The Curious Case of Fauziya Kassindja

Topics: Culture, Cultural relativism, United States Pages: 5 (1860 words) Published: September 30, 2011
John Edwards
Ian Young
Philosophy 1020
12 Friday 2010
The Curious Case of Fauziya Kassindja
The world today is run by a bunch of bureaucrats, people afraid of offending anyone, who are looking out for themselves and whatever their backers believe in. These people almost did not offer asylum to a young woman seeking it, from Africa, who felt she was in harm’s way. They claim that Cultural Relativism helps them to prove that by not helping they are being more culturally aware and conscious. In this paper I will prove that giving the young girl asylum was the best choice and that when someone seeks help, it is ok to interfere in other culture’s customs and rituals.

The story of Fauziya Kassindja can be found in The Elements of Moral Philosophy which was written by James Rachels. James Rachels has written many books on philosophy and is able to grasp the attention of the young and old thinkers everywhere. The story of 17-year-old Fauziya Kassindja may still be a foreign story to most Americans, but a painful one too many in her native Togo, a small nation in West Africa. Hers is a story of excision, or genital mutilation, in young girls before they marry. She did not want the mutilation, which was avoided by her sisters under the protection of their father. Because her father died unexpectedly, her grandfather began to prepare her for the sacred ritual. Fortunately, her mother and sisters helped her to escape to the United States of America so she could seek asylum and be safe from the knife, the knife that harms so many in her native homeland. When she arrived in Newark International Airport in 1996, Ms. Kassindja was not welcomed with the open arms the way many who enter the country are welcomed, but instead was imprisoned for two years before she was finally granted asylum, but not before she created quite the controversy in her new homeland. Spectators became split between those thinking that this was a horrible act and all girls needed to be protected from it, and those who would rather just forget about it because it was part of the culture she was from (Rachels 24, 25).

Cultural relativism has caused many problems between cultures and how to help other communities with who nothing in common is found. Let us first begin by defining cultural relativism. This tricky play of words basically means, “Different cultures have different moral codes” (Rachels 16). Cultural relativism and cultural differences are reasons why Ms. Kassindja’s asylum took so long to grant because they provide an escape goat for those who do not want to get their hands very dirty. According to this way of thinking, the American’s who criticized what was happening to her, as well as the whole practice of excision are wrong. Cultural relativists would say that it is just a different custom and because we are not a part of the culture we do not understand and should there for keep our noses out of her and her home country’s business. Can a carrying person really ignore the screams and pains that excision causes in innocent teenage girls? What if one of those girls died, then would it be an issue for someone to help with or would it still only be of cultural concern? When does too much become too much and the world start taking notice, does it really take innocence to turn the heads of the powerful and the people who really can make a difference? In this situation, those Americans who called this act horrible were justified to do so. They were trying to protect a young girl who had no voice and who came to them for help. When she asked for the United States’ help, she became the link between our cultures and helped to form a bond that can never be undone.

Cultural relativism allows people who do not want to hear about the real issues and challenges affecting the young and old in all societies of the world from hearing the truth. These are the same people, who are willing to send hundreds, no, thousands, no, millions of dollars to relief...
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