There's an incident depicted in Steven Pressfield's "The Afghan Campaign," in which Macedonian soldiers threaten a Mesopotamian shopkeeper that they will cut off his son's foot unless he returns a stolen purse. The shopkeeper feigns innocence until, as the blade descends upon the boy's foot, the boy's young sister screams and points to the money's hiding spot. As the soldiers leave, the senior one points out to the junior ones that the shopkeeper and his wife were going to let them cut off the boy's foot. He then adds that even now, they were very likely thrashing the young girl to within an inch of her life for giving up the purse, even though she saved her brother's foot (and probably his life) in the process.
This incident reminded me that nothing much has changed in the region in 2000 years and that cultural barriers to understanding are often immense. When I was working at the U.S. Embassy in Bahrain, one of the Marines who provide security to the post fell ill. He was down hard and on bed rest at the Marine House for several days. One of the secretaries, a local Arab girl, was friendly with the Marines and asked her friend to drive her by the Marine House so she could drop off some hot soup for the sick Marine. When they arrived, noone was there except the bedridden Marine and the gate guard, so the guard told her to leave the dish inside on the foyer table. She did so and left.
She didn't show up to work for two weeks. When she did she still bore the bruises from the severe beating her brother administered upon hearing that she had entered a house alone with other men, and infidels on top of that. Even though she was in the house for the briefest of seconds, the family honor had been jeopardized. So she was beaten. This was not the only such incident I had heard about while in that region of the world, but this was the closest to me. I had chatted with the young lady. She was bright and smiling most of the time before her assault. Very reserved and withdrawn afterwards.
Such events cause me to wonder, along with Christopher Hitchens, why Western liberals seem to give a pass to this barbarism under the name of multiculturalism. I rarely hear it addressed by feminists, Ayaan Hirsi Ali being at least one exception. Why is this?
I don't pretend to have a grand framework of cultural understanding by which to pass judgement, but I feel strongly that free people, right, left, or center, must stand against this kind of thing, of whatever culture.