Stripped of Their Humanity

The abuses in Iraq are just the latest in a long-standing pattern of dehumanizing Muslims.

Continued from page 1

in The New Yorker.

Clearly, these brutalities violate international agreements, including the 13th article of the 1949 Geneva Convention, which states: "Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention. . Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.

As it might be expected, these images have brought out cries of anguish and frustration in most of the Arab and Islamic world as well. These stories, which have come to dominate outlets such as

Al Jazeera

, have merely confirmed the worst suspicions of people in the regions about American claims to fostering human rights and democracy.

These methods of torture and humiliation would be immoral and illegal if applied to any human being, male or female, Muslim or non-Muslim. But they seem to be especially designed to bring the maximum amount of humiliation to Arabs and Muslims.

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Islamic societies place a great deal of emphasis on public modesty. It is very common for men as well as women to wear long pants and long sleeves and otherwise modest attire. The stripping of people from these societies is in and of itself offensive and shameful-and that seems to be the very intention of such practices.

Far more offensive are the simulated acts of oral sex, masturbation, rape, and staged homosexual activity, all of which are crafted to inflict the most profound humiliation on human beings for whom honor and shame are powerful ethical concepts, and where the majority of the population understands Islamic law to forbid nudity and homosexuality.

In short, these hurtful violations are aimed at stripping human beings of the very core of their dignity. And in the background, we have the cruel smirks of American and British soldiers, men and women, enjoying the spectacle. It is not just the Iraqis who have lost their dignity: the soldiers who participate in and condone such practices have also stripped themselves of their own dignity and humanity.

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