Ever since I heard the stories of American soldiers who fought in the Gulf War about certain interesting sexual practices among Arab men, summed up in the phrase “girls are for babies boys are for fun,” I’ve periodically heard whispers about a cultural inclination to pederasty in that part of the globe–ironic given the hatred our supposedly immoral lifestyle inculcates among Islamic fundamentalists. Well, we all have logs in our eyes about something. And it always warms my heart to be called immoral by a bunch of misogynistic pederasts.
My most recent exposure to this culture was from a new friend, a moderate American Muslim, who lived for several years in Saudi Arabia as a child and experienced the desire of older teenage boys to help him “mature” first hand. Thankfully, he was able to get away.
At any rate, this article is probably the first time I’ve seen this practice referenced in the popular press–this time in regards to Afghanistan. (Hat tip to Kendall).
More worrisome, it was revealed that Tracy, the mystery anthropologist, wears a military uniform and carries a gun during her cultural sensitivity missions. This brought to my increasingly skeptical mind the unfortunate image of an angelic anthropologist perched on the shoulder of a member of an American counterinsurgency unit who is kicking in the door of someone’s home in Iraq, while exclaiming, “Hi, we’re here from the government; we’re here to understand you.”
Nevertheless the military voices on the show had their winning moments, sounding like old-fashioned relativists, whose basic mission in life was to counter ethnocentrism and disarm those possessed by a strident sense of group superiority. Ms. McFate stressed her success at getting American soldiers to stop making moral judgments about a local Afghan cultural practice in which older men go off with younger boys on “love Thursdays” and do some “hanky-panky.” “Stop imposing your values on others,” was the message for the American soldiers. She was way beyond “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and I found it heartwarming.
I began to imagine an occupying army of moral relativists, enforcing the peace by drawing a lesson from the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans lasted a much longer time than the British Empire in part because they had a brilliant counterinsurgency strategy. They did not try to impose their values on others. Instead, they made room — their famous “millet system” — for cultural pluralism, leaving each ethnic and religious group to control its own territory and at liberty to carry forward its distinctive way of life.