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Not All Cultures Are Equal.

Not All Cultures Are Equal.

Author: Laina Farhat-Holzman
Publication: Globalthink.net
Date: September 5, 2009
URL: http://globalthink.net/index.cfm/2009/9/7/Not-All-Cultures-Are-Equal

I remember my first encounter with anthropology in college when we were taught that cultures are neither bad nor good-but are reasonable to their members. I have since learned that this extremely generous concept was intended to counteract the western bias of 19th century anthropology, being as it was, part of European colonialism.

In Europe and Canada, some have even supported immigrants selecting their own law codes under special circumstances. For example, the Muslim community in Ontario tried to get legal recognition of strict Muslim Sharia law in family matters (marriage, divorce, status of women). In Canada's misguided political correctness, they almost let this happen-had not organized and outraged feminists defended these Muslim women as Canadians, and would not let them be battered, married off by force, or other Sharia horrors.

England, however, is not so lucky. Sharia is a Muslim option available to the Pakistani community in Britain and will not be revisited until some horrible abuse of a woman or girl gets press. Meanwhile, even polygamy (paid for by the British taxpayers) gets no legal attention, nor do the victims of this system get legal recourse.

In a Liberian immigrant community in Phoenix, an eight-year-old girl was gang raped by four boys, ages 9 to 14, one of them her cousin. The little girl's family went public and indignantly blamed the child for bringing shame on them. The parents did not want her back after her hospitalization. They also do not want to prosecute the boys ("because they are our clan, our kin," was what they said). Alas, they have brought their culture with them, and we should not permit it. If they cannot be retrained to be civilized, deport them.

In Iraq, there is widespread wife battery. American trainers of Iraqi soldiers and police had discussions in which the Americans asked why so many Iraqis beat their wives. They received an ancient answer (supported both by their religion and tribal cultures): women have the power to seduce men with their sexuality and if men do not beat them, the women will not learn who is boss. (If wives are disobedient, says the Koran, beat them.)

I cannot imagine what cultural excuse the Pakistanis have for kidnapping and gang-raping young girls who, if they go to the police, get gang-raped by the police as well. The girls' families expect them to commit suicide (which many do) to expunge the family's "shame," or the families kill them themselves. Why is this "reasonable" to anthropologists?

How do anthropologists explain the annual pogroms in Sub-Saharan Africa against supposed "witches" and even worse, against albinos? The unfortunate albinos are murdered and their body parts sold (and eaten) "for luck," an indulgence even to Africans educated in the west.

In Afghanistan, there is a new law (with Koranic support) permitting husbands to deprive wives of food and water if they refuse sex. The previous law permitted marital rape, but a fuss was made abroad that derailed its passage. Shame on President Karzai for signing these bills!

But who is looking at Muslim world pedophilia? I recall a quote from the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran that it is a shame for a family to house a girl after her first blood. She must be married off. There is a haunting photo in the August 15 Economist of a little girl looking apprehensively at her old, dirty, mean-looking "husband." He family sold her in payment of debt. And on line, al-Jazeera news service confirms a mass wedding in Gaza-happy grooms of all ages-and tiny girl "brides" looking frightened.

We have our own rapists, pedophiles, and wife beaters in the west. But our societies brand them as criminals and punish them. How unlucky to live in a culture that has not evolved this far.

In Somalia, the Islamist al Shabaab group pulls gold and silver teeth (without anesthetic) from residents because they say Sharia law so dictates. Pretty easy money here; and remember, the Nazis pulled the gold teeth from dead victims and melted them down.

No, not all cultures are equal.

- Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and writer. You may contact her at Lfarhat102@aol.com and www.globalthink.net.

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