Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Talk About Differences

As I sit here trying to think of something right about I'm looking through the headlines of stories in the news. And among those stories I came across one headline that read, "Saudi gang rape victim is jailed." Following is an excerpt from the story from BBC News:

An appeal court in Saudi Arabia has doubled the number of lashes and added a jail sentence as punishment for a woman who was gang-raped. The victim was initially punished for violating laws on segregation of the sexes - she was in an unrelated man's car at the time of the attack. When she appealed, the judges said she had been attempting to use the media to influence them.

Seven men from the majority Sunni community were found guilty of the rape and sentenced to prison terms ranging from just under a year to five years. The attackers' sentences - originally of up to five years - were doubled.

But the victim was also punished for violating Saudi Arabia's laws on segregation that forbid unrelated men and women from associating with each other. She was initially sentenced to 90 lashes for being in the car of a strange man.

Now, there are injustices in the United States, too, of course. And maybe in one of the more extreme cases a rape victim in the United States actually is punished. However, instances such as reported in this story are not uncommon, and in fact must be very common occurrences.

For us in the United States and in the western world, such things as this seem foreign and bizarre, even mindless and stupid. They do not fit into the Judeo-Christian culture in which we live, and which we believe is so decent and so right that everyone else ought to think the same way as we do. They are part of a culture that is so different, so alien, that we cannot conceive how such things now or ever were acceptable. And though there is a cultural element to this behavior there is also a religious element to it.

And that makes it all the more inconceivable. How, if there is a supreme being who created all of what we know, can it be acceptable to punish those who were victimized or to kill those who disagree with you?

Well, the philosophical debate aside, it turns out that the woman has vowed to challenge the ruling in the case. Good for her. And I hope she prevails.

Comments invited.

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