Thursday, May 17, 2007
Killing in the Name Of
In the year since starting this little experiment of mine, one column above all the others has spawned the most heated debate -- and by that, I mean the most bitter indignation against my admittedly worthless opinion. In November of last year, I wrote what I initially believed would be a throw-away diatribe in response to the ejection of six Muslim imams from a commercial airliner (Imam-a-Rama/11.22.06); the men were pulled off the flight after another passenger complained that they had been acting suspiciously.
My provocative proclamation -- judging by the readers who subsequently proceeded to berate the living hell out of me -- was that a certain amount of ethnic profiling at our nation's airports is not only logical, it's necessary.
In the rather tempestuous back-and-forth that followed, I argued that many of those calling me a right-wing troglodyte were choosing to zero in on only one particular symptom of what I actually claimed was a much larger and more problematic disease: America's unwillingness to admit that it is, in fact, at war with an entire religious culture -- an intractable Middle-Eastern element which believes that God demands that it and the rest of the world never advance beyond the stone age.
An extremist viewpoint that demands absolute worldwide submission and requires the destruction of any and all who dissent.
At the time, I put it this way:
"One of the most gargantuan lies we've been told since 9/11 is that this isn't a war of cultures; on the contrary, that's exactly what it is. It is a fundamentalist religious culture which considers us heretical enemies of the one true God, and therefore dangerous and unworthy to exist upon his Earth. It considers us not only an abomination, but one which has humiliated and subjugated it simply by virtue of the fact that it has become the dominant way of life on the planet. As a good friend of mine once put it so beautifully, as far as Muslim fundamentalists are concerned, this is not World War III, it's World War I; it is the same war that's been going on since the dawn of time, between a theocracy bent on never moving past the first century and enslaving or destroying those who oppose it, and the forces of modernism and enlightenment. All one has to do to understand this fact is to look at the reaction to a harmless set of cartoons in Denmark, or a beauty pageant in Nigeria, or an absurdist comment from a silly little man in the Vatican."
Or, most recently, the decision of a teenage girl in Northern Iraq to leave her insular faith and convert to another to be with the man she loves.
That one choice -- that one attempt to take control of her own life and her own destiny -- cost 17-year-old Du'a Aswad her life.
She died in the most brutal way imaginable: she was viciously stoned by a mob of angry men -- some of them, members of her own family. It was what's known as an "honor killing," a tradition dating back centuries and one which inexplicably continues unabated in the Middle-East, here in the early days of the 21st century.
What's worse, if you can stomach it, you can now see for yourself this girl's final terrified moments, as she was dragged into the street by men who felt insulted and emasculated by her unforgivable attempt at autonomy -- men who felt empowered by their god to punish such impudence; as she was kicked and beaten while pleading for her life; as her beautiful yet sinfully seductive face was pummeled with rocks until it was nothing but bloody pulp; as she lay dead in the street -- at the age of 17.
You can see all of this, because one of her attackers -- one of these powerful men of God -- shot the entire thing with his cell phone camera, as if it were a celebrity sighting or a weather phenomenon.
There simply aren't words to fully convey the sheer insanity of the fact that such Biblical savagery can still exist in the year 2007 -- or that it can in any way be abided by the rest of civilized society.
It's true that action -- in some cases very brave action -- is being taken by many, both within the Middle-East and without, to put a stop to this kind of inexcusable barbarism. Still, I firmly believe that the root cause of this draws a straight line back to my original argument from last November -- and that until the issue of the region's overall religious fundamentalism is addressed, any attempt to halt honor killings will be akin to putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound. The fact is that the comprehensive mindset of the Middle-East has to change -- and change drastically; it has to either be cajoled quietly or, if necessary, yanked forcefully from its irrational adherence to 1,000 year old superstition; it must be pulled, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century, for the good of all of us. Appeasing such lunacy through platitudes and inefficacies, particularly in this day and age, only puts the civilized world at risk.
I have no desire to die because of someone else's delusional claims as to the will of an invisible supreme being.
Likewise, I have no desire to see another Du'a Aswad die -- but another will, again and again, until someone steps up and makes it clear that there's no place in the modern world for the unreason that both fosters and condones such inhumanity.
It has to be done.