The Right Coast

November 06, 2005
By All Means, Let Us All Follow Our National Customs
By Gail Heriot

My friend Jeff Jacoby's latest column deals in part with a new police handbook in Australia's State of Victoria, which urges officers to treat domestic violence differently in Muslim households out of respect for Islamic tradition. Unsurprisingly, women's groups are ... well .. a bit troubled by all this.

My, how times have changed! Years ago, when British General Charles Napier was Commander-in-Chief in India, he was approached by a delegation of Indian citizens who complained of British interference in sati--the not-so-charming Indian custom of burning widows alive on their husband's funeral pyre. He is said to have replied this way:

"You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours. "

If only the Australians were as dedicated to their own customs ....