Friday, November 14, 2008

Where is the Outrage?

Here is a perfectly dreadful story I missed last week in the heat of the US election: a 13-year Somali girl who was raped by three men was stoned to death for "adultery" in front of a crowd of 1000 onlookers.

At Huffington Post today, Amitai Etzioni is asking why there is not more focused outrage at these types of events:

Public voices that are often raised (frequently for very good reasons!) to criticize many of the policies of the Bush Administration (and Israeli policies in dealing with the Palestinians), are mum about atrocities committed by extremist Muslims. I wonder why we do not hear a peep from these voices when a 13 year old girl is stoned to death for the "sin" of having been raped, as just happened in Somalia. There are good people who are concerned about the pain inflicted on those executed in the United States during the last minutes of their lives by the chemicals they are injected with--a valid concern--but why are these same voices strangely mum when they learn about the particularly prolonged, painful, agonizing death of a child?

Nor did I hear from feminists about the special insult that emanates from blaming the victim of rape for having committed a sin. Or, from anybody about the Taliban who behead their countrymen on buses in Afghanistan --countrymen on their way to visit family or start a new job-- to show that they are in control and not the Karzai government, or to make some other such point.

I am told that public intellectuals refrain from criticizing these Somali and Taliban barbarians (I can practically see some of my colleagues raising their eyebrows as high as they go for my use of such a "harsh" word) because they believe that these killers cannot be reached. "Why waste one's breath?" I hear the otherwise silent public intellectuals whispering. In contrast, they say, condemning Americans (and Israelis) may yield some good results.
I think there is another reason for this. Horrible as these events are, many liberals in the West are more comfortable criticizing members of our own communities than casting stones at others. How effective can we be at spreading feminist or humanitarian ideals when we fall so short of such standards as a nation ourselves? Too, some may argue that "democratic" governments who claim to champion women's equality have a greater responsibility for living up to these ideals. This explains why organizations likeAmnesty International regularly disproportionately singles out the US in its country reporting, for example.

I'm not saying this is the correct view, only that this view may be part of the problem. To the extent that it's valid, I would turn Etzioni's question around and ask why moderate Muslims are not speaking out against this sorts of atrocities taking place in their name. Of course, some are.

1 comment:

chloe said...

Oh, cringe! Did you really mean to use "casting stones" as a metaphor for finger-pointing in this particular post?

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