Nicholas Kristoff is doing a magnificent series of articles on  the absolutely repugnant story of a Pakistani woman from the “wild west” area of Baluchistan who was raped by an Army Captain and then, after reporting the rape despite warnings to the contrary,  was subjected to the humiliation and psychological TERROR of being institutionalized in a mental hospital where she was drugged and told to keep silent in order not to receive even more brutal treatment.

He continues the series today with a description of the reaction of the Musharraf government itself to the reporting of the incident:

The incident provoked unrest in the wild area of Baluchistan, where the rape occurred, because of rumors that the rapist was not only an outsider, but also an army captain. President Pervez Musharraf became determined to make the embarrassment disappear.

So the authorities locked up Dr. Shazia and her husband, Khalid Aman, keeping them under house arrest for two months. Then officials began to hint that Dr. Shazia was a loose woman, perhaps even a prostitute – presumably as a way to pressure her and her husband to keep quiet.
Dr. Shazia, mortified, tried to kill herself…

He also give some further details of the behavior of the so-called “community” members of the “tribe” to which Dr. Shazia belonged. I  myself, would have prefered the use of the word “mob”  or “gang of savages…” but that’s not politically correct these days, of course. We must respect all cultures relativistically.

Meanwhile, the family’s patriarch, Mr. Khalid’s grandfather, sent word that because Dr. Shazia had been raped, she was “kari” – a stain on the family’s honor – and must be killed or at least divorced. Then, Mr. Khalid said, his grandfather began gathering a mob to murder Dr. Shazia.

But here’s the most shocking new revelation that Kristoff gives us:

General Musharraf was finding this couple’s determination to get justice increasingly irritating. So, Dr. Shazia and Mr. Khalid said, the authorities ordered them to leave the country, and warned that if they stayed, they would be killed – by government “agencies” – and that no one would even find their bodies.

When Dr. Shazia demanded that Adnan be allowed to accompany her, the officials warned that there was no time and that she would be murdered if she delayed. Then the officials forced Dr. Shazia to make a video recording in which she thanked the government for helping her. And, she said, they warned her that if she had any contact with journalists or human rights groups, they would strike back at her – or at her relatives still in Pakistan.

So the Pakistani officials put Dr. Shazia and Mr. Khalid on a plane to London, without their son. As soon as they arrived, Dr. Shazia inquired about asylum in Canada, where she has relatives and friends. But a Canadian bureaucrat rejected the asylum application on the ground that they were now safe in Britain. (Come on, Canadians – have you no heart?)

Two things interest me about this story in particular:

1) The obvious hypocrisy of the Bush administration in its talk of spreading democracy and freedom throughout the world is once again disclosed as a hollow farce as it continues to remain strongly allied, militarily and financially, to the most brutal and barbarous regimes on earth in the name of fighting “terrorism” or, as it is now termed, “violent extremism”.

But more provocatively,

2) The clash of a certain form of extreme “multiculturalism” with women’s universal rights. This was best exemplified in a thread regarding this same topic on DKos. There was a debate about whether Islam was not, in some sense, responsible for the horrible treatment of women in Pakistan and other parts of the world. One typical response was that this sort of behavior sails back into the winds of time to the polytheistic tribes that existed in those regions before Islam took root.

But this is nonsense. It is analogous to justifying the burning of heretics by Christians in the Middle Ages by invoking the fact that it was common to burn people alive or crucify them during the Roman Empire. The fact remains that Christians were doing the burning and they justified this behavior with reference to their own sacred texts. The same moral rules must apply to modern Islamic practices which are tolerated and even encouraged by many, though not all, of its religious thinkers.

Let’s try a thought experiment along the following lines: imagine that an analogous phenomeon were to take place in the south of modern-day Germany. A Christian-oriented governnment tries to not only cover up, but actively aids and abets the systematic terrorization of a woman by a particularily fanatical and fundamentalist community in a relatively backward province. The community justifes the morality and righteousness of its behavior by reference to the teachings of the Bible and by later commentaries.

Your first instincive reaction is to laugh and declare it an absurd possiblity because of the extraodinarily successful process of secularization which has taken place in that nation and in most of Western civilization (outside the US) in general. My response: exactly!!

But what if it did happen? And most of the Christian world sat by relatively silently as if it could do nothing to stop it. What would the general reaction of most non-Christian human beings be? What should it be? It should be one of outrage and schock at the unbeliebavle horrors that religion, which sets itself up as a moral standard-bearer, has inflcited and continues to inflict on the world.

The fact that Islam can even find space for such behavior and that it is morally tolerated in some parts of the world is an extraordinary stain on all of Islam, just as it is an extraordinary stain on Christianity that many people engaged in the Crusades, Inquisitions, ad infinitum.

Even more deeply, the tribal cultures which engage in these practices must be outspokenly condemned by all decent and rational moral human beings. It is no good to say, “We must not criticize because we have our own failings”. If we are held to this absurd standard of relativism, no one could possibly be morally condemned for anything. The Nazi Party had its  own autonomous, bizarre little culture. But dare we not criticize it because we have our own defects?

Religion, all religion, must be condemned to the extent that it provides authoritative textual justification for the most heinous forms of behavior. It all-too-frequently does so. Let us speak out against  it when it does and speak out for it when it does the contrary.

Here is the link to Kristoff’s first article from Sunday’s NYT.

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