Fundamentalist religion has helped deform many societies over thousands of years. It was Jesus of Nazareth who warned his disciples against the holier-than-thou, the zealots who would 'strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel'. He especially disapproved of those who advertised their sanctimonious observances by flashing their phylacteries, pretending to be holy but who were really sinks of iniquity – whited sepulchers he called them, immaculate on the outside but full of corruption.
Christianity itself, in the Spanish Inquisition and in the reign of 'Bloody Mary, became the incarnation of bigotry and of criminal wickedness as it attempted to seize control of the most intimate aspects of human life to the greater glory of Christ the King – or so it was alleged..
The death toll from Christianity and its true believers is staggering. To name only two of God's self-appointed subagents on Earth, Leopold of Belgium and Adolph Hitler, we are talking in terms of more than a hundred million human sacrifices – dedicated to a man who said that he bequeathed one commandment to humanity – "that ye love one another".
In the behaviour of the Taliban, of Al Qaeda and George Bush we have more recent examples of the inversion of the love we are told that flows from God, however described and named. Last week in Pakistan the Chief Justice was roused to fury by the news that officers of his court had colluded in the judicial flogging of a young woman on suspicion that she had had 'improper contact' with a young man.
She was lucky, I suppose, to have been in Pakistan. In Saudi Arabia and in some parts of Nigeria she was very likely to have been sentenced to be stoned to death.
The people responsible for these grotesqueries do not ever appear to be even slightly conscious of the enormity of their idiocies and of the inhuman, even bestial consequences. It is only, as in Pakistan and Afghanistan last week, when the gaze of the outside world is focused on the parochial outrage that those responsible seem to realise that their prejudices are not shared by most people and that that their ideas seem outrageous and even wicked to the rest of us.
Defining Women's Rights
Just last week the Afghan government found itself in a ton of trouble from its western sponsors. The reason, a new family law for Shiites that drastically restricted the rights of women "The husband can stop the wife from any unnecessary act" and requires wives to get the permission of their husbands before they leave the house, except in cases of emergency. In addition, the legal age of marriage for Shiite women has been lowered from 18 to 16.
Article 132 mandates that "the wife is bound to give a positive response to the sexual desires of her husband." Furthermore, if her husband is not travelling or sick, the wife is required to have sex with him at least every fourth night. The only exception is if the wife herself is ill.
The law is the ideological twin of the new Jamaican definition of women's sexual rights, lovingly if not lustfully, defining the precise parameters under which a woman is entitled to refuse sex to her husband and precisely limiting the parameters of rape within a marriage.
The Jamaican attempt to put the state into the marriage bed is just as nasty and bad-minded as the Afghan law, the only difference being in the actual definition of woman's servitude.
The Jamaican law is a determined attempt to reduce women to the status they 'enjoyed' just before slavery was abolished.
The question in my mind is whether the framers of the Afghan law had any contact, and if so, how much, with their Jamaican counterparts?
I am no lawyer, but I seriously question the jurisprudential bona fides of those who designed this new law.
The Phantom Rapist
In the first place the law attempts to reintroduce mandatory sentences, already found to be unconstitutional in respect of the 1964 so-called Rape Law. That particular piece of idiocy was stimulated by a middle-class panic over a 'sweet-smelling' so-called Phantom Rapist. This perfumed wraith was reported to have broken into several houses of the haute bourgeoisie and to have had his way with the chatelaines. These eminent ladies complained not to the police, but to their hairdressers and the result was a serious decline in the sales of after-shave and cologne.
One unfortunate young insurance salesman (Fred M) was arrested – presumably for suspicious parking – but was released without charge. His reputation was ruined and he soon left for Canada while the Phantom Rapist continued his career.
As I understand the law, new regulations are intended to codify accepted standards of behaviour and not to impose on the population the views of any particular section of the society. It would clearly be against the public interest for any sectoral interest to legislate in its own interest against the interest or generally accepted standards of the rest of society. The Taliban and the George W Bush administration, both representing minority interests, attempted and in many cases managed to subvert the general standards of their societies in favour of their own bigoted beliefs and sectoral interests.
IN THE United States, the Bush administration subverted the intent and in some cases the letter of the law by the strategic appointment of prejudiced judges and by simply rewriting administrative law to suit the interests of their patrons. That is why the US is now having to work its way back to civilisation by striking down rules, regulations and practices that allowed torture, short circuited due process and interfered with freedom of speech.
If laws are to be obeyed they must have the general approval of the community and should not strive to introduce division and conflict between citizens.
It is, for me, abhorrent that any government should attempt to arrogate to itself, the right to decide how I should behave or think – if my behaviour does not damage the interests of anyone else.
That for me means that people have an absolute right to decide who they will associate with, who they will mate or have intercourse with.
In Jamaica's homophobic society the bigots depend for their success on the fact that most people will not defend the rights of homosexuals for fear of being taken for homosexuals themselves. And in Jamaica, to be publicly identified as a homosexual is tantamount to being 'marked' for physical abuse up to and including murder.
This pervasive intimidation is a corrupt basis on which to make any decision, most of all, legislation.
Our parliament, as cowardly as the general population, is unable to speak out against the outrageous coercion and blackmail represented by the criminalisation of certain acts. Our lawmakers, anxious to pretend a non-existent evenhandedness, have proscribed buggery, whether between heterosexual or homosexual couples.
The state has no right to concern itself with private behaviour between consenting adults unless that behaviour is taken into the public arena, outraging decency and encroaching upon the rights of other people.
Likewise, it is uncivilised for the state to attempt to intervene in a woman's decisions about her own body; to introduce nonsensical, unscientific and hypocritical notions about when humanity begins cannot be an excuse except for emotionally stunted and scientific illiterates. There is obviously a point beyond which a foetus has attributes of personality but until then it is obviously a part of a woman's body and not a separate being.
Blackmail – a no-brainer
Jamaica has expressed astonishment about the level of corruption of the police force. Some of us have been trying to get people to notice, for decades. Forty years ago, in Public Opinion I said that most poor people then regarded the police as simply the largest and best organised gang of all. Forty years ago I condemned the judges because they knew of, tolerated and condoned the corruption.
So when the Gleaner, forty years late, suggests that perhaps we need a new police force, I don't laugh, I want to weep. Too much blood and too many tears have flowed under that bridge.
And what really pains me is knowing that the key to police corruption is in the very law that we are now attempting to make even more ridiculous and unenforceable. The point about the illegality of certain kinds of homosexual conduct is that it gives the police easy entree into corruption. A great many cops started on their corrupt careers by spying on and blackmailing homosexuals. It's a no-brainer.
We Jamaicans have a gift for making bad situations intolerable. Instead of dealing with the societal dissolution, inequity and illiteracy behind criminal violence what we did was to vituperate about human rights activists and then, in a supreme act of ignorant defiance, we resiled from the Optional Protocol to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a gesture hugely satisfying to Messrs Patterson and Knight and approved no doubt, by the ghosts of King Canute's courtiers.
The Afghans are under intense pressure to withdraw their misbegotten Shia family law. No doubt our 'donors' will find polite excuses to punish us for our idiotic intransigence. Perhaps, to elevate the whole issue to its proper level of importance, the government should simply incorporate the entire book of Leviticus into the Jamaican criminal code. They could then contend that anyone opposed to the new law was simply anti-God.
THAT should settle the matter.
Copyright©2009 John Maxwell