Friday, June 5, 2009

Comparing western and Islamist values on the right to control one's own intimate relations

Following President Obama’s spectacular speech in the Middle East, I haven’t heard any commentator note the differences in individual liberties among western and most Islamic societies, especially with respect to family values and individual control of his own body.

Some Islamic societies demand extreme submission of women, as has often been noted. The Taliban and other radical Islamist groups have been bringing women into more subjugation in both Afghanistan and many areas of Pakistan. Other societies, in Africa, practice genital mutilation in order to control women.

But more subtle is the observation that most Islamic societies demand extreme filial loyalty. In Europe, immigrant Muslim workers send money back to families in Pakistan and Bangladesh, even to parents and siblings, not just to one’s own children. Demographers have noted this when discussing the low birth rates among natives in many parts of Europe. In 2007, some Polish officials used that observation to bash gay rights (according to a newspaper available at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh).

Western society cherishes the idea of consent in adult intimacy, and in the right to refuse unwanted intimacy, even within the family. Other societies do not respect or even understand this idea.

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