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Cultural Relativism Has It Limits

February 5, 2010

For example, the murder of a 16-year-old girl by her family is not acceptable. Her crime was talking to boys. She was punished by being buried alive. There was dirt in her lungs when her body was found.

When I was in 9th grade, I came home with hickies on my neck. My parents said that they were embarrassed by this in a way they had never been embarrassed about anything my sister or brother had ever done. I should be thankful that my family isn’t Muslim and I am not a girl. The last thing I would ever see could be a circle of men calling me “slut” as they chant allahu akbar. I’d be buried shoulder deep and they’d be holding rocks. Here’s an extremely disturbing video of what would happen next.

Are there decent elements to Islam? Sure. Plenty. But it’s kind of a roll of the dice where one is born. I know that I am painting with a broad brush by assigning this to “Islam” rather than the specific places where these or other atrocities are committed in the name of the Religion of Peace. In this “buried alive” instance, her family clearly believed that the life of their daughter was less important than the family reputation she tarnished by talking to boys; this is not a belief that arises on its own.

Imagine if your average American father did come up with that same belief on his own. One night, he sees his daughter is on the phone, picks up a handset and hears the voice of a boy on the other end, so he drags his daughter out of the house, throws her on the ground and stomps on her skull until its contents are splashed across the front lawn. We’d call that man a psychopath. We’d demand his severe and lifelong punishment.  What do we preserve by failing to call to the culture from which nearly identical actions arose a psychopathic culture?

Any culture that abides or encourages the murder of misbehaving children is one this planet would be much better off without. If that makes me a cultural chauvinist, so be it.

Update: It’s frustrating to me that this kind of condemnation of barbarism flows more freely from the political right in America than from the left.  First of all, this sucks for me.  I really don’t want to see eye-to-eye with the Limbaughs, Hannities, and Becks of this world.  More importantly, it sucks for the left.  They seem so committed to ideas like multiculturalism that it would cause irreparable cognitive dissonance to acknowledge that some culture just can’t join the party.

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