November 4, 2005

"No matter what, they must talk about it and they must fight for justice."

Muktar Mai speaks "to the women of the world and all the women who have been raped or any of the kind of violation." Who is Muktar Mai?
[S]he was gang-raped on the order of [Pakistani] village tribal council elders. The rape was meant to restore her family's honor after her younger brother was accused of being with a girl from a rival tribe.

In a country where, Human Rights Watch says, the vast majority of rapes and other violent crimes against women goes unpunished, Mai broke her silence. She not only pressed charges, she fought her case all the way to the nation's highest court.

In a case that sent shock waves through Pakistan, her attackers were found guilty. She used her government compensation money to build schools in her village. Since then, Mai has become a kind of Rosa Parks of Pakistan.

"First there was just my home. Now I have to deal with the whole world," she said in an interview.

27 comments:

EddieP said...

God bless Muktar Mai and her muslim sisters. They will be the salvation of, and driving force behind, the reformation of Islam.

Pastor_Jeff said...

Ann,

What an encouraging and inspiring story! On the one hand, it's a terrible reminder of the real oppression many women still endure. And yet, it's ultimately about one woman turning personal tragedy and injustice into hope and opportunity for many others.

With all the examples of partisan sniping and political posturing, it's so easy to become cynical. Thanks for sharing this.

Elizabeth said...

I've been following Muktar Mai's story since it was first reported, maybe last year, if I recall correctly. I'm repeatedly blown away by her poise and resiliance. That's hard to come by, even in a culture that tries to be supportive of rape victims. Imagine having your rape framed as a formal act of justice.

I would like to see her and her allies get more Western support, especially from women. Western feminists are in conflict over how to respond to Islam; one side tends to be too accommodating, citing post-Colonialist doubts about the validity of Western critique of other cultures, particularly given the West's role in destabilizing those cultures, while the side I tend to support takes the stance that essential women's rights are not mutable, even though cultural expression may well be.

I use Marjane Satrapi's graphic novels Persepolis I and II, in two of my literature courses, one of which is also a women's studies course, and ran into conflict with a colleague over whether our students would take her story as being anti-Islam. I think our students are smarter than that, and it's my job to help them past that, anyway. Satrapi's work is autobiographical, and it's hard to argue that we should avoid her because her experience growing up in a secular family during the Iranian Marxist/Fundamentalist revolution complicates a muilticultural utopian outlook.

I think Muktar Mai similarly challenges feminists to expand our ability to view other women's experiences through their own perspectives.

Synova said...

This is fantastic. Good for her!

I'm at a total loss, though, to figure out how the heck gang raping her could have anything to do with restoring her family's honor because her brother was with a girl... unless... "with a girl" is a euphamism for sex, if not violent rape, at least fornication, so it was a matter of "you raped one of ours so now we get to rape one of yours, and that will make it fair."

Maybe they figure that this is better than destroying the brother for breaking the rules. I wonder what the punishment is supposed to be for someone who fornicates.

I wonder if it would have involved the brother *and* the girl from the other village.

One of the arguments against making punishments too harsh is that the people in charge of doing the punishing won't apply it.

(Yes, it's easy to be curious about convoluted social reasoning when it's not happening to me. Also, it's a huge mistake to view understanding motivations as approval in any way shape or form.)

Goesh said...

I'm sure once muslim women can vote and don't have to wear sacks and cover their faces all will be well. Just say no to clitorectomy can be their campaign slogan of reformation as they march in jeans and mini-skirts in the islamic capitols of the world. After all, islam is a religion of peace. They should have nothing to fear.

Synova said...

"I think Muktar Mai similarly challenges feminists to expand our ability to view other women's experiences through their own perspectives."

Not disagreeing, just curious about how you formed this statement. Doesn't viewing women's experiences through their *own* perspectives go right along with the idea that we don't have the moral athority to make judgements about other cultures?

It seems to me that what knowing her perspective does, rather, is validate your earlier statement that some things are not mutable. It affirms the fact that human rights ought to be applied across cultures. Women should not be raped or mutilated, children should not be sold, and it doesn't matter if these things are a normal part of the "culture."

wildaboutharrie said...

Synova, no, the brother did not have sex with the girl from the other tribe:

"Mai's then 12-year-old brother Abdul Shakoor (pictured behind her) had been seen walking with a girl from the more influential Mastoi tribe; they demanded Mai's rape to avenge their 'honor.' Mai's family sat helplessly while she was dragged into a room, even as she screamed and pleaded for mercy. To further humiliate her, and make an example of those who would defy the power of local strongmen, she was paraded naked before hundreds of onlookers. Her father covered her with a shawl and walked her home."

http://www.time.com/time/asia/2004/heroes/hmukhtar_mai.html

wildaboutharrie said...

(Sorry, I should have said "apparently" did not have sex with her...but I've been following this story for a while also and I've never heard it reported that the two young people had sex...)

wildaboutharrie said...

Synova, I'm confused, I think you're contradicting yourself or I'm addled with baby-brain:

You seem to be saying that taking the woman's perspective into consideration means you have to bow to the cultural norms, but then you say knowing her perspective affirms what is consistent across cultures.

It's an interesting question, anyway. And making it even more difficult is that so often practices we abhor - rape revenge, bride burning, female genital mutilation - are carried out or at least supported by many women.

Synova said...

Okay, thanks.

It really bugs me when I can't make sense of things.

Synova said...

I was trying to define a rather thin distinction.

"You seem to be saying that taking the woman's perspective into consideration means you have to bow to the cultural norms,"

No, no. Not that you have to bow to the cultural norms, but if your beginning premis is that different cultures should be judged by themselves and not by external standards, then emphasizing the need to view events though the perceptions of the local women *could* be taken to support that premis.

"...but then you say knowing her perspective affirms what is consistent across cultures."

Yes. I do think it's important to understand her perspective and to put a great deal of importance on her perspective, but not because her perspective *defines* morality.

because...

"...so often practices we abhor - rape revenge, bride burning, female genital mutilation - are carried out or at least supported by many women."

Absolutely.

Elizabeth said...

Synova, that's a fair question, and my statement was convoluted.

I believe we do have the moral right to make judgements about other cultures, but we can be wrong about those judgments if we base them on unexamined and unchallenged ideas, and don't go to any trouble to hear different positions from people within the culture.

In the case of the text I assigned, the dogma that we have to value all cultures equally in this case hit up against my view that I don't have to be locked into a predetermind, PC position. I think the dogmatic view doesn't have room for listening to actual perspectives of women who live within Islamic culture, but instead relies on a one-size-fits-all response. There's little chance any such perspective would change my view and inalienable rights, however.

JBlog said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
JBlog said...

I don't know guys -- we're not being very multicultural here.

After all things such as this -- slavery, retaliatory rape, female infanticide, widow burning, female genital mutilation, etc. -- might be perfectly acceptable in those societies.

As the the source of, well, ALL the problems in the world today, who are we to judge, with our puritanical views on moral absolutes for right and wrong?

Aren't you afraid we're being a little close-minded and bigoted here?

...nah, me neither.

PatCA said...

"One side tends to be too accommodating, citing post-Colonialist doubts about the validity of Western critique of other cultures."

I agree, Elizabeth, and I think it betrays some sloppy thinking/language in the dogma of multiculturalism. The shame and honor culture that allowed such a rape existed long before colonial times, didn't it?

I also believe it is proper, even mandatory, to judge other cultures by universal standards, which are quite different from external standards. Salman Rushdie said it best:

The idea of universal rights—the idea of rights that are universal to all people because they correspond to our natures as human beings, not to where we live or what our cultural background is—is an incredibly important one. This belief is being challenged by apostles of cultural relativism who refuse to accept that such rights exist. If you look at those who employ this idea, it turns out to be Robert Mugabe, the leaders of China, the leaders of Singapore, the Taliban, Ayatollah Khomeini. It is a dangerous belief that everything is relative and therefore these people should be allowed to kill because it’s their culture to kill.

God bless the sisters in the Middle East. They are the full bloom of the promise of feminism.

Elizabeth said...

PatCA,

I think the reasonable side is winning that debate in feminist circles, as we did in the 80s with anti-porn dogma.

Where I am led to agree with the post-colonialists is when they argue that Western feminists don't always have the best ideas on how to address women's issues cross-culturally, and need to listen to the women themselves, not just proceed with an assumption that we have all the answers. Asking "what do you need from me" can be more useful than "hey, here's how we do things in the First World."

In this case, notice that Muktar pursued her case, won in court, and used the money to build something that might make a difference in her local community.

whit said...

Synova:
You wrote - "It affirms the fact that human rights ought to be applied across cultures. Women should not be raped or mutilated, children should not be sold, and it doesn't matter if these things are a normal part of the "culture."

How could you be so culturally insensitive?

PatCA said...

We agree, Elizabeth. I just think the silence from official feminism is deafening. People like Hirsan Ali and Muktar Mai should be considered heroes, and I've read strong criticism of Azar Nafisi from the left.

Maybe tho that will utimately work to their favor. Time will tell.

Synova said...

whit, :-P

Another thing... we ought to pay attention to what it means about the culture that Mukar Mai pursued justice and got it. What happened to her, be it common and part of the culture or not, was illegal. It's not just this woman who sees this practice as wrong from her own perspective... it's the perspective of the courts and law where she lives. It's a matter of forcing people to stop turning a blind eye to what they already agree, in the light of day, is wrong.

XWL said...

While taking an Ethnic Studies course I wrote a paper on female genital mutilation.

Through my research I was amazed how many people (consistently on the left and usually writing with U.N. sanction) tried to justify the practice, even in its most severe forms (we're talking full removal of clitoris, labia, and the sewing up of the vagina).

The fact that there is even a question of whether or not certain very basic standards of humanity transcend culture I believe is a direct result of multi-culti relativism.

It really didn't take long to go from Columbus wasn't heroic to if it isn't western it probably isn't bad (even when it involves genito-torture).

And as far as the practice of genital mutilation, it is almost universally against the law and officially condemned. As was the case with Muktar Mai throughout most of the world their is a huge difference between the law as practiced and enforce and the law as written. That her case was heard before a court and adjudicated according to the laws as written was a result of world-wide publicity and most likely means that any future women in her position won't be left alive to testify to avoid this kind of embarrassment.

The practice of mutilation remains pervasive in North Africa even in countries that threaten practitioners with long prison sentences. The official dogma and the actual practice of the law are completely at odds in countries like Egypt where the practice remains common despite the threat of jail for those who perform the procedure and advocates of the cultural norms argument suggest that by making the practice illegal it becomes deadlier and more dangerous and that you can't stop people from practicing this custom so you should regulate it by having guidelines that give the appearance of having done a culturally acceptable procedure without destroying the clitoris. (parallels to the anti-anti-abortion arguments in the United States, no more back-alley genital mutilations!)

The Muktar Mai's of the world will suffer more if those who believe that standing up against these customs win the debate (which thankfully is unlikely here, not so unlikely in Europe though, see Sweden's take on allowing culturally specific abrogations of law for proof). Not all slopes are slippery, sometimes it is possible to differentiate acceptable cultural differences from abhorent and inhuman practices that have no place in any civil society.

vbspurs said...

I'm at a total loss, though, to figure out how the heck gang raping her could have anything to do with restoring her family's honor because her brother was with a girl... unless... "with a girl" is a euphamism for sex, if not violent rape, at least fornication, so it was a matter of "you raped one of ours so now we get to rape one of yours, and that will make it fair."

I think we all understand that you are querying the senselessness of this system, but that's actually, the way things are around the world.

We in the West have a sense of individual honour, or at least, had.

We do something, and we ourselves alone are responsible for that act.

But in collective responsibility countries, which includes most of the East, that's not how it goes.

Honour killings, tribal warfare, protecting a woman's virginity are key.

In the case of the "tribal elders", they instituted a Shari'a law which means you take like for like and thus, all is well (somehow).

This to us, in the West, is incomprehensible, of course. *shrug*

But not all honour-related customs are bad.

It is that high sense of collective responsibility that makes Koreans, Japanese and Chinese so deliberate about their work -- because if one fails, they all do, as a group.

These days, it's not that extreme, as it was even a short 30 years ago, but you can see how different our mindset is.

Hail Muktar Mai!

P.S.: One of the most-requested cosmetic surgeries is hymen reconstruction, for a girl, usually of Muslim religion, who has had hers altered thru' sexual contact. Usually they do it secretly -- and I don't mean in the Middle East. Try Beverly Hills.

Cheers,
Victoria

Ann Þø said...

IN
http://althouse.blogspot.com/2005/11/no-matter-what-they-must-talk-about-it.html

there were a few comments that made me jump.
I (Anne) say:
ONE CAN SEE THAT THERE ARE MANY PEOPLES THATE ARE COMMENTING AND SPEAK RUBBISH
I AM DISAPOINTED Þ
I used to admire all the posters here. Now I am wondering.

This will be a very long post so be patient and please read and use your brain!!!
But I know that a few will post an answer as fast as they can move their finger.:

Comments:
EddieP said...
God bless Muktar Mai and her muslim sisters. They will be the salvation of, and driving force behind, the reformation of Islam.
I (Anne) say that hell will freeze before.

11:01 AM, November 04, 2005
Pastor_Jeff said...
Ann,

What an encouraging and inspiring story! On the one hand, it's a terrible reminder of the real oppression many women still endure. And yet, it's ultimately about one woman turning personal tragedy and injustice into hope and opportunity for many others.

With all the examples of partisan sniping and political posturing, it's so easy to become cynical. Thanks for sharing this.

I (Anne) say: Another one who does not read the news. This was a very big story for a long time. My conclusion is that you are a) un-informed or b) "political posturing".

11:04 AM, November 04, 2005
Elizabeth said...
I've been following Muktar Mai's story since it was first reported, maybe last year, if I recall correctly. I'm repeatedly blown away by her poise and resiliance. That's hard to come by, even in a culture that tries to be supportive of rape victims. Imagine having your rape framed as a formal act of justice.

I would like to see her and her allies get more Western support, especially from women. Western feminists are in conflict over how to respond to Islam; one side tends to be too accommodating, citing post-Colonialist doubts about the validity of Western critique of other cultures, particularly given the West's role in destabilizing those cultures, while the side I tend to support takes the stance that essential women's rights are not mutable, even though cultural expression may well be.

I use Marjane Satrapi's graphic novels Persepolis I and II, in two of my literature courses, one of which is also a women's studies course, and ran into conflict with a colleague over whether our students would take her story as being anti-Islam. I think our students are smarter than that, and it's my job to help them past that, anyway. Satrapi's work is autobiographical, and it's hard to argue that we should avoid her because her experience growing up in a secular family during the Iranian Marxist/Fundamentalist revolution complicates a muilticultural utopian outlook.

I think Muktar Mai similarly challenges feminists to expand our ability to view other women's experiences through their own perspectives.

I (anne) say that this is another one that is a verbo motor personality. (this is a very questioning query about the common sense of the writer)


12:53 PM, November 04, 2005
Synova said...
This is fantastic. Good for her!

I'm at a total loss, though, to figure out how the heck gang raping her could have anything to do with restoring her family's honor because her brother was with a girl... unless... "with a girl" is a euphamism for sex, if not violent rape, at least fornication, so it was a matter of "you raped one of ours so now we get to rape one of yours, and that will make it fair."

I (Anne) would like to remind you that this is class / tribal thing. It was still done until very recently in Europe. It renders the young girl impure even for the male of her social group. Do not tell me that among your friends you have never heard the label "She is a whore" used to eliminate a wonan competitor.

Maybe they figure that this is better than destroying the brother for breaking the rules. I wonder what the punishment is supposed to be for someone who fornicates.

I (Anne)say that you should not demonstrate your ignorance that clearly.

I wonder if it would have involved the brother *and* the girl from the other village.

One of the arguments against making punishments too harsh is that the people in charge of doing the punishing won't apply it.

(Yes, it's easy to be curious about convoluted social reasoning when it's not happening to me. Also, it's a huge mistake to view understanding motivations as approval in any way shape or form.)

1:03 PM, November 04, 2005
Goesh said...
I'm sure once muslim women can vote and don't have to wear sacks and cover their faces all will be well. Just say no to clitorectomy can be their campaign slogan of reformation as they march in jeans and mini-skirts in the islamic capitols of the world. After all, islam is a religion of peace. They should have nothing to fear.


I (Anne) say The sack is used in Yemen but no clitorectomy. Most places where women are subject to clitorectomy the women walk around naked. or bare breasted. We have two different situation here. In Indonesia they used to walk in jeans.


1:15 PM, November 04, 2005
wildaboutharrie said...
Synova, no, the brother did not have sex with the girl from the other tribe:

"Mai's then 12-year-old brother Abdul Shakoor (pictured behind her) had been seen walking with a girl from the more influential Mastoi tribe; they demanded Mai's rape to avenge their 'honor.' Mai's family sat helplessly while she was dragged into a room, even as she screamed and pleaded for mercy. To further humiliate her, and make an example of those who would defy the power of local strongmen, she was paraded naked before hundreds of onlookers. Her father covered her with a shawl and walked her home."

http://www.time.com/time/asia/2004/heroes/hmukhtar_mai.html

I (Anne) say at least some body that got informed before commenting.

1:46 PM, November 04, 2005
wildaboutharrie said...
(Sorry, I should have said "apparently" did not have sex with her...but I've been following this story for a while also and I've never heard it reported that the two young people had sex...)

1:48 PM, November 04, 2005
wildaboutharrie said...
Synova, I'm confused, I think you're contradicting yourself or I'm addled with baby-brain:

You seem to be saying that taking the woman's perspective into consideration means you have to bow to the cultural norms, but then you say knowing her perspective affirms what is consistent across cultures.

It's an interesting question, anyway. And making it even more difficult is that so often practices we abhor - rape revenge, bride burning, female genital mutilation - are carried out or at least supported by many women.

I (anne) confirm that almost 98 percent of culture is transmited by women brvo for saying it "And making it even more difficult is that so often practices we abhor - rape revenge, bride burning, female genital mutilation - are carried out or at least supported by many women." I know the Horn of Afrika culture and can certify that very few father approve of clitorectomy. But they go along because they must respect the elder women REPEAT : THE ELDER WOMEN

Even in this forum we have an elder women that want to dictate to younger generation and i name :Elizabeth






3:22 PM, November 04, 2005
Elizabeth said...
PatCA,

I think the reasonable side is winning that debate in feminist circles, as we did in the 80s with anti-porn dogma.

Where I am led to agree with the post-colonialists is when they argue that Western feminists don't always have the best ideas on how to address women's issues cross-culturally, and need to listen to the women themselves, not just proceed with an assumption that we have all the answers. Asking "what do you need from me" can be more useful than "hey, here's how we do things in the First World."

In this case, notice that Muktar pursued her case, won in court, and used the money to build something that might make a difference in her local community.

I (Anne) say that if you get yourself informed you will find that she could not get justice in court. It is only when the US government (under influence of its citizen) twisted a few arm that Parkistan did the rigth thing.

3:35 PM, November 04, 2005
whit said...
Synova:
You wrote - "It affirms the fact that human rights ought to be applied across cultures. Women should not be raped or mutilated, children should not be sold, and it doesn't matter if these things are a normal part of the "culture."

I (Anne) say that these are only the values of the day - today. They will change with time. A few years ago young girls had their feet crippled in some asian culture. It does not happen any more. A few centuries ago European cultures arranged marriage...In a few centuries, if we do not control the population, people will recycle the dead in food (maybe)!!

XWL said...

This is a serious subject, but sometimes comments are comical despite the subject.

With that out of the way, I think the above Ann most be a fan of the 80s band Frankie Goes to Hollywood

(remember Relax, Two Tribes, and the Frankie Say. . . t-shirts)

(also if you look at her blog she seems to be a bit obsessed with this blog and the commentary within)



ohh, and one final note..... Soylent Greeeeen! It's People!!!!

Synova said...

I (Ann) is excessively fond of (her) own consequence.

Elizabeth said...

XWL,

Your experience with opinions on female genital mutilation is very different from mine. One thing that feminists have advocated is to have immigration policy provide protection to women seeking refugee status in order to escape being so mutilated. At the risk of offending I (Anne) I'm not going to go research it, but I recall at least one such case being approved in a U.S. court. That's a good policy on our part.

XWL said...

Here's a paragraph from the official WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA statement from 1997 regarding female genital mutilation.

After stating forcefully that the practice is "universally unacceptable because it is an infringement on the physical and psychosexual integrity of women and girls and is a form of violence against them."

The statement still has to pull back and pander by stating, "In presenting this statement, the purpose is neither to criticize nor to condemn. Even though cultural practices may appear senseless or destructive from the standpoint of others, they have meaning and fulfill a function for those who practice them."

When I see a phrase like 'neither to criticize nor to condemn' I have no such problem, I freely criticize and condemn such namby-pamby moral relativism.

You can't claim any moral authority by saying the practice is a form of sexual violence and then in the very next sentence state that they don't want to 'condemn' the practice.

That's the official line coming from the multi-national organizations. From the other reading I did there were quite a few Edward Said wannabes (that's the type of leftist I mentioned in passing previously, there are many flavors of marxist and neo-marxist within middle east studies programs in the U.S. and Europe, my use of the term previously was imprecise and therefore confusing, not all leftist are femminist which seems to be Elizabeth's assumption based on her comment regarding my comment) who refuse to see these practices as beneath contempt and insist that female genital mutilation isn't far different from the Jewish practice of male circumcision.

There doesn't seem to be any behavior that can't be justified by some people by pointing a finger at someone else and saying 'but they do it too'.

Elizabeth said...

XWL, nothing in my posts here indicate that I assume as leftists are feminist, and much in my life experience assures me that is not so--you might look at a comment I made in another topic on this blog yesterday, complaining about the sexism in some of the more uncouth leftists blogs.

The WHO statement you quote is incomplete: it follows with "However, culture is not static, it is in constant flux, adapting and reforming. People will change their behavior when they understand the hazards and indignity of harmful practices and when they realize that it is possible to give up harmful practices without giving up meaningful aspects of their culture."

There's nothing wishy-washy about that. Their website offers years of policy statements and educational materials on the issue, and all of it is aimed clearly at eradicating the practice, not changing to a less drastic form, nor attempting to justify it as comparable to male circumcision. They quite deliberately reject the word circumcision, and always call it mutilation.

The statement about criticizing and condeming is clearly meant to establish that their role is education. Other entities have the role of criticism and condemnation; that's a multi-tiered approach. Pulling out a qualifying statement by a health organization whose tactic is to change the culture, and putting it forth as a representation of feminist attitudes in toto toward a vile crime is a poor argument. The WHO statement isn't taking the position of "who are we to judge?" because the organization repeatedly and clearly says the practice is a crime against women and must be eradicated. That happens not just with sanctions (the U.S. uses financial sanctions against countries that allow the practice), but with education aimed at ending the myths and belief systems that perpetuate it.

It's also wrong to look only at the Western agencies and governments; Arab and African women's groups are unequivocal in their efforts to end the practice.