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While discussing evolution in Muslim countries, Salman Hameed touches on a favourite topic of mine, and rightfully notes that separating the ‘belief’ from the ‘believer’ (a neat distinction often used by liberals) is not always possible:
There is no easy option or solution here. The liberal democratic state clearly has to violate its own guarantee to protect ‘freedom of religion’ where that freedom crosses certain limits (e.g. physical harm to the body). This requires either the state to consider what constitutes ‘true’ religion (e.g. are certain forms of dress or physical symbols compulsory acts of faith or mere ‘extras’?), or for believers to adapt their definition of their own ‘religion’ (the most obvious example I can think of is the aversion to FGM many Western Muslims now have, something fairly non-controversial in Muslim societies in the past*).
What do you think?
*And yes, it seems women’s bodies are always the target of these ‘debates’. Though that may be changing.
It was certainly interesting to meet the Balochis of Oman.
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This is interesting. Anyone care to comment? And by anyone I mean anyone other than Shams who I know will leave 100,000 unreadable comments…!
The most recent edition of Behavioral and Brain Sciences carries a remarkable review article by Joseph Henrich, Steven J. Heine and Ara Norenzayan, ‘The weirdest people in the world?’ The article outlines two central propositions; first, that most behavioural science theory is built upon research that examines intensely a narrow sample of human variation (disproportionately US university undergraduates who are, as the authors write, Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic, or ‘WEIRD’).
More controversially, the authors go on to argue that, where there is robust cross-cultural research, WEIRD subjects tend to be outliers on a range of measurable traits that do vary, including visual perception, sense of fairness, cooperation, spatial reasoning, and a host of other basic psychological traits. They don’t ignore universals – discussing them in several places – but they do highlight human variation and its implications for psychological theory.
(Via Andrew Sullivan.)
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Obviously this demand from the OIC does not apply to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, etc.
Foreign ministers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) have called upon the international community to make collective efforts to prevent incitement to hatred and discrimination against Muslims and to take effective measures to discourage negative stereotyping of people on the basis of religion, faith or race, according to an official source at the OIC on Sunday.
“We emphasize the need to develop, at the UN, including the HRC, a legally binding institutional instrument to promote respect for all religions and cultural values and prevent intolerance, discrimination and the instigation of hatred against any group or followers of any religion.”
Poland’s ‘Muslim Tatars hope for cultural revival’:
Poland’s Tatar community, mainly confined to the northeast borderlands near Lithuania and Belarus, has been celebrating the end of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in their two wooden mosques, which resemble churches because they were built by Catholic carpenters who had never seen a mosque.
The 5,000-strong community no longer speaks their Turkic Tatar language, they often celebrate Catholic festivals and mixed marriages with non-Muslims are quite common. Many eat pork and drink alcohol, but Islam remains key to their identity.
With growing numbers of tourists visiting their forested region, the Tatar community has applied for a 5.5 million zloty ($1.77 million) subsidy from Warsaw and Brussels to build a cultural and religious center.
It is a tragedy, a horror, a crime against humanity. The details of the murders – of the women beheaded, burned to death, stoned to death, stabbed, electrocuted, strangled and buried alive for the “honour” of their families – are as barbaric as they are shameful. Many women’s groups in the Middle East and South-west Asia suspect the victims are at least four times the United Nations’ latest world figure of around 5,000 deaths a year. Most of the victims are young, many are teenagers, slaughtered under a vile tradition that goes back hundreds of years but which now spans half the globe.
A 10-month investigation by The Independent in Jordan, Pakistan, Egypt, Gaza and the West Bank has unearthed terrifying details of murder most foul. Men are also killed for “honour” and, despite its identification by journalists as a largely Muslim practice, Christian and Hindu communities have stooped to the same crimes. Indeed, the “honour” (or ird) of families, communities and tribes transcends religion and human mercy. But voluntary women’s groups, human rights organisations, Amnesty International and news archives suggest that the slaughter of the innocent for “dishonouring” their families is increasing by the year.
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The taxi driver who ‘doubled as a bounty hunter’, tracking down young women fleeing forced marriages:
On the face of it, Zakir was simply a veteran taxi driver and a popular member of the community in Bradford. Few customers would have realised that behind his bubbly exterior he provided another, much more sinister service. For around £5,000, Zakir would track down women and girls who had run away from home to escape a forced marriage. A bounty hunter, Zakir’s mission was to bring them back to their families.
While most locals in the tightly knit south Asian community thought Zakir was merely picking up and dropping off passengers each day, his work provided perfect cover to exploit his contacts with fellow drivers and shopkeepers to hunt down runaway teenagers. According to Zakir, some bounty hunters would also befriend officials in housing departments and in the Department for Work and Pensions to get National Insurance numbers – a strategy confirmed by campaigners against forced marriages.
Zakir’s job was never to harm his targets, but to return them home to face their “destiny” of being made to marry someone their parents had chosen. Despite the fact that runaways can be beaten for having escaped, he sides with the families on the issue. The softly spoken driver, speaking to G2 on the condition his real name was not used, insisted: “I did it as a favour to the families, as I knew most of them. It wasn’t about the money. It was about izzat [honour]. I saw the effect it had on them when their daughter ran away. The worry and the shame from the community talking about them. I was part of the ‘taxi driver network’, so we shared information about who we picked up and where they got dropped off.
Stanley Fish writes:
If the bad act is committed by a member of a group you wish to demonize, attribute it to a community or a religion and not to the individual. But if the bad act is committed by someone whose profile, interests and agendas are uncomfortably close to your own, detach the malefactor from everything that is going on or is in the air (he came from nowhere) and characterize him as a one-off, non-generalizable, sui generis phenomenon.
If I may:
One hundred people: cult.
One thousand people: movement.
Ten thousand people: community.
One hundred thousand people: culture.
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