- Benjamin Netanyahu on Iran... Video of about 12 minutes.
- Islamofascism; Beware of a religion without irony
- Violent threats for Muslim woman who says violence destroys Islam
- Reactions to the caricatures...
- Because They Hate
- Islamic Gender-Apartheid
- Why it's Islam versus the rest of the world
- Dirty little secrets
August 20, 2006
Beware of a religion without irony
BY ROGER SCRUTON, author, most recently, of "A Political Philosophy: Arguments for Conservatism," just published by Continuum.
The term "Islamofascism" was introduced by the French writer Maxine Rodinson (1915-2004) to describe the Iranian Revolution of 1978. Rodinson was a Marxist, who described as "fascist" any movement of which he disapproved. But we should be grateful to him for coining a word that enables people on the left to denounce our common enemy. After all, other French leftists--Michel Foucault, for example--had welcomed the revolution as an amusing threat to Western interests. It is only now that people on the left can acknowledge that they are just as much a target as the rest of us, in a war that has global chaos as its goal.
The word has therefore caught on, not least because it provides a convenient way of announcing that you are not against Islam but only against its perversion by the terrorists. But this prompts the question whether terrorism is really as alien to Islam as we should all like to believe. Despite his communist sympathies, Rodinson was a peaceful soul, who spent seven years teaching in a Muslim school in Lebanon and wrote a biography of Muhammad in which the prophet is portrayed as a mild-mannered campaigner for social justice. But this biography was denounced by the Egyptian authorities as an offense to Islam, was withdrawn from the curriculum of the American University in Cairo, and has ever since been banned in Muslim countries.
This readiness to take offense is not yet terrorism--but it is a sign of the deep-down insecurity of the Muslim psyche in the modern world. In the presence of Islam, we all feel, you have to tread carefully, as though humoring a dangerous animal. The Koran must never be questioned; Islam must be described as a religion of peace--isn't that the meaning of the word?--and jokes about the prophet are an absolute no-no. If religion comes up in conversation, best to slip quietly away, accompanying your departure with abject apologies for the Crusades. And in Europe this pussyfooting is now being transcribed into law, with "Islamophobia" already a crime in Belgium and movements across the continent to censor everything at which a Muslim might take offence, including articles like this one.
The majority of European Muslims do not approve of terrorism. But there are majorities and majorities. According to a recent poll, a full quarter of British Muslims believe that the bombs of last summer in London were a legitimate response to the "war on terror." Public pronouncements from Muslim leaders treat Islamist terrorism as a lamentable but understandable response to the West's misguided policies. And the blood-curdling utterances of the Wahhabite clergy, when occasionally reported in the press, sit uneasily with the idea of a "religion of peace." All this leads to a certain skepticism among ordinary people, whose "racist" or "xenophobic" prejudices are denounced by the media as the real cause of Muslim disaffection.
Now of course it is wrong to give gratuitous offence to people of other faiths; it is right to respect people's beliefs, when these beliefs pose no threat to civil order; and we should extend toward resident Muslims all the toleration and neighborly goodwill that we hope to receive from them. But recent events have caused people to wonder exactly where Muslims stand in such matters. Although Islam is derived from the same root as salaam, it does not mean peace but submission. And although the Koran tells us that there shall be no compulsion in matters of religion, it does not overflow with kindness toward those who refuse to submit to God's will. The best they can hope for is to be protected by a treaty (dhimmah), and the privileges of the dhimmi are purchased by onerous taxation and humiliating rites of subservience. As for apostates, it remains as dangerous today as it was in the time of the prophet publicly to renounce the Muslim faith. Even if you cannot be compelled to adopt the faith, you can certainly be compelled to retain it. And the anger with which public Muslims greet any attempt to challenge, to ridicule or to marginalize their faith is every bit as ferocious as that which animated the murderer of Theo Van Gogh. Ordinary Christians, who suffer a daily diet of ridicule and skepticism, cannot help feeling that Muslims protest too much, and that the wounds, which they ostentatiously display to the world, are largely self-inflicted.
To recognize such facts is not to give up hope for a tolerant Islam. But there is a matter that needs to be clarified. Christians and Jews are heirs to a long tradition of secular government, which began under the Roman Empire and was renewed at the Enlightenment: Human societies should be governed by human laws, and these laws must take precedence over religious edicts. The primary duty of citizens is to obey the state; what they do with their souls is a matter between themselves and God, and all religions must bow down to the sovereign authority if they are to exist within its jurisdiction.
The Ottoman Empire evolved systems of law which to some extent replicated that wise provision. But after the Ottoman collapse the Muslim sects rebelled against the idea, since it contradicts the claims of the Shariah to be the final legal authority. The Egyptian writer and leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sayyid Qutb, went so far as to denounce all secular law as blasphemy. Mortals who make laws for their own government, he argued, usurp a power which is God's alone. And although few Muslim leaders will publicly endorse Qutb's argument, few will publicly condemn it either. What to us is a proof of Qutb's fanaticism and egomania is, for many Muslims, a proof of his piety.
Whenever I consider this matter I am struck by a singular fact about the Christian religion, a fact noticed by Kierkegaard and Hegel but rarely commented upon today, which is that it is informed by a spirit of irony. Irony means accepting "the other," as someone other than you. It was irony that led Christ to declare that his "kingdom is not of this world," not to be achieved through politics. Such irony is a long way from the humorless incantations of the Koran. Yet it is from a posture of irony that every real negotiation, every offer of peace, every acceptance of the other, begins. The way forward, it seems to me, is to encourage the re-emergence of an ironical Islam, of the kind you find in the philosophy of Averroës, in Persian poetry and in "The Thousand and One Nights." We should also encourage those ethnic and religious jokes which did so much to defuse tension in the days before political correctness. And maybe, one day, the rigid face of some puritanical mullah will crack open in a hesitant smile, and negotiations can at last begin.
Back to Home
Back to New on the site
March 11, 2006
For Muslim Who Says Violence Destroys Islam, Violent Threats
By John Broder
New York Times
Los Angeles, March 10 &emdash; Three weeks ago, Dr. Wafa Sultan was a largely unknown Syrian-American psychiatrist living outside Los Angeles, nursing a deep anger and despair about her fellow Muslims. Today, thanks to an unusually blunt and provocative interview on Al Jazeera television on Feb. 21, she is an international sensation, hailed as a fresh voice of reason by some, and by others as a heretic and infidel who deserves to die.
In the interview, which has been viewed on the Internet more than a million times and has reached the e-mail of hundreds of thousands around the world, Dr. Sultan bitterly criticized the Muslim clerics, holy warriors and political leaders who she believes have distorted the teachings of Muhammad and the Koran for 14 centuries.
She said the world's Muslims, whom she compares unfavorably with the Jews, have descended into a vortex of self-pity and violence.
Dr. Sultan said the world was not witnessing a clash of religions or cultures, but a battle between modernity and barbarism, a battle that the forces of violent, reactionary Islam are destined to lose. In response, clerics throughout the Muslim world have condemned her, and her telephone answering machine has filled with dark threats. But Islamic reformers have praised her for saying out loud, in Arabic and on the most widely seen television network in the Arab world, what few Muslims dare to say even in private. "I believe our people are hostages to our own beliefs and teachings," she said in an interview this week in her home in a Los Angeles suburb.
Dr. Sultan, who is 47, wears a prim sweater and skirt, with fleece-lined slippers and heavy stockings. Her eyes and hair are jet black and her modest manner belies her intense words: "Knowledge has released me from this backward thinking. Somebody has to help free the Muslim people from these wrong beliefs."
Perhaps her most provocative words on Al Jazeera were those comparing how the Jews and Muslims have reacted to adversity. Speaking of the Holocaust, she said, "The Jews have come from the tragedy and forced the world to respect them, with their knowledge, not with their terror; with their work, not with their crying and yelling."
She went on, "We have not seen a single Jew blow himself up in a German restaurant. We have not seen a single Jew destroy a church. We have not seen a single Jew protest by killing people."
She concluded, "Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people and destroying embassies. This path will not yield any results. The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind, before they demand that humankind respect them."
Her views caught the ear of the American Jewish Congress, which has invited her to speak in May at a conference in Israel. "We have been discussing with her the importance of her message and trying to devise the right venue for her to address Jewish leaders," said Neil B. Goldstein, executive director of the organization.
She is probably more welcome in Tel Aviv than she would be in Damascus. Shortly after the broadcast, clerics in Syria denounced her as an infidel. One said she had done Islam more damage than the Danish cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad, a wire service reported.
Dr. Sultan is "working on a book that &emdash; if it is published &emdash; it's going to turn the Islamic world upside down."
"I have reached the point that doesn't allow any U-turn. I have no choice. I am questioning every single teaching of our holy book."
The working title is, "The Escaped Prisoner: When God Is a Monster."
Dr. Sultan grew up in a large traditional Muslim family in Banias, Syria, a small city on the Mediterranean about a two-hour drive north of Beirut. Her father was a grain trader and a devout Muslim, and she followed the faith's strictures into adulthood.
But, she said, her life changed in 1979 when she was a medical student at the University of Aleppo, in northern Syria. At that time, the radical Muslim Brotherhood was using terrorism to try to undermine the government of President Hafez al-Assad. Gunmen of the Muslim Brotherhood burst into a classroom at the university and killed her professor as she watched, she said. "They shot hundreds of bullets into him, shouting, 'God is great!' " she said. "At that point, I lost my trust in their god and began to question all our teachings. It was the turning point of my life, and it has led me to this present point. I had to leave. I had to look for another god." She and her husband, who now goes by the Americanized name of David, laid plans to leave for the United States. Their visas finally came in 1989, and the Sultans and their two children (they have since had a third) settled in with friends in Cerritos, Calif., a prosperous bedroom community on the edge of Los Angeles County.
After a succession of jobs and struggles with language, Dr. Sultan has completed her American medical licensing, with the exception of a hospital residency program, which she hopes to do within a year. David operates an automotive-smog-check station. They bought a home in the Los Angeles area and put their children through local public schools. All are now American citizens.
But even as she settled into a comfortable middle-class American life, Dr. Sultan's anger burned within. She took to writing, first for herself, then for an Islamic reform Web site called Annaqed (The Critic), run by a Syrian expatriate in Phoenix.
An angry essay on that site by Dr. Sultan about the Muslim Brotherhood caught the attention of Al Jazeera, which invited her to debate an Algerian cleric on the air last July.
In the debate, she questioned the religious teachings that prompt young people to commit suicide in the name of God. "Why does a young Muslim man, in the prime of life, with a full life ahead, go and blow himself up?" she asked. "In our countries, religion is the sole source of education and is the only spring from which that terrorist drank until his thirst was quenched."
Her remarks set off debates around the globe and her name began appearing in Arabic newspapers and Web sites. But her fame grew exponentially when she appeared on Al Jazeera again on Feb. 21, an appearance that was translated and widely distributed by the Middle East Media Research Institute, known as Memri.
Memri said the clip of her February appearance had been viewed more than a million times.
"The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions or a clash of civilizations," Dr. Sultan said. "It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality."
She said she no longer practiced Islam. "I am a secular human being," she said.
The other guest on the program, identified as an Egyptian professor of religious studies, Dr. Ibrahim al-Khouli, asked, "Are you a heretic?" He then said there was no point in rebuking or debating her, because she had blasphemed against Islam, the Prophet Muhammad and the Koran.
Dr. Sultan said she took those words as a formal fatwa, a religious condemnation. Since then, she said, she has received numerous death threats on her answering machine and by e-mail.
One message said: "Oh, you are still alive? Wait and see." She received an e-mail message the other day, in Arabic, that said, "If someone were to kill you, it would be me."
Dr. Sultan said her mother, who still lives in Syria, is afraid to contact her directly, speaking only through a sister who lives in Qatar. She said she worried more about the safety of family members here and in Syria than she did for her own.
"I have no fear," she said. "I believe in my message. It is like a million-mile journey, and I believe I have walked the first and hardest 10 miles."
February 20, 2006
Because They Hate
By Brigitte Gabriel
[Below are selected excerpts from Brigitte Gabriel's speech delivered at the Intelligence Summit in Washington DC, Saturday February 18, 2006].
We gather here today to share information and knowledge. Intelligence is not merely cold hard data about numerical strength or armament or disposition of military forces. The most important element of intelligence has to be understanding the mindset and intention of the enemy. The West has been wallowing in a state of ignorance and denial for thirty years as Muslim extremist perpetrated evil against innocent victims in the name of Allah.
I was ten years old when my home exploded around me, burying me under the rubble and leaving me to drink my blood to survive, as the perpetrators shouted "Allah Akbar!" My only crime was that I was a Christian living in a Christian town. At 10 years old, I learned the meaning of the word "infidel."
I had a crash course in survival. Not in the Girl Scouts, but in a bomb shelter where I lived for seven years in pitch darkness, freezing cold, drinking stale water and eating grass to live. At the age of 13 I dressed in my burial clothes going to bed at night, waiting to be slaughtered. By the age of 20, I had buried most of my friends--killed by Muslims. We were not Americans living in New York, or Britons in London. We were Arab Christians living in Lebanon.
As a victim of Islamic terror, I was amazed when I saw Americans waking up on September 12, 2001, and asking themselves "Why do they hate us?" The psychoanalyst experts were coming up with all sort of excuses as to what did we do to offend the Muslim World. But if America and the West were paying attention to the Middle East they would not have had to ask the question. Simply put, they hate us because we are defined in their eyes by one simple word: "infidels."
Under the banner of Islam "la, ilaha illa allah, muhammad rasoulu allah," (None is god except Allah; Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah) they murdered Jewish children in Israel, massacred Christians in Lebanon, killed Copts in Egypt, Assyrians in Syria, Hindus in India, and expelled almost 900,000 Jews from Muslim lands. We Middle Eastern infidels paid the price then. Now infidels worldwide are paying the price for indifference and shortsightedness.
Tolerating evil is a crime. Appeasing murderers doesn't buy protection. It earns one disrespect and loathing in the enemy's eyes. Yet apathy is the weapon by which the West is committing suicide. Political correctness forms the shackles around our ankles, by which Islamists are leading us to our demise.
America and the West are doomed to failure in this war unless they stand up and identify the real enemy: (radical) Islam. You hear about Wahabbi and Salafi Islam as the only extreme form of Islam. All the other Muslims, supposedly, are wonderful moderates. Closer to the truth are the pictures of the irrational eruption of violence in reaction to the cartoons of Mohammed printed by a Danish newspaper. From burning embassies, to calls to butcher those who mock Islam, to warnings that the West be prepared for another holocaust, those pictures have given us a glimpse into the real face of the enemy. News pictures and video of these events represent a canvas of hate decorated by different nationalities who share one common ideology of hate, bigotry and intolerance derived from one source: (radical) Islam. An Islam that is awakening from centuries of slumber to re-ignite its wrath against the infidel and dominate the world. An Islam which has declared "Intifada" on the West.
America and the West can no longer afford to lay in their lazy state of overweight ignorance. The consequences of this mental disease are starting to attack the body, and if they don't take the necessary steps now to control it, death will be knocking soon.(...)
(...) We are fighting a powerful ideology that is capable of altering basic human instincts. An ideology that can turn a mother into a launching pad of death. A perfect example is a recently elected Hamas official in the Palestinian Territories who raves in heavenly joy about sending her three sons to death and offering the ones who are still alive for the cause. It is an ideology that is capable of offering highly educated individuals such as doctors and lawyers far more joy in attaining death than any respect and stature, life in society is ever capable of giving them.
The United States has been a prime target for radical Islamic hatred and terror. Every Friday, mosques in the Middle East ring with shrill prayers and monotonous chants calling death, destruction and damnation down on America and its people. The radical Islamists' deeds have been as vile as their words. Since the Iran hostage crisis, more than three thousand Americans have died in a terror campaign almost unprecedented in its calculated cruelty along with thousands of other citizens worldwide. Even the Nazis did not turn their own children into human bombs, and then rejoice at their deaths as well the deaths of their victims. This intentional, indiscriminate and wholesale murder of innocent American citizens is justified and glorified in the name of Islam.
America cannot effectively defend itself in this war unless and until the American people understand the nature of the enemy that we face. Even after 9/11 there are those who say that we must "engage" our terrorist enemies, that we must "address their grievances". Their grievance is our freedom of religion. Their grievance is our freedom of speech. Their grievance is our democratic process where the rule of law comes from the voices of many not that of just one prophet. It is the respect we instill in our children towards all religions. It is the equality we grant each other as human beings sharing a planet and striving to make the world a better place for all humanity. Their grievance is the kindness and respect a man shows a woman, the justice we practice as equals under the law, and the mercy we grant our enemy. Their grievance cannot be answered by an apology for who or what we are.
Our mediocre attitude of not confronting Islamic forces of bigotry and hatred wherever they raised their ugly head in the last 30 years, has empowered and strengthened our enemy to launch a full scale attack on the very freedoms we cherish in their effort to impose their values and way of life on our civilization.
If we don't wake up and challenge our Muslim community to take action against the terrorists within it, if we don't believe in ourselves as Americans and in the standards we should hold every patriotic American to, we are going to pay a price for our delusion. For the sake of our children and our country, we must wake up and take action. In the face of a torrent of hateful invective and terrorist murder, America's learning curve since the Iran hostage crisis is so shallow that it is almost flat. The longer we lay supine, the more difficult it will be to stand erect.
Back to Home
Back to New on the site
December 14, 2005
By Phyllis Chesler Mes%20documentsauthors.asp?ID=1947
A speech for the December 14, 2005 Senate hearing organized by the American Committee for Democracy in the Middle East.
According to one Iranian dissident, "being born female is both a capital crime and a death sentence."
Today, the plight of both women and men in the Islamic world, and in an increasingly Islamized Europe, demands a sober analysis and a heroic response. In a democratic, modern, and feminist era, women in the Islamic world are not treated as human beings. Women in Iran and elsewhere in the Islamic world are viewed as the source of all evil. Their every move is brutally monitored and curtailed. The smallest infraction &endash; a wanton wisp of hair escaping a headscarf &endash; merits maximum punishment: Flogging in public, or worse. This is happening in Iran even as we speak. In 2005, a hospital in Tehran was accused of refusing entry to women who did not wear head-to-toe covering. In 2002, in Saudi Arabia, religious policemen prevented 14 year old schoolgirls from leaving a burning school building because they were not wearing their headscarves and abayahs. Fifteen girls died.
Today, George Orwell's Thought Police are, rather ominously, everywhere in the Arab and Islamic world. Orwell's Thought Police pre-date the Afghan Taliban or Iran's or Saudi Arabia's Virtue-and-Vice squads, who arrest men and women for the smallest sign of "individuality", difference, or female-ness.
Women in Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and increasingly in Egypt, are veiled from head to toe. They live in purdah and lead segregated lives. Women are also forced into arranged and polygamous marriages, often when they are children, and often to much older men or to first cousins.
Girls and women are routinely beaten. Woman-beating is normalized and culturally sanctioned and those who dare protest it are shamed, beaten savagely, and sometimes even honor-murdered by their own families. According to the Women's Forum Against Fundamentalism in Iran, two out of every three Iranian women have experienced serious domestic violence. Eighty one per cent of married women have experienced domestic violence in their first year of marriage. In addition, every year, millions of Muslim women are genitally mutilated&emdash;and this is not only happening in Muslim Africa. It is increasingly happening in Iran and in Europe and in North America where the procedures are quietly carried out in hospitals.
In many Muslim countries, women are not allowed to vote, drive, leave the house, or leave the country without male permission and a male escort. Most runaway girls in Iran are raped within the first 24 hours of their departure. The majority of such runaway rape victims are rejected by their families after they are raped. When Iranian girls or women run away from abusive homes, they are also quickly trafficked into prostitution, which has increased alarmingly in the last decade in Iran and which now includes temporary marriages that allow men to "marry for only an hour." Rape victims and suspected prostitutes are quickly jailed and repeatedly raped, and often impregnated, by their guards. In 2004, nearly 4,000 women were arrested in Tehran alone. Six hundred and forty nine were girls below the age of 14.
Iranian women are worn down every minute and in every way in their private lives. For example, in the summer of '05, a court in Tehran barred a young woman from working after her estranged husband complained that she was only allowed to be a housewife. This woman had been battered and she had fled the marriage two years earlier. But the court confirmed her husband's right to bar her from working outside the home. In November of '05, an 80-year-old husband clubbed his 50-year-old wife to death, "because he could not tolerate her wearing makeup outside the home". In October of '05, female civil servants at Iran's culture ministry were forced to leave the office by dusk "to be with their families". One female journalist, who works nightshifts at an Iranian newspaper said: "This decree means that I will be jobless soon."
And then there are the public and terrifying atrocities
Increasingly in Iran, women are publicly hung or are slowly and painfully stoned to death for alleged adultery or for having been raped. Public amputations, floggings, and executions are "almost a daily spectacle". If women (and men) publicly protest such heartbreaking barbarities, they are slandered as "anti-Muslim," arrested, and often murdered by the state.
The bravery of Iranian demonstrators is therefore heart stopping. They know precisely what can and will happen to them and still they demonstrate. In Tehran this past summer of '05, women protested Iran's clerical rulers. They chanted "Freedom, freedom, freedom!" and called for a referendum on religious rule. They chanted "Unequal law means inhuman justice" and "Misogyny is the root of tyranny." Earlier in March of '05, demonstrators at Tehran University demanded that women have a right to choose what they wear; that women must be free to choose their husbands and to marry or to divorce; that any kind of sex trade and human trafficking should be forbidden; that polygamy must be illegal.
Many Muslim women are also honor murdered by their families&emdash;yes, by their mothers as well as by their fathers and older brothers for the crime of wanting to go to college, marry for love, end abusive marriages, or go to the movies. Honor murders are usually horrific, very primitive. The girls or women are be-headed or they are stabbed many times, or slowly choked to death. I write about all this in my most recent book, The Death of Feminism. What's Next in the Struggle for Women's Freedom.
I call this systemic mistreatment: "Islamic gender Apartheid"
If we do not oppose and defeat Islamic gender Apartheid, democracy and freedom cannot flourish in the Arab and Islamic world. If we do not join forces with Muslim dissident and feminist groups; and, above all, if we do not have one universal standard of human rights for all&emdash;then we will fail our own Judeo-Christian and secular western ideals. We will also inherit the whirlwind. If we do not stop Islamic gender and religious Apartheid abroad, be assured: It is coming our way soon. Indeed, it is already here. I document Islamic gender Apartheid in both Europe and North America in my new book The Death of Feminism. What's Next in the Struggle for Women's Freedom.
It is dangerous to say what I have just said on most campuses in Europe and North America. If one describes the barbaric human rights violations being carried out in the name of Islam, one is instantly accused of being a "racist," a "Zionist," an American "imperialist," and, the worse epithet of all, a "pro-war neo-conservative." Islamic associations in the West, radical mullahs and Muslim leaders abroad, and culturally relativist western thinkers will sue you, shout you down, refuse to publish you, and refuse to listen to you.
Some personal disclosures are now in order
First, I am a feminist and an American patriot. Yes, one can be both. I am also an internationalist. I believe in one universal standard of human rights for everyone. Finally, I am a religious Jew and am sympathetic to both religious and secular world-views. Being religious does not compromise my feminism. On the contrary, it gives me the strength and a necessarily humbled perspective to continue the struggle for justice.
Second, Afghanistan matters to me, it has touched my life. Once, long ago, in 1961, I was held captive there and kept in fairly posh purdah; some women were exceptionally kind to me. I will never forget them. I believe that my so-called "western" feminism was forged in that most beautiful and tragic of countries. Let me share some details.
I had married my college sweetheart and we traveled to Kabul to meet his family. I had no intention of staying there. In Afghanistan, a few hundred wealthy families lived by European standards. Everyone else lived in the Middle Ages. When we landed, airport officials confiscated my American passport. I never saw it again. Then, I discovered that my father-in-law had three wives and 21 children. Finally, like all upper class Afghan woman, I was placed under house arrest.
Individual Afghans were charming, funny, humane, tender, enchantingly courteous, and sometimes breathtakingly honest. Yet, their country was a bastion of illiteracy, poverty, and preventable disease.
I never put on the headscarves, long coats, and gloves. Instead, I would take a deep breath, go out, and stride at a brisk, American pace. Sometimes, I'd take a bus. The buses were quite colorful except inside, fully sheeted women sat apart from the men at the back of the bus. The first time I saw this, I laughed out loud in disbelief and nervousness.
There soon came a time when I knew I would have to leave. I presented myself at the American Embassy. They could not help me. They told me that as the "wife of an Afghan national," I was no longer an American citizen entitled to American protection. Each time, the Marines would escort me back home. I came to understand that once an American woman marries a Muslim, and lives in a Muslim country, she is a citizen of no country. She is no longer entitled to the rights she once enjoyed. Only military mercenaries can rescue her.
A woman dares not forget such lessons&emdash;not if she manages to survive and escape. Which I did&emdash;though weighing 90 pounds and with hepatitis.
Firsthand experience of life under Islam as a woman held captive in Kabul has shaped the kind of feminist I became and have remained&emdash;one who is not a multicultural relativist. I learned, early on, how incredibly servile oppressed peoples could be and how deadly the oppressed could be toward each other. My husband's mother was very cruel to her female servants. I understood that women internalize sexism just as men do. It was an observation that has stayed with me.
What I experienced in Afghanistan taught me the necessity of applying a single standard of human rights, not one tailored to each culture.
Let us now return to the Islamic Republic of Iran. In 1990, Iranian journalist, Freidoune Sahebjam, published a haunting and carefully rendered account of how, on August 15, 1986, a 35-year-old woman was stoned to death in Kupayeh, Iran. It is titled: The Stoning of Soraya M. Soraya, (peace be upon her), was lynched by the villagers with whom she had lived all her life. Her own father, her two sons, and her lying, greedy, heartless, criminal-husband, Ghorban-Ali, all threw the first stones.
When Soraya was only 13, an arranged marriage with the 20-year-old Ghorban-Ali took place. Soraya was docile, obedient, and fertile. She did everything uncomplainingly. Her husband routinely insulted, beat, and then abandoned her and their children; he also consorted with prostitutes and brought them into the marital bed. Soraya dared not say a word. A "complaining" wife is easy to divorce.
On his say-so, she was sentenced to die&emdash;on the very day her husband accused her of adultery. The villagers chanted: "The whore has to die. Death to the woman." The villagers--who had known Soraya since her birth--cursed her, spit on her, hit her, and whipped her as she walked to her stoning. According to Sahebjam's account, a "shudder of pleasure and joy ran through the crowd", as their stones drew blood. Soraya died a slow and agonizing death. Afterwards, the villagers all literally danced on the spot where Soraya had been murdered.
I must emphasize that this ghastly, local stoning cannot be blamed on the alleged crimes of the American or Israeli Empire. Like evil, barbaric customs also exist in the world. The West has not caused them. This is a very important point&emdash;as is the question: What can or must we do about it?
Dare to argue for military as well as humanitarian and educational intervention - and you will be slandered as a "racist" - even when you are arguing for the lives and dignity of brown- and black- and olive-skinned people. In the name of anti-racism and political correctness, the Western academy and media appear to have all but abandoned vulnerable people - Muslims as well as Christians, Jews, and Hindus - to the forces of Islamism. Such cultural relativism is, today, perhaps the greatest failing of the western academic and media establishments.
If we, as Americans, want to continue the struggle for women's and humanity's global freedom, we can no longer allow ourselves to remain inactive, anti-activist, cowed by outdated left and European views of colonial-era racism that are meant to trump and silence concerns about gender. The Western academy has been thoroughly "Palestinianized". Even feminists have come to believe that the "occupation of Palestine" is far more important than the occupation and destruction of women's bodies, worldwide.
As I see it, everything is at stake. This is not the time for ideological party lines. It is a time for action, clarity, and unity. As Americans, we must acknowledge that Islamic religious and gender Apartheid are evil and have no justification. I would like us to support Muslim and Arab dissidents in their fight against Islamic gender apartheid and against tyranny. To fail this opportunity betrays all that we believe in.
I share the vision that Natan Sharansky and Ron Dermer have spelled out in their book The Case for Democracy. The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror. I, too, believe that "democratic nations, led by the United States have a critical role to play in expanding freedom around the globe." Both women and religious minorities in non-western and Muslim countries, and in an increasingly Islamized Europe, are endangered as never before. In my new book, I argue that America must begin to factor both gender and religious Apartheid into our evolving foreign policies.
What must be done?
We must combat the hate propaganda against America, Israel, and women that characterizes so much of the Arab and Muslim world today. This is a long educational and cultural process. We must defeat jihad. We must fight back. And, we must peg every peace and trade treaty with a Muslim country to the status of women in that country. I have a list of ten things that must be done in this regard vis a vis Iran. My esteemed colleague, Professor Donna Hughes, has begun to spell out what an American feminist foreign policy might be towards Iran.
American and Western leaders cannot turn their backs on Muslim dissidents, on the people in the Arab and Muslim world&emdash;or on the endangered Jews in Israel or on the Christians in Muslim countries. Our American vision of freedom and equality for women must also become part of American foreign policy. This is the feminist priority of the twenty-first century.
Dr. Phyllis Chesler is the author of fifteen books, including the feminist classic Women and Madness (1972) and The New Anti-Semitism (2003). She has just published The Death of Feminism. What's next in the Struggle for Women's Freedom. She is a Board member of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. Her website is www.phyllis-chesler.com
Back to Home
Back to New on the site
February 1st 2004
WHY IT''S ISLAM VERSUS THE REST OF THE WORLD
By Tavleen Singh
In Davos this year there was much talk of Islam and its differences with the West. The emphasis was on trying to understand why rather than on dismissing the whole issue as that clash of civilisations, Samuel Huntington wrote so prophetically about nearly ten years before 9/11. A whole gamut of Muslim intellectuals were invited to address sessions with subjects as diverse as religion and globalisation, modernity and Islam and the shared roots of Western and Islamic culture. Arab princes spoke, as did professors and scholars from the Islamic world and women in hijab who argued that the West try and understand that democracy and gender issues had different meanings in different cultures. The Grand Mufti of Bosnia was there alongside the former American Archbishop of Canterbury and representing the Indian subcontinent was, ironically, General Pervez Musharraf.
As I watched him expound on his theory that Islam was a peaceful religion that sought only friendship and peace with the world, I found myself wondering why then it had been necessary to break India up for reasons of Islam. But, that is the sort of politically incorrect question nobody asks these days just as we do not ask why the Kashmir Valley's struggle for autonomy has ended up becoming part of the international jehad against Americans, Jews and Hindus. Political correctness was very much the mood of the World Economic Forum's annual meeting so many of those who spoke for Islam got away with blaming the West for their woes.
You must understand, they said, that terrorism was not Islamic or Christian but just terrorism. And, you must understand that at the root of what was going on lay unresolved political problems like Palestine and Kashmir. Our friendly, neighbourhood military dictator went so far as to say that because of these unresolved political issues young Muslims had developed a sense of persecution and had begun to believe that the world was against Islam. It was the duty of the West to not just help resolve these political issues fairly but also help solve some of the socio-economic problems of the Islamic world. Then, the world would be at peace once more and we could live without the threat of suicide bombers.
Since this column has never had pretensions of political correctness let me spit it out. It would, in my view, be a terrible mistake to try and understand the causes of Islamic terrorism. And, please let us call it Islamic since nearly every terrorist act in recent years has been committed by Muslims in the name of their so-called jehad. These terrible acts of violence cannot be excused on political grounds. There have always been political disputes and there always will be but the solution is not terrorism. As for ''socio-economic'' causes we need to remember that none of the hijackers of 9/11 were poor, illiterate or underprivileged. Many of them have abandoned their repressive home countries for comfortable, middle-class lives in Europe and the United States but were so consumed by hatred of the West that they were prepared to die for it.
Moderate Muslims need to ask why just as they need to ask why, despite all their oil, even rich Muslim countries are unable to create just and enlightened societies instead of ones that produce disaffected, desperate youths who are prepared to give their lives to kill innocent people. If the West is such a terrible place and America Satan incarnate then why do so many Muslims choose to migrate to cities like New York and London? Why are they not happy to live bigoted, blinkered lives in Riyadh and Jeddah?
There would be no problem with Islam, no ''clash'' of any kind, if it would restrict its jehad to its own boundaries. It is precisely because it has chosen to internationalise its ideological and religious battle that there is trouble. Just as young Muslims think their way of life is worth fighting and dying for, so young people who are not Muslim feel their way of life is worth fighting for. And, whether Muslims are prepared to admit it or not modernity does mean questioning ancient religious beliefs and demanding answers. A religion that is based on the belief that the last word or ideology, faith, social mores and law was written fourteen hundred years ago will always find itself in conflict with change. Modernity is in its essence the ability to accept change.
This is the jehad that needs to be fought but it needs to be fought within Islam so that moderate, rational voices can rise above the violence and hatred of the bigots who seem to be the only ones able to speak for Islam.
In Davos we were supposed to have heard the voices of moderate Islam but what we ended up hearing, at session after session, was an endless litany of complaints. It was the fault of the West that Islam was being labelled a terrorist religion, the fault of the West that most Muslim rulers were despots, the fault of the West that political issues had been allowed to fester, the fault of the West that Muslim countries had not progressed economically and the fault of the West that Osama bin Laden had got created. In vain I searched to hear one voice that would admit that there must be something deeply wrong in Islamic societies that they had bred the sort of hatred that created so much senseless violence. Just an explanation, for instance, for why the Buddhas of Bamiyan were smashed to bits without one Islamic country intervening. I did not hear it.
Back to Home
Back to New on the site
February 13, 2004
DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS
By SALIM MANSUR
For the Toronto Sun
Salim Mansur is a professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario. His column appears alternate Thursdays.
In the latter half of the 20th century, the struggle for Islam's soul turned most bloody and relentlessly continues that way.
The seeds for this were sown in the first half of the last century, when most Arab-Muslim lands were under European rule.
It was then that many Muslim enthusiasts for reconciling traditional Islam with the scientific and democratic values of the modern world embraced the doctrines of nationalism in their most reactionary form, as found in post-1914 Germany.
The result reduced Islam into a nationalist identity for Arabs and Muslims. Many Muslim fundamentalists later incorporated this reactionary nationalism for their own purpose of constructing totalitarian states.
The pernicious effect of such a fusion of nationalism with religion was to empty Islam of its transcendent message of faith in a supreme God as the common ground of unity among all people.
In India, for instance, Islamic nationalism generated the whirlwind of communal carnage in the 1947 partition of the subcontinent. Wounds of that bloody division remain today.
But it was in the Middle East where nationalism fused with Islam into a political ideology - Islamism - whose effects have brought ruin to the region - and beyond.
The dirty secret apologists for this tragedy in North America and elsewhere refuse to address is how Muslims have suffered as a result of Islamism, have been driven from their homes, tortured and killed across the Arab-Muslim world.
There has been no systematic collection of this horrible data over the past five decades, but the numbers run into millions.
It matters little within the larger context of the struggle for Islam's soul whether Muslims have been primarily the victims of tyrannical authority in Muslim majority states, or of Islamists waging battles against corrupt power elites.
No one in the Arab-Muslim world during this period exceeded the bloody-mindedness of Iraq's fallen despot, Saddam Hussein, who blended a Nazi-type nationalism with his version of Islamism into a sheer hell for Iraqis.
The world also witnessed many Islamists and Muslim apologists rallying to Saddam's defence with contorted arguments of anti-imperialism in all of its variations.
The other dirty secret is the continuing victimization of Palestinians by many of their fellow Arabs, and of their being used as pawns in the war of Islamists against Jews and Israel.
Neither Islam, nor Muslims, have any quarrel with Jews and Israel.
The conflict between Palestinian Arabs and Israelis was, and remains, a nationalist contest over land.
This contest could have been avoided, or settled at any time since the full reality of the Holocaust became known, if Arab Muslims in a position to lead had chosen to live by the principles of Islam.
Instead, they opted for the German model of nationalism in opposing Jewish demands for a homeland in historic Palestine.
Amin al-Husayni, the Mufti of Jerusalem, was the leader of the Palestinians during the years between the world wars of the last century.
His embrace of the German fuehrer, Adolf Hitler, during World War II was not a whimsical choice.
Islamists deliberately incorporated the racist doctrine of the Nazis into their thinking and politics, and brazenly propagated anti-Semitic literature as a tool in their war against the Jews and Israel.
Consequently, the damage Islamists have done to the very legitimate grievances of Palestinians is immense.
Moreover, many Muslims, in supporting Palestinian rights without repudiating the rabid anti-Semitism of the Islamists, have contributed to the undermining of Islam as a religion of peace and coexistence and sabotaged their moral authority to speak of justice in Palestine, or elsewhere.
This internal conflict raging among Muslims during the past 50 years was bound to spill over into the outside world with devastating effects on 9/11.
Now America has become involved in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world as never before. Ironically, or by providential design, the future of Islam and of Muslims if they are to be free of the fanaticism of the Islamists, is bound to America's success in this war on terrorism.