The other day a young woman was beheaded in Afghanistan for going shopping without her husband.
This punishment strikes me as a trifle excessive, even though at times I do wish I could chaperone my wife to prevent her from taking excessive liberties with the credit card.
But hey, dura lex, sed lex as the Romans used to say. The law is harsh, but it is the law. Different religions have different laws, and all must be respected equally: that’s the essence of multiculturalism, of which I’m a lifelong champion.
Now if my objections to my wife playing fast and loose with credit cards are narrowly fiscal, Islamic law is much broader and more principled. A woman can’t leave home for any reason, unless accompanied by a close male relation.
Women are also banned from work, education and sartorial variety – the burqa makes them all look as if Halloween came early, and that’s classless uniformity at its best. Of course that way one is never sure until the moment of truth whether one’s date is Fatima or Ali, but an element of suspense ought to add excitement to the assignation.
Lest you might think some Muslim countries take a more liberal attitude to the fair sex, a Saudi man has just been sentenced to a year in prison for daring to suggest that men’s guardianship of women should be abolished as a bit archaic. The sentence strikes me as humane by Muslin standards: they could have chopped various portions of the rogue’s anatomy off, but commendably didn’t.
Saudi Arabia has got one thing right: women aren’t allowed to drive there. Anyone will sympathise who has ever sworn at a woman swerving all over the road or taking five minutes to back into a parking space big enough for an articulated lorry.
However, with a bit of an overkill, neither can a Saudi woman study, travel or work unless explicitly allowed to do so by a male family member, usually father, husband or brother. I have an image in my head of a 25-year-old Fatima asking her 12-year-old brother Ali for permission to go shopping, and it pleases the confirmed multiculturalist (and incipient misogynist) in me.
It also pleases me to notice that Christianity has never gone so far in keeping women in their place. St Paul, for example, didn’t go further than offering this eminently sensible, positively liberal advice: “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience…”
No mention of beheading, dismemberment, lashing or punitive rape – but then again, we have our culture, the Muslims have theirs, and who’s to say which one is better? Certainly not our commendably liberal government.
Some Muslim countries, such as Bahrain, are perfectly westernised. However, even there a woman working as a sports journalist was the other day shot for no apparent reason other than being a woman working as a sports journalist. Westernisation must have its limits, as any denizen of Leicester will confirm.
The question remains as to how many people raised in the Muslim world would enrich our culture as much as our successive governments have promised. Even such a passionate champion of multi-culti rectitude as me can’t get rid of a few residual doubts. Then again, we’re governed by much cleverer people than me or, for that matter, you.
I recall making a typically frivolous remark a few years ago, at lunch with a lovely and formidable woman, a former Tory minister. “The Muslims,” she said, “terribly mistreat woman.” “Yes,” I replied, “but in spite of that it’s an awful religion”.
Since the venerable politician is a bit short on sense of humour, it took her a few seconds to realise I was joking. But, reading about these recent events, one realises that this savagery is really not a laughing matter. If anything can be off limits for laughter, that is.
I drove to my local French village the other day, where I was greeted by a large sign Bienvenus aux migrants (migrants welcome). The world is well and truly off its rocker.