I think I understand some of the political reasoning behind the move. As I wrote earlier, "dropping a divisive term like 'war on terror' is certainly a change...." (March 30, 2009) I've been relieved to see that the current administration, rhetoric aside, seems to take the threat posed by Islamic terrorists seriously.
Fighting for Trousers, Beer and Beagles?That's just as well, I think: because there's very good reason to believe that the matter of who wins this war does make a difference. That's assuming that you're a man who prefers to wear trousers; a woman who prefers to not wear a burqa; or anybody who likes beer or beagles.
I know: that sounds trivial. But odds are that you've grown up in a culture that tolerates trousers.
Western civilization, for all its faults, doesn't make a habit of killing people who don't follow an official dress code. If Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or like-minded people win, that would probably change.
It's not just beer and burqas: the cultural values of people who insist that they're defending Islam don't seem to be very close to what many Americans appear to think is right.
Emphasis on "cultural values." I'll get back to that. A cluster of news items last week, and a follow-up today, got my attention:
Rape: It's the Victim's Fault?An eight-year-old girl in Arizona was raped last week. Then her Liberian family disowned her: because she had shamed them - according to their warped view of reality. (July 25, 2009")
I'm Biased: I Don't Approve of RapeI went to college in America - several times, during the seventies and eighties - so I know that in some American subcultures one of the few things that are 'wrong' to do is criticizing non-Western cultures.
Even by those standards, I'm on fairly safe ground this time. The president of Liberia is a woman, and she doesn't approve of rape. She also doesn't approve of shunning women who were raped - and is one of the people who are changing Liberia's laws on the subject. (A Catholic Citizen in America (July 25, 2009)) I think she's on the right track, but I'll admit to a bias.
They're Liberians: This Proves that Muslims Rape Women and Shun Rape Victims, Right?Ah, no.
There are Muslims in Liberia, but they're a minority. When it comes to religious beliefs, Liberia shakes out this way:
- Indigenous beliefs
This Proves that Christians Rape Women and Shun Rape Victims, Right?No, but you'd probably find an audience for that notion in several of the more 'sophisticated' American subcultures. I discuss the Catholic take on the propriety of rape in another post. (A Catholic Citizen in America (July 25, 2009)) I haven't researched the subject thoroughly, but my own experience indicates that rape is not condoned in Christian teaching.
Then That Leaves Us With - - -I'm on the same page with Liberia's President Sirleaf on this. We're looking at a cultural problem: one which at least some of Liberia's political leaders are trying to solve.
President Sirleaf, Liberia:Liberia's political leaders are, I think, showing guts in bucking Liberia's sincerely-held cultural values. Some of the notion that a rape victim is to blame for being raped - and so has brought shame to the family - probably comes from the recent warfare in Liberia.
"...Let me say very clearly that rape is a problem in Liberia also. This is why we have made rape a non-bailable (ph) offense. It is a criminal offense. There is a strong law regarding that. You cannot even get bail.
"So, those parents should know that things have changed in Liberia. No longer do we tolerate this. And this is not a question of shame on the family, it's a question of an assault on a young child. And that cannot be tolerated...."
Blame-the-Victim, Islam, Culture, and AssumptionsBut the 'blame the victim' idea is so wide-spread, I doubt that it started during Liberia's late-20th-century troubles.
For example, I've been watching American culture for forty-plus years. The notion that 'rape isn't nice and you shouldn't do it' has been around throughout that period, and American culture seems to be swinging away from the 'she was asking for it' notion. And, happily, the American judicial system is approaching the same position by fits and starts.
I think it's a mistake to assume that Osama bin Laden and the Taliban's leaders represent all of Islam. The frequent choice of mosques as targets by these lions of Islam tends, I think, to back up this assertion.
Yes, there are people who insist that they're following (the one, true version of) Islam, and make a habit of whacking off their wives' heads when they're in a snit. That doesn't make honor killings particularly "Islamic." Not when Pakistan's Islamic Party says that honor killings are against Islam. (September 7, 2008)
Fifty years ago, members of the KKK would probably have told you that killing blacks, Catholics, and Jews was a matter of defending Christianity. But, as a Catholic, I'd argue that they didn't hold a typically Christian position.
Generalizations: They're Convenient, But Not Necessarily AccurateTake the leader of a terrorist group (okay: 'alleged' all around) in North Carolina. He was going to lead his sons and a few like-minded Muslims on a Jihad.
Daniel Patrick Boyd is a Muslim - who broke with his local mosque because they didn't live up (down?) to his standards. He's also the operator of a drywall business.
There's a lesson to be learned here, I think. And it's not that people named Daniel, Patrick or Boyd are probably terrorists; or that we should keep a close watch on drywall business operators.
Muslims, I think, aren't necessarily terrorists, either. Any more than American veterans or Ron Paul supporters are likely to form terror cells. (March 23, 2009, April 15, 2009) Yes, some Muslims are terrorists: but the idea that all Muslims are terrorists is too big a generalization for me to accept.
- "Rape on the Lake Wobegon Trail: Good News/Bad News "
Through One Dad's Eye (July 29, 2009)
- "Terrorists, America, and Generalizations"
(July 28, 2009)
- "Eight-Year-Old Raped - Time to Think and Pray"
A Catholic Citizen in American (July 25, 2009)
- "Who Needs Facts? Cultural Assumptions and Politics"
(July 24, 2009)
- "North Korea and the Kim Jong Dynasty: Not All Countries are the Same"
(June 9, 2009)
- "Sierra Lillie, Donald Cates, Sanity, and American Courts - The Lemming Gets Serious"
Apathetic Lemming of the North (April 16, 2009)
- "Homeland Security Report: American Veterans are Potential Terrorists - I am Not Making This Up"
(April 15, 2009)
- "North Korea and Missile Concerns: Nations are Not All Identical"
(April 5, 2009)
- "Missouri Focus Group MIAC: Ron Paul Supporters May Be Terrorists"
(March 23, 2009)
- "No More 'War on Terror' - Officially?"
(March 30, 2009)
- "The War on Terror? This May be The War For Freedom"
(March 18, 2008)
- "Honor Killing, Muzzammil Hassan and Aasiya, Protecting Feelings,and Common Sense"
(February 20, 2009)
- "Muzzammil Hassan's Beheaded Wife No Honor Killing - Move Along"
(February 19, 2009)
- "It Looks Like an Honor Killing: Islamic Network's Founder and American Law"
(February 17, 2009)
- "Guinea, Military Rule, and Terrorism: Beware Hasty Judgment"
(December 29, 2008)
- 'Military government = bad?'
- 'Democracy = good?'
- Maybe: and maybe not.
- "CAIR, Yaser Said, and the FBI: Don't Say 'Honor Killing' "
(October 14, 2008)
- "Law, Islamic and American, or: The Case of the Lazy Son and 'Take My Family: Please!' "
(October 17, 2008)
- Another case of offended 'honor' - this time over a lazy son.
- "Honor Killing is Against Islam, Islamic Party Members Say"
(September 7, 2008)
- Whatever Islam is, it isn't one big monolithic block of like-minded people.
- "Sandeela Kanwal, Chaudhry Rashid: Honor Killing? Maybe, Maybe Not"
(July 9, 2008)
- "Aqsa Parves, Muslim Teen: No Scarf, No Life"
(June 28, 2008)
- " 'Jessica's Law' Under Fire in Massachusetts"
Apathetic Lemming of the North (June 25, 2008)
- "Terrorists as an Oppressed Class: That was Then, This is Now"
(February 23, 2008)
- "Fanatics: Not an Islamic Monopoly"
(November 23, 2007)
- "Rights groups decry Gaza 'honor killing' "
CNN (July 30, 2009)
- "Woman Suspected of Cutting Baby From Massachusetts Mom's Womb Held on $2M Bail"
FOXNews (July 30, 2009)
- This sort of thing isn't all that uncommon in America these days, but that doesn't make it a part of American values.
- "Arizona girl's attack sheds light on rape in Liberia"
CNN (July 29, 2009)
- "4 Boys Accused of Raping 8-year-old Girl"
KSAZ FOX 10 (July 24, 2009)
- "Liberian youths charged with raping child in Arizona"
AFP (July 24, 2009)
- "Girl shunned by family after rape sparks outcry"
The Associated Press (July 24, 2009)
- "Outcry over disowned US rape girl"
BBC (July 25, 2009)
- "Girl Raped, Boys Charged; Democrats Battle Democrats on Health Reform; Millions of Americans Getting a Raise Today; Obama Addresses White House Press Corps About Gates' Arrest"
CNN transcript (July 24, 2009)
World Factbook, CIA (last updated July 3, 2009)