So, are the difficulties in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran, at least in part, about women’s rights? If they are, does this not represent larger moral issues? How do we allow slavery of one group by another in the 21st Century? “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Lord Acton, 1887). As was seen in the Zimbardo Prison Experiment, one group having absolute power over another and thinking of them in derogatory terms leads even “normal” people to become extremely cruel toward the “undervalued” group. We also know that when a group with cruel beliefs about another group, as in Rwanda, is isolated and does not have the oversight of a larger society or organization, there is the high probability of abuse of power and violence.
The psychology research is clear that being exposed to violence against women in the home can contribute to children growing up to be heartlessly and criminally violent as adults. The Taliban, as a sub-culture, is cruel and demeaning toward women. It would be logical that a societal sub-culture, such as the Taliban, would raise children that are violent toward others. Can we really stop terrorism before we stop cruelty toward women in the Islamic Middle East?
The role of oil, the opium trade, and emeralds in the conflicts in Afghanistan and other places in the Middle East cannot be ignored. Whoever controls the country controls the resources. So the conflicts are about power, ideology, resources and who controls them. Nothing new there. Young Taliban recruits are told that if they allow women to be educated and have freedom, the Afghan men will lose their power. Therefore, their position of control depends on the control of women by any means necessary. TV and radio are also banned, so no one gets new ideas.
So the question is: What do we want to do about it? Did Nazism end without violence? How long do we wait before we stand up to a cruel sub-culture that enslaves part of its group? Is it not high time to call cruelty what it is and to label it unacceptable? If cruelty and enslavement of women is culturally acceptable by one group, the larger society must say: “No, this is not acceptable.” Many are afraid in our societies to take this stand because women’s inequality in the islamic Middle East is presented as part of a religion — and it is considered politically incorrect to criticize someone’s religion. But what if a religion sanctions and engenders cruelty? When will the honest conversation begin?
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