Friday, April 03, 2009
The Ugly Truth About Afghanistan
I'm glad to see the angry reaction over the Afghan government's plan to allow men to rape their wives.
But why are so many Canadians surprised?
The truth is that this particular law is the unremarkable outgrowth of an ideology, Islamic fundamentalism, that devalues women and still holds sway in Afghanistan.
Why are some still prepared to accept this outrage?
Some argue that, whatever law emerges, we have to respect traditional Afghan values. Would that hold if it were Jews who were being confined to their homes, or blacks prohibited from going to school? Restrictive dress codes, sexist rituals, inequality in the job market: these have been struggles for women in every culture and can only be resolved within those cultures. But forcing unwilling women to have sex, and imprisoning them in their homes constitutes abuse -- anywhere.
Why are some still peddling this garbage?
Now is not the time for Canadians to lose our heads over Afghanistan. Mindless panic on the one hand, and bubbling righteous indignation on the other, are bad guides to foreign policy.
A better life for women and for all who promote a more moderate Islamic society there is not just frosting on the cake. It is essential to the success of our overall project. To waver in our support of it would be not only wrong but foolish.
When the War in Afghanistan has NEVER been about the human rights of women. We haven't done a thing to end horror stories like this one.
And no matter how much we wish we could, we never will.
There is only so much that well-meaning, well-funded, outsiders can do if the dominant culture is irremediably tyrannical. As this realization dawns, public opinion will dictate our next move: out of Afghanistan.
The ugly truth hurts. Idealism dies hard.
But in a place like Afghanistan self delusion is worse...