(34) In the world of music individual Druze have made names for themselves both in the western classical tradition (such as the pianist Diana Taqi al-Din), and more prominently, in the sphere of traditional Middle Eastern music.  One of the most celebrated and best-loved exponents of al-'ud (the lute) in the traditional Oriental style in recent times was the late singer and composer Farid al-Atrash (1916-1976), whose sister Amal, known as Ismahan (1917-1944), established herself in the late 1930s as a singer and cinema star-and was reputedly a mistress of King Faruq of Egypt before she died in a mysterious road accident which many people at the time believed to have been murder. 

Ambassador Salwa Showker Roosevelt, Mrs. Archibald Roosevelt, is the daughter of a prominent Druze family of Arsun, Lebanon, in the Matn district of Lebanon, one of the most northernmost Druze settlements. Her mother, Najla Showker, emigrated to the United States after graduating from high school to marry an earlier Druze emigre who had established a business in Kingsport, Tennessee.  Najla (Shuqayr) Showker and her husband settled in the United States, and after their children were grown, Najla Showker earned an M.S. degree in linguistics from Georgetown University and recently retired from the faculty of modern languages at East Tennessee University. President Ronald Reagan appointed her elder daughter, Salwa, as the State Department's Chief of Protocol in 1982.  Ambassador Salwa Showker Roosevelt, proved to be a diligent and accomplished diplomat. (35)

In Berwick, Pennsylvania, Dr. Valerie Alley, the daughter of Dr. Ali and Mrs. Ramona Alley, is a distinguished physician.  She has taken her skills, as has her uncle, Dr. Albert Alley, along with his daughter, Linda, to the Third World countries where, together they have performed more than one thousand surgical operations.  The Alley team co-founded World Blindness Outreach Inc. (WBO), a program aimed at bringing light to the world's blind in other countries. Dr. Albert Alley led a support staff of twelve to various countries performing cataract removal operations.  The WBO team traveled to India, Brazil, Guyana, Haiti, the Philippines, Nigeria, Mexico, Belize, the Ukraine, China, and the Dominican Republic. The group traveled in a jeep and lived and worked in primitive conditions. It is pertinent to mention here that Dr. Ali and Mrs. Ramona Alley are themselves the children of Druze Lebanese immigrants who came to the United States in that first wave of immigration in the early 1900s. These immigrant parents dedicated their lives to raising their children in the Druze tradition teaching them the Druze social values. Mrs. Ramona Alley, herself, is a prominent lady in the Pennsylvania area.  She has  recently served on the committee to choose a new president for the University of Pennsylvania.

Another Druze lady, Samia Salman Salem, who was also among those first immigrants, served as a leader among her Druze peers in the United States.  She came to the United States with her sister and brother and their families in 1920.  The next year, she married George Salem (Kasem Choukier) from Dallas, Texas,  who immigrated from Arsun, Lebanon.  The couple quickly became leaders of their small West Texas community, Munday, Texas.  They established themselves in the retail business, and they soon were actively involved in community activities.  Samia Salem and her two daughters, Alva and Nadine, returned to Lebanon in 1939 to visit Samia's family. Soon after their arrival in Lebanon, World War II erupted, and they were trapped for seven years before they could return to the United States and be reunited with George.  In Lebanon, Samia became a leader of her peers (as she had been in her adopted country America).  She assumed an active role in the American and the British Red Cross, and she helped found the Druze Orphanage  to help  the sick and orphaned Druze children in Lebanon. Upon returning to the United States in 1946, Samia Salem quickly formed the American Druze Women's Association in order to continue the support for the Druze Orphanage in Abey, Lebanon. The orphanage received her unending support until the day she died. She was recognized as a leader in the diplomatic and Arab community in Washington where she spent her remaining years. (36)

One of the most loved women among the Druzes in the United States today is the late Helen Dow.  From her home in Fenton, Michigan, “Aunt Helen,” which was what everyone called her, ruled like a queen. She had only friends. She did not permit people in the Druze community to be enemies.  Aunt Helen's capacity for love and understanding was almost unlimited. With her sincere determination for unity among the Druzes, she envisioned an ever-widening circle that included everyone. She was so loved that she was respected and honored by all in the area. She was to the people of Michigan what one might expect to find in a Lebanese village.  There is always a pilot who leads the way. She was a magnet in keeping the harmony among the people, and her gatherings always pulled people together.  Once a young man, the son of one of her dearest friends, lost his only son in a horrible accident. Aunt Helen summoned her two sons, Kamal and Munir, to attend the funeral.  Kamal lived three thousand miles away, but that mattered not to Aunt Helen.  It was a funeral within the Druze community, and all must attend; Aunt Helen would have it no other way!  She was dedicated to her family and to the Druze community.  Few  have lived a life so full of love and dedication for their people as Aunt Helen did!  We have missed her deeply these past nineteen years since she  left us.  She is the quintessence among Druze women of commitment and dedication. The Druze community will never forget her.
My Mother
A Druze lady who is deemed in the highest regard in the Midwest part of the United States is my mother, Mrs. Nagela Farris Mullin.  She was born Najela Abu Shakra in the Chouf village of Ammatour.  She married my father, Farris Milhem Abu Ghanim, in Lebanon and came to the United States a year later. Among the first women immigrants,  she lived a life of a lady with the true spirit of the Druze social values. The few women that had come early to America with their husbands joined hands to make a Druze environment for the men who were without their wives or single. 

Here in Michigan, the Druze men all assembled at the homes of those few families. Thus, at least one day a week, the men had the brotherhood that they so desperately missed. When Branch #2 of El-Bakaurat Ed-Dirziyat began meeting each month, Najla Mullin opened her home to the Druzes throughout the state. The years, before many  Druze wives came to join their husbands were difficult for the newcomers.  My mother was always there for them; she opened her home to many of those first families and helped them through their adjustment period.

In those early years of the American Druze Society, my mother joined Mrs. Samia Salman Salem from Washington, D.C. and took charge of the American Druze Women's Association in the Midwest. My mother became the president of the American Druze Women's Association in order to continue the support for the Druze Orphanage in Abey, Lebanon. She worked tirelessly, along with Mrs. Salem, in organizing assistance from the Druze in the Midwest for the Druze orphanage in Abey,Lebanon. She also carried on another campaign raising funds for the Dar el-Druze Home in Beirut, Lebanon, when the project for the Building Fund began. She was raised with the Druze leader, Sheikh Mohammad Abu Shakra, who began the building project of the Dar el-Druze, and she dedicated life to the project until it was realized.

With the founding of the American Druze Society, she devoted herself to its work greatly contributing to the success of the events in which the Druzes established themselves. Realizing the need for inter-community relations among the Druzes, she worked with the Founders of the Society (My father, Farris Mullin,  among them.) every inch of the way until the American Druze Society was firmly established in this country.

Widowed at a young age, she single-handedly raised four very young children, teaching them at all times, the Druze social values. She never faltered from her moral and ethical compass. With devotion and unity of purpose, she set a shining example of the Druze mothers' spirit, which we, in another age, must try to duplicate. Last, but not least, I would like to salute my mother, Najla Farris (Milhem Abu Ghanim) Mullin, whose love and unstinting service to Druze affairs, both here and in Lebanon over many years, many have come to know and respect with admiration. I mention her as an epitome of the Druze women abroad.

Druze women throughout the United States have involved themselves in civic and community affairs.  They hold prominent positions in the fields of medicine, law, education, as well as, in corporations and other businesses.  They are held in the highest esteem.

In Lebanon, literacy among Druze women was common. It is recorded by Colonel Churchill that in the days of the Tanukhid emir Nasir al-Din Husayn (668-751/1269-1350) reading and writing became  common, even among females.  He continues: "in this respect, women of Druze shaykhs, even to this day (mid-nineteenth century), maintain a marked superiority over the rest of their sex throughout the country."  A nineteenth century Lebanese chronicler wrote: "few are the Druze women who cannot read, or are jahilat, i.e., denied access to the Scriptures." (37)

So it is in the United States in the realm of the education of Druze women.  Few American Druze women  have not pursued higher education.  This, subsequently, has resulted in the good citizenry of the Druze family in America as it has throughout the world, among Druzes living abroad.

See also:
                World Druze Societies
                Druze Population
                Law of domestic relations
                The Social Image of the Druze Woman

Part one: Introduction Part three: Commitment And Dedication Part four: American Druze Institutions Part five: American Druze Publications Part six: American Druze Cultural Centers Part seven: World Druze Societies Annual Druze Conventions Conclusion A note about Julia Makarem Bibliography Reference List