Entry from February 18, 2011

It tells you all you need to know about American politics today that the story of Lara Logan’s sexual assault in Cairo has generated any whiff of controversy, let alone the amount of it that has been generated. As Amanda Marcotte in today’s Guardian puts it, “there’s no such thing as a sex crime too brutal that some folks won’t try to use it for political score-keeping.” But she then goes on to a bit of political score-keeping herself by condemning those who would find any significance in the fact that Miss Logan’s assailants were Muslims and she was not as “rightwingers who have an interest in stoking fear and loathing of Muslims worldwide.” We have nothing to fear from Muslims, qua Muslims, she believes, because “the real cause of sex crime is power, and its abuse, and that is a problem in all the nations on this planet” — including ours.

It’s not uncommon in the US for groups of men to take jubilatory occasions and crowds as permission to sexually assault and rape women, either. Such attacks occur at college parties, high school dances and rock concerts, usually with a crowd of onlookers who don’t intervene, as happened with Logan until the army and a group of women saved her.

To say that it happens in the US is not the same as to say it is “not uncommon,” of course, and most people would probably say precisely that it is uncommon here. But that is a matter of subjective judgment, and Ms Marcotte is apparently prepared to admit to “differences in degree between cultures” — i.e. that it is even less uncommon in the lands where the religion of the Prophet dominates.

Yet she is wrong to say that the difference in “us v. them” is only one of degree and not of kind. We know that the honor culture in Egypt as elsewhere in the Arab and Islamic world regards Western women who, being accustomed to the freedoms and the independence afforded them by more liberal cultures back home, appear in public unescorted by male family members and with parts of their body exposed are seen as immodest at best and no better than prostitutes at worst. Indeed, while prostitutes in the West are, like other women, protected by the law from sexual violence, in the Islamic honor culture it is not unknown for duly constituted civil authority to sentence otherwise chaste and respectable but vulnerable women to be sexually assaulted.

That was the fate of Mukhtar Mai in Pakistan in 2002, whose shocking story was extensively written-about at the time and subsequently. The victim in that case has since gone on to use her world-wide fame in order to help other women in danger of similar assaults or “honor killings” — which are a kind of thing very uncommon indeed in the US and other Western countries, except among people of Islamic or South Asian origins, who have imported the custom from their homelands. Most people would call that a difference of more than just degree, and to pretend otherwise is to be complicit in excusing, presumably on “multiculturalist” grounds, one of the least excusable features of the Islamic culture — a culture which seems more likely to be strengthened than weakened by the Egyptian revolution.

That is presumably why David Ignatius of the Washington Post, tries to mitigate the implied defect of Islamic customs by calling into question the assumption that Miss Logan’s assailants were among the Egyptian “freedom” demonstrators. He believes that they were more likely to have been some of the Mubarak régime’s die-hard supporters who at times ventured into the square to do battle with the protestors. How this would make anything better for the Muslim faith that both the régime’s supporters and opponents shared is not quite clear, but that seems to be the suggestion behind Mr Ignatius’s blog post.

It’s not Islam, you see, it’s the thugs belonging to Mr Mubarak, the former American ally and bringer of peace with Israel but now-certified “dictator” and “tyrant,” who must be to blame. It sounds to me as if both Mr Ignatius and Ms Marcotte are in their very different ways repeating the media’s mistake after the massacre at Ft. Hood in 2009 — the mistake of trying to find a way to treat the Islamic culture of the perpetrators as being irrelevant to their deeds. It’s true that, so far as we know, Miss Logan’s assailants did not claim, as Major Hassan notoriously did, that they were committing a holy deed. But neither should we allow ourselves to think that the customs and beliefs genuinely not uncommon in Islamic countries had nothing to do with it, in the one case any more than in the other.

Discover more from James Bowman

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

Similar Posts