(As posted to my Gazette blog)

Have we got it wrong? Should we in the West ignore what we see as human rights violations in other countries?

There is a fine line between helping and interfering sometimes. I suppose it comes as no surprise to anyone that there are people in Brunei today — as international protests are held — who feel we human-rights advocates should butt out and mind our own business, no matter how good our intentions. And there is not doubt: those speaking out today against Brunei’s stoning laws and such are doing so out of love, not hate.

But are we misguided?

A reader named Arif seems to think so in a comment to one of my earlier posts (on the Gazette site). In the interests of objectivity, I am posting it here for all my readers to see.

Jillian seems to hold something against Brunei. While she thinks she is doing a great favour to the people around the world by standing up for human rights, she needs to know that she has the same patronozing and colonialistic attitude that most Westeners have. Before, during the middle ages, it used to be about forcing people to convert to Christianity, but now it is about forcing others to adhere to their views of human rights. Back then Asians had little options. However, the dynamics of commerce has been balanced and if the West shuns Brunei, it can go to China, India and other Asian giants for investments. Just go to Wikipedia and check out the statistics. Brunei did not export a single barrel of oil to either the US or the EU. Its investors and oil customers are in Asia, and although these Asian countries might not share Brunei’s point of view on Sharia, they do not intervene and respect a country’s sovereignty. As for other “patriarchial dictators”, lets just say that those dictators have enough political clout and investments around the world to defy a hell lot of people and still economically prosper. – Arif

I’ve invited readers of my other blog to write to me at The Gazette. Arif did respond with a follow-up comment there, and I post it here for you to consider, as well as my response to him:

I am glad you acknowledged me in your post and your response suggests you are open to the views of people whose opinions are diffent than yours, without getting hostile and defensive. Just so you know, I am not from Brunei, but rather I am from neighbouring Singapore, which is a relatively prosperous and democratic country. It is important for you to understand that, while plenty of people might support homosexuality and accept them as a part of society, plenty of societies do not find homosexuality to be normal and are extremely uncomfortable with it. For them, homosexuality is an impertinent conduct that can corrupt the minds of children. As for my own personal view, I do not support homosexuality, but as a human being I do not want anybody to be stoned to death for any reason, because quiet frankly, such a punishment is simply not commensurate with the act. If it were up to me, I would just let them be, but I would be against any sort of campaign that promotes the same. But then again, that is just my opinion and I would not criticize or patronize someone who goes against my view.

Asian foreign policy reflects that fact wherein we accept cultural differences and agree to disagree. I would also like to point out that Western divorce rates are very high as conpared to Asian nations. Furthermore, plenty of fathers have no access to their children thanks to a biased court system. Not many people want that in their society and its time the West understands that. My criticism of this boycott does NOT stem from my support of the new penal code, but rather from my dissappointment with the arrogance of Westerners who seem to think that the entire world wants what they say we want because this is hardly the first instance of the West trying to force others to accept their point of view. Lastly, strictly from a business point of view, the sultan should cash out on his European and American investments and direct them elsewhere. – Arif

My response to Arif’s second comment:

Thanks, Arif. I agree with you — if the Sultan sold his assets in Hollywood and such, the whole issue would fade away. It’s only because celebrities got involved that anybody is talking about this. I am very sensitive to the idea that we might be sticking our noses in where they don’t belong. I don’t want to force my views on other countries. But I do cry for LGBT people and others who face punishment simply because of who they love. It’s hard in this global village not to care for people, like Meriam Ibrahim in Sudan. I don’t even know her, but I care for her. The Internet has brought us together in such a way that the cry of a person can be heard around the world in a matter of  seconds. It’s a whole new world, and I guess we are all making adjustments. Anyway, I appreciate your comments and dialogue. It’s good . . .

Peace and love, dear brother. – Jillian

So, there is the discussion so far. What do you think?

– Jillian