Vice Squad
Friday, April 27, 2007
Pakistani Obscenity Vigilantes

Naturally, they have an expansive view of obscenity; for instance, audio and video shops are verboten in the worldview of the private oppressors, independently, it seems, of precisely what wares are on offer at the shops. So if the government in Islamabad won't close brothels and audio and video shops, they will take matters into their own hands. This is no idle threat -- their stick-wielding anti-vice groups have already issued hard-to-ignore warnings to shop owners. Last month the vigilantes kidnapped, and held for two days, a woman they accused of being a prostitute, along with three of her relatives, according to this article.

How come they get to decide? If I decide that sticks and anti-vice activities are verboten, can I suppress these vigilantes? Oh I see, they have adopted what John Stuart Mill called the "logic of persecutors," that is to say, the idea that "we may persecute others because we are right, and... they must not persecute us because they are wrong." But what if both sides adopt this logic?

Oh yeah, the self-appointed anti-vice lords were none too pleased when a female Pakistani government minister embraced her paragliding instructor in Paris. I thought it was illegal not to embrace in Paris.

Vice Squad has noticed similar private anti-vice enforcement in the past; for instance, in Pakistan (February 13, 2006), and repeatedly for Valentine's Day (February 14, 2007).

Update: The logic of persecutors also makes continued appearances in the form of Pakistan's anti-blasphemy laws: "Catholic man arrested twice on wedding day for alleged blasphemy;" and, "Play about burkas banned in Pakistan."

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