Not just Islam: Saman Abbas and the other victims of cultural relativism

Lord William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck, English governor of India from 1828 to 1835, as soon as he arrived in Calcutta decided to put an end to sati , a Hindu institution that required widows to commit suicide by burning alive on their husbands' funeral pyre, and decreed the death penalty for who was involved in the death of a widow for forcing or persuading her to commit suicide. It is said that a delegation of Indian notables asked him for an audience: "You cannot forbid us sati, it is our tradition", they told him. "I understand – replied the governor – and we condemn to death whoever burns a woman alive: it is our tradition".

They were other times. When in the 90s of the last century it was discovered that in Italy hundreds of Somali girls and other nationalities were subjected to genital mutilation operations every year – an institution widespread in many African and Middle Eastern countries – the then Minister of Social Solidarity Livia Turco spoke of it as an "indispensable cultural identity" and as an "act of love", explaining that the government was attentive to the cultural significance of the institution and was willing to consider adopting specific laws against female genital mutilation if requested by the communities of foreigners residing in Italy. There were anthropologists, at the time, who in university classrooms admonished students and colleagues saying: "What right do we have to judge cultures other than ours?". Eventually a specific law was passed, but only in 2006, during the third Berlusconi government.

Now that a young Pakistani resident in Italy, Saman Abbas, is a victim (and not even the first) of two traditions – arranged / forced marriage and honor killing – no one takes the side of the family who first imposed on her. the wedding and then, when she refused, they killed her. However, there are many significant silences and there are those who accuse Islam, but the radical one. Hardly anyone seems to realize that arranged and eventually imposed marriage is an institution present in almost all archaic societies where tradition assigns families not only the right, but the task of deciding when and with whom children, especially girls, they must marry. A disobedient child who rebels against his parents' decision on such an important issue as marriage deserves to be punished and must be punished, if necessary with death.

We call it murder or honor killing, but for those who commit it it is a necessary punishment, a dutiful act towards the injured family, to restore dignity and respect in the eyes of relatives and the community. The honor of a family is considered compromised when its members do not obey the head of the family, demonstrating to the world that it lacks the authority and determination necessary to be respected. For the dignity and the esteem of the family it is believed that the heads of families have the duty to watch over the behavior of the relatives, in particular of women and children, to punish them at their discretion if they deem it right. Where Islam defines the rules of good behavior, women, be they wives, daughters, sisters, must not raise doubts about their modesty and their physical and moral integrity by having inappropriate relationships with men strangers to the family: depending on contexts, it is considered inappropriate, dishonorable, a simple physical contact or even just a meeting, an exchange of words without the presence of third parties.

Those who move elsewhere, among people who live under other rules and values, do not always leave behind the institutions of their tradition. In our eyes, Saman is the victim, whoever killed her is the culprit. Instead, in the eyes of her relatives, it is she who has committed a crime, who is guilty of a grave crime. Innocent victims are his parents and other family members on whom the shame of his behavior falls unjustly.

It was hoped for weeks that she was alive, that she had managed to escape. Sometimes it happens. Ayan Hirsi Ali, Somali, founder of the AHA Foundation , now one of the most authoritative experts on Islam, was 26 years old and lived in Kenya when her father informed her of her marriage by proxy with a cousin residing in Canada. The flight from Kenya to Canada made a stopover in Frankfurt. She took the opportunity to go down and ask for asylum. Waris Dirie, Somali too, one of the most successful ex supermodels, committed against female genital mutilation that she herself has suffered, was 12 years old when her father introduced her to an elderly man telling her that a few days later she would become his wife. She ran away at night, covering kilometers in the savannah, miraculously managing to reach the capital Mogadishu where a pitying maternal aunt refused to give her back to her father and her fate. Both were disavowed by their father.

Lord Cavendish-Bentinck in India also forbade infanticide of daughters and human sacrifices. But in India, baby girls continue to be killed and selective abortions are on the rise. According to a new study published in April in the scientific journal Lancet , in the thirty years between 1987 and 2016 about 22 million girls are missing, with an increase in abortions and infanticides by 60 percent in the decade 2007-2016.

If not in India, human sacrifices are still practiced in many African states. The victims are almost always children and albinos of all ages. In fact, it is believed that sorcerers make the most powerful talismans with the organs of albinos, which guarantee success and luck. A single organ, such as a leg, eye, lips, heart, is paid up to $ 2,000 and a whole body is worth around $ 65-70,000. The countries where albinos are most in danger are Tanzania, Mozambique, Uganda and Malawi. The risk of being kidnapped or sold by family members and killed increases at certain times: for example, as candidates approach an election when candidates try to increase the likelihood of being elected by resorting to witchcraft. Uganda passed a law against human sacrifice in May, the Prevention and Prohibition of Human Sacrifices Bill 2020 .

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This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Atlantico Quotidiano at the URL on Wed, 09 Jun 2021 03:52:00 +0000.