I watched, with sympathy, today the video of the flogging of that young girl in Pakistan at the hands of the Taliban. Not so much that her beating was unspeakably brutal. It was disturbing, to say the least. But when you’re dealing with people who have a fondness for beheading, 34 lashes isn’t as bad as some of the possible alternatives. Wasn’t a girl stoned to death last year for essentially the same offense? What disturbed me most while watching it was thinking about what her life was like leading up to that point, and what the lives of women just like her are like, all over the world, who live under the yoke of this oppressive extremism. While the lashes were no doubt quite painful, what gnaws at my heart is the thought of living in that kind of darkness, trapped in a social structure that is hundreds of years behind the times.
Personally, I believe the Taliban should be destroyed. They’ve proven time and again that the basic tenets of civilization are beyond their grasp, and they’re still culpable in the attacks of September 11th, 2001. They are a serious threat to the civilized world, because as the rest of us try to enlighten ourselves and move forward in the ever-arcing reach for progress, groups like the Taliban are trying to force people to return to a way of living that, quite honestly, has no place in the 21st Century.
This flogging started me wondering if the American Taliban had anything to say about a young girl being beaten, so I started looking to see what was going on in their insular little world. Oddly enough, there was virtually no chatter among Christian Evangelicals about this flogging, though it touched off a firestorm of outrage and criticism in Pakistan and Europe. That was surprising, actually. Usually if Muslims do something wacky, the Christian Right are all over it.
I suppose they have their own problems to worry about. Apparently they’re most upset that Iowa tossed out a ban on same-sex marriage. I couldn’t help thinking about the Taliban and their brutal imposition of religious law. For someone like me, who has faced down the hatred of Christians her entire life, it’s not a great leap of the imagination to envision myself being held to the ground, being beaten because some holy roller had taken offense. I shudder to think what would happen to people like me should American social structures collapse and this country found itself governed by our very own religious extremists. I mean, I’ve not only had carnal relations with women, but I openly practice witchcraft. Somehow I suspect that my punishment at the hands of the American Taliban would be far worse than 34 lashes, had they the same autonomous power that the Taliban enjoys in the Swat region of Pakistan.
My sympathies go out to that girl in Pakistan. I’m all too aware that our positions in life are separated only by the rule of democratic law and the basic decency and fairness of the American character. Any group who would see a country governed by religious doctrine is, in my opinion, little different than the Taliban. The only differences are in the tactics. The end result is the same. I hope every woman in American watches that video and imagines herself lying face down on that ground, being beaten by a man because she brushed up against the boundaries of religious law.
I keep thinking about something that was said by Iowa’s four Roman Catholic bishops in a joint statement, which stated that the ruling which overturned the ban on same-sex marriage “rejects the wisdom of thousands of years of human history. It implements a novel understanding of marriage, which will grievously harm families and children.”
You may disagree, but as a bi-sexual Pagan woman, that statement sounds vaguely ominous to me. It says that basic human rights should be denied to a segment of the American population based upon nothing more than one group’s religious doctrine. If that doesn’t sound like the Taliban, I don’t know what does. I’m grateful to be an American, because in that flogging of that young girl in Pakistan, I’ve seen what our country could have been had our Founding Fathers not been so suspicious of the rule of religious law.