Saudi rape victim pardoned


by Sunny
18th December, 2007 at 8:26 am    

Associated Press is reporting that:

A gang-rape victim who was sentenced to six months in prison and 200 lashes for being alone with a man not related to her was pardoned by the Saudi king after the case sparked rare criticism from the United States, the kingdom’s top ally.

Justice Minister Abdullah bin Mohammed al-Sheik said the pardon reported Monday by Saudi media does not mean the king doubted the country’s judges, but that he was acting in the “interests of the people.”

What he means is that western media outrage, which led to the issue being raised with President Bush, forced the Saudi king to back down. For the victim this is undoubtedly good news and I would hope this incident would make the Saudi legislative think again next time when they convict rape victims. Though, I doubt it. Governments are understandably reluctant to tell other countries how they should treat their own citizens, lest it comes back to haunt them.

For lefties there are (possibly) added dimensions to such stories. On the one hand there is the “anti-imperialist left”, where activists are convinced that these stories are only highlighted in the western media to indicate how superior the west is, and any attempts by “imperialists” to dictate to the down-trodden East should be resisted. You know who they are – the kind that would happily condemn Iraqi “traitors” to death for helping British armed forces.

Then there is the “anti-totalitarian left” who jump on every such news story as example of how superior “western values” are. After all, we are in a clash of values remember? There’s no space for moral relativism here people; you’re either for freedom or a supporter of “Islamo-fascism”! They develop an interest in women’s rights across the Muslim world but are curiously silent about the attack on abortion rights in the UK or in other parts of the world. As Pankaj Mishra recently pointed out:

Almost every day newspaper columnists berate Islam, often couching their prejudice in the highly moral language of women’s rights: it is not due to oversight that Indian women murdered for failing to bring sufficient dowry – a staggering 6,787 in 2005 – occupy a fraction of the print acreage devoted to the tiny minority of veiled Muslim women.

Despite the unhealthy obsessions that lie on either sides, I believe the broader liberal-left should make a big stink about such issues (including forced marriages / honour killings) otherwise we betray the women who are subjugated. I believe liberal-lefties are guilty of not saying enough on such issues, leaving it to feminists to make noise and try to get support for their causes.


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Filed in: Current affairs,Middle East,Religion






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  1. fugstar — on 18th December, 2007 at 11:03 am  

    heavily ironic becuase that dodjy dowry practice that seems to have become vogue in south asia, is what our schoalrs have been warning against for eons. we dont associate it with Our religion, more with another one categorised by the british.

  2. Sofia — on 18th December, 2007 at 11:05 am  

    Modern day slavery…
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,2229052,00.html

  3. Ravi Naik — on 18th December, 2007 at 11:43 am  

    Yes, I heard about that story Sofia. It is shocking, isn’t it? It is so despicable that people who have money believe they can belittle the less fortunate and the more vulnerable.

    I don’t want to make sweep generalisations, but one thing that really pisses me off – and I have witness that in Britain – is the way some Indians treat people who serve in restaurants and shops, as if they were completely beneath them.

  4. Boyo — on 18th December, 2007 at 5:10 pm  

    “They develop an interest in women’s rights across the Muslim world but are curiously silent about the attack on abortion rights in the UK or in other parts of the world.”

    Come off it Sunny, being silent about restricting access to late-term abortion because of increased understanding of child development is hardly the “moral equivalent” of supporting 200 lashes for a rape victim.

  5. Desi Italiana — on 18th December, 2007 at 6:20 pm  

    Sunny:

    “I believe the broader liberal-left should make a big stink about such issues (including forced marriages / honour killings)”

    I’m not sure why you make the argument that the left is composed the “anti-totalitarian left” on the one end of the spectrum and the “anti-imperialist left” on the other, and that leftists aren’t silent about issues like abortion being under attack in the UK. I do think there are plenty of leftists who are pretty consistent with their views (not all leftists, obviously, but there’s isn’t a lack of) across the board on both domestic and international issues.

    “They develop an interest in women’s rights across the Muslim world but are curiously silent about the attack on abortion rights in the UK or in other parts of the world. As Pankaj Mishra recently pointed out:”

    But Mishra is talking about newspaper columnists, not leftists specifically…or did I miss something here? (Full disclosure: I didn’t read the article you linked to because I am at work).

  6. Sunny — on 18th December, 2007 at 9:00 pm  

    But Mishra is talking about newspaper columnists, not leftists specifically…or did I miss something here? (Full disclosure: I didn’t read the article you linked to because I am at work).

    newspaper columnists / bloggers – they all merge into one.

    I’m not saying the left only consists of the anti-imperialists or the anti-totalitarians. I’m saying they are on the margins… but that’s why the broader left needs to be more vocal about thesr issues.

  7. The Common Humanist — on 18th December, 2007 at 9:01 pm  

    But there is a stripe of Guardianista that will acuse you of being racist if you criticise aspects of a culture that isn’t your traditional white english protestant.

    They are our equivalent of the frothing Morgoth type (JUst mention ‘Surestart’ – light the touch paper and retreat! There is something about working class kids getting access to aspects of a wealthier start in life that really really really annoys Our Mr Goth!)

  8. Desi Italiana — on 18th December, 2007 at 9:39 pm  

    Sunny, you said:

    “They develop an interest in women’s rights across the Muslim world but are curiously silent about the attack on abortion rights in the UK or in other parts of the world.”

    Then, you state that Pankaj Mishra recently pointed out that

    “Almost every day newspaper columnists berate Islam, often couching their prejudice in the highly moral language of women’s rights.”

    So how are you linking what Mishra said about newspaper columnists, bloggers, etc with your argument that some leftists are hypocritical because they’ll criticize women’s rights in the “Muslim world” but not abortion? You’re using Mishra’s critique on journalists to argue that the left is hypocritical. I don’t understand this connection of yours unless you are claiming that all newspaper columnists, bloggers, etc are leftists…

  9. soru — on 18th December, 2007 at 10:25 pm  

    Actually, I think the ‘anti-imperialist left’ (SWP/respect/whatever they are called this week) are quite happy to criticise Saudi Arabia, as they consider it (not without justication) to be part of the american empire.

    In order to place themselves beyond criticism, they would need to be much more of an enemy, not an ally or client, of the US.

  10. Boyo — on 18th December, 2007 at 10:30 pm  

    “there is a stripe of Guardianista that will acuse you of being racist if you criticise aspects of a culture that isn’t your traditional white english protestant”

    Indeed, seemingly oblivious to their own, actual, racism, ie that just because that criticised culture is not white or European its members are not entitled to the same post-Enlightenment rights, and responsibilities, as everyone else.

  11. Sunny — on 19th December, 2007 at 1:13 am  

    But there is a stripe of Guardianista that will acuse you of being racist if you criticise aspects of a culture that isn’t your traditional white english protestant

    I think their worry is that the person doing the criticising does it from the Martin Amis standpoint – where criticism is not made because they genuinely care or are active in agitating for better human rights, but only so they can feel morally superior.

    There is an element of that. For example, I consume Indian culture but that doesn’t mean I sign up to the wife-beating or dowry demanding sexism. People see other cultures as homogenous but their own as varied. Like Boyo / Morgoth for example.

    You’re using Mishra’s critique on journalists to argue that the left is hypocritical. I don’t understand this connection of yours unless you are claiming that all newspaper columnists, bloggers, etc are leftists…

    Desi, I’m saying that the behaviour of newspaper columnists isn’t so different from polemicists on the left… who raise and agitate about specific issues that fit into their own narrative.

  12. sonia — on 19th December, 2007 at 1:13 am  

    well thank goodness for that. and about bloody time too. ( ooh wait, does this mean the rapists have been pardoned too? since the judge seemed to think of them in the same sort of category)

    perhaps it wasn’t the “west”s pressure but the fact that muslims elsewhere across the board were pretty horrified too. ( and busy distancing themselves from ‘desert’ religion.. not that desert religion ever influenced anyone, ooh no, not that we’ve ever heard!) and perhaps the Saudis realised if they went ahead, everyone would just think ‘shit those islamophobics are right about these nutters’..?

    good question Desi. Sunny you should make it a bit more explicit who you talk about when you’re referring to the ‘Left’. you mean commentators really don’t you? or don’t you.
    i have a feeling it probably doesn’t include anyone/everyone in the general public who might left leaning views, ( cos he/we wouldn’t know what they’re doing or not doing, what causes they’re supporting or not) but a sub-section – of commentators/writers/journalists/blogger-activists/which will include people who spend their time ‘debating’ about these issues for a living, (and also i think, then often ending up taking sides for a living too. but then i’m a cynical old cow so ignore me)

    anyway sunny you said ‘their causes’ – that seems like a dead giveaway to me – is that a freudian slip? who is ‘theirs’? feminists? its not ‘their’ causes, its everyone’s. and need i remind everyone that in all this sorry tragedy nd awful violence, the girl was not the only one raped, the man with her was raped too. the focus was all on the woman, poor thing, but the whole sorry episode is about more than just what happens to a woman. its the complete lack of justice and its a shame on the custodians of the two holy mosques.

  13. sonia — on 19th December, 2007 at 1:18 am  

    are people surprised to hear people treating their maids like slaves? what do you lot think goes on across the Indian subcontinent – amongst many of our own extended families if we have them – and the Middle East,for example? this is well documented stuff and there’s been a lot of spotlight on it this year because of the slave bicentennial, and looking at ‘slavery’ today, human trafficking and the treatment of domestic servants, factory workers across much of the world. Wake up and smell the coffee.

  14. Desi Italiana — on 19th December, 2007 at 1:19 am  

    Sunny:

    “Desi, I’m saying that the behaviour of newspaper columnists isn’t so different from polemicists on the left… who raise and agitate about specific issues that fit into their own narrative.”

    Ok.

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