Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Should we tolerate the intolerant?

Bruce Bawer looks into the European friction growing between the tolerant ideals of the Western world and the theocratic practices of (some) muslim immigrants.
Forced marriage is one of these practices. Among Muslims in Europe, it’s quite common for young people to be compelled by their parents to accept spouses they don’t want. Some women manage to escape these situations and seek protection in women’s shelters. In 1999 the Guardian published an article by Faisal Bodi, a British Muslim who complained about these shelters, which in Great Britain are called "women’s refuges." Charged Bodi, "Refuges tear apart our families. Once a girl has walked in through their door, they do their best to stop her ever returning home. That is at odds with the Islamic impulse to maintain the integrity of the family." (Bodi made certain to note–as if it definitively established the loathsome character of women’s shelters–"the preponderance of homosexuality among members and staff.") Citing universal Muslim belief in "the shariah, the body of laws defining our faith"–which he described, a bit unsettlingly, as "a sharp sword capable of cutting through the generational and cultural divide"–Bodi argued that British authorities must recognize the Muslim community "as an organic whole" and thus accord it a larger role in resolving conflicts over forced marriage. Bodi’s plaint was phrased with extreme delicacy, but the point was clear: when Muslim girls or women flee the tyranny of father or husband, the government should essentially hand them over to a group of Muslim men. In short, British law should effectively be subordinate to Muslim law. Group identity trumps individual rights.

Nothing, of course, could be more undemocratic. Yet time and again, governments in western Europe have shown themselves to be exceedingly susceptible to such arguments by Muslim leaders. The same is true of the mainstream media, whose main concern in such matters, it often appears, is to avoid offending Muslim sensibilities. Representative of the media’s standard approach to issues involving Muslim subcultures was an article about forced marriage that appeared in 2000 in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten. The article tamely characterized the difference between Western-style consensual matrimony and forced Muslim marriages as a "collision between the individual-oriented West and the family-oriented East." The reporter went on to express admiration for the "family-oriented" approach and even cited the low Muslim divorce rate to support the contention that the Muslim way was better–ignoring entirely the fact that wives who are forced to marry are hardly in a position to decide to divorce.



Post a Comment

<< Home

eXTReMe Tracker