The Other Problem with Islam

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Picking up on Joe’s post yesterday, and to bring this story to a slightly wider audience, I feel compelled to post today on the story of Aisha Parveen, a young Pakistani woman who was kidnapped at the age of 14, forced into prostitution for six years, and who, unless a Pakistani court decides in her favor, will face more rape, torture, and death at the hands of the brothel owner who enslaved her. The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof reported on Parveen’s story on Sunday, and again today. Unfortunately, because of the Times’ ill-conceived Times Select premium service, only Times home subscribers or Times Select subscribers can read his columns. This is unfortunate, because this is a story that needs to be heard.

This is particularly the case because it is not an unusual story. As most people are probably aware, in the Islamic world being raped is a crime — not raping, but being raped. In truth, the real crime is being a woman, because Islam is even more deeply misogynistic than Christianity. Women accused of “zina” offenses — fornication and adultery — are routinely killed by their relatives to “protect the family honor.” In this case, Parveen’s kidnapper and tormentor claims that they are married, so she is being accused of adultery. She was luckier than most, because she met a man who rescued and married her. Now she is facing being returned to her captor and, she is convinced, murdered by him. The hearing was yesterday and, thanks in part to Kristof’s column, the case was continued for a week. Because of the attention, Parveen’s chances are better than most.

Kristof writes: “Saddest of all, her story isn’t newsworthy in a classic sense. There’s nothing at all unusual about a young Asian woman suffering years of sexual enslavement, or judicial malpractice or murder.

And that’s the challenge for us all, Asians and Americans alike — to change our worldview and put gender issues like sex trafficking higher on the global agenda.

A quarter-century ago, Jimmy Carter plucked human rights abuses from the backdrop of the international arena and put them on the agenda. Now it’s time to focus on gender inequality in the developing world, for that is the greatest single source of human rights violations today.”

Kristof does not discuss in any detail the role of Islam in the “honor killing” and “zina offense” phenomenon. And, doubtless lack of education plays a role in allowing these draconian views to be perpetuated and go mostly unchallenged. But even if Islam is just the vehicle for advancing an agenda that is essentially political (and, really, aren’t they all?), its destructiveness is just as horrifying.

Like Kristof, I will give Ms. Parveen the final word to give readers an idea of how much women are hated in Pakistan. She said, “God should not give daughters to poor people,” she said in despair. “And if a daughter is born, God should grant her death.”

11 Responses to “The Other Problem with Islam”

  1. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Wow. How tragic.

    Enlighten my ignorance here, but what is the UN approach to this type of problem? I’m really out of it on lots of political goings-on, but I would think this would be a morally reprehensible problem on the worldwide stage and should be addressed there.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think America ought to be sounding the bell, but as an international problem, I think the international community is tasked with its solution. Is there anything being done on that level?

  2. Joe Longhorn Says:

    The U.N. has no recourse with respect to what goes on inside a sovereign country. Intervening in the inner workings of a sovereign country is WAY outside the U.N. charter. They can only comment or take action in conflicts between two sovereign countries.

    Iraq was under the U.N.’s thumb due to consequences and sanctions from the first Gulf War when sovereign Iraq invaded sovereign Kuwait.

  3. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Doesn’t the UN have some dealings with Human Rights violations?

    Just asking…

  4. Joe Longhorn Says:

    The U.N. can pass all kinds of resolutions… but they can’t DO anything about it. Heck… China is on the security council. You think they’re going to start throwing stones about human rights violations?

    The U.N. charter gives lip service to Human Rights. They have human rights committees that write reports. The committee reports could scream bloody murder, but by the time it gets to the General Assembly, the resolution will likely be nothing more than a collective “tsk, tsk.”

  5. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Thanks, Joe.

    I did a little research and ran across this interview question between middle school kids and Professor Philip Alston (chairman of a UN committee):

    Q. How can we effectively enforce the Declaration for all members of the human race? (Mary Griffard and the West Middle School 7th graders)

    A. It is true that some kind of “enforcement” would be desirable in some situations where there are terrible violations occurring and they show no sign of stopping. Situations of genocide in some countries are the easiest examples. But in most cases it is less a question of enforcement by the UN or forces acting under its authority, than one of trying to persuade governments and people in general to respect human rights. Voluntary groups like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and national or local groups like the American Council for Civil Liberties will often be among the most effective forces to compel governments to respect human rights. The best means of enforcement is through popular pressure at the local level rather than trying to see what sort of military-type options might be used. The latter are not likely to be of much use in most situations and other governments don’t have the determination to use them consistently and in a non-political way.

  6. David Says:

    Actually, the U.N. is not as ineffectual as many conservatives would have us all believe. Joe is correct to point out that the General Assembly has difficulty coming to consensus many issues and that the Security Counsel (which includes China) holds the ultimate decisionmaking power regarding whether the U.N. takes any affirmative action. Joe is also correct when he states that the UN charter generally prohibits interfering with any sovereign nation’s internal operations or governance (hence the U.N.’s objection to the American invasion of the sovereign Iraqi nation).

    However, since the genocides in Rwanda and Kosovo, the U.N. leadership and the General Assembly alike have taken affirmative positions on human rights, declaring that it is not an invasion of a nation’s sovereignty to defend human rights, particularly in cases of genocide and torture. Of course, getting the Security Counsel to agree to spend money and commit troops to an intervention is difficult, particularly given that the two wealthiest countries–China and the U.S.–currently embrace pro-torture policies.

    In addition, the U.N. Committees on human rights and torture are making significant progress through less direct action. The Committees investigate and release reports about human rights violations around the world. As these reports get media attention, public outcry has led many countries to impose significant trade sanctions and financial restrictions on the offending nations to coerce them to change their policies.

    Certainly, it would be nice to have a swift hand of justice swoop down from on high and correct these types of injustices, but that would be contrary to the very principles of international comity and respect that the U.N. was founded upon. In addition, the biggest barrier to the UN being a more effective and active body of international governance is our own U.S. of A–we have never paid our full UN dues since the founding of the U.N.

  7. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Thanks, David, for your insight…

    My question stems from a desire to do something to help, but on a stage outside this country, it’s my belief/understanding that the UN is the body given legal status to do something. (Which is why I very much oppose the course of action our country originally chose in invading Iraq.)

    I’m interested in their approach to the problem Sandi highlighted in her post.

  8. Joe Longhorn Says:

    “the biggest barrier to the UN being a more effective and active body of international governance is our own U.S. of A–we have never paid our full UN dues since the founding of the U.N.”

    You can’t be serious.

    First off… we are the only country that doesn’t submit a bill to the U.N. when we commit forces in support of U.N. actions. What we spend on these forces far outpaces what our “full” dues would be.

    Moving away from money, let’s look at another way the U.S. has “paid its dues” to the U.N.

    100,000 wounded and 50,000 dead Americans supporting U.N. Action in Korea.

    Over 250 dead Americans in Lebanon in support of U.N. peacekeeping efforts.

    Over 380 dead Americans in Desert Shield/Desert Storm in support of a U.N. sanctioned coalition enforcing UNSCR 678.

    Over 40 dead Americans in support of U.N. humanitarian efforts in Somalia.

    The amount of blood and treasure the U.S. has poured into supporting the U.N. is GROSSLY disproportionate when compared to levels of support from any other member nation.

    And your assertion that the U.S. “embraces” pro-torture policy is misinformed.

  9. Joe Longhorn Says:

    Some other numbers:

    – Even without paying our “full dues” or counting what we spend on military forces supporting U.N. missions, U.S. dues provide 22% of the U.N.’s budget.

    – Using 2004 numbers, the U.S. accounts for 21% of global GDP.

    – The TOTAL current debt that the U.S. owes the U.N. for “dues in arrear” is less than $1.3 billion.

    – Saddam made over $21 billion in illegal profits from the oil-for-food program.

  10. David Says:

    I will never understand this reaction to the U.N., which I have heard time and again from conservatives. You complain the the U.N. is ineffectual, yet when someone points out the U.S.’s role in hindering its effectiveness, you are unwilling to acknowledge it.

    The U.N. is a democratic international body of governance. If the United States truly believed our own rhetoric that democratic leadership is the universal panacea for all of the world, our relationship to the U.N. would be much different than it has been. (For that matter, our foreign policy of supporting tyrannies and dictatorships far more often than supporting democracies would also be much different.) You seem to be saying that for all the money we spend on the U.N., we should be able to buy a democratic body that, at very least, votes the way we want it to. I’m not sure I would use democracy to describe such a system.

    With regard to Al’s question, the U.N.’s stance against torture was codified in the “Torture Convention”, an international treaty that has been signed (but never fully ratified) by the U.S. The portion of this international treaty which the U.S. did accept was codified by Congress in sections 2340 and 2340A of the U.S. criminal law. These are the provisions that were interpreted exceptionally broadly by Attorney General Gonzales in the infamous “torture memo,” which does not consider severe injurious acts to be torture unless they last “for months or even years” or result in “organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.” The international community agrees that such a broad interpretation of this law by the highest office in our country clearly constitutes a pro-torture policy (as do many members of our own Congress).

    But getting back to Al’s question, Article 2 of the Torture Convention states that “Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction,” and this is really the crux of the problem with respect to the torture that Sandi initially discussed. Even if Pakistan had signed this treaty (which they have not), if the Pakistani legal system looks the other way on crimes such as these, there is little hope because the jurisdictional provisions of the Convention do not allow other nations to punish torture committed outside of its borders (except under limited circumstances). The Convention does offer protection against extradition, such that if a torture victim flees to a neighboring country that is a party to the Convention, the Convention could prevent them from being forced to go back.

    Unfortunately, that’s all the protection law offers at this time. The real work in this area is being done by the people at Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, who work to bring assistance and public attention to human rights violations worldwide.

  11. Al Sturgeon Says:

    David: Thanks for answering my question.

    Joe: You know you would have made a great Confederate! 🙂 Just substitute “state” for “nation” and “Lincoln” for “U.N.” and you’d have been governor of Alabamy!

    I’m not going to argue about something I’m entirely ignorant about (flaws of the U.N.). I “will” say that just because something is flawed does not mean “necessarily” that its to be ignored (to mix news stories, think “Church of Christ” here). And I’m not saying that you are saying to ignore the U.N. completely, but for all practical purposes, it sort of seems that way (i.e. it’s a good place to talk about things, but if it doesn’t go our way, then we’re not going to listen to what it says).

    I do think I’ve got enough grasp on the concept of government to talk about it a little, and in any sort of civilization, interaction between people and/or groups of people needs rules. If not, then the biggest dog wins, and that flies in the face of democracy. “Majority rules” with “minority basic rights.”

    On an international scale, the established body to deal with all this at present is the United Nations. And if its system is flawed, we should work within that system to make it better. If not, then we dismiss democracy in favor of aristocracy on the international stage.

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