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