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The radical form of Islam being preached in Afghanistan (and other places) is a symptom of the upheaval and chaos that is endemic of the region.  With no security, no law and no justice, it is who has the biggest gun makes the rules.  Currently the radical followers of islam occupy that role and the repression of women is the cornerstone of their particularly warped take on the religion of “peace”.

We recently received a comment on a similar post about the insane ass-backwardness of Islam, and religion in general, decrying the lack of respect and tolerance for religion and religious practices.

While I have little respect for religion I have too much respect for the people that do practice it to support a Draw Mohammad Day, or for that matter a Piss on a Crucifix Day. It just seems like another opportunity for otherwise sane progressive people to join with the far right in attacking Muslims.”

This seems to be a fairly mainstream progressive opinion.  Fairly wrong as well, but wrongness aside, the comment lends insight to one of obstacles progressive thinking needs to overcome when arguing the issues.  Our opponents, usually people who sponsor socially regressive policies (pro-death penalty, anti-abortion, anti-socialism etc), decry progressive positions (for a myriad of BS reasons but I’m making a point here about cultural relativity and ‘tolerance’) because of the lack of an absolute moral position.  Because progressives usually are not as xenophobic, racist or intolerant as regressive voices the progressive position is framed as being a moral willy-nilly free for all that permits all behaviour because it is believed that morality and the behaviour that stems from said behaviour is based on the society and culture being viewed.

Cultural Relativism (CR). CR is great in small doses, but should not be used as a basis for moral judgments because human societies are capable of cruel despicable laws/customs that by deontological standards, are atrocious.  Allow me to cut off the boilerplate religious response to my admission that CR is heavily flawed when it comes to making moral judgments by saying that a supreme being in any form is not necessary for the formation of a moral system.  We can make moral judgments without divine guidance or literacy in irrelevant ancient texts by using our reason and intuitions alone (see Utilitarianism and Deontological Moral systems).

In the video included in this post women, housed in their burka cloth prisons, are risking their lives for the simple act of attempting to become literate.  They face persecution and death simply because they wish to free themselves from the torpid ignorance which is religiosity.  So can one simply say that the cultural practice of cloistering and oppressing half the population merely because they have the double XX chromosome is a good one because we must only judge societies by their own intrinsic standards?

The argument is a gross simplification of what CR is, but some progressives seem to endorse the idea that tolerance means we have to condone the reprehensible actions of others because it is “OK” in their society.  Basing your morality on any one system is a recipe for moral failure as all systems have inherent flaws that can amplify human suffering if taken as gospel.

The problem with morality is that, by nature, it is inherently complex and comes with many layers of conflicting values and ideas that must be judiciously weighed before coming to an (often unsatisfactory) answer.  Regressives have little time for complexity and depth of thought and often adumbrate easy moral solutions based on unrealistic binary models.

So, to address the issue raised in the video clip, yes it is morally and functionally wrong to prevent women from becoming literate and educated.  One must look at the problem not only through the prism of the CR analysis but also Utilitarian and Deontological moral systems.  If all societies were to adopt the fundamental tenets of Islam would people be better off?  Does the system promote great amount of utility for individuals and society?  When cast in the light of a multifaceted moral analysis a moral stance can be taken that is nuanced and guided by rational thought (rather than musty rules from a magic a book).   The system (delusional religious belief) that encourages such egregious misogynistic cultural practices must therefore be criticized for promoting such a view of women.

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