A debate took place on the on the Facebook page of one of my friends last night regarding Amina Tyler, the young Tunisian woman who is pictured topless online with script across her chest in protest against the treatment of women (http://bit.ly/10wF4PA). This is something I wrote about a couple of weeks ago already (http://on.fb.me/10wFwgM), but the debate raised the broader issue of what limits society and culture should place on the freedom of the individual.
Several comments were made about how I was viewing this through western eyes and that I needed to be more understanding of Tunisian culture. As a 40 something white British male working in the City, I guess I am the epitome of the classic image of Western imperialism, but equally, I am a creature of the modern world of globalisation; I live in London, probably the world’s most cosmopolitan city, my friends, my clients and my interests are spread around the world, I am married to someone from another continent and I try to absorb as much information and understanding of the wider world as I can.
Britain has faced its own issues with dealing with the different cultures of people moving to this country; forced marriage, female genital mutilation and honour crimes are just three such recent issues, and the same issues are raised. I don’t believe that these are issues that can be pussyfooted around; they are just wrong, and it has nothing to do with where anybody comes from.
I don’t know Amina, but I do know that it is wrong for anybody to be treated as a second class citizen because of their gender. It doesn’t matter what was written in a book, whether that book is 2,000 years old, 1,300 years old or published last week on Kindle; this is something that is wrong and as the human race has developed we have realised is wrong, just like slavery and human sacrifice. I don’t want to care who you pray to, what you read, what you eat or how you live your life; that is up to you. As long as you do not impose your views on others or expect others to involuntarily support you in your life, then go ahead live your life as you chose.
So to all people everywhere I say that if you that if you wanted to be treated with respect, that if you want the benefits that the modern world can bring, then start treating everybody as equal, whatever their gender, race or sexuality. If you try and crush the potential of half your population, you will forever stay poor and stupid. respecting the individual does not kill a culture, it enhances it.