Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Multiculturalism vs. women's rights

Johann Hari describes how European courts, specifically German ones, are denying women equal rights because, well, they're Muslims and so they should just expect to be treated as second class citizens. So, when women come into courts bruised from the terrible beatings their husbands or fathers have given them, the judges send them back home. They're not given the same rights that German women would have simply because they're Muslim.
Indeed, in the name of this warm, welcoming multiculturalism, the German courts have explicitly compared Muslim women to the brain-damaged. The highest administrative court in North Rhine-Westphalia has agreed that Muslim parents have the "right" to forbid their daughter from going on a school trip unless she was accompanied by a male family member at all times. The judges said the girl was like "a partially mentally impaired person who, because of her disability, can only travel with a companion".

As the Iranian author Azar Nafisi puts it: "I very much resent it when people - maybe with good intentions or from a progressive point of view - keep telling me, 'It's their culture' ... It's like saying the culture of Massachusetts is burning witches." She is horrified by the moves in Canada to introduce shariah courts to enforce family law for Muslims.
What cowardice to surrender your own culture's beliefs in protecting victims from violence simply because you want to respect the hallowed idea of multiculturalism.

I prefer the response of General Sir Charles Napier who had this response to complaints in India that he wasn't respecting local culture when the British outlawed the practice of suttee in which widows were forced to cast themselves on the funeral pyres of their husbands.
"You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."
Sadly, European politicians don't have that same confidence in their own culture today.