Saturday, February 6, 2010

Girl Buried Alive in Turkey... for Talking to Boys

When I first glanced at the title of Peter Daou's article I was hopeful that it would shed some moral clarity on honor killings. His title: "Male Monsters-- Girl Buried Alive for Being a Girl and the World Shrugs." Link here.

I was also pleased to see that the outrage was coming from the political left. Normally, such expressions are the province of more conservative, war-mongering types like Phyllis Chesler.

With Daou we had someone who worked for Hillary Clinton, who was writing for the left-leaning Huffington Post, and who was reporting on a story that had appeared in the leftist British newspaper, The Guardian.

I was hopeful that the political left had overcome moral relativism and was ready to denounce those Islamic cultures that prescribe honor killings as the proper punishment for being a girl.

Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed with his first paragraph. According to Daou there was nothing special about burying a teenager alive; it was yet another manifestation of bad male behavior.

At all times in all places and in all cultures men do bad things to women. To denounce a specific culture, Islamic, for making it a moral imperative to commit savage acts against teenage girls... this is beyond Daou's ken.

Daou might think he is being courageous for expressing such an expansive outrage. And yet, unfocused outrage is diluted. Manifesting nothing more than a fear of offending Muslims, it is really an act of cowardice.

In his response to a culture that propagates its values by means of terror, Daou shows that terror works.

Let's be clear about this. According to Daou there is nothing special about honor or dishonor killings. All men do it, or something like it, at all times and in all places.

This means that since all men do it the men who did it need not feel especially bad for what they have done. Their behavior is not an aberration; it is the rule.Thus, the men who have buried the girl alive need not feel all that bad.

This is an advanced and degenerate form of feel-goodism. It is the real reason why segments of the population shrug when they hear of such things.

You do not want to call a culture to account, so you try to absolve its adherents of responsibility by saying that everyone else does it. If that is true they need feel no shame.

This feels like Obama's wrongheaded approach to Islam. When Obama declared that we are all sinners,and that we have all committed horrors, he was telling Muslims, in Cairo, that they, in the name of whose religion these horrors are perpetrated, need not feel ashamed, and need not do anything to stop them.

Admittedly, there are occasions when we try to cover up for the errors of others. When your friend tells you he slipped on the sidewalk, you might try to make him feel better by offering testimony of your own clumsiness.

But when it comes to honor killings we have no business saving the face of those who commit or condone or ignore these horrors. Nor should we try to rationalize them on the grounds that men have always done bad things to women.

Daou is wrong on another point. There is a stark difference between a cultural sanctioned act of violence committed against an innocent in the name of a warped and perverted notion of honor, an act that is specifically intended to terrorize girls and women, and individual acts of violence committed by deranged individuals in defiance of cultural norms.

Surely, there have been cultures that have systematically brutalized women-- the Chinese bound women's feet for centuries-- but it appears to this outsider that the one culture that seems to have cornered the market on male oppression of women today is Islamic.

Surely, all Muslims do not accept or condone such practices. But if they do not want honor killings to be identified with their faith then they are morally obligated to put an end to them. If communities within your faith have made it a cultural imperative to brutalize girlish behavior you need to make clear that that does not represent your faith.

In response to another of Daou's points, I would say that honor killings are not the same thing as the gang rapes that are occurring as part of the war that is raging in the Congo.

Surely, such savagery is horrifying beyond words, but it is not a cultural imperative, decided by a council of community elders, committed as an act of justice.

Gang rapes in the Congo are acts of war committed by soldiers who have completely lost control. Bince it is occurring as part of a war armies have mobilized and are fighting to put an end to it.

Daou reports an on an incident in Somalia that does demonstrate the brutality of Islamic oppression of women. A thirteen year old girl was gang raped. She denounced her rapists to the police, who immediately accused her of adultery and sentenced her to death.

She was taken to a stadium where, in front of 1,000 spectators, she was buried up to her neck and stoned to death.

Clearly, this is death by cultural imperative. Those who promulgate the doctrine of multicultural relativism might cry out in outrage against such horrors, but when they insist on comparing it to the violence that one man in a Western country perpetrates against his wife, they are missing the moral point.

No one condones a Western male's violence against his wife. The legal system has not always treated rape victims well or justly, but it has never systematically punished them as adulterers. People in Western cultures do not gather in a stadium to watch a man murder his wife.

To make these acts equivalent, in the name of ginning up a specious outrage, is, as Hamlet put it, to "protest too much."

Protest promiscuously and your outrage will descend into moral posturing and will lose the name of action.


Mary said...

I really appreciate your take on this. I am currently living in Dublin Ireland, and am in my final year of a degree in theology and philosophy.
My feminist theology professor is saturated in this cultural relativism and I find myself actually repulsed by her physically, as I find her view of Islam absolutely maddening. Do they care NOTHING for the women who must live under this horror?
No. They do not.

I am new to your blog and I am grateful for your views. I am also a Lifecoach, but have not been practising much. I plan to start up again as soon as I graduate in May.



Stuart Schneiderman said...

Many thanks for your comments. I continue to be amazed and dismayed at the attitude of feminists toward the oppression of women around the world. It is as though their multicultural bias has deprived them of their moral sense.

Hopefully, your prof is capable of accepting different points of view without penalizing you for them.

Unfortunately, in America this is no longer self-evident.

Best to you...