Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Torture cultures

Laer asked "Why was Tom Fox tortured?" As you may recall, Tom Fox was the Christian peace activist who was kidnapped in Iraq along with a group of others from his organization. His body turned up a couple of days ago. He'd been shot multiple times in the head and indications were he'd been tortured before he died. And so Laer posed the question, "Why the torture?" My response was that I believe Muslim fundamentalists come from a culture that believes in torture -- which is an entirely separate idea from saying that the Muslims who actually carried out the torture happen to believe in torture. English Professor, in her comment to Laer's post, politely asked why I reached this conclusion. I thought about her question and here is my answer, expanded from the answer I left at Laer's blog. The first part of my answer is that there is an extraordinary amount of torture and violent death coming from the fundamentalist (and not-so-fundamentalist) side of the Muslim spectrum. Here's a random laundry list: 1. Ilan Halimi 2. Daniel Pearl 3. Nick Berg 4. Christian school girls decapitated in Indonesia 5. Saddam Hussein's prisons and his sons' use of those prisons. (Indeed, people are now buying videos of these horrible tortures to try to find the fate of their missing family members.) 6. The atrocities in the Sudan that the white Muslims use to purge Christians and black Muslims. 7. The way in which Theo Van Gogh was killed. Incidentally, Van Gogh's murder included body mutilation, which I consider a subset of torture, since it has within it the same impulse to humiliate and destroy, even after death. So you can add to this list the body mutilation on the American contractors in Fallujah. 8. The incredibly brutal rapes young women in Australia and northern countries have been suffering at the hands of young Muslim men. That's all I can think of off hand, but you get the idea. Of course, I know that some of you are saying, "don't be so holier than thou -- we have rapes, we have Gitmo, Israeli soldiers torture prisoners, Western women get raped on the streets and in their homes, etc." All of which is true, but ignores my second point. The second part of my answer is that torture cultures, rather than decrying these atrocities, celebrate them. Think of the furor and self-flagellation in America after we learned about what happened at Abu Ghraib. Westerns writhed in embarrassment and shame, and apologized a thousand times over. Whether people supported the war or not, whether they supported the military or not, whether they supported the President or not, they were united in their condemnation of what happened their, united in seeing that the malfeasors were punished, and united in ensuring that this didn't happen again. We see this same disgust when Westerners confront rape. Unless you're in the infinitesimally small group of Western men who commit violent rape, you view rape as a taboo, horrible thing. In the torture cultures, however, all of these atrocities, rather than being condemned, are celebrated. Some examples: 1. The Muslim-on-Western rapes I spoke of are viewed as appropriate activities in the Muslim community, since the bareheaded young women "deserve" this treatment. 2. You may recall dancing Palestinians, rejoicing in human suffering as the Twin Towers fell. 3. While we buy slick Hollywood videos (some good, some bad), popular videos on the Arab street show in glorious, gruesome, bloody detail the tortures and beheadings of Daniel Pearl, Nick Berg and others. 4. At MEMRI, you can read speech after speech of Arab speakers, speaking to Arab audiences, calling for the slow, painful death of their enemies (that would be us). 5. And recall that the contractors' death and mutiliation in Fallujah was a mob activity. I don't want to be too high and mighty here. Our Western culture has also had times of being a torture culture, with torture functioning, not just as a government tool, but as popular entertainment. I won't bore you with the Romans and their coliseums and crucifixes; the Spanish with their racks; the Western Europeans with their burnings, flayings, rackings, dismemberings, etc; the Nazis with their "all of the above" approach to torture. All those happened. Sadly, the urge to torture seems to be an innate part of the human psyche. However, our Western culture has decided that, whether the desire to torture the "other" is innate or not, it's a bad thing. We discourage it from happening and, when it happens, we decry it and punish it. The fundamentalist Muslim culture, however, celebrates torture as an act that is appropriately visited upon "others." And I'm going to be non-PC here and make a value judgment: I think we're right and they're wrong. I want to be on my side in this culture war and not theirs. And I think Tom Fox was tortured because he had the bad luck to fall afoul of a torture culture. Talking to Technorati: