The Failure of Western Feminists to Address Islamist Abuse
Women Harmed By Muslim Men
This year, women have been killed in Basra, Iraq, by fanatical Islamists. Their bodies are subsequently dumped among refuse, with notes saying they were killed for "un-Islamic behavior". Such "behavior" is actually the mere fact that these women did not wear the hijab or Muslim headscarf. One mother who did not wear a veil was murdered with her children, who were aged 6 to 11 years. In September, the headless bodies of a woman and her six-year-old son were among those found. In fact, between July and September this year, 42 women had been killed in this manner in Basra.
In Basra, Christian women who wear no head coverings have been warned by Shia militants that if they do not wear the hijab, they will be killed. This month 41-year old Maison Marzouq, a Christian woman, was killed with her 31-year old brother. Their bodies were dumped in a Basra refuse tip. The killings have continued, bringing the number of "un-Islamic" Basran women murdered over the past six months to 48.
In June this year, Hamas took control of Gaza by force. Sheikh Abu Saqer, who runs the Islamist group called Jihadia Salafiya, warned that Christian women living in Gaza should wear the hijab if they wished to live free from attack: "All women, including non-Muslims, need to understand they must be covered at all times while in public."
In Sudan in 2004, a Christian woman was given a sentence of 40 lashes and a fine, for the "crime" of standing near a garden at night, and not wearing a headscarf. She was beaten by police and denied the right to speak in her defense at her Sharia trial. The sentence of whipping was carried out immediately after her conviction.
The issue of Muslim men forcing women to wear the hijab continues. In September 2007 British dentist Omer Butt - brother of former radical Hassan Butt - faced a tribunal, accused of misconduct. He had told a woman patient that he would grant her free government-sponsored dental care only if she wore a headscarf. If she refused, she would have to seek dental treatment elsewhere. Butt was found guilty but received only an admonishment.
Last week, a 16-year old girl was murdered in Missauga, Toronto. Aqsa Parvez was strangled, and died on Monday, December 10, after a brief struggle for life in hospital. Her father was arrested and on Tuesday, he was charged with her murder. Her 26-year old brother Waqas was charged with obstruction of justice.
Aqsa's school friends claimed that she would leave home dressed in a hijab, but would change into Western clothes before arriving in class. At the time she was killed, she had left home and had apparently only returned to collect some possessions. Classmate Ebonie Mitchell said: "She just wanted to dress like we do. Last year she wore like the Islamic stuff and everything, the hijab, and this year she's all Western. She just wanted to look like everyone else. And I guess her dad had a problem with that." Her family, and her father in particular, had apparently forced her to wear the Muslim headscarf.
Muslim groups, such as CAIR naturally rushed to defend their religion, maintaining that: "Teen rebellion is something that exists in all households in Canada and is not unique to any culture or background." The Islamic Social Services Association said that the death was a case of domestic violence, and was a problem across Canada's society.
Such less-than-honest assessments do not take into consideration the cultural and religious factors behind the case. Not wearing Islamic dress is a motivation for other so-called honor-killings. In Pakistan, from which Aqsa's family came, an estimated 1,500 women die as a result of honor-killings every year.
In Britain, numerous honor killings have taken place, particularly amongst Muslim immigrants of Pakistani and Kurdish backgrounds. On November 1, 2006, Pakistani immigrant Mohammed Riaz burned his wife and four daughters (aged 3 to 16) to death because they had become too "Westernized". Before the murders, he had destroyed "Western clothes" belonging to the girls.
It is frequently argued that honor-killings, like female genital mutilation (FGM) have nothing to do with Islam. This does not explain why such abuses of women take place predominantly in Muslim societies. In today's climate of cultural relativism where Westerners do not wish to find fault with abuses of women under Islam, the voices of famous so-called feminists are either quiet, or even refuse to acknowledge that such abuse has anything to do with them.
Where were the voices of Western feminists when several girls and young women died in a fire in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on March 11, 2002? The girls were students, staying in a dormitory when the fire broke out. When they tried to flee the building, those who were not Islamically "covered" were beaten back into the flames by the muttawa or "religious policemen."
Australian-born Germaine Greer was an icon of the feminist movement. Her seminal book "The Female Eunuch" was first published in America in 1970, a radical response to Betty Friedan's 1963 book, The Feminine Mystique.
In 1999, Greer published The Whole Woman. Here, she attempted to compare FGM - which is forced upon young girls who have no rights of refusal - with breast enhancement, which is an adult woman's choice. For Greer, an operation that robs a woman of the right to enjoy sex is justifiable as it is a part of "culture".
In 2004, Greer wrote: "I get a bit worried about certain heavily veiled ladies driving because they have no peripheral vision at all. You can understand why in some countries they are not allowed to drive." In Saudi Arabia where women are banned from driving, they are given no choice about wearing the veil. In the West, only a few women, such as the Floridian former child-batterer Sultaana Freeman demand the right to drive while wearing a face veil (niqab).
Greer has previously suggested that as a protest against the (Afghan) war, women should wear burkas - even though in Afghanistan the burka was forced upon women by men who would use sticks and electrical cable to beat those who did not comply. Most recently, Greer showed her self-centered contempt for the plight of abused Muslim women during a talk in Melbourne this month.
Pamela Bone asked Greer why Western feminists did not speak out against "honor killings". Greer mentioned the subject of Darfur, Sudan, and its rape-victims (thousands of women and young girls have been raped during the conflict). Greer said: "I can talk to rape victims here. Why should I go to Darfur to talk to rape victims?" When Bone responded that the situation for such women in Darfur was worse than in the West, Greer tried to hedge the issue. She said: "Who says it is?"
When Bone said that she had been to Darfur, Greer argued that changing another culture was hard. "We haven't got it right in our own courts. What good would it do for me to go over there and try to tell them what to do? I am just part of decadent Western culture and they think we're all going to hell fast and maybe we are all going to hell fast." Greer said that she cared, and was wearing a white ribbon to show she cared.
The most extreme Islamist known to us is Osama bin Laden. In the photograph above, he is shown second from the right, aged 14. The picture is of the entire bin Laden family, taken by their father on a holiday in Falun, Sweden. Though some of Osama's sisters have headscarves, most are unafraid to show their hair to the world.
The veil has been known at least since the time of the Assyrians, whose empire flourished around northern Iraq from 2400 BC to 612 BC. In Assyria, a woman had to wear the veil outside the house, and prostitutes were forbidden to wear it. It has been argued that only as Islam expanded did the veil become incorporated into Muslim codes of dress. Around the 10th century AD, it became part of general Islamic tradition. In the 14th century, Arab traveler Ibn Battuta was shocked to find Turkish women in Anatolia who went about uncovered.
The last Caliphate was that of the Ottomans, and it was officially abolished by the newly-created Turkish government on March 3, 2004. The wife of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, was Latife Hanim Usaklgil (1898 to 1975). She led campaigns for women to throw away the headscarf and to become modern citizens.
After the demise of the Caliphate, the Muslim Brotherhood was founded by Hassan al-Banna in Egypt in March, 1928. This group would globally become influential among Islamists, including the ideologues of Al Qaeda, and since the 1980s has been predominantly responsible for the rise of the wearing of the hijab. One woman within the Muslim Brotherhood extolled the notion of feminism within Islam. Zainab al Ghazali was born in 1917. She joined the Egyptian Feminist Union in 1935, but initially refused to join the Brotherhood. She joined the Brotherhood only in 1948, at a time when the group was committing acts of terrorism and sending fighters against Israel. She would be imprisoned by President Nasser in 1965. She was tortured in prison, and was finally released in August 1971.
Ghazali declared that: "Islam has provided everything for both men and women. It gave women everything--freedom, economic rights, political rights, social rights, public and private rights. Islam gave women rights in the family granted by no other society. Women may talk of liberation in Christian society, Jewish society, or pagan society, but in Islamic society it is a grave error to speak of the liberation of women. The Muslim woman must study Islam so she will know that it is Islam that has given her all her rights." Ghazali believed women could enter all areas of commerce and politics. She died in 2005, but despite her efforts, Mahdi Akef, the current leader of the Brotherhood, recently stated: "It is the Muslim Brotherhood's opinion that a woman cannot be president [of Egypt]." So much for feminism and women's equality within the Muslim Brotherhood.
There are aspects of Islam that always will be used by extremists to undermine Muslim women's emancipation, such as the Sharia concept that legally, a woman's testimony is worth half that of a man. Muslim "feminists" must fight against such entrenched positions if they really want full equality. There are no Muslim spiritual leaders who are women. Some women may teach, but few are imams.
Amina Wudud broke with traditions and led Islamic prayers in New York on March 18, 2005. The Islamic Friday prayers were held in an Episcopalian church under tight security. Three mosques had refused to let her lead prayers. She attended the first European conference on Islamic Feminism held at Barcelona, Spain, in October 2005. The conference ran smoothly, attended by 300 delegates from the Muslim world.
In Morocco, women are now allowed to act as Islamic "guides", known as morchidat. In April 2006 the first batch of these female chaplains graduated. One of these "guides" said: "The imamate in Islam is restricted solely to men who are apt at leading prayers, notably those on Friday. The Morchidat will be in charge of leading religious discussions, give courses in Islam, give moral support to people in difficulty and guide the faithful towards a tolerant Islam."
There are many sincere and intelligent Muslim women who argue that the original Islam of the Koran is a source of women's emancipation, such as Asma Barlas, and Mahsa Sherkarloo. In Malaysia, the daughter of a former president has campaigned for women's rights. Marina Mahathir is still a Muslim, but has condemned Islamist legislation in her country.
Also in Malaysia, the women's group Sisters in Islam argues that the Koran should be used for the emancipation of women. In neighboring Indonesia, Lily Zakiyah Munir similarly maintains that despite 1,400 years of patriarchal Islamic jurisprudence, Islam as described in the Koran promotes the rights of women. She argues that a genuine form of Sharia law should promote justice for women.
The efforts of these Muslim women who struggle to find a message of equality and liberation in the Koran should be applauded. If there is any hope for a genuine reformation in Islam, it may come from the arguments presented by scholars such as these. However, even these women must concede that Sura 4:34 of the Koran grants a man permission to beat his wife.
The existing schools of Islam are not going to give women equal legal and religious status in a hurry. Ghada Jamshir is a woman’s rights activist living in Bahrain. She is a Muslim, but refuses to let patriarchal clerics silence her criticisms of their methods. When Muslim woman doctor Taslima Nasreen wrote a newspaper article describing how in her native Bangladesh a Muslim cleric had organized the illegal stoning to death of a woman, reactions against her were swift and hostile. A death fatwa was put on her head, and she was forced to flee the country. 14 years later, she is still subject to persecution.
In Germany, Seyran Ates is a 44-year old lawyer who was born in Turkey. She has campaigned for two decades against forced marriages and so-called honor killings amongst Germany's Muslim communities. For her pains, she was once shot at by the enraged husband of a client. In 2005 Ates was named "German Woman of the Year", but in September 2006 she announced that she was to retire. She claimed that the constant death threats against her and her daughter were getting too much to bear. Later, she did gain some support, and returned to work under tighter security.
Seyran Ates sums up the problems created by well-meaning "liberals" who hide behind cultural relativism when gross abuses of Muslim women take place. She has said: "I want to know, and many thousands of Muslim girls and women have a right to know, why understanding and infinite tolerance is practiced with particular cultural traditions that are clearly oppressive of women. Human rights are universal and unconditional. And that goes most certainly for religious objectives. It is only girls and women who are forced to wear head-scarves. And it's also a majority of girls and women who are affected by forced marriage." If only Western-born feminists could be so forthright.
The Failures of Western Feminism
Britain's first mainstream "feminist" magazine was called Spare Rib, founded in 1971. Some of its articles became mere rants against men, who were dubbed "phallocrats". Such vitriol was not dissimilar to that promoted by American Valerie Solanas, author of the Scum Manifesto, where Scum stood for the "Society of Cutting Up Men".
The term "feminist" is now viewed by 75% of working American women as an insult. The fault for this lies not in the drive for full economic, legislative, and social equality of women, but in the arrogant and vainglorious personalities of many of feminism's leading icons. There have always been great and remarkable women who stood up for their rights as human beings in patriarchal environments, from Lysistrata and Sappho to Boudicca, Hildegard of Bingen, Elizabeth Fry, Mary Woollstonecraft, Sojourner Truth and Eleanor Roosevelt, but these women never saw themselves as "feminists".
Gloria Steinem said in December 2005 of Hugh Hefner: "He's such a jerk. He's so pathetic. ... Now's he's going around with four young women in their 20s instead of just one. It's sort of Moslem, actually." Her comments raised the temperature of CAIR, but did little to enhance the situation of Muslim women trapped in patriarchal societies. I can find little else by Steinem that actually criticizes Islamism, a palpable threat to women.
Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon are known for their stance against pornography, but this crusade apparently masks a deeper grudge against sensuality in general. Gloria Steinem, who joined the pair in their legal attempts to gain damages against the makers of the notorious porn movie "Deep Throat", has claimed that Dworkin is among the elite few who have helped the human race to evolve.
Dworkin, who died on April 9, 2005, had been sexually abused as a child, had engaged in prostitution and was a battered wife. Dworkin has stated: "Marriage as an institution developed from rape as a practice," and "Men are distinguished from women by their commitment to do violence rather than to be victimized by it."
MacKinnon is a sharp lawyer from a comfortable Minnesota background. She now lectures in law at the University of Michigan. An important and commendable point in her career came in 1993, when she employed a little-known U.S. law, the Alien Tort Statute to seek redress for Muslim and Croatian women who had been raped by Serbs in Bosnia. This allows for jurisdiction to be maintained in the U.S. court for crimes committed abroad, but only if the defendant is personally handed the charges on U.S. soil. The target of the suit was Radovan Karadzic, who supervised campaigns of rape during the Bosnian war. When he appeared in New York in March 1993, he was served with a lawsuit. Karadzic has been named in other indictments, including one for the Srebrenica genocide of 8,000 Muslim males, but since 1995 his whereabouts are unknown.
MacKinnon's failings, in my view, stem not from commission but from omission. To wish to see a mass murderer and supervisor of rapes charged is commendable. Yet I wonder what deeper motives prevent MacKinnon, who has loudly attacked pornography, from employing the Alien Tort Statute against visiting Islamists and religious officials who have committed atrocities against women in their own countries. In my research for this article, I have found no condemnation from MacKinnon or Dworkin against Islamist abuses of women in Muslim societies. I hope I am wrong, and wish that either individual has used her influence to voice disapproval.
There are certainly no shortages of horrific acts to condemn. On March 24, 2006 a 16-year old girl who had been raped in northern Bangladesh by two men was sentenced to 57 lashes. Her two rapists were given the same punishment by two clerics from a local madrassa. The rapists had fled after being given 27 lashes, but the girl received 51 lashes before she passed out.
From February 10, 1979 to November 17, 2006, Pakistan had legislation called the Hudood Ordinances. This had been introduced by Islamists during the rule of dictator Zia ul-Haq. Any woman who complained that she had been raped was obliged to provide four witnesses to the act. Failure to do so meant she would be charged with adultery, for which the maximum sentence was the death penalty and lashes. Though no woman was executed under the Hudood Laws, thousands of women were detained in prisons across Pakistan for contravening these laws.
In November 2006, a Saudi court sentenced a victim of gang rape to 90 lashes. The woman had been raped by five men but was given a severe punishment because, before the attack, she had been alone in a car with a man who was not a relative by blood or marriage. This is the Islamic crime of "khalwat'. The woman's lawyer appealed, but last month a court in Qatif increased her sentence to 200 lashes, accompanied by six months' imprisonment.
This barbaric judgment has been condemned by the U.S. State Department, and 35 German lawyers also wrote to condemn the action. To her credit, Hillary Clinton described the ruling as an "outrage". Barack Obama and other Democrat nominees followed suit, with Obama saying the decision was "beyond unjust". One thing surprised me. When CNN reported on the Saudi ruling on its website, many of the comments (since removed) by American women maintained that it was no one's business but the Saudis.
If an injustice is committed, a moral person has a duty to condemn it - be it forcible abortions in China, rapes in Darfur or state-sponsored oppression carried out in Saudi Arabia. Wearing white ribbons is not enough, despite Germaine Greer's protestations. It should be noted that according to Salman Rushdie, Greer refused to sign a petition condemning the 1989 fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini, which was in effect a death sentence against the author. Greer's form of feminism is the antithesis of that promoted by MacKinnon or the late Dworkin - in 1969 Greer co-founded Suck, Europe's "first sex newspaper", and had no qualms about opening her legs for the camera.
The amoral individuals who complain that Saudi punishments have nothing to do with them should think each time they fill their cars with gasoline about how they financially support such injustice. Some Western feminists have been well aware of the dangers of Islamism, both to women in Muslim countries and to the West at large. Camille Paglia is one such woman. Oriana Fallaci was an Italian journalist who had no problems confronting Islamism. Her forceful rhetoric extended to condemning Muslims for "breeding like rats", comments which have undermined her reputation. When she died on September 15, 2006 aged 77, she was facing defamation charges for passages she had written against Islam.
Naomi Wolf is another famous feminist. She has condemned Islamist terrorism, but seems more concerned to promote her theories that America is becoming a fascist state than to champion the causes of women stuck in patriarchal Islamist societies. When the "celebrities" of feminism could use their fame to ignite discussions of such issues in a complacent media ridden with torpor and lassitude, but fail to do so, the true failings of Western feminism become self-evident.
In Britain, the feminist movement is now a sick joke. With an estimated 109 cases of honor killings committed on their own doorstep, and at least 250 young British Muslim girls annually sent off to be forced into arranged marriages against their wills, there are plenty of local causes to champion. Instead of decrying these abuses, British feminists have bought into the myth that women in veils and headscarfs who submit themselves to arranged marriages are actually "liberated".
Such nonsense has been promoted by the ludicrous figure of Yvonne Ridley. A former Sunday school teacher, "feminist" and journalist for the Sunday Express newspaper, Ridley went to Afghanistan in late September 2001. She had entered the country in secret, and was wearing a burka. She was arrested by the Taliban, who thought she was a spy. She was imprisoned for 10 days, and was freed on the condition that she read the Koran and study Islam. She became a convert in 2004.
Upon her release by the Taliban, Ridley began to make bizarre claims that MI6 (Britain's offshore intelligence agency) and the CIA had wanted her to be killed while in prison. She wrote of this in her book "In the Hands of the Taliban", and claimed that the hotel in Pakistan where she went after her release had been searched. In London, the locks on her Soho apartment had, she asserted, been tampered with.
Shortly after her contract with the Sunday Express expired in February 2003, Ridley became employed by the Qatar-based Al Jazeera media group. She was fired on November 12, 2003. No reason was given at the time, but the station later claimed that her "overly-vocal and argumentative style" had led to her sacking. In 2004, she said of the Koran: "I was absolutely blown away by what I was reading - not one dot or squiggle had been changed in 1,400 years. I have joined what I consider to be the biggest and best family in the world. When we stick together we are absolutely invincible."
Her initial support after conversion came in a phone call from the notorious Abu Hamza al-Masri hook-handed preacher of Finsbury Park mosque. She said: "I explained I hadn't yet taken my final vows and he said, 'Don't be pressured or pushed, the whole community is there for you if you need any help, just call one of the sisters.’ I thought, I can't believe it, this is the fire and brimstone cleric from Finsbury Park mosque and he is quite sweet really. I was just about to hang up when he said, 'But there is just one thing I want you to remember. Tomorrow, if you have an accident and die, you will go straight to hellfire'."
Hamza was jailed on February 7, 2006 for inciting murder and racial hatred. Ridley became a member of the Stop the War coalition, a grouping of leftists and Islamists. In 2005, she stood as a prospective parliamentary candidate for George Galloway's Respect party in Leicester. Though Muslim leaders from around the world supported her, with one claiming her win "would be an honor for Islam," she failed to be elected.
After the 7/7 bombings killed 52 innocent people in London, Ridley appeared on the BBC wearing a black robe, headscarf and face-veil, claiming that Islam was a religion of peace, even though the four bombers were perhaps better versed in Islamic Hadiths than herself. She claims the hijab and niqab are liberating, and that wearing such items means a woman is "judged on your character and intelligence". She said: "How liberating is it to be judged for your mind and not the size of your bust or length of your legs." I may be a Philistine, but I treat a woman who dresses like a tent as a woman dressed like a tent. As such a costume is a political statement of "separateness" from Western values, I do not want to know any more about her.
Ridley worked on the Islam Channel, a cable TV show, but her show was suspended earlier this year. In June 2006 Ridley urged Muslims living in London not to cooperate with the police. In January 2007, she had few good words to say about her fellow political Muslims, writing on her website: "I feel very low at the moment ... in total despair at the appeasing stance being adopted by some of our self-important Muslim leaders. Instead of standing up to the Establishment they are scuttling around like Uriah Heep characters without dignity or self respect."
Ridley has also called Israel "a vile little state," and has said that any Zionists in the Respect party would be "hunted down".
Ridley, a former Western "feminist" is the public voice of British Islamic feminism - even though her views are attention-seeking, contradictory and inflammatory, a far cry from those of authentic Muslim women who go unnoticed. When the Stop the War coalition had one rally in 2005 one of the Leftist organizers urged the non-Muslim women to cover their heads to "show respect" to the Muslim women attending.
In Britain, and in an increasing number in North America, there are Muslim women who live in fear of their families. A friend of mine, who is now an apostate from Islam, was once thrown out of a moving car by her husband for not wearing her "hijab". She still fears her own family's reprisals. I personally have known Muslim women who live in dread of their families, because they have had relationships with Hindus or Sikhs.
Even though some women proudly proclaim themselves as feminists, where are the feminist voices to stand up for the rights of these women who live in fear?
With feminists like this, who needs enemies?
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