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Vivian Salama

USA/Middle East

Vivian Salama is an award winning reporter, producer and blogger. Currently based in Lahore, Pakistan, she has reported for various publications from across the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Balkans, the United States and North and South Korea. She has also appeared as a commentator on the BBC, France24, South African Broadcasting Corp., TVNZ, NPR and as a reporter for Voice of America radio. Her byline has appeared in numerous publications including Newsweek, USA Today, the International Herald Tribune, the National, Jerusalem Post, and the Daily Star. Salama has an MA in Islamic Politics from Columbia University and she previously worked as a lecturer of international journalism at Rutgers University. Close.

Vivian Salama

USA/Middle East

Vivian Salama is an award-winning reporter, producer and blogger. Currently based in Lahore, Pakistan, she has reported for various publications from across the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Balkans, the United States and North and South Korea. more »

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Don't Judge Afghan Culture

The Question: The producers of the movie "The Kite Runner" had to evacuate three boy actors from Afghanistan because they were involved in a scene portraying homosexual rape. Who's at fault here: the movie producers who exposed the boys to danger, or the Afghan culture that threatens them?

Before responding to this question, I feel it necessary to take a moment to credit Afghani-American author Khaled Hosseini for writing such an incredible story. The Kite Runner is a remarkably well-written window into two very different Afghanistans – one of revolution and hope, the other of oppression and despair. Sadly, the latter description is that of today's Afghanistan.

Certainly the filmmakers should have taken into account that by showing a homosexual rape scene (the actual rape is not shown), they were jeopardizing the young actors' lives. However, in the end, perhaps evacuation from Afghanistan, given its continued political instability and turmoil, is a blessing in disguise.

Only recently have filmmakers been allowed into Afghanistan. Various diversions including music, female employment - and even kite flying – were banned in Afghanistan under the Taliban's ruthless rule. (Until recently, even weather forecasting and the traditional New Year's celebration of Nowruz were outlawed). There is enough blame to go around for a society that forcibly operates in this manner. Another scene in the movie depicts a woman getting stoned to death by order of Shari'a law. While Shari'a is embraced as the original Islamic law, such practices in modern times are inhumane and barbaric – to say the very least.

The subject of homosexuality is a sensitive one. The practice is not publicly accepted by many societies, particularly those in the Muslim world. Recall back to September when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad at Columbia University in New York was ridiculed for declaring that there are no homosexuals in Iran. But considering that such relationships are rejected in many conservative societies (the United States being no exception) and there is no census collecting data on homosexuals in many of these countries, it is easy – almost legitimate even – for him to make what many believed to be such a preposterous statement.

Just as we can say it is not anyone's responsibility to impose democracy on a given country, so too is it presumptuous for us to claim that certain practices by Afghanistan or any other society are wrong. We can only hope that the oppressed (whether in Afghanistan, America or elsewhere) will one day live in a world of hope and tolerance. Unfortunately, for those living in Afghanistan, it is unlikely that hope will soon be realized.

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