Whenever you hear someone defend an action with the excuse that “it is our custom,” “it is traditional,” “we’ve always done it that way,” “it is written so in our sacred texts,” or variants thereof, slap ’em down and spit in their eye. Those are not excuses for anything but the perpetuation of bad old dogma rather than taking the useful step of actually thinking about causes and consequences — it’s the common fallacious shortcut that allows ancient evils to thrive. Case in point in Pakistan:
Balochistan Senator Sardar Israrullah Zehri stunned the upper house on Friday when he defended the recent incident of burying alive three teenage girls and two women in his province, saying it was part of “our tribal custom.”
Senator Bibi Yasmin Shah of the PML-Q raised the issue citing a newspaper report that the girls, three of them aged between 16 and 18 years, had been buried alive a month ago for wishing to marry of their own will.
The barbaric incident took place in a remote village of Jafarabad district and a PPP minister and some other influential people were reported to have been involved. The report accused the provincial government of trying to hush up the issue.
Ms Shah said that the hapless girls and the women were first shot in the name of honour and then buried while they were alive. She also said that no criminal had been arrested so far.
Hmmm. We have a difficult choice here, and someone is going to be offended no matter which way we go. Shall we offend half the population of the planet by saying we should we support torturing independent-minded teenage girls to death, or should we piss off a gang of pig-ignorant misogynistic Muslim tribesman by pointing out that their customs are barbaric and savage and oppressive?
Wait, hey, that isn’t a difficult choice at all! It doesn’t matter that someone might be offended, what’s important is that we support equal opportunity and autonomy for all individuals and recognize that gender should not be a factor that affects the standing of citizens. And if that means traditional dogmas must be disparaged, I’m all the more for it.