Thursday, July 30, 2009

The War on Terror: Yes, Who Wins Does Matter

We don't, officially, have a "War on Terror" any more.

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 Rape

I 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
    • 40%
  • Christian
    • 40%
  • Muslim
    • 20%
Aha! We has got us a suspek!

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:

"...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...."
(CNN transcript)
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.

Blame-the-Victim, Islam, Culture, and Assumptions

But 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 Accurate

Take 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.

Related posts: In the news: Background:
  • "Liberia"
    World Factbook, CIA (last updated July 3, 2009)

1 comment:

Brian H. Gill said...


I think there's good reason to think that the British government's policy is based on idealistic but alternatively-sensible beliefs and assumptions about reality.

Multiculturalism - which seems similar to 19th century Eurocentrism, in reverse - as practiced here or in the U. K., at best doesn't seem to work well.

I don't doubt that a Muslim raped someone. About half of all adult followers of Islam are men: and some men are not nice.

I'm a bit concerned about the generalization in the last paragraph. Here in America, almost everybody is descended from immigrants: and there's been a paradoxical theme of distrust of immigrants running through this country's history.

I've made the point before in this blog: 'Not all [noun] are alike.'

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.