Maybe, but that doesn’t mean we need to encourage people to be unhealthy.
I am always amazed by how easily we tolerate “religious” or “cultural” customs just because of their stated source. It really needs to stop. I don’t care if it’s a person’s religion or their heritage that condones an illogical, inconsiderate, and/or inhumane act. They need to discontinue that custom. Sure, one might think where does the line get drawn about what customs “make sense” versus those that do not? Am I suggesting that only Western ideals will win out? No, in fact, the choices are generally not that hard. If they are, there’s discussions to be had–but often topics are just avoided, or ridiculousness accepted on its face just because something is cultural or, more often because it’s religious.
I first heard about force-feeding of women in Mauritania when I found this article in Marie Claire magazine. This is particularly troublesome when one considers that it’s more specific than just “women”– it is force-feeding of children that is the concern. I am amazed that I’d never heard of this “leblouh” before. If I haven’t heard of this from any of the blogs, newspapers, and magazines that I read, or from any of my friends or their friends–obviously this is an issue that is not getting any attention. Perhaps because Mauritania is not such a huge country, and a minority of it’s poor, uneducated women are really not a priority for anyone? Probably so–but this kind of sick point of view should be condemned. The fact that the world sat by while the junta government took over and ran rigged elections was just a prelude to these kinds of abuses returning.
Until recently, it appeared that force-feeding and the big-is-beautiful ethos were dying out. Although leblouh has never been outlawed in this Islamic republic, in 2003 the government started a campaign to fight child abuse and raise awareness of the health risks of obesity. Moreover, as diverse global influences — from knockoff Western fashions to Nigerian pop music and French TV — slowly reached the masses, young women in cities like Nouakchott, the capital, were beginning to slim down under their mulafa robes. But in December 2007, progress stalled when gunmen with suspected ties to al Qaeda’s North African wing murdered four French vacationers near the capital, causing tourism and foreign investment to plummet. Then, in August 2008, a military coup removed the democratic government and installed a junta that favored “a return to tradition.” An election in July kept the junta in power, despite claims of massive vote-rigging.
Surely, when we turn a blind eye to one problem, others will arise.