Monday, April 4, 2016

Dirty Old Men of Paksitan

"A coalition of more than 30 religious and political parties has declared the law un-Islamic, an attempt to secularize Pakistan and a clear and present threat to our most sacred institution: the family. They have threatened countrywide street protests if the government doesn’t back down.
Their logic goes like this: If you beat up a person on the street, it’s a criminal assault. If you bash someone in your bedroom, you’re protected by the sanctity of your home. If you kill a stranger, it’s murder. If you shoot your own sister, you’re defending your honor. I’m sure the nice folks campaigning against the bill don’t want to beat up their wives or murder their sisters, but they are fighting for their fellow men’s right to do just that."
--Mohammed Hanif, The New York Times

Mohammed Hanif tells us about something which should give us all--Democrats even more than Republicans--pause. In the Punjab province of Pakistan a proposed law to make the murder or maiming of a female relative a crime has stirred outrage.   Apparently, there is no such thing as "spousal abuse" in Pakistan.

Violence against women, far from illegal, is often embraced, if it is done in an attempt to defend the "honor" of the male head of household in particular, or the family in general. So a daughter who runs away to marry a boy not selected for her by her parents is murdered by her brother or her father throws acid in her face to deform her,  to defend the honor of the family--and that's defending family values in Pakistan.

An alliance of religious and political groups defends these values and opposes making murder or assault or disfigurement practices waged against wives or daughters or sisters a crime. Okay, I know I'm repeating myself more than Rachel Maddow, but:  Really?
Acid to the Face: The Family Honor Restored

We need not ask what Donald Trump would say about this, but we do need to hear from Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton about this.  Democrats have, as a rule, said we need to keep engaged with foreign countries and cultures with whom we disagree rather than simply alienating them.  But when the culture embraces an anathema, if we  declare ourselves open to hearing their side on this one, if we say, well, we have to be careful about denigrating the values of another culture, then we are every bit as effete and spineless as the Republicans always say we are.

From Mad Dog's perspective, Democrats ought to lead the way in excoriating these values, acknowledging they may be deeply held, but we have to say:  "Look, if you want to engage with us, you have to respect our values as well as your own." 
There are some lines you cannot cross if you want to sit at the same table with us. 

As Americans, we do not accept cannibalism.  Would we establish an embassy in a country which endorses cannibalism?  If you commit genocide, we don't talk to you; we hunt you down. (Well, we should, even if we don't.)

Of course, there is a difference between what we demand of our own and what we feel we can demand of others:  We would not admit Utah to the Union until it agreed to ban polygamy.  But we do not refuse to trade with Saudi Arabia because the royal family practices polygamy. 

Or course, some of our willingness to tolerate what we consider uncivilized or beastly behavior is shaped by our own needs and weaknesses. When we need Saudi oil we can get very open minded and tolerant of foreign cultural values.

And what, if anything, can we do to make that Pakistani villager decide to not throw acid in his daughter's face? We may deplore these practices and attitudes but is there anything, practically speaking, we can do to abolish them?

 We can talk the Prime Minister, but it's not clear he can do much, even if he wanted to.  He might well say, "Oh, I agree with you, but I am educated and sophisticated. We are talking about ignorant villagers here.  How well did you deal with those men in Mississippi who threw on Ku Klux Klan sheets and burnt down a Negro church with children in it?"  

We can say, "At least here, horrendous behavior is illegal."

So this is the question of whether or not you can point to a particular behavior and say this is representative of the group, the nation. 

 Lynchings occurred all over the South in the first half of the 20th century, Blacks who looked too long at white women, or who whistled at white women were strung up and the white men who did this said they were protecting the safety and defending the honor of white Southern womanhood. "Strange fruit" hung from trees all across Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana.  When the Pakistani governmental leadership points to this phase of American past, they can say, "Well, you had your problems; we have ours."

The difference, of course, is lynchings were illegal even then, and, theoretically at least,  punishable by imprisonment.  In Pakistan we have just the opposite:  acid attacks, outright murder are defended by a coalition of religious and political groups who say these acts are justifiable and, indeed desirable, and consistent with Sharia law.

Donald Trump will said, "A pox on your house. No Pakistani gets into our country. Stop these abominable people at the border!"

I would have to say to the Pakistanis: "Well, then, you have to change your interpretation of Sharia law. The Third Reich had the racial Nuremberg laws which justified the annihilation of 6 million Jews and Gypsies. And those we now call "war crimes." Should we not call the mutilation of women in Pakistan, crimes against humanity?

But then the Pakistanis may say, "What about female circumcision in Africa? Do you want to point to this sort of mutilation and launch a cultural war against those African tribes?"

Mad Dog freely admits when it comes to international relations, he is an ignoramus.
But then again, so is Donald Trump and that doesn't stop him from  expressing an opinion.

In this sense Trump is the hedgehog. He knows only one thing--he doesn't like this sort of behavior.  Of course, his solution is to ban all Muslims.  Mad Dog knows plenty of American Muslims who are as horrified by acid throwing and wife beating as many American Jews are by mohels with Herpes Simplex who lick the bleeding tissue of male infants during circumcision, and cause Herpes Simplex encephalitis in the innocent male infants they have circumcised because God told them to lick the stump.

But, the difference here is you have a coalition of religious and political groups in Pakisitan speaking publicly, as a matter of policy, supporting insufferable behavior. When a  governor in Arkansas or South Carolina or North Carolina signs into law a policy which appears intolerant, and the cancellations for planned conventions start rolling in, when the mayor of Portsmouth, New Hampshire announces there will be no city business done with that state, when commerce starts to suffer,  then the businessmen back home in the offending state start howling.

Perhaps America has some leverage like that with Pakistan.

What do we have a United Nations for?  How about a resolution that maiming women is repugnant to the rest of the world? 

Democrats can play the fox, but at some point you do have to be a hedgehog and known only one thing:  Maiming and murdering is just wrong, no matter how you try to invoke Allah's name to justify it.

Defending the Indefensible 

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