Saturday, September 02, 2006

Forced Conversions and Moral Reasoning

Paul Marshall reflects on the public reaction to the story of the forced "conversions" to Islam of the two kidnapped Fox News reporters. Marshall writes:

The significance of this forced conversion has been downplayed in the media. The New York Times and the Washington Post even pronounced the two "unharmed" on release. This judgment is perverse. If Muslim prisoners in American custody were forced to convert to Christianity on pain of death or as a condition of release, the press would denounce it as virtual torture, and rightly so: No sane person would say the prisoners had suffered no harm.

Normally, it might be considered meritorious that we would hold ourselves to a higher standard than what we would expect from others. However, examples such as these are indicative of the dearth of what passes as moral reasoning in the western world. Those things that were once thought of, for example, in the Declaration of Independence, as inalienable human rights are now dismissed as mere western constructs.

Those who so dismiss alarm themselves that a return to thinking about freedom of conscience (a subset of which is freedom of religion) will lead to ever increasing American interventionism around the world, but that need not be true. Concern for human rights must always be measured along side numerous other considerations of resources, prospects for success, the legitimacy of any impositions, the strengths and weaknesses of other cultures, and so forth.

But considering and weighing all of those things would require a capacity for moral reasoning, and that is not now one of our great strengths.

4 Comments:

Blogger Donna Locke said...

"Concern for human rights must always be measured along side numerous other considerations of resources, prospects for success, the legitimacy of any impositions, the strengths and weaknesses of other cultures, and so forth." -- That's it in a nutshell. I'm thinking U.S. immigration policy, of course, though I know you're addressing broader policy here, and I agree. The rest of the world and even the United States itself tend to regard the U.S. as the loaves and fishes, but at this point, all must learn to bake and fish for themselves. We can help sow, but it must be voluntary and welcome, and the ground must be fertile.

8:39 PM  
Blogger MCO said...

Donna, while my own analysis draws different conclusions than yours does, I agree that these are the factors that should be considered in order for there to be either a coherent policy or a healthy debate on immigration.

7:50 AM  
Anonymous joe lance said...

The clause "If Muslim prisoners in American custody were forced to convert to Christianity on pain of death or as a condition of release" improperly implies that, like the journalists' captors, the author's hypothetical American captors would be operating from a religious directive.

A practicing majority aside, America is NOT, despite the wishes and best efforts of radicals within its borders, an arm of extremist Christianity. Therefore the comparison cannot rationally be drawn.

2:39 PM  
Blogger MCO said...

Joe, strictly speaking, you are correct. However, I think the author only intended to make a more general point that we ignore behavior in others that we would consider reprehensible if we were the perpetrators.

11:12 PM  

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