If it is true that we are judged by the company we keep, then we need to take a closer look at those who we, as a nation, call friend. Are we willing to overlook the most monstrous acts just to maintain our way of life, to get our fix of oil? In a world rife with hypocrisy where money and religion are concerned, our own society is not blameless but in some situations we are not the worst offenders.
I am referring to what looks like Muslim hypocrisy relating to children's and women's rights in Saudi Arabia, over cases like the one detailed in the link below, where a 12-year-old is fighting for freedom and a divorce after her marriage, against her will, fully consummated, to an 80-year-old man. Moderate Muslims say their religion respects women and children, yet such exploitative practices are not widely denounced across the Muslim world.http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article7019754.ece
Saudi Arabia is a country where women are forbidden to drive, where they can be flogged, where they must cover up and conduct themselves with modesty at all times. It is also a place where there is no legal minimum age for marriage, where young girls are commonly sold into slavery masquerading as matrimony. How is this respectful of a woman's modesty? Even worse, this barbarous practice is not an aberration carried out by an extreme few. As outlined in the above link, it is widely practiced and allowed by the laws of the land because, to repeat, in Saudi Arabia there is no legal minimum age for marriage.
After Islamist extremists bombed the London transport system there were some apologists who sought to "explain" the outrage by blaming US/UK foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan. Such extremists, it was alleged, saw themselves as fighting on behalf of their Muslim brothers throughout the world being subjugated by Western aggression.
In contrast with such twisted logic, where is the outcry from moderates for the Muslim sisters who are subjugated by their own nations? In their case no apologies are offered. Indeed, it seems that injustice in the lives of Muslim women does not matter as long as it is meted out by Muslim men.
Some Muslims in the UK preach against what they see as the immorality of Western culture with its excessive drinking, drug use, and decadence. Yet we seldom hear of their outrage being aroused by stories like the following, reported by Hugh Tomlinson writing in the Times:
In April 2009 a Saudi judge refused to annul a marriage between an eight-year-old girl and a man in his late 40's, saying that she could not seek divorce until she reached puberty. (Times, February 9, 2010)
The West has a multitude of its own problems but I do not think we can even begin to compare the morality of a society which tolerates teenage drinking and the wearing of short skirts with the moral values of a society in which child rape and enslavement are sanctioned by law.
However, the West is guilty of its own hypocrisy in this situation. The US and UK have strong links with the medieval Saudi regime because of our national interests, probably something to do with their oil which we need.
The difficult question for ordinary people who are repelled by such stories of child exploitation, is how can we act against such abhorrent practices, or at least stop our government allying itself with countries where such acts are allowed?
Are we willing to write to our representatives, to sell our oil company shares, or to reduce our dependence on oil by undertaking energy-saving measures in our own lives? For the sake of a child bride, are you willing to leave your car in the garage one day a week?