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Should I respect a culture that disrespects?


I'm a Peace Corps volunteer in a conservative Muslim village. My host brother, who's 12, often hits his younger sister, and his grandmother says it's OK because he's a boy and is olden I disagree. Should I respect their culture or intervene?


IT ISN'T NECESSARY to compromise between your two ideals; instead, try to find a way to oppose an abhorrent practice without stepping on another culture.

Though values are influenced by the time and place in which people happen to live, we can establish basic moral principles to which nearly everyone will agree. That's what the United Nations did when it created the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, a document endorsed by countries with extraordinarily diverse cultures. The petty violence and sexism you describe violate fundamental principles that apply in all times and all places.

Indeed, you have an ethical obligation to resist a custom that encourages hitting girls, but the difficult part will be finding effective ways to do it. Start by working with local groups making a similar effort. They're likely to have both the insight and the moral standing to lead reforms in their own country.

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Title Annotation:THE ETHICIST
Author:Cohen, Randy
Publication:New York Times Upfront
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 30, 2012
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