Was blind but now I see

Grisly criminal acts are as old as humanity, but this story encapsulates the greatest evil of our time.

The title sums it up: “Woman forced to remarry the husband who threw acid in her face after she divorced him for being unfaithful.”

This woman’s horrific scars serve as a cruel and permanent reminder of the moment her husband of 18 years flung acid into her face.

Nurbanu had divorced her unfaithful and violent spouse after catching him with another woman.

Eight days later, she was cooking at home in Bangladesh when he pulled up on a motorbike and doused her with acid, leaving her blind and disfigured.

The 36-year-old now has to endure living with her former spouse again after his mother forced her to sign an affidavit to have him released from prison following the attack.

Horrific and sickening.

Monira Rahman, CEO of the Acid Survivors’ Foundation (ASF) in Bangladesh, has worked with the victims of acid and petrol attacks in the country for the past 14 years.

In a blog for the Huffington Post, she said the majority of the girls and women she had worked with had suffered at the hands of men who viewed them as ‘commodities’, and ‘believed they were justified in disfiguring them and violating their rights’.

That there is even a need in this world for an NGO like Acid Survivors’ Foundation is heart-wrenching alone. Tragically, Nurbanu’s suffering is far too typical in certain parts of the world. Wikipedia even has an article on acid throwing.

Ms Rahman said the number of acid attacks in Bangladesh has fallen thanks to the efforts of the government, the charity, donors and international development organisations to address the problem, but added that there was much more work to do.

There were 111 acid attacks in Bangladesh in 2011, compared to 500 in 2002.

I guess an 80% decline in acid attacks represents some small objective measure of “progress” in this barbaric part of the world. I am less optimistic when reading stories like this about our civilised allies’ willingness to confront intrinsic evil when they are no longer sure that evil exists.

But Ms Rahman said ‘gender-based’ violence like acid attacks could only be completely eradicated when women in Bangladesh enjoy equal rights.

‘Only by empowering women and ensuring equality we will have a society which has zero tolerance for violence against women,’ she wrote.

I don’t doubt Ms. Rahman’s sincerity. I admire her efforts to help victims like Nurbanu. The world would be a much better place if there were more people like her. But after spending 14 years helping victims of these evil attacks, her only explanations and solutions are framed in naive abstractions. What concrete steps does Ms. Rahman suggest Nurbanu take that will “empower” her and “ensure her equality”? My recommendations would include the brand names Glock or Smith & Wesson, but I seriously doubt Ms. Rahman had something similar in mind. It is unclear she has anything else in mind beyond vague, abstract platitudes in the face of very real and tangible evil.

Kerry McDermott, the author of this UK Daily Mail piece, is no more insighful. McDermott’s article includes an informative sidebar titled “The Battle To Rid Bangladesh of Acid Attacks.” Apparently the attackers throw nitric or sulphuric acid at the victim’s face or genitals, causing excruciating pain, permanent disfigurement and scarring. Many victims like Nurbanu suffer permanent blindness. To add indignity to their injuries, they are often ostracized by their families and neighbors, as if the evils perpetrated upon them were somehow their fault.

McDermott’s sidebar idicates that “Common motives behind the violent attacks include land or financial disputes, marital quarrels, and bitterness over spurned advances.”

Completely missing the point. I’m fairly sure that land and financial disputes, marital spats and scorned lovers are as common in the UK as in the US. But I have not heard about a similar epidemic of acid attacks on women in either country.

Two words immmediately came to mind as I was reading this article. The first, which I’ve bandied about a lot, was “evil.” The second, which I was initially hesitant to mention, begins with the letter I and ends in slam. Curiously neither of these word found its way into the Daily Mail article or sidebar, appearing only in the unwashed masses’ comments.

All too often I find myself returning to this great quote from George Orwell: “We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.” All too often these days I find that restating the obvious can get us into hot water. Then I remembered another useful quote from G.K. Chesterton: “I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean.”

Since the earliest days of sailing, mariners would cast sounding lines to measure the ocean’s depths. I fear we have arrived at a depth beyond the reach of any sounding line, where avoidance of the obvious has become the overriding duty of highly educated but foolish men.

Is it really so difficult to connect the dots?

From the Wikipedia article:

These attacks are most common in Cambodia, Afganistan, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other nearby countries. Globally, at least 1500 people in 20 countries are attacked in this way yearly, 80% of whom are female and somewhere between 40% and 70% under 18 years of age.

In Afghanistan in November 2008, extremists subjected schoolgirls to acid attacks for attending school. Attacks or threats of attacks on women who failed to wear hijab or were otherwise “immodestly dressed” have been reported.

In 2006 a group in Gaza calling itself “Just Swords of Islam” claimed to have thrown acid at a young woman who was dressed “immodestly,” and warned other women to wear the hijab.

According to New York Times reporter Nicholas D. Kristof, acid attacks are at an all time high in Pakistan and increasing every year. The Pakistani attacks he describes are typically the work of husbands against their wives who have “dishonored them.”

Do these sound like random disconnected events or are they part of a pattern?

Interestingly, the outlier country in this otherwise related group reported somewhat different motives for these attacks: “In Cambodia, it was reported that these attacks were mostly carried out by wives against their husbands’ lovers.” It doesn’t surprise me that this happens in Cambodia; it surprises me that it doesn’t happen on Jerry Springer.

I shared the above with my good friend Luis at Boiling Frogs. He pointed out that the Cambodian attacks illustrate what happens when societies begin to empower women as Ms. Rahman advocates. Some of the liberated women become the attackers, using their newly-acquired power against … other women. In fairness, the Cambodians apparently missed the “zero tolerance for violence against women” component of Ms. Rahman’s formula for societal advancement.

Mark Steyn has written fondly of a time when Britons reacted quite differently to quaint indigenous customs involving brutality toward women. In a 2002 piece titled “Multiculturalists are the real racists,” Steyn writes:

Once upon a time we knew what to do. A British district officer, coming upon a scene of suttee, was told by the locals that in Hindu culture it was the custom to cremate a widow on her husband’s funeral pyre. He replied that in British culture it was the custom to hang chaps who did that sort of thing. There are many great things about India — curry, pyjamas, sitars, software engineers — but suttee was not one of them. What a pity we’re no longer capable of being “judgmental” and “discriminating.” We’re told the old-school imperialists were racists, that they thought of the wogs as inferior. But, if so, they at least considered them capable of improvement. The multiculturalists are just as racist. The only difference is that they think the wogs can never reform: Good heavens, you can’t expect a Muslim in Norway not to go about raping the womenfolk! Much better just to get used to it.

Of course the local Hindu lads were deeply offended by the British officer’s judgmental attitude. By what authority did he interfere with their religious customs? The British officer conceded the locals’ point, but noted that his countrymen had their own custom as well. The locals were free to build their funeral pyre and the British would build their gallows alongside it. The locals could follow their custom and the British would follow theirs. Both culture’s customs would receive equal treatment. Isn’t that what multiculturalists want?

Apparently not. The widow’s life was spared.

How we view this outcome depends on one’s perspective. From Steyn’s and my admittedly imperialist, racist, troglodyte point-of-view, a widow’s life was spared. For multiculturalists who believe that interactions between persons and competing cultures are ultimately power struggles and that no criterion exists to judge between competing customs, the outcome simply goes to show how the dominant British culture imposed its custom upon the Hindu’s weaker (but equally valid) custom. From the widow’s perspective—well, her point-of-view was never part of the discussion.

Steyn concludes:

As one is always obliged to explain when tiptoeing around this territory, I’m not a racist, only a culturist. I believe Western culture — rule of law, universal suffrage, etc. — is preferable to Arab culture: that’s why there are millions of Muslims in Scandinavia, and four Scandinavians in Syria. Follow the traffic. I support immigration, but with assimilation. Without it, like a Hindu widow, we’re slowly climbing on the funeral pyre of our lost empires. You see it in European foreign policy already: they’re scared of their mysterious, swelling, unstoppable Muslim populations.

They’re still tiptoeing around the elephant in the room, fearful of damaging the fragile self-esteem of 7th century savages, whose sole innovative use 21st century technology they could never invent, consists in finding creative ways to inflict mayhem and murder on innocent victims. Their mindset is not unlike that of the late Ugandan dictator and practitioner of cannibalism, Idi Amin. As historian Paul Johnson recounts in his brilliant history of the 20th century Modern Times, Amin owned a state-of-the-art refrigerator/freezer, which he used to preserve uneaten human leftovers for midnight snacks presumably. Hey, just because Islamist fanatics are often murderous psychopaths doesn’t mean they aren’t sensitive.

Maybe I’m being too harsh on McDermott. If he was writing for the New York Times, the article might not have been published to avoid offending members of the Religion of PeaceTM. (Actually, the excerpt from the Wikipedia article I quoted referenced a New York Times article by Nicholas Kristoff. But when I clicked on the Times’ link, all I got was “Page Not Found” error message.)

Perhaps when Ms. Sandra Fluke is selected as Time’s next Person of the Year, she might consider a visit to Bangladesh and other places where acid attacks on women take place. I’m sure that Nurbanu would be inspired to meet America’s most courageous voice in the Republicans’ War on WomenTM. In fact, I can’t think of anything that could empower women more than a shout out from Ms. Fluke. She could bring these poor women free contraceptives and help them see (figuratively speaking) how fortunate they are not to live in a country where true evil—people who oppose paying for free contraceptives—exists.

The irony is that even though Nurbanu was literally blinded by her husband’s blind sadistic hate, victims like her can still see truth more clearly than sanctimonious liberal frauds who wilfully blind themselves by their own delusions.

H/t to my friend Symeon who first introduced me to the idea of sounding lines as metaphor.


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