In the case of Afghanistan, the new legislation will affect women of the Shiite minority – about 5 per cent of the population. The majority of all Afghan women are in fact hostage to far more draconian practices, enshrined in customs and traditions that date back to pre-sharia days – and are in some cases contradictory to Islam.
These practices include dowries, forced marriages and women's absolute obedience to men. Even in its conservative interpretation, Islam recognizes women's rights to land ownership. It insists on the "consent" of both sexes when entering a marriage contract or sexual relations.
What is branded as "sharia" for Shiites in the legislature is basically giving Afghan men the right to control their wives, which is already practised widely throughout the country. While Hamid Karzai's government may call for review of the law – even going so far as to provide verbal assurances to its Western patrons that the law will be revised – the attitude of Afghan men won't change with the rewording of a legal document through external pressures, especially from the West.
Sure, we must fight to protect the legal rights of women. But we must also seek ways to bring about change so that legislation is relevant to the lives of women and men in Afghanistan. The majority of Afghans cannot read and write; an even greater majority don't go to the courts to resolve family and marriage problems. The few who are educated enough to seek legal help are skeptical about the rule of law because of the corruption and lack of trust in the Afghan government and the judicial system.
This government has lost its legitimacy because most Afghans view Karzai as a Western puppet. Karzai, of course, has been making concessions to conservatives to prove he is the leader of a sovereign state – in the hope this will help him win the next election. But causing him this international public embarrassment and forcing him to give in to even more Western dictates is undermining his already shrinking local popularity – let alone any chance of re-election.
By all means, help Afghan women. But spare me the hysteria.
Especially since, as I and others have pointed out, there is a racist element to the ''hysteria'' that is not at all helpful to advancing peace in the Middle East and the '''Stans.''
Like I have said before: You know what might work in Afghanistan, since the West is propping up its own man anyway?
Kick out the guys from the government and put in a bunch of women, women who obviously will never be able to leave a fortress of a capital for their own protection.
Any nation that treats women like dirt will always remain in the muck.