By now, the whole world knows that Libyan dictator Moamar Khaddaffi was captured wounded, helpless and alive in Sirte by the rebels.
Instead of being brought in for trial, which is what the rebel leadership claimed they were going to do to him, he was essentially lynched. The snuff videos that the rebels mailed to western journalists show him being beaten and executed while begging for his life, with his corpse being sodomized and mutilated as a last sign of triumph by the mob.
As Mahmoud Shammam, the chief spokesman of the Transitional National Council, said with a smirk, "This is the day of real liberation. We were serious about giving him a fair trial. It seems Allah has some other wish."
Khaddaffi's corpse was then left to rot for a couple of days, after which he was buried, but not allowed a Muslim funeral. The Grand Mufti of Libya, Assadiq al-Ghiriani denied him that because, as the Grand Mufti declared, Colonel Gaddafi was an ''infidel'' and for this reason ''prayers should not be spoken over his body''. He was subsequently buried in an unmarked, secret grave, something that has deep symbolic significance is Islam as a sign of disrespect. In many Islamic cultures, unmarked secret graves are reserved for bastards and apostates.
Several Western observers, Michael Totten and Jonathan Foreman among them admitted being moved to pity for a moment as they saw this spectacle, but then reminded themselves what a brutal dictator Khaddaffi was and came to the conclusion that the punishment fit the crime so to speak, and was thus understandable.
With all respect to two writers who are normally extremely astute observers, I think they missed something that's worth pointing out.
Moamar Khaddafi was indeed a monster...but by our standards, not the standards of the world he lived in.
That world was the culture shaped by Islam, and I have never failed to be astounded at how much of it seems to revel in cruelty and domination.
In Khaddaffi's world,just as in Saddam's world or Basher Assad's,torturing and killing political opponents is just how business is done, and terrorism is just another tool of statecraft. And it's no different for Khaddaffi's successors. Ugly stories are already drifting back about the rebel's torture chambers,summary executions and scores being settled. And it's no coincidence that the interim leader of the new Libya announced cheerfully the other day that the country will be governed by sharia law.
The Qu'ran and the sharia law derived from it permeates this world and it allows wife beating and what we in the west would consider gross injustice for those on the wrong end of the pecking order, such as non-Muslims. It mandates horrific punishments and executions designed to inflict maximum physical pain for homosexuals, adulterers, apostates and for those caught committing crimes, even petty theft. It is a culture that produces forced clitorectomies for small girls, honor killings, and yes, torture and painful death for those who end up on the wrong end of the power struggle or who are seen as a threat to the established order.
Moreover, the more Islamic the society is, the more the above seems to apply. The Iranians who overthrew the Shah's relatively secular regime in 1978 made much of the cruelty of the Shah's SAVAK secret police. But the theocratic Islamic Republic that replaced it soon made the Savak look benign, and the few accounts that have leaked out of Tehran's notorious Evin Prison bear witness to the extreme brutality of the regime.
Saudi Arabia's penchant for lashes, decapitations and the amputation of limbs is well known, as is the famous instance of a number of young girls burning to death when their school was on fire and the muwataheen ( religious police) forced them back into the burning building and refused to let them out because they felt they were insufficiently covered . The regime of the Taliban in Afghanistan was characterized by the same kind of brutality.
A quick look around the Muslim world, particularly in the Middle East but actually anywhere there are large numbers of Muslims shows this to be fairly common, even in the West where violence like honor killings are frequently covered up by the media. Ilan Halimi, a young French Jew, was lured to an apartment by an attractive girl he didn't realize was a Muslim. He was then tortured slowly to death by a Muslim gang over a period of weeks, with his screams fully audible to the rest of the Muslim residents of the building, some of whom stopped by to participate. And this happened in Paris, not in Tehran, Ramallah or Damascus.
In an earlier essay,I examined whether this was more a case of an existing tribal culture or whether it developed from Islam per se, and came to the conclusion that at this point,the two are so welded together that it ultimately doesn't matter.
The reaction in the West to what happened to Moamar Khaddaffi is important, because it illustrates a very dangerous mindset. We have become so permeated by the poisonous nonsense that all cultures are equal, that we have to be non-judgmental of the 'other' no matter what, that we easily fall into the bigotry of low expectations. That explains why the Western Press prints reams of critique about the supposed injustices done by a relatively benign and humane Israel but ignores the celebration of brutal murder as a holy act and and the holding up of murderers as heroes and role models just over Israel's borders.
It's why the exchange of a large group of convicted killers for one Israeli soldier was commonly referred to as a 'prisoner exchange' instead of what it actually was, a ransom drop to release a kidnap victim who received no trial but was held incognito in brutal captivity for five and a half years.
It's why a mob demonstrating in Tahrir Square in Egypt for freedom and equality could horrendously gang rape a TV reporter while screaming "Jew, Jew" without anyone in the dinosaur media calling for them to be punished or even pointing out the hypocrisy. Even Lara Logan's own network spirited her quickly out of the country without even making a police report or getting her medical attention until she was safely out of Egypt.
If Muslims break into a UN aid office in Afghanistan and decapitate every non-Muslim there because a Florida preacher burned a Qu'ran, we're understanding and don't even insist that anyone be brought to justice. But if American Christians were to kill Muslims in our own country because Muslims burned a church in Pakistan or confiscated and burned bibles in Saudi Arabia, the headlines and tearful apologies would be rampant, and anyone who participated would receive a healthy prison term if not a death sentence.
It's absurdly easy to fall into this trap with someone like Khaddaffi, who admittedly is no great loss to the world. But this kind of cultural cringe is the proverbial slippery slope and shows how poisoned our reactions and expectations are not only of Muslim nations but for Muslims who live in the West among us. If the lynching of Khaddafi had happened in America or if the Israelis had simply dragged Yasser Arafat out of the Muqata one day and strung him up, the media outcry would have been deafening. But we accept such behavior from Muslims with hardly a murmur. In our minds, they're 'supposed to act like that'. So we allow more and more trespasses on our own mores and standards and feel guilty about to defending ourselves against the most egregious assaults on our culture, and even our persons.
Even an Adolf Eichmann in Israel or Timothy McVeigh or a Ted Bundy in America rated a trial, and a judicially mandated execution at the end of it.
Believe it or not, so did Moamar Khaddaffi. And we should be saying so loudly and clearly,instead of shrugging our shoulders at yet another act of barbarity emanating from the Muslim world.