March 18, 2005 -- Last week Mukhtar Mai , a Pakistani woman, expressed concern that the four men who gang raped her nearly three years ago were ordered by a court to be released from prison. The rape had been ordered by her village council as revenge against her brother, who allegedly had had consensual sex with a woman from a prominent family, a charge he denied.
This atrocity echoes too many others we've heard about in recent years.
In 1999 a mentally retarded 16-year-old girl in Pakistan was raped. The crime was reported and the culprit caught. But the local tribal council ordered the girl killed in front of their gathering; the rape had disgraced her tribe.
In July 2001 in India a young couple, he 19, she 18, were publicly hanged as hundreds of villagers watched not in horror but with cheers of approval. The couple's crime: they were in love but from different castes.
These legalized crimes do not occur only among the uneducated. In April 1999 a 28-year-old Pakistani woman who was seeking a divorce, which her family opposed, from her abusive husband, was asked by her mother, a doctor, to come to the office of a prominent lawyer to discuss the matter. When she arrived she was shot to death at her mother's orders.
These horrors remind us of several important truths: Many cultures and moral codes in the world today are savage and inhuman. Because this savagery is part of a culture, usually with religious underpinnings -- in these cases, Muslim and Hindu -- it is deeply ingrained, like dirt in one's pores, in cold hearts and closed minds. This savagery is not only manifest in large-scale terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center or suicide bombers in Iraq and Israel, but also in personal one-on-one, blood-on-their-hands murder.
The above extreme examples, which concern the abuse of women, are rooted in cultures and attitudes that have other anti-individualist manifestations, and the danger is that immigrants from those cultures to more civilized countries will bring with them those attitudes. In the Netherlands, for example, which has a large immigrant Muslim population, filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was murdered by a militant Islamist in reaction to his film "Submission," which documented the abuse by Muslims of women. It included scenes in which passages from the Koran were written on the bodies of naked women, and women were beaten as someone read scriptures that seem to justify the oppression of women.
Some might note, correctly, that most Muslims or other immigrants to America or other Western countries are not jihadists. But the world is much more interconnected today than in past centuries. Immigrants can continue to immerse themselves in their native cultures, for better or worse, through satellite broadcasts, e-mails and the Internet. Thus in the West and especially in America, the country created by immigrants, it is imperative to discuss openly and without concern for political correctness of irrational sensitivities that obscure the truth, the moral and cultural foundations of a free society.
In the Netherlands Ayaan Hirsi Ali, born a Muslim in Somalia, has done so by crusading against the abuse of women in her culture and was elected to the Dutch Parliament. She had to go briefly into hiding because of death threats after the Van Gogh murder, but she continues to courageously fight for civilized principles.
In America this discussion has not progressed the way it must if the values that underpin freedom are to be reinforced. Because nearly all Americans have an immigrant past, we must understand that immigrants are our strength, but only if, while keeping the good parts of their own cultures, they adopt those of individual liberty, personal responsibility and respect for others.