Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Sodomy and Sufism in Afgaynistan
Social scientists attached to the Second Marine Battalion in Afghanistan last year circulated a startling report on Pashtun sociology, in the form of a human terrain report on male sexuality among America's Afghan allies. The document, made available by military sources, is not classified, just disturbing. Don't ask, don't tell doesn't begin to qualify the problem. These are things you didn't want to know, and regret having heard. The marines got their money's worth from their Human Terrain adjuncts, but the report might have considered whether male pedophilia in Afghanistan has a religious dimension as well as a cultural one. I will explain why below.
Most Pashtun men, Human Terrain Team AF-6 reports, engage in sex with men - boys - in fact, the vast majority of their sexual contacts are with males. "A culturally-contrived homosexuality [significantly not termed as such by its practitioners] appears to affect a far greater population base then some researchers would argue is attributable to natural inclination. Some of its root causes lie in the severe segregation of women, the prohibitive cost of marriage within Pashtun tribal codes, and the depressed economic situation into which young Pashtun men are placed."
The human terrain team responded to scandalous interactions between Pashtun fighters and North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops, some reported with hilarity by the media. An article in the Scotsman of May 24, 2002, reported, for example: "In Bagram, British marines returning from an operation deep in the Afghan mountains spoke last night of an alarming new threat – being propositioned by swarms of gay local farmers. An Arbroath marine, James Fletcher, said: 'They were more terrifying than the al-Qaeda. One bloke who had painted toenails was offering to paint ours. They go about hand in hand, mincing around the village.' While the marines failed to find any al-Qaeda during the seven-day Operation Condor, they were propositioned by dozens of men in villages the troops were ordered to search."
Another interviewee in the article, a marine in his 20s, stated, "It was hell. Every village we went into we got a group of men wearing makeup coming up, stroking our hair and cheeks and making kissing noises."
The trouble, the researchers surmise, is "Pashtun society's extremely limited access to women," citing a Los Angeles Times interview with a young Pashtun identified as Daud. He only has sex with men, explaining: "I like boys, but I like girls better. It's just that we can't see the women to see if they are beautiful. But we can see the boys, and so we can tell which of them is beautiful."
Many of the Pashtuns interviewed allow "that homosexuality is indeed prohibited within Islam, warranting great shame and condemnation. However, homosexuality is then narrowly and specifically defined as the love of another man. Loving a man would therefore be unacceptable and a major sin within this cultural interpretation of Islam, but using another man for sexual gratification would be regarded as a foible -undesirable but far preferable to sex with a ineligible woman, which in the context of Pashtun honor, would likely result in issues of revenge and honor killings."
How prevalent are homosexual relations among Pashtuns? The researchers note that "medics treated an outbreak of gonorrhea among the local national interpreters on their camp. Approximately 12 of the nearly 20 young male interpreters present in the camp had contracted the disease, and most had done so anally. This is a merely anecdotal observation and far too small of a sample size to make any generalizations regarding the actual prevalence of homosexual activity region-wide. However, given the difficulty in procuring such data, it may serve as some indicator."
Through Khaled Hosseini's 2003 novel The Kite Runner, Western audiences caught a glimpse of what the military team calls "an openly celebrated cultural tradition. Kandahar's long artistic and poetic tradition idolizes the pre-pubescent ‘beardless boy’ as the icon of physical beauty. Further, even the newly re-emerging musical nightlife of southern Afghan cities idolizes pre-pubescent boy performers, whose star status lasts only as long as their voices remain immature."
"Kandahar's Pashtuns have been notorious for their homosexuality for centuries, particularly their fondness for naive young boys. Before the Taliban arrived in 1994, the streets were filled with teenagers and their sugar daddies, flaunting their relationship. It is called the homosexual capital of South Asia. Such is the Pashtun obsession with sodomy - locals tell you that birds fly over the city using only one wing, the other covering their posterior - that the rape of young boys by warlords was one of the key factors in Mullah Omar mobilizing the Taliban," the report adds.
Although the Taliban discouraged open display, it "should not be viewed as free of the culture and tradition of homosexuality of the Pashtun world of which it is a part" the authors add.
"Men who take on a halekon [young male lover] often attempt to integrate the boy into their families by marrying him to a daughter when the boy is no longer young enough to play the 'beardless' role. This maintains the love relationship between the father and son-in-law which inevitably makes difficult the establishment of a normal relationship with the wife," the human terrain Team explains.
The team's results are striking, but they place too much emphasis on the weirdness of Pashtun tradition and give too little attention to the broader role of homosexuality in Islamic (and especially Sufi) culture. What scholars now consider the Golden Age of Islamic love poetry, the Persian high middle ages, made homosexual pederasty the normative mode of love. While Petrarch wrote sonnets to Laura and Dante longed for Beatrice, their counterparts in the canon of Islamic poetry, Hafez and Rumi, wrote of their infatuation with young boys.
Afghanistan's own Sufi poet was the 17th-century bard Abdul Rahman Baba, of whom little is known except that he is said to have eloped with a young boy named Mujnoon. He is generally portrayed as a premature flower-child dedicated to peace and love; that must be what the Taliban thought as well, for they placed a bomb in his tomb in March 2009. According to the limited available criticism of Rahman's work, his Pashto poems are closely related to the Persian style of Rumi.
The prevalence of homosexual pedophilia in classical Islamic poetry, Persian as well as Pashto, suggests that the human terrain team may have missed an important dimension, namely the religious. In a study entitled Sufism, Sodomy and Satan published in this space August 12, 2008, I argued:
Sufi pedophilia cannot be dismissed as a remnant of the old tribal practices that Islam often incorporated, for example, female genital mutilation. Genital mutilation is a pre-Islamic practice unknown in the ancient and modern West. Even though some Muslim authorities defend it on the basis of Hadith, no one has ever claimed that it offered a path to enlightenment. Sadly, pedophiles are found almost everywhere. In its ascendancy, Sufism made a definitive spiritual experience out of a practice considered criminally aberrant in the West. But pederasty as a spiritual exercise is not essentially different in character from the furtive practices of Western perverts. As the psychiatrists explain, pederasty is an expression of narcissism, the love of an idealized youthful self-image.
All forms of contemplative mysticism involve the danger that the object of adoration into which one dissolves might turn out to be one's self. It sounds well and good to seek God in the all, that is, no place in particular. The trouble is that if one tries to dissolve one's self into the all, one's self becomes part of the all. The lover cannot distinguish himself from the all. The self and the all are the same, and one loves one's self. There is no other in Sufism, only your own ego staring back in the carnival mirror of mysticism. The adept does not worship a God who is wholly other - YHWH of the Hebrew Bible or Jesus of the Gospels - but a younger and prettier version of himself. In that respect, pedophilia in Afghanistan may have a distinctly religious motivation.
Britain's Centre/Left want to destroy Parliament and replace it with rule by judges
By Bernard Jenkin
As a newly elected MP in 1992, I remember sitting in the Commons tea room with fellow new boy Iain Duncan Smith. The crucial vote on the Maastricht Treaty, that accelerated the transfer of power from Westminster to Brussels, was looming.
Chancellor Norman Lamont’s young and ambitious Parliamentary Private Secretary came and sat with us to try to persuade us to vote for the treaty. We refused. He looked stunned that two ambitious young MPs would throw away their ministerial careers in such a way.
Today’s Commons contains one of the largest intakes of new Conservative MPs in history. They now face the same pressures we faced then. The young man who approached me in the tea room, William Hague, is now Foreign Secretary.
If there was one thing which David Cameron used in order to persuade a lot of Tory MPs to vote for him as party leader in 2005, it was that he was serious about the issue of parliamentary sovereignty. The sovereignty of Parliament is the foundation principle of the United Kingdom’s democratic constitution.
But some of our judges openly question this. One, Lord Hope (Deputy President of the Supreme Court, no less) said that ‘parliamentary sovereignty is no longer . . . absolute’. He added that ‘step by step’ it ‘is being qualified’.
In his view, it is now the ‘rule of law enforced by the courts’ that is ‘the ultimate controlling factor on which our constitution is based’.
The sovereignty of Parliament is not merely some arcane matter of dusty constitutional curiosity. It is the very root of British democracy and affects the daily lives of every citizen. It should be the duty of MPs to protect it on behalf of our voters and for future generations.
Parliamentary sovereignty means that the last word in determining matters of public policy lies with Parliament. A threat to parliamentary sovereignty is a threat to democracy itself.
Parliament is an elected body. There is a chronic democratic deficit in the European Union, and no one elects judges in this country.
Nor should they be elected: judges are appointed to determine questions of law, not to govern us politically. This, constitutionally, is what makes Britain a democracy.
Lord Hope, Deputy President of the Supreme Court, has said that 'parliamentary sovereignty is no longer ... absolute
Lord Hope, Deputy President of the Supreme Court, has said that 'parliamentary sovereignty is no longer ... absolute'
Take it away and you strike at democracy itself and the freedom of the voters to choose who governs them and how. That is something for which people have fought and died.
Before the Election, David Cameron promised a Sovereignty Bill. In his speech entitled Giving Power Back To The People he said: ‘As we have no written constitution . . . we have no explicit legal guarantee that the last word on our laws stays in Britain . . . so, as well as making sure that further power cannot be handed to the EU without a referendum, we will also introduce a new law, in the form of a United Kingdom Sovereignty Bill, to make it clear that ultimate authority stays in this country, in our Parliament.’
Later, he promised ‘to strengthen the place of Parliament at the heart of our democracy’ and that he would make sure that ‘Britain’s laws can no longer be decided by unaccountable judges’.
But, instead of a Sovereignty Bill, on Tuesday, MPs will be asked to pass Clause 18 of the EU Bill. Ministers claim that this will deliver the Prime Minister’s pledge to protect our sovereignty.
It will do nothing of the sort. Parliamentary supremacy, or sovereignty, or primacy doesn’t feature in it. As currently drafted, it is so feeble it would effectively hand over control of parliamentary sovereignty to unelected judges.
To make matters worse, the Government has explained parliamentary sovereignty as a ‘common law principle’. This is just rubbish. Parliament claimed sovereignty when it cut off the head of Charles I.
The Government is playing into the hands of the judges. The common law is judge-made law. The judges are its authors and its guardians. They may change it whenever they see fit.
Professor Adam Tomkins, of Glasgow University, the legal adviser to the House of Lords Constitutional Affairs Committee, has warned that Clause 18 could actually promote judicial meddling in parliamentary sovereignty. He calls it ‘the proverbial red rag to the bull’.
This is why some of us are asking other Conservative MPs, particularly newly elected ones, to vote for crucial amendments to affirm parliamentary sovereignty. We are asking them: How much can each of us afford to renege personally on the promises made to constituents and to Conservative activists? Does integrity matter?
Before the Election, David Cameron, paraphrasing Winston Churchill, said: ‘Country before party. I say to MPs, when you get into Parliament you must vote according to your conscience and then your view of the national interest and your view of your constituents’ interests and then your party.’
Needless to say, debate on the EU Bill is being severely limited by the Government. It is no coincidence that Clause 18 is being debated on Tuesday, the day after the House resumes after the Christmas break, so there is as little time for discussion as possible and as few MPs as possible will be present.
New MPs will be threatened, cajoled, promised preferment and the rest. They will be assailed by whips, wooed by senior Ministers in the tea room, just as I was when I was a new boy, and promotion will be dangled in front of them. In this way, the Government hopes to contain the rebellion. But does there not come a point at which the Conservative Party must finally make itself felt in this Coalition?
It is tragic that a Conservative Prime Minister should be willing to place parliamentary sovereignty in such danger.
The EU Bill may have been designed to look ‘Euro-sceptic’. But close scrutiny shows that it is the opposite. It is a policy deliberately devised to promote Liberal Democrat ideology – part of the disastrous constitutional revolution which is under way.
The Liberal Democrats have never defended parliamentary sovereignty. They want to destroy it. They seek not only a federal Europe but also a written constitution for the United Kingdom. This would be a legal document, enforceable by the courts, destroying parliamentary sovereignty and replacing it with rule by judges.
If Mr Cameron and Mr Hague have the national interest at heart, they will not let this constitutional outrage occur.
A new tyranny
Big business is not your friend
As the US and Australian governments got grumpy about their dirty laundry being aired by leaked cables to WikiLeaks, MasterCard and Visa last month chose to block their cardholders from donating money to the whistle-blowing organisation.
A spokesman for MasterCard, Chris Monteiro, was quoted as saying the company's website suspended dealings with WikiLeaks because "MasterCard rules prohibit customers from directly or indirectly engaging in or facilitating any action that is illegal".
There are a number of problems with this statement. The first is that despite the angry rhetoric from embarrassed governments, no one has found a law that WikiLeaks has actually broken, either in Australia, Europe, the United States or anywhere else. What WikiLeaks has done is publish information which it has received from various sources, in the same way that media organisations do every day.
On this precedent, News Limited customers would be barred from using their plastic dosh to pay for newspaper and online subscriptions.
The second problem is that MasterCard and Visa – which are dominant in market share of credit card holders – have trampled on consumer rights by stopping people from being able to choose what to spend their money on.
This is a very slippery slope, when financial institutions are telling people what is and is not appropriate use of their money. Today it is WikiLeaks ... who will it be tomorrow? What will stop MasterCard or Visa going further in future and blocking transactions, wherever they occur, because they believe a product, cause or issue is too politically unpopular or controversial?
If no explicit laws prohibit sending money to a particular cause or organisation – such as those that apply to outlawed organisations like terrorist groups – then there should be no question of impeding Australians' freedom of choice.
Unlike the debate over banking choice, these credit companies have a monopoly on the credit card business – so while Visa and MasterCard can "boycott" WikiLeaks their customers don't have the same freedom.
The key issue here is that consumers have no real choice to move their business if they disagree with MasterCard and Visa's actions.
The situation is already changing, however. The Australian government has had to admit that WikiLeaks has broken no laws. We will have to wait and see whether MasterCard and Visa follow suit. To see the US Government apologise – now that would be priceless.
Australia: Donation cap limits speech, warns academic
LIMITS on political donations will limit free speech, an academic expert on campaign finance has warned.
The Greens have been accused of "moral bankruptcy" by Liberal Senate leader Eric Abetz for accepting $1.6 million from Graeme Wood, the founder of online travel giant Wotif -- the largest individual donation in Australian political history -- while pressing for a ban on gifts from individuals worth more than $1000.
Centre for Independent Studies fellow Andrew Norton said the donation demonstrated the altruistic nature of most campaign contributions.
"It's a transparent case of a purely ideologically motivated donation," he said yesterday. Mr Norton said there was normally no way to judge what motivated donations, but warned: "If you try to ban donations to buy influence on a particular party, you also ban all other donations."
He said the donation showed the Greens and minor parties could prosper within the existing campaign finance framework, which was "not inherently rigged". He warned that the cap on donations demanded by the Greens would dampen debate.
"What it does is restrict successful campaigning to groups that already have existing large constituencies in the community, either parties that have existing support bases or causes people are in favour of," he said.
Overseas political donations have already been banned under the accord struck between Labor and the Greens last August, yet the Greens received significant support from overseas donors.
Mr Norton pointed to an unintended consequence of NSW laws capping political donations and campaign expenditure. "Candidates can still spend their own money," he said. "It will be similar to the US, where people who are rich, incumbent and celebrities have an advantage as they already have the money or the profile or both."
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.