Sunday, April 05, 2009

This Is a Man's World

So, good news: Rape is now legal in Afghanistan.

In case you've been living under a rock -- or in, you know, Afghanistan, which is pretty much the same thing -- the country we supposedly freed from Taliban tyranny just passed something called the Shia Family Act through its parliament. It was signed into law by none other than Central Asia's answer to Governor William J. Lepetomaine himself, Hamid Karzai. The new law negates the need for sexual consent between married partners, tacitly endorses child marriage, and restricts a woman's right to leave the home should she find any of this crap utterly condemnable.

Article 132 of the law basically states the following:

"It requires women to obey their husband’s sexual demands and stipulates that a man can expect to have sex with his wife at least 'once every four nights' when travelling, unless they are ill. The law also gives men preferential inheritance rights, easier access to divorce, and priority in court."

For the record, this kind of fucking lunacy -- the adoption of thousand-year-old superstition and religious predispositions as secular law -- is exactly what's responsible for the repugnant tradition of "honor killings" across the Middle East and throughout fundamentalist Muslim communities (some even extending to right here in the United States).

Back in May of 2007, I wrote a piece dealing with this issue. Suffice to say, its stance -- and the earlier one referenced within the column -- shocked a few of the regular readers of this site. Know something? I couldn't care less. I still stand behind my views.

"Killing in the Name Of..." (Originally Posted, 5.17.07)

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 and tyrannical 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 absurd 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 imbued with the wisdom 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 Muslim 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.


trish said...

I love you so much.

Steven Lloyd Wilson said...

It reminds me of the quote by a British general in response to Indian protests that sati (widow burning) was their tradition:

"You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."

Benoit from Ottawa said...

Unless this recent news is wrong, that law has been stopped. So said 6 o'clock CBC radio news.

Here's some stuff off the CBC site (same as was said on the radio, essentially):

"Canada expects the Afghan government to revise a new family law that critics say legalizes marital rape, two ministers said.

"We expect the law to be changed [and] certainly not the provisions that concern us to be enacted," Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Peter Kent said in an interview with CBC News: Sunday.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon told CBC News that he was informed by his counterpart in Afghanistan on Sunday that the new Afghan law will be revised.

"A decision was made to halt this legislation, and at the same time send this package back to the minister of justice so that the minister of justice can put together a package that will abide, of course, by the constitution of Afghanistan and at the same time respect the rights of individuals — of course, the rights of women," Cannon said."


SteveR said...

This shit has nothing to do with God. It's all about a tradition where men are told they are the power, and any female behavior other than complete subservience is a challenge that must be put down.

These men have a good thing going, and they want to keep it.

God is just the excuse.

That is what must be addressed.

Benoit from Ottawa said...

"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."

Regarding the parts between asterisks, I disagree: violent actions by the U.S. in other countries MUST come to an end. I do agree with your basic tenets on this, but the U.S. must stop thinking itself entitled to force other sovereign nations to bend to its will.

(Small secret: it's not actually capable of doing so anyway. It can't convince any country of anything anymore, it's too soon after the disastrous Bush presidencies. Besides, what's the will (even if it was unanimous) of 250 million Americans, compared to the (google, google) 2 BILLION plus Moslems on earth? >>

Suasion, moral, commercial, political, and shaming through publicity, ex. on the web, etc., are the way to go.

Using force to impose your values not only doesn't work, it shows the benefactor is actually a bully, who thus loses the moral high ground.

And I think that the Obama administration wants the high ground.

A few thoughts in passing.

Chez said...

A very good point, Steve. God's a convenient excuse to keep women under the thumb of these idiots. But man if it doesn't work -- if it hasn't worked in dozens of religions around the world.

Peach said...

Ugh. Hiya guys. I grew up in the Middle East (Damascus,Syria) and majored in this whole 'Middle East Policy' mess.

Truth be told 90% of Arab/Muslim men I have ever met balk and react with disgust to honor killings. Just as 90% of American men I have met balk and reacted with disgust to wife/girlfriend-killing (as is the most common cause of death in American woman age 19-40).

But where you have violence you beget more violence. Iraq for average Iraqis is a madhouse. I could go on for pages (and have in other worlds) about the intracacies of the Arab culture and the mistake of assuming Saudi Arabia is anything like Iraq or Syria is anything like Iran or Jordan is anything like Tunisia.

Killing woman happens everywhere in the world. Quite frankly, and I mean this in the most diplomatic of ways, but until America figures out why so many woman are raped here, so many husbands kill their wives here and so many woman are beaten here...I dont think you can ride in on the moral high horse.

This is an appalling and terrible crime. But it is not reflective of the majority of the Muslim world. Nor does it have any religious backing in Sharia Law.

It isn't a 'Muslim' thing anymore then killing your wife or shooting up a school is an 'American' thing.

It is just a tragedy. Simple as that.

And sometimes I feel like driving that religious boarder down the middle of these issues does a disservice to the people who are trying to put a stop to it. As most of them are Muslim woman.

Anonymous said...

Ok but I can still celebrate Kabul Gay Pride 2010, right?

Withnail said...

Sure, women get raped and murdered here in the Great Ol' US of A. A lot more than we'd like. A lot more than we'd admit.

Violence towards women is tacitly approved, overlooked, or rationalized. Just look at the whole Rhianna/Chris Brown shenanigans.

But you have to admit, that in America, there is now law saying that Men have the RIGHT to rape their wives.

Sorry, saying - you Americans - you Westerners are just as brutal towards your women doesn't hold water.

not at all.

Chris K said...


With all due respect the important point is that although rape and murder do happen in the U.S. the LAWS of the U.S. say it is illegal and there is an effort by the legal system to investigate and prosecute. In the examples I have read of in Muslim countries A) the Sharia courts uphold and condone this behaviour
B) Police officials assist in these murders
Those 2 details make a significant difference and although the Bush presidency was a horrible thing you cannot make the argument that it is just as bad in the U.S. and therefore the U.S. can't take the moral high ground. One further note, it would be difficult to find 1000 men willing to stone a women publicly in the U.S. thats not something they seem to have a problem with in many Muslim countries. Yes I will stand behind that accusation.

Chez said...

Incidentally, Benoit -- I'm not suggesting that we use physical or military force to attempt to change the minds of fundamentalists, since you're right, that wouldn't work at all. What I mean is that every diplomatic resource at our disposal needs to be used to make it known that this kind of crap won't be tolerated by modern society.

That being said, and while I'm cognizant of the respect that needs to be afforded every sovereign nation, if a country that clings to these insane beliefs -- that doesn't think that life on this earth matters because there's a better one waiting in the hereafter -- gets hold of nuclear weapons, then all bets are off, because they can be considered an imminent threat. (The only mitigating factor being that, as has been suggested, a lot of the political leaders of these countries aren't as fundamentalist as they claim to be; they're simply taking that tack as a means of holding onto power.) The difference between the way we've done things for the past eight years -- the Bush era "we've got the big guns dammit so you're gonna do what we say" value system -- and the Obama administration is that Obama has the ability to build an actual union of enlightened, peace-loving countries from around to globe to bring to bear against the holdouts to civilization.

Trail In Progress said...


Two things-first, we have laws that protect us from honor killings, and I don't know anyone who has ever gone to the police with information of neglect who wasn't taken seriously.

Second, you said:

"Truth be told 90% of Arab/Muslim men I have ever met balk and react with disgust to honor killings. Just as 90% of American men I have met balk and reacted with disgust to wife/girlfriend-killing (as is the most common cause of death in American woman age 19-40)."

are you kidding? the most common cause of death in american women is heart disease and cancer.

Where do you get your statistics from?

I know the old line that the two types of people you can count on lying to you are politicians and statisticians is partially (sadly) true, but I've done multiple searches since reading that comment of yours and haven't come up with a believable statistic that even comes close-so please, explain where you learned that the most common cause of death to women in america aged 19-40 is murder by their significant other.

Anonymous said...

Peach - I grew up in the Middle East as well, and am now working in Middle Eastern health policy, and I'd probably say 95% of the Middle Eastern men I know disapprove of honour killings. Hell, my brother-in-law is a Muslim, and I'm fairly certain he doesn't rape my sister (she could take him, anyway). That's not the point, nor is it the point that yeah, there's a hell of a lot of rape and sexual assault happening right here in the USA. The point is that one in three women worldwide have or will suffer some kind of intimate partner violence, including rape, in their lifetime. And of course, this stat, as all stats are, is fairly meaningless because most rapes and acts of IPV go unreported, especially in the Middle East. The difference is, here in America, we have venues (albeit sometimes pretty poor ones) that we can go for help. Middle Eastern women do not have those resources, and now in Afghanistan, it would be against the law for them to seek those resources even if they were available.

Like I said, I grew up in the Middle East too, but I'm unashamed to admit that I led a pretty sheltered life compared to most of these women - as an American girl in a foreign country, I had the protection of my country's laws and reputation. These women have nothing, so I'm sorry, but nobody should give a shit whether your male acquaintances express tacit disapproval of rape - good for them. It's not enough. The fact is that this is an issue that affects an incredible number of women, and that it's been legalized. And until we do something to combat this other than dropping bombs or ignoring it, it will continue to be one of the top two issues that defines the region.

And incidentally, on the statistics notes, if you want some hard ones, check out the World Bank's 1993 World Development Report and the WHO Multi-country Study on Women's Health and Domestic Violence.

Benoit from Ottawa said...

Thanks, Chez, for the clarification. I don't disagree, save perhaps as relates to considering Iraq a threat because of nuclear. In fact, it is the U.S. and others (USSR, China, etc.) that have been the main nuclear threats FOREVER -- even if only with respect to "accidents", but we all know that political situations (and even mere perceptions) have made even intentional "mistakes" possible.

Iraq is only a *potential threat*, and how much of one, considering its lack of delivery vehicles?

The "threat posed by (fill in the blank)" argument, a rationale used by the United States since 9-11, reminds me of the La Fontaine fable where the lion accused the lamb of troubling the waters of the stream by drinking, even though it was downstream, and devoured him.

I don't believe in the reality of an Iraqi or a North Korean nuclear threat any more than I believed that the Cold War was more than escalating tensions based on misperceptions. If Iraq or North Korea were to commit a real nuclear act, it would, I am sure, suffer "consequences".

But coming back to principles, what moral authority does a huge nuclear power have in wanting to prevent another nation from achieving nuclear status -- and MUCH less of a status than it has itself?

I do remember your saying you don't advocate violence, but I'll repeat that there is no right to take action to prevent a situation that may make possible apprehended actions. That is simply a rationale for preemptive violence as means of defence: sophistry, not logic.

Anyway, while I hold that the MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) theory, shortened to "assured destruction" (of Iraq, say), will preserve sanity, I do think that the big problem with the Muslims isn't so much the extremists -- it is, but things go deeper: the big problem is the fact that Islam is still in the Middle Ages, developmentally-speaking. That Muslims think Mohammed said it's okay to kill infidels (i.e. any non-Muslim) in certain circumstances -- just as Crusaders thought during the Christian Crusades.

That can't work in this modern, shrinking and more intermixing and populated world. Any cooperation will depend on NOT judging others deficient if they don't share your philoshophy or religion.

ALL our ancestors used to think it was alright to kill other (of course inferior) people, but from now on, civil agreement between countries and non national blocks (like Muslims and Fundy Xtians) must be made to trump religious views, the same way we already try to overcome philosophical and political differences internationally.

(I'll stop rereading now, 'cause editing has turned into adding!)

Chez said...

That's the problem with almost all religion though, Benoit. None of it has ever advanced beyond its nascent years. The world changes, and religion -- Islam, Christianity, Judaism -- hardly changes a bit. And what does advance about it is essentially forced to as a capitulation to logic and reason that's so damn obvious, there's simply no way to continue believing anything to the contrary (see: slavery, etc.).

karen said...

Something not being discussed much is that, according to what I've been reading in the Canadian press, the proposed legislation is intended to apply solely to the Shi'ite population of Afghanistan, ie, 10% of the female population.

I have no idea what existing legislation there is that applies solely to the Sunni population, but I'm not particularly optimistic that it would be considered liberal by Western standards.

Tracer Bullet said...

Be fair, Chez. Mainstream Christianity and Judaism, for all their faults, no longer postulate that it's acceptable to butcher non-believers. Convert them, harass them early on Sunday mornings when they may be hungover or possibly still drunk, yes. Butcher, no.

To your larger point, the Middle East is still in the Dark Ages. What pulled the Western world out of that period was the Renaissance, an INTERNAL movement away from superstition and toward science. The Middle East possess many of the benefits of modern science and engineering, but the region has by and large, chosen to retain its superstitions. If you can't import democracy how does one import an entirely new mindset? Is attempting it even a good idea? Or should we who fancy ourselves civilized just limit the damage they can do as they grope towards enlightenment? I mean, we're not all that enlightened yet either.

aaron said...

Chez, I'd like to respectfully point out that Judaism and Christianity have substantial denominations/flavours that actually reformed and embraced reality (but has some frightening stone-age adherents). Beyond the Sunni/Shia schism, and the fall of ijtihad long before the fall of Baghdad, Islam has yet to institutionalise modern reforms, largely due to there being a lack of an influential hierarchical structure with which to institutionalise. Modern Islam's growth and dominant ideology is driven by money, and the ones training imams and building mosques abroad happen to be the Saudi Wahhabis, the most frightening combination of money and insanity since the Bush family.

So I'd strongly disagree with your assertion that the big 3 religions you mention haven't grown since their nascent years. True, they may have been dragged forward kicking and screaming, but at least 2 out of 3 have made some progress.

Anonymous said...

By the very Constitution America purports to stand by, we can't attack the problem as a matter of religion. Hypocrisy isn't going to gather any friends, no matter by diplomacy or force.

I would instead propose approaching the matter from the stance of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", or "human equality". Keeping a strong separation of basic human rights (logic, right?) and religion is the primary key to success when dealing with entrenched "thinking" (I use this term loosely). There are other stances we could use as well, but I must strongly emphasize the importance in NOT approaching it as "being Muslim is the problem".

What has happened in the Middle-Eastern culture is an abominatory (I made that word up) interpretation of what being Muslim means. Just as Judaic law became grossly misinterpreted in the time Jesus Christ was (purported to be, for you non-believers) alive with regard to the Sabbath day and other matters which should have remained in a synagogue and not in the law ("The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath"), I think it is of even more importance now for these theocrats in the Middle-Eastern world to have some sense knocked into them, if not by logic then by a stripping of power.

The issue isn't about Islam itself. The issue is the will of generations of corrupt individuals who have too long held sway over and made long-lasting decisions for an entire populous of faithful followers who believe these individuals are interpreting what their God "really meant" as best as they can.

Corruption is always evident in a society when dissenting voices are silenced.

Benoit from Ottawa said...

Chez, I agree with your above comment to me.

Anonymous said...

I always kind of figured that there wasn't a way this was endorsed by most of the Muslim population otherwise these things would probably be a lot more common, but its nice to hear some other people back it up.

Unfortunately every time this happens though and the aggressors aren't punished in any way its just more bad PR for a culture/religion that has had more than enough lately. Until Muslims manage to collectively put a stop to this rather than just roll their eyes at the "fundies" down the block who immolate their daughters they're going to continue to look insane as a group to anyone who isn't from a third-world shithole. Its human psychology to tend to lump people into large groups, especially when they're large groups of people who are different and it only takes a few bad (read: psychotic) apples to spoil the bunch.

C Riedel-de Haen said...

I tend to agree with you in that we are at war with a religious system.
Also, as far as I know, the basic tenets of christianity have not changed since their inception, all those centuries ago.

The thing that gives me hope is that superstitions--and all religions are superstitions--are on their way out.

Slowly but surely, god will die.

Peach said...

Perspective people. 99% of the Middle East is nothing like Afghanistan. It doesnt have the laws of Afghanistan.
When you say "The Middle East" it only irks me because you're talking about 30 some odd countries with wide ranging beliefs. When one has devoted their life to the study of the area they tend to enjoy specific complaints...

I'm not saying that the Middle East is better in regards to crime. Nor am I saying it's perfect. I could think of plenty of things I'd change off the top of my head.

But when you say Afghanistan that's not even the Middle East. It's Central Asia. So all I'm asking for is less in the way of generalizations.
Because the 'Middle East' doesnt actually have laws that make rape legal.

Tis all.

Peach said...

Trail in Progress...
My fault. I should have been more specific. Unatural cause of death. Heart disease is the biggest natural killer. But when it comes to reasons woman in the US die that are not internal health issues it's murder.

If you want to go into the reason most woman in Afghanistan die it's usually childbirth. Which we could call a 'natural' issue as well.

Also I'd like to comment one more time on Anon 9:15 and then I'm out--I would LOVE to be able to control the Muslim world. Sad fact: I cannot. And from my apartment is is REALLY hard to organize all the Arabs/Muslims in the world and have them widly condemn these actions.
When people say "until the Muslim community..." I always wonder how they expect me to do that. Possibly stop men who look suspicious on my way to the grocery? Start a blog about it? Try to get on Larry King? ("Hi, Larry, look I'm an Arab girl who grew up in a Muslim household. No, I dont really practice, but I'd love a chance to condemn honor killings on the air tonight"). I need specifics here because if you know how to do it, on the serious, I'd love to know.

CatBallou said...

Withnail and others, it's important to realize that "marital rape" has only been prosecutable in the U.S. within the past 25 years or so. There was no law requiring women to submit to their husbands, but if they were forced to have sex, they couldn't take legal action. When they tried, the courts said basically what this law says.

Anonymous said...

I married into a moderate Muslim family. They wanted me to become Muslim. The Imam gave me some brochures. Very nice brochures indeed. But being a girl who needs facts, I read ahead on my own. Read the Qur'an--a version sanctioned by Juris Prudence even. Read most of the Hadiths and the Rasool. This is what I learned: if you sit a person down, force him to read these things and convince him that the words are true, he will have no choice but to terrorize nations.

Moderates claim these things aren't in the religion--my family included. There is a tendency in the religion to concentrate on the surahs you were raised on and not concentrate on the rest of the text. But even when I hold my finger under verses, they say it is a mistranslation. Even when I find multiple verses, repetitive and clear, I'm told to consult a scholar.

Our political correctness will be our epitaph.