A post at Get Religion caught my eye yesterday with the title, “Should Amazon tribes be allowed to kill their young? Foreign Policy editors aren’t sure.” It linked to a story in Foreign Policy magazine from April 9 about a handful of indigenous tribes in Brazil that engage in the ritual killing of infants and children—namely, those with a disability, twins, and the children of single mothers, all of whom are considered to be a bad omen—and the legal efforts underway to end the practice.
One would think that the answer to the question posed by the subtitle to the Foreign Policy article—“Should Brazil keep its Amazon tribes from taking the lives of their children?”—would be a resounding, “Yes.” Surely no one would argue these tribes have a right to kill unwanted children. Surely even the most committed multiculturalist would not condone such barbarity. Right?
But to assume that would be to underestimate the force of cultural relativism on the Left. If our friends on the Left encountered, in the present day and in real life, the ritual human sacrifices of the Aztecs or the fires of the Canaanite god Moloch, more than a few would insist that we not pass judgement on these indigenous cultural practices, and would probably denounce those who tried to do so as racists and imperialists.
I say this with some confidence because it’s more or less what the Brazilian anthropologists and government bureaucrats quoted in the Foreign Policy story said about the indigenous tribes in question. At issue is a law under consideration in Brazil that would outlaw ritual infanticide and child killings by native groups, known as “Muwaji’s Law,” named after an indigenous woman who rejected her tribe’s expectation that she kill her disabled daughter in 2005.
The Brazilian Association of Anthropology staunchly opposes Muwaji’s Law, and compared it to “the most repressive and lethal actions ever perpetrated against the indigenous peoples of the Americas, which were unfailingly justified through appeals to noble causes, humanitarian values and universal principles.” The association also called the law an attempt to put indigenous peoples “in the permanent condition of defendants before a tribunal tasked with determining their degree of savagery.”