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Western culture is superior

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Western culture is superior

Mona Charen (archive)

August 19, 2003 | Print | Send

Two recent news stories illustrate one of the unmentionables of modern life -- namely, that Western culture is superior to others. As the United States is now engaged in a protracted and expensive effort to remake the Middle East, we ought to be clear about what we are doing and why.

First, the stories. One concerns the problem of rape in Iraq. The New York Times reported the fate of a 9-year-old Iraqi girl who had been grabbed by a stranger and raped. Awful enough. But perhaps worse than the rape itself was the response of her family.

Like many pre-modern societies, Iraqis live by a shame-honor system. "For a woman's family, all this is worse than death," Dr. Khulud Younis, an Iraqi gynecologist, told the Times. "They will face shame. If a woman (rape victim) has a sister, her future will be gone."

If a woman is brave enough to report a rape to Iraqi authorities, she will be treated with indifference. She must first go to the police who issue the paperwork for forensic examinations. In Baghdad, the only clinic that can perform a forensic exam is located at the city morgue, and it is open only from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. If the rape occurs after business hours, the woman or child will have to return the next day (being careful not to wash away the evidence in the meantime).

The overwhelming majority of victims do not even attempt to file a complaint. Tribal law prescribes that victims of rape be killed by their male relatives, and when this happens, the men are often given extremely light sentences or no punishment by the courts. In the case of the 9-year-old, her life was spared, but her four brothers as well as her mother and father beat her daily for having compromised the family's honor.

The other story concerns young girls in Africa. Just outside Kampala, Uganda, a 16-year-old orphan named Lillian attempts to hold on to her virginity. Both of her parents, reports The New York Times, succumbed to AIDS. She was given into the care of an uncle. But he, too, died of AIDS.

Lillian is keen to delay sex and dreams of going to college. But while the Ugandan government officially encourages abstinence, the culture -- as well as the economy -- push the other way. Young girls often drop out of school to become the second or third wives of an older man. Many others adopt a form of prostitution. Lillian's cousins (to whom she is something of a burden) are pressuring her to get a "sponsor."

Lillian explains: "I know what they mean. They want me to do what so many girls do and get a sugar daddy. You give him what he wants, and he gives you what you want." Another girl puts it this way: "Some of us are orphans. We are barely getting by. If someone comes along and says he'll buy you soap, you might try it. He gives you 1,000 shillings (about 50 cents), and you hope next time he'll give you 2,000."

To say that Western culture is superior is not to say that any particular person living in the West is superior to any person living elsewhere. That would be ridiculous. But it is equally ridiculous to deny that the moral standards, customs and beliefs of the West contribute to fairer and far more humane societies than are found elsewhere.

We are now engaged in a mission to remake the Middle East -- to introduce democracy, the rule of law and religious pluralism. But as we undertake this task, which would be extremely difficult under the best of circumstances, we are hampered by the fact that a sizeable minority of our own people does not believe at all that our way is better. They, in fact, regard the very suggestion as obscene. Any shortcomings of more primitive societies, when they are acknowledged at all, are blamed on others, usually on us.

Feminists who are quick to file lawsuits for even the smallest slight in this country are strangely reluctant to make common cause with women in nations like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. Why? Is it because championing those women would imply that Western society -- which feminists have so long derided as sexist -- is far better than any others when it comes to the treatment of women?

Is it really arrogance, as the liberals would have it, to believe that the system and the culture we've inherited is superior to others? Or is it ingratitude to deny it?

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Originally posted by raver_mania

This author symbolizes the epitome of ignorance and stupidity.

I guess I can also write a mile long essay on how the Eastern culture is better than Western culture...

Do you disagree with this assertion by the author:

But it is equally ridiculous to deny that the moral standards, customs and beliefs of the West contribute to fairer and far more humane societies than are found elsewhere

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Islamic headgear is not essential

Amir Taheri (archive)

August 19, 2003 | Print | Send

France's Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin has just appointed a committee to draft a law to ban the Islamist hijab (headgear) in state-owned establishments, including schools and hospitals. The decision has drawn fire from the French "church" of Islam, an organisation created by Raffarin's government last spring.

Germany is facing its hijab problem with a number of Islamist organisations suing federal and state authorities for "religious discrimination" because of bans imposed on the controversial headgear.

In the United States several Muslim women are suing airport security firms for having violated their first amendment rights by asking them to take off their hijab during routine searches of passengers.

All these and other cases are based on the claim that the controversial headgear is an essential part of the Muslim faith and that attempts at banning it constitute an attack on Islam.

That claim is totally false. The headgear in question has nothing to do with Islam as a religion. It is not sanctioned anywhere in the Koran, the fundamental text of Islam, or the hadith (traditions) attributed to the Prophet.

This headgear was invented in the early 1970s by Mussa Sadr, an Iranian mullah who had won the leadership of the Lebanese Shiite community.

In an interview in 1975 in Beirut, Sadr told this writer that the hijab he had invented was inspired by the headgear of Lebanese Catholic nuns, itself inspired by that of Christian women in classical Western paintings. (A casual visit to the National Gallery in London, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, or the Louvres in Paris, would reveal the original of the neo-Islamist hijab in numerous paintings depicting Virgin Mary and other female figures from the Old and New Testament.)

Sadr's idea was that, by wearing the headgear, Shiite women would be clearly marked out, and thus spared sexual harassment, and rape, by Yasser Arafat's Palestinian gunmen who at the time controlled southern Lebanon.

Sadr's neo-hijab made its first appearance in Iran in 1977 as a symbol of Islamist-Marxist opposition to the Shah's regime. When the mullahs seized power in Tehran in 1979, the number of women wearing the hijab exploded into tens of thousands.

In 1981, Abol-Hassan Bani-Sadr, the first president of the Islamic Republic, announced that "scientific research had shown that women's hair emitted rays that drove men insane" (sic). To protect the public, the new Islamist regime passed a law in 1982 making the hijab mandatory for females aged above six, regardless of religious faith. Violating the hijab code was made punishable by 100 lashes of the cane and six months imprisonment.

By the mid-1980s a form of hijab never seen in Islam before the 1970s had become standard gear for millions of women all over the world, including Europe and America.

Some younger Muslims women, especially Western converts, were duped into believing that the neo-hijab was an essential part of the faith. (Katherine Bullock, a Canadian, so loved the idea of covering her hair that she converted to Islam while studying the hijab.)

The garb is designed to promote gender Apartheid. It covers the woman's ears so that she does not hear things properly. Styled like a hood, it prevents the woman from having full vision of her surroundings. It also underlines the concept of woman as object, all wrapped up and marked out.

Muslim women, like women in all societies, had covered their head with a variety of gears over the centuries. These had such names as lachak, chador, rusari, rubandeh, chaqchur, maqne'a, and picheh among others.

All had tribal, ethnic and generally folkloric origins and were never associated with religion. (In Senegal, Muslim women wear a colourful headgear against the sun, while working in the fields, but go topless.)

Muslim women could easily check the fraudulent nature of the neo-Islamist hijab by leafing through their family albums. They will not find the picture of a single female ancestor of theirs who wore the cursed headgear now marketed as an absolute "must" of Islam.

This fake Islamic hijab is nothing but a political prop, a weapon of visual terrorism. It is the symbol of a totalitarian ideology inspired more by Nazism and Communism than by Islam. It is as symbolic of Islam as the Mao uniform was of Chinese civilisation. It is used as a means of exerting pressure on Muslim women who do not wear it because they do not share the sick ideology behind it. It is a sign of support for extremists who wish to impose their creed, first on Muslims, and then on the entire world through psychological pressure, violence, terror, and, ultimately, war. The tragedy is that many of those who wear it are not aware of its implications. They do so because they have been brainwashed into believing that a woman cannot be a "good Muslim" without covering her head with the Sadr-designed hijab.

Even today, less than one per cent of Muslim women wear the hijab that has bewitched some Western liberals as a symbol of multicultural diversity.

The hijab debate in Europe and the US comes at a time that the controversial headgear is seriously questioned in Iran, the only country to impose it by law.

Last year the Islamist regime authorised a number of girl colleges in Tehran to allow students to discard the hijab while inside school buildings. The experiment was launched after a government study identified the hijab as the cause of "widespread depression and falling academic standards" and even suicide among teen-age girls.

The Ministry of Education in Tehran has just announced that the experiment will be extended to other girls schools next month when the new academic year begins. Schools where the hijab was discarded have shown "real improvements" in academic standards reflected in a 30 per cent rise in the number of students obtaining the highest grades.

Meanwhile, several woman members of the Iranian Islamic Majlis (parliament) are preparing a draft to raise the legal age for wearing the hijab from six to 12, thus sparing millions of children the trauma of having their heads covered.

Another sign that the Islamic Republic may be softening its position on hijab is a recent decision to allow the employees of state-owned companies outside Iran to discard the hijab. (The new rule has enabled hundreds of women, working for Iran-owned companies in Paris, London, and other European capitals, for example, to go to work without the cursed hijab.)

The delicious irony of militant Islamists asking "Zionist-Crusader" courts in France, Germany and the United States to decide what is "Islamic" and what is not, will not be missed. The judges and the juries who will be asked to decide the cases should know that hey are dealing not with Islam, which is a religious faith, but with Islamism, which is a political doctrine.

The hijab-wearing militants have a right to promote their political ideology. But they have no right to speak in the name of Islam.

Amir Taheri is an Iranian journalist and author of 10 books on the Middle East and Islam. He can be reached through www.benadorassociates.com.

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what bullshit...theres rape and murder in america...incest...child molesting...drug abuse...(from what i hear these countrys are strict on drugs which is good for them even if its only cuz they wanna export it) and america has the largest prison population (one in 37 americans has some sort of prison experience)...america is great and might be the best system around currently but it doesnt sound right when you say its "superior", another thing is that american justice is largely influenced by race and economic status...

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Originally posted by igloo

Do you disagree with this assertion by the author:

But it is equally ridiculous to deny that the moral standards, customs and beliefs of the West contribute to fairer and far more humane societies than are found elsewhere

Define "Western". There are still huge discrepancies between American and European cultures, yet they're both considered Western.

I completely disagree with that statement - to say that one culture's customs, morals, and beliefs is superior to another's is a supremacist's position, and very dangerous.

It is easy for a Western to say their culture is superior to another's just because they judge everyone else by their standards...just like its easy for another culture to say that their customs, etc is superior by using said culture's standards.

An example - the US has a death sentence, which is considered barbaric by many other countries, especially when the judicial system is far far from perfect...which in turn greatly increases the chances of killing an innocent man.

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Originally posted by raver_mania

Define "Western". There are still huge discrepancies between American and European cultures, yet they're both considered Western.

I completely disagree with that statement - to say that one culture's customs, morals, and beliefs is superior to another's is a supremacist's position, and very dangerous.

It is easy for a Western to say their culture is superior to another's just because they judge everyone else by their standards...just like its easy for another culture to say that their customs, etc is superior by using said culture's standards.

An example - the US has a death sentence, which is considered barbaric by many other countries, especially when the judicial system is far far from perfect...which in turn greatly increases the chances of killing an innocent man.

you make some good points .....but I do think you are ignoring some good points the author has made

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i can't believe this shit. no way western culture is better than eastern. :(

they both have good AND bad elements. there is no way you can even begin to compare....

western civilization is also quite new compared to eastern.

i wish i could kick this guy in the mouth. what an ignorant.

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wow you people are out of your minds who are trying to compare legal systems in western countries and non-western countries

culture-wise, i dont think you can claim superiority anywhere since its something unique and original, and not intended to be superior to another one

but in terms of legal and societal systems, it absurd to compare

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Originally posted by breakbeatz2

wow you people are out of your minds who are trying to compare legal systems in western countries and non-western countries

culture-wise, i dont think you can claim superiority anywhere since its something unique and original, and not intended to be superior to another one

but in terms of legal and societal systems, it absurd to compare

yeah, I'm sure the society with overflowing jails, death sentences, and one of highest rates of serial killers is superior to other societies. Dude, seriously, learn something about other societies before you start talking.

The judicial system might be the best in the world, but not the society as a whole.

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i support the death penalty.

i dont think the govt is totally to blame for overflowing jails.

and serial killers? wow, you really are desperate if you are bringing something like that into the argument. how many serial killings happen a year? and um.... you wouldnt call terrorist groups serial killers? i think then your statistics might change a bit.

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Originally posted by breakbeatz2

i support the death penalty.

i dont think the govt is totally to blame for overflowing jails.

and serial killers? wow, you really are desperate if you are bringing something like that into the argument. how many serial killings happen a year? and um.... you wouldnt call terrorist groups serial killers? i think then your statistics might change a bit.

Well, obviously since you did not get my point about serial killers then let me explain to you step by step. This country has the one of the highest rates of serial killers, random killings, school shootings, disgruntled employee killings, etc in the world. That is the result of a society that places more emphasis on "individuality" and a you make it or you break attitude, living in a rat race, with little or no (compared to the East) time for community or family building. Where there is the support of a large extended family or close knit community, there is a much less chance of an individual becoming alienated, thus resulting in him or her losing their marbles.

Thus, to say this society is superior to Eastern societies is foolishness, as each has its strengths and weaknesses.

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Originally posted by breakbeatz2

i support the death penalty.

So do you say that the judicial system is perfect. That every person found guilty really IS guilty and that no mistakes have been made. That innocent men have not been made to fry?

And if not, you still support the death penalty even though, there is a chance the person you're killing could be innocent?

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i think our judicial system is far from perfect.

i've experienced serious flaws in it myself, and i think that many people who shouldnt get arrested are getting arrested

having said that, i'd like to point out that i never said our judicial system was perfect

i do believe that overall, our legal system as well as our societal morals are far ahead of most non-western coutnries

now of course you aer going to jump all over that and cite Enron, and accounting fraud, and anti-gay legislation, and so on and so on

but if you look at the overall picture, no country has less racism (yes i said less, and if youve traveled ANYWHERE in europe, asia,etc you know i'm right), more opportunity for the poor, a more just legal system (our is messed up, but look around and g'luck finding etter), better protection for its citizens etc etc

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Originally posted by breakbeatz2

i think our judicial system is far from perfect.

i've experienced serious flaws in it myself, and i think that many people who shouldnt get arrested are getting arrested

having said that, i'd like to point out that i never said our judicial system was perfect

i do believe that overall, our legal system as well as our societal morals are far ahead of most non-western coutnries

now of course you aer going to jump all over that and cite Enron, and accounting fraud, and anti-gay legislation, and so on and so on

but if you look at the overall picture, no country has less racism (yes i said less, and if youve traveled ANYWHERE in europe, asia,etc you know i'm right), more opportunity for the poor, a more just legal system (our is messed up, but look around and g'luck finding etter), better protection for its citizens etc etc

I mentioned that I thought the judicial system, though not perfect, is one of the better ones in the world. However, I don't believe in it enough to support the death penalty. With regards to government benefits to the poor, racism, etc, I agree that in these aspects the US is one of the best in the world. I guess I misunderstood you when you said the "society" was superior to others...I equated society with culture. Culture-wise I don't believe any one is better than another.

Different societies have their strengths and weaknesses.

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Originally posted by raver_mania

I mentioned that I thought the judicial system, though not perfect, is one of the better ones in the world. However, I don't believe in it enough to support the death penalty. With regards to government benefits to the poor, racism, etc, I agree that in these aspects the US is one of the best in the world. I guess I misunderstood you when you said the "society" was superior to others...I equated society with culture. Culture-wise I don't believe any one is better than another.

Different societies have their strengths and weaknesses.

totally agree with you on the culture part

i think culture wise the US has a long way to go but thats somewhat understandable considering we are only 230 years old.

regarding the death penalty actually, i dont know how much i support it. its kind of up in the air for me. i just dont think keeping guys in prison for life is any different, and i would like something to deter people from killin each other. but in all seriousness, its a topic i shouylod probably give some more thought

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