Why do we tolerate these governments?
By Cazzy Lewchuk, Opinions Editor
The Middle East is a vast and diverse cultural region. Heavily involved in geopolitics and the world economy, the area is also well-known for its perceived instability, internal conflicts, and values that clash with other areas, particularly those of the Western world.
Most of the Middle Eastern population is Muslim, with many countries officially Islamic by law. Most of the region uses sharia law in some form, which is based on the teachings of sacred Islamic texts. The law is complex and varies in its severity and enforcement. In some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, sharia law is the only law and it is enforced harshly, in ways that are considered barbaric from a Western perspective. Child marriages, public floggings, and the death penalty for sexual impurity all take place in many countries. Many of these countries also restrict freedom of speech and assembly, effectively terrorizing their citizens into acceptance.
Sharia law and the practices of some Islamic countries has been criticized for violating human rights, particularly the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human rights abuses are never okay, even when adjusting for cultural differences. When women are publicly flogged or executed for “adultery”/being raped, it’s wrong. When citizens are shot for protesting against the government, it’s terrible. When people are sent to jail for denouncing Islam and their country’s practices online, it’s a dictatorship.
Islamophobia is an incredibly important issue that needs to be addressed. Just because the government has tyrannical and oppressive laws does not mean its citizens believe the same thing. Muslims are no more likely to be oppressors or terrorists than anyone else. Many of these harsh regimes only came to power in the last few decades, with the countries having been more moderate and tolerant until a new, specific brand of law took over. The problems vary from country to country, and many Islamic countries do not have the barbaric laws of others, or have a mixed law system. Some areas of the Middle East have laws forcing women to wear hijab, while many countries simply have many citizens who wear hijab of their own free will. We can’t automatically view covering as a sign of women’s oppression.
Many right-wing fear-mongers worry about sharia law affecting Western society. I don’t believe that this is a realistic thing to worry about, and I especially don’t believe a growing Muslim presence in society makes this a threat. The West will almost certainly never be Muslim-majority. In addition, the vast majority of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world do not support society operating on a literal interpretation of the Quran, just as most Christians don’t advocate for literal biblical law.
We live in a complicated global economy in which we are heavily dependent on the Middle East for oil, and it is for this reason we have to be diplomatic. I don’t support an oil-based energy economy, but for now, Saudi Arabia is our number one oil source. There is a lot of irony when our governments send troops to fight “radical Islam” terrorists, but continue to support Islamic governments with radical laws. Donald Trump may criticize the Middle East and ban citizens from some of their countries, but he’ll also do business personally (hotels and golf courses) and nationally with others, because money.
Hopefully we can someday live in a world where countries do not abuse their citizens and we can openly work towards enforcing human rights. Cultural sensitivity will always be important, but some things are universally reprehensible.