3 May 2011

Bin Laden and terror

I am in Tel Aviv this week, attending a briefing on Israeli water conserving/cleaning technologies.

Yesterday, I turned on the TV to see the news and saw that Bin Laden has been killed. (BBC had the best coverage; CNN switched to twitter reactions; FOX switched to other programming after awhile...)

That's good news to most of us, and especially to people who think that punishment is a deterrent to bad behavior.

Unfortunately, I am not one of them.

The war on terror (what a stupid name) will only end when terrorists have nothing to complain about. That will happen when they stop being suppressed by their governments and have the freedom to succeed or fail -- and can congratulate or blame themselves for it. For the US, it will also end (or get better) when we stop supporting these odious regimes.

The good news is that the (perhaps related) Arab Spring has brought changes to a few countries run by dictators. Tunisia and Egypt are moving ahead (more or less). Dictators in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and Libya are, of course, fighting bloody battles to continue their oppression. This is sad to see, but only a sign of how little their care about "Their People."

The Israelis, btw, made no outward show of celebration on Bin Laden. They were already commemorating the Holocaust (1 May), and they have a lot of other issues (some self-inflicted, wrt the power of their fundamentalists) on their plates.

It was also nice to see Obama doing such a fine job as president. Like many Americans abroad, I am often asked about failures of my government.

Just a few thoughts.



JWT said...

Punishment does not deter bad behavior? Read this:

Pakistan: Where gang rapists walk free

posted on April 28, 2011, at 3:13 PM

This is “a black day in Pakistan’s history,” said Raza Rumi in the Karachi Express Tribune. The Supreme Court has acquitted all but one of 14 men accused of arranging and executing the rape of Mukhtaran Mai. In 2002, Mai’s 12-year-old brother was sodomized by several men from a powerful caste. To prevent his family from seeking justice, the men accused the boy of adultery with a woman from their clan. A local jirga was convened, which saw the events as the powerful caste wished it to. In order to punish Mai’s family for a nonexistent act of dishonor, the jirga ordered Mai to be raped by four men from that clan while the jirga elders looked on. Such hideous perversions of justice, common in rural Pakistan, are usually ignored by the police. Fortunately for Mai, her village imam was outraged and went to the press. “Thanks to the media frenzy, the state had to act.” A state court tried 14 men and sentenced six of them to death. But the Lahore High Court overturned that verdict in 2005, and last week the Supreme Court agreed. Now, only one man will serve a prison term.

Rural Pakistan is a deeply misogynistic place, said Murtaza Razvi in the Karachi Dawn. Village councils are made up of “uneducated men whose minds are steeped deep in the dark recesses of tribal, feudal rules and laws of their own making.” These men run their own justice system, entirely untethered from our constitutional law. They favor the powerful clans, and they treat women as lower than animals. “Girl children are sold in marriages to older men; women are traded off in forced marriages to settle tribal feuds; and yet others are killed, even buried or burned alive in the name of so-called honor.” But it wasn’t just rural Pakistan that failed Mai. The laws that the Supreme Court relies on to rule in such cases are primitive and sexist. The law of evidence, for example, “considers one woman’s testimony as being equal to half that of a man’s in the case of rape.”

The court was hampered by the lack of evidence, said the Lahore Daily Times in an editorial. The semen recovered from Mai’s body and clothes matched only two of the men. The police report was extremely thin and lacked many of the necessary documents. Of course, that was because the police “were influenced by the powerful locals who committed this crime.” The problem, then, lies not with the Supreme Court but with “the entrenched bias against women in the entire justice system.”

“There is a silver lining to Mukhtaran Mai’s grim story,” said the Islamabad News. This brave woman fought back against her abusers and exposed the barbaric practices of jirga justice to the whole world. “Her story is inspirational.” And her courage “is a slap in the face for all those who wronged her.”

...You should look into Shari law before you wish it on anyone.

David Zetland said...

@JWT -- Agreed, but misogynistic paternalism predates Islam.

It's just as bad in India (a "Hindu" place), et al.

abraham said...

At the risk of possibly turning this into an India v/s Pakistan, I would like to point out that it is not 'just as bad in India.'

Misogyny does shape regressive attitudes there, sure. But there isn't a Sharia-type code endorsed by a large number of people, resulting in punishments being doled out. Yes, certain communities do decide to boycott individuals/ families but that's just about it.

This difference is significant: it’s one thing considering certain views legitimate; and another to believe that it’s legitimate to impose it upon others in a violent way.

This might have to do with state presence (relatively higher in India), mean distance between communities and the globalised world (less in India) and subjective differences between cultural sensibilities and outlook.

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