In and out of their religion two fiery ladies seek reform

(HH here: I would like to take the current mouth-piece for C.A.I.R. and have him debate these two ladies! Oh what an evening that would be!)

Published: April 27, 2008 NYT

Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Irshad Manji are two of the most prominent and outspoken critics of what they and others see as “mainstream Islam.” Brilliant, dynamic women — the overused word “charismatic” is not inappropriate for either one — they have each rebelled against a Muslim upbringing to become public figures with large and devoted followings.

Yet though they are allies on one level, their approaches to Islam are strikingly different, with one working outside the religion and one within.

Ms. Hirsi Ali is an avowed atheist whose criticisms can be seen as attacks not only on radical Islamism but on the religion of Islam over all.

For Ms. Manji, there has been no such either-or choice. She is a practicing Muslim who — though she can be as caustic about her coreligionists as Ms. Hirsi Ali — seeks to change her faith from within. As founder and director of the Moral Courage Project at New York University, she assists other maverick writers and scholars who dissent within their communities. “What I want,” Ms. Manji has said, “is an Islamic Reformation,” and in contrast to Ms. Hirsi Ali, she adds, there is “no need to choose between Islam and the West.”

Both Ms. Hirsi Ali and Ms. Manji come from non-Arab Muslim backgrounds. By itself, this may be one reason for their opposition to Islamic orthodoxy, which they see as inherently Arab, or Arab-dominated. Ms. Hirsi Ali was born in 1969 in Somalia, and lived in Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya before fleeing to the Netherlands when she was 22 to avoid an arranged marriage. When her family was in Saudi Arabia, she remembers her father’s complaining that the Saudis had perverted the true Islam. “He hated Saudi judges and Saudi law,” she writes. “He thought it was all barbaric, all Arab desert culture.”

Ms. Manji was born in 1968 in Uganda, but her family, part Egyptian and part Indian, moved to Canada when she was 4 to escape Idi Amin. She is even more insistent than Ms. Hirsi Ali in drawing a distinction between Islam and Arab tribal culture, its “dictatorship from the desert.”

Ms. Manji has a broader and more flexible idea than Ms. Hirsi Ali of what Islam is and can be. Ms. Hirsi Ali says, “Saudi Arabia is the source of Islam and its quintessence.” Ms. Manji, on the other hand, is convinced that her religion can escape what she sees as its Arab domination. “We need a take-no-prisoners debate about Saudi Arabia, a cauldron of duplicity.”

The writer Paul Berman suggests that the difference between them may be due to the fact that Ms. Manji was raised in the warm, liberal, welcoming precincts of British Columbia, where religion could be a comfort rather than a burden, where pluralism was an assumption, a fact of life. … Ms. Hirsi Ali’s early years, by contrast, consisted of dictatorship, war, patriarchy, genital cutting, confinement and beatings so severe that she once ended up in a hospital with a fractured skull. Ms. Manji offers her own support for Mr. Berman’s conjecture: “Had I grown up in a Muslim country, I’d probably be an atheist in my heart.”

Ms. Manji, too, sees feminism as the linchpin for Islamic reform. “Empowering women,” she says, “is the way to awaken the Muslim world.” But she is not only a committed feminist (bad enough in the eyes of Muslim conservatives). She is also an open lesbian — a rebel twice over. The difference between them “really is between those outside of a faith and those still within it,” says Ms. Manji’s friend the writer Andrew Sullivan. “Hirsi Ali has abandoned faith for atheism. Irshad has taken the harder path, I believe.”

The two women have known each other for four years, since Ms. Hirsi Ali interviewed Ms. Manji for a Dutch newspaper, and they discussed their continuing relationship in e-mail interviews. They immediately bonded — understandably enough. “I could not believe she was not an atheist,” Ms. Hirsi Ali says, “and she could not believe that I had become one.” When Time magazine named Ms. Hirsi Ali one of its “100 most influential people” for 2005, it was Ms. Manji who wrote the comment on her. Ms. Manji admires Ms. Hirsi Ali’s determination to speak truth to power, saying that “Ayaan’s defiant distrust of Muslim authorities can help generate debates that move us closer to honesty.”

For her part, Ms. Hirsi Ali replies, “I make a distinction between Islam and Muslims.” That is, “I picture the defeat of Islam as large swaths of Muslims crossing the line and accepting the value system of secular humanism. This is not a matter of one religion defeating another, it’s a matter of value systems which cannot coexist.”

Clearly, this is a debate of importance not only to Muslims but to non-Muslims as well, and for a Westerner listening in, the best way to understand it may be to translate it into the language of European history. Irshad Manji sees herself as moving Islam into the 16th century; Ayaan Hirsi Ali wants to move it into the 18th. It’s as if Luther and Voltaire were living at the same time.

Click on title for the whole thing

Pretend Feminists take note: Muslim girls beaten for not wearing the hijab

Muslim girls who don’t wear the hijab all the time are beaten, says Gerd Fleischer, of Self-Help for Immigrants and Refugees (Seif).

“In my office, women cried brave tears over having to go with a hijab. Countless young women despairingly told me that they don’t have the hijab on all the time, they’ll get a beating.”

“These don’t dare appear in the public debate,” Fleischer told Vårt Land.

She’s upset that young Muslim women say they are free to choose if they want to go with a hijab.

She says that the proud educated women who appear with the hijab, know too that their sisters are coerced. But they speak little of it. Fleischer says it should be part of their women’s liberation to also support them. The coercion many women experience, is barely mentioned as an aside.

She says young girls have to move to other places in the country and live in secret addresses, also because they don’t want to go with a hijab.

“Parents often beat their daughters into obedience and virtue and the hijab as a rule constitutes part of the control,” says Fleischer.

She agree with Progress Party (Frp) head Siv Jensen that the women’s movement of the left in Norway doesn’t care about non-Western women.

Liberal politician Abid Q. Raja will head the parties work with the minority issue. He thinks the Labor Party (Ap) wronged the immigrants more than the progress Party.

“Frp just used scolding, but Ap completely neglected the problem areas for fear of being called racists. Not making demands from fellow citizens is not taking them seriously. We don’t need to be pissed on behind our backs,” says Raja.

Source: Aftenposten (Norwegian)

Patriarchal Religion, Domestic Violence And A Beheading In Buffalo

Of course there is a general relationship between patriarchal religion and domestic violence, and the more rigid and traditional the form of patriarchal religion, the stronger the relationship. Whether this particular murder by beheading in Buffalo was an “ordinary” instance of domestic violence or whether the Pakistani-born Muslim husband was animated by a sense of entitlement derived from his interpretation of Islam, or by his upbringing in a society in which “honor killings” are often winked at by law enforcement authorities, I do not know. And neither do the mainstream Muslim leaders who were quick to say that this murder has nothing to do with “real” Islam.

Nor does the president of the National Organization for Women, Marcia Pappas, who described the case as “apparently, a terroristic version of honor killing” and condemned Buffalo police for referring to the murder as an apparent case of domestic violence. I’m curious about whether Ms. Pappas, from a feminist perspective, or various imams, from a Muslim religious perspective, think that beheading your wife is any more or less of a crime if a man is not religiously motivated. But the official skittishness and media evasions surrounding this case are part of the grand American tradition of pretending that religion has only good effects on individuals and society.

That said, we must recognize that most of western civil law, until the middle of the 19th century, treated women as the property of, first, their fathers and then their husbands–and this treatment was rooted in Judeo-Christian tradition. Until the separation of church and state began to take hold in the West (slowly and unevenly) after the Enlightenment, there was really very little difference between the way women were dealt with under traditional Christian teaching and the laws of nation states. (HH here: I have to take issue with this one point. I am sure she included it only to seem “fair” anyway. The law in Europe pre-1800’s provided no punishmment for daughters and wives that failed to “submit”. There was no lash and hang mans’s noose awaiting the European women. Women have been major players in Western history from Rome’s Livia and even before. Where are the powerful queens and empresses and others that grace European and American history? Paul enshrined submission to the husband into Christianity but never prescribed punishement. Nowhere in Western hostory have women been excluded from equal testimony with a man BY LAW. Women’s rights in Europe have been far worse than they are today but there is still a large difference between how a family pet is treated and how a farm animal is treated. IN the West Women have progressed to true partners, in Islam they are and always have been cattle.) In countries where there is no separation of church and state, including many Islamic theocracies, there are still no “women’s rights” that violate traditional Islamic law. In countries where secular government and religious law and tradition are often at odds–Pakistan is one of those states–there is an uneasy coexistence.

The great Elizabeth Cady Stanton, in a powerful speech delivered in 1885, said it all:
“You may go over the world and you will find that every form of religion which has breathed upon this earth has degraded woman…I have been traveling over the old world during the last few years and have found new food for thought. What power is it that makes the Hindoo [sic] woman burn herself upon the funeral pyre of her husband? Her religion. What holds the Turkish woman in the harem? Her religion. By what power do the Mormons pepetuate their system of polygamy? By their religion. Man, of himself, could not do this; but when he declares, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ of course he can do it.”

Since then, Christianity and Judaism (with exceptions for extremist sects within them) have made considerable progress in their attitude toward women–largely as a result of relentless feminist pressure and the support that separation of church and state gives to women’s demands for equality and justice. But even today–and we know this from the testimony of women who have fled extreme factions within Christianity and Judaism as well as Islam –domestic violence is a terrible secret in certain religious groups isolated from and contemptuous of civil society. Deeply religious women who “tell” on abusive husbands to civil authorities–and this is true among certain ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jews as well as within the most conservative precincts of Islam–risk being cut off from their religion and, if they are mothers, losing their children.
(HH again: here the authro makes it clear how much she stretched to make the earlier comparison between Europe and Islam. Here we see it again, the EXTREMIST Jews and Christians MIGHT go so far as to ostrasize a women who rebels. HAteful as it may be being cut off from your religion and losing your children is better than being cut off from your life and losing your head.

It is disingenous for any religious leader, however personally reasonable and “moderate” he may be, to claim that religion has nothing to do with honor killings in Islamic theocracies and nothing to do with domestic violence within the most patriarchal precincts of any faith. However, the position of women in most of the Islamic world is infinitely worse than in the West. In some Islamic theocracies, women might as well be living in the 14th century as far as their legal rights are concerned.

Which brings us to the case of Muzzamil Hassan, accused of beheading his wife, Assiya Hassan, days after she filed for divorce. One of the most ironic aspects of the case is the fact that the Hassans started a cable TV network, Bridges, aimed at promoting understanding between Muslim and non-Muslim cultures. There was a long history of domestic violence complaints by Mrs. Hassan against Mr. Hassan, and on Feb. 6–the day he was served with divorce papers–Mr. Hassan was also served with an order of protection. Mr. Hassan himself reported the death of his wife to police.

NOW is right about one thing: the police in Orchard Park (the affluent suburb of Buffalo where the Hassans lived) are idiots for saying, as police chief Andrew Benz did, “I don’t know if (the method of death) does mean anything…It’s nor a normal thing you would see.” Really? But it is “normal,” or less abnormal, in the world of Islamist honor killings. The “method of death,” as any homicide detective knows, always means something in a case of premeditated murder–the charge against Mr. Hassan.


I am of two minds about the religious inferences being drawn from this case. On the one hand, Mr. Hassan may just have been a violent man, seething beneath a polite surface, who would have done what he did regardless of his religion. On the other hand, his version of his religion may have been an important factor in his rationalization for committing such an act. One thing is certain: Aasiya Hassan did step out of the role of a traditional wife in her native culture by turning to secular law in America to protect her against a violent husband. And the law failed her, as it has failed countless American women, of many faiths, murdered by men using that most traditional of American weapons–a gun.The use of the word “terroristic” by NOW is politically inflammatory and quite stupid, given that all domestic violence, as feminists have long pointed out, is an intimate act of terror. Not long after the news of the beheading in Buffalo, there was a horrifying, widely circulated story in New York about a grandmother who killed her 4-year-old granddaughter. Did NOW issue a statement condemning “terroristic” grannies?

But the comments of Muslim authorities saying this crime has nothing, perish the thought, to do with religion (as if they knew what was going on in the mind of the accused killer) certainly do not address urgent issues about the position of women within some quarters of Islam or the uneasy position of many immigrant women and girls caught between the most traditional, repressive Muslim religious values and the secular liberties that the United States affords its female citizens.

(HH: overall a great piece of analysis.)

Read the rest by clicking on the title

Obama Set to Undo ‘Conscience’ Rule for Health Workers

Published: February 27, 2009

(HH here: I like this one! whether you are a doctor or nurse or a taxi driver or shoe salesman I have always felt that if you take a job you agree to DO that job. IF you are a pharmacist who refuses to dispense drugs your faith doesn’t like then you need to find a new job. If you are a doctor that refuses to have anything to do with an abortion then do not apply to work at any facility that performs them. Ditto taxi drivers who decide that service dogs and passengers carrying alchohol, or even just drunk, need not be served. My answer remains the same, find a new job if your faith constrains you from participating in secular society. In the past the devoutly faithful withdrew from “the world” in order to be more faithful to their religous rules. IF faced with a “do this or quit” situation they simply quit. We are not talking about something like child labor in factories! We are talking about people who bring their personal, particular religious rules to the workplace and expect a larger society that does not share them to conform in order that they might not have to “suffer” for their faith. If passionate faith is never supposed to cost YOU anything then how do you distinguish it from a simple power trip?)

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration moved on Friday to undo a last-minute Bush administration rule granting broad protections to health workers who refuse to take part in abortions or provide other health care that goes against their consciences.

The Department of Health and Human Services served notice on Friday, through a message to the White House Office of Management and Budget, that it intends to rescind the regulation, which was originally announced on Dec. 19, 2008, and took effect on the day President Obama took office.

When the administration publishes official notice of its intent, probably next week, a 30-day period for public comment will begin, after which the regulation can be repealed or modified.

But opponents of the regulation, including the American Medical Association, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and Planned Parenthood, said it could have voided state laws requiring insurance plans to cover contraceptives and requiring hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims. It could also allow drugstore employees to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives, critics of the regulation have said.

Moreover, opponents of the regulation have said, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 already offers broad protection against discrimination based on religion, spelling out that an employer must make reasonable accommodations for an employee’s practices and beliefs.

“Today’s action by the Obama administration demonstrates that this president is not going to stand by and let women’s health be placed in jeopardy,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, said on Friday.

By all means read it all by clicking on the post title!!!

Saudi women ‘kept in childhood’

From the BBC

Women cannot make even simple decisions on children, the report says
Saudi women are being kept in perpetual childhood so male relatives can exercise “guardianship” over them, the Human Rights Watch group has said.

The New York-based group says Saudi women have to obtain permission from male relatives to work, travel, study, marry or even receive health care.

Their access to justice is also severely constrained, it says.

The group says the Saudi establishment sacrifices basic human rights to maintain male control over women.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive.

Saudi clerics see the guardianship of women’s honour as a key to the country’s social and moral order.

‘No progress’

The report, Perpetual Minors: Human Rights Abuses Stemming from Male Guardianship and Sex Segregation in Saudi Arabia, draws on more than 100 interviews with Saudi women.

Read the full HRW report

The report says that Saudi women are denied the legal right to make even trivial decisions for their children – women cannot open bank accounts for children, enrol them in school, obtain school files or travel with their children without written permission from the child’s father.

Human Rights Watch says that Saudi women are prevented from accessing government agencies that have no established female sections unless they have a male representative.

The need to establish separate office spaces for women is a disincentive to hiring female employees, and female students are often relegated to unequal facilities with unequal academic opportunities, the report says.

Male guardianship over adult women also contributes to their risk of exposure to violence within the family as victims of violence find it difficult to seek protection or redress from the courts.

Social workers, physicians and lawyers say that it is nearly impossible to remove guardianship from male guardians who are abusive, the group says.

“It’s astonishing that the Saudi government denies adult women the right to make decisions for themselves but holds them criminally responsible for their actions at puberty,” said Ms Deif.

“For Saudi women, reaching adulthood brings no rights, only responsibilities.”

Read it all by clicking on the post title

An eye for an eye?

See Video

Now I am not sure what I think of this one. Here we have a woman who was blinded by acid in an honor crime. She has asked that instead of blood money being given to her from the criminals family she wants the full eye for an eye treatment. She has asked that he be blinded by acid just as she was.
Now as an individual fate for this particular man I find it hard to find fault but I cannot swallow a legal system that goes in for such a brutal system of “balance”.
While I certainly think a society has a right to protect itself from those who would harm it we cannot take liberties with the concept of mercy.

The Subjection of Islamic Women

The Subjection of Islamic Women (bolds added)
A version of this article appeared in The Weekly Standard on May 21, 2007.
The subjection of women in Muslim societies–especially in Arab nations and in Iran–is today very much in the public eye. Accounts of lashings, stonings, and honor killings are regularly in the news, and searing memoirs by Azar Nafisi and AEI’s Ayaan Hirsi Ali have become bestsellers. One might expect that by now American feminist groups would be organizing protests against such glaring injustices, joining forces with the valiant Muslim women who are working to change their societies. But this is not happening.
If you go to the websites of major women’s groups–such as the National Organization for Women, the Ms. Foundation for Women, and the National Council for Research on Women–or to women’s centers at our major colleges and universities, you will find them all caught up with entirely other issues, seldom mentioning women in Islam. During the 1980s, there were massive demonstrations on American campuses against racial apartheid in South Africa. Today, however, there is no remotely comparable movement on campuses against the gender apartheid prevalent in many parts of the world.
The condition of Muslim women may be the most pressing women’s issue of our age, but for many contemporary American feminists it is not a high priority. Why not?
The reasons are rooted in the worldview of the women who shape the concerns and activities of contemporary American feminism. That worldview is–by tendency and sometimes emphatically–antagonistic toward the United States, agnostic about marriage and family, hostile toward traditional religion, and wary of femininity. The contrast with Islamic feminism could hardly be greater.
Writing in The New Republic in 1999, philosopher Martha Nussbaum noted with disapproval that “feminist theory pays relatively little attention to the struggles of women outside the United States.” Too many fashionable gender theorists, she said, have lost their dedication to the public good. Their “hip quietism . . . collaborates with evil.”
This was a frontal assault, and prominent academic feminists chastised Nussbaum in letters to the editor. Joan Scott of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton pointed out the dangers of Nussbaum’s “good versus evil scheme,” saying, “When Robespierre or the Ayatollahs or Ken Starr seek to impose their vision of the ‘good’ on the rest of society, reigns of terror follow and democratic politics are undermined.” Gayatri Spivak, a professor of comparative literature at Columbia University, accused Nussbaum of “flag waving” and of being on a “civilizing mission.” None of the letter writers addressed Nussbaum’s core complaint: too few feminist theorists are showing concern for the millions of women trapped in blatantly misogynist cultures outside the United States.
Multiculturalism vs. Feminism
One reason for this is that many feminists are tied up in knots by multiculturalism and find it very hard to pass judgment on non-Western cultures. They are far more comfortable finding fault with American society for minor inequities (for example, the exclusion of women from the Augusta National Golf Club and the “underrepresentation” of women on engineering faculties) than criticizing heinous practices beyond our shores. The occasional feminist scholar who takes the women’s movement to task for neglecting the plight of foreigners is ignored or ruled out of order.
The primary focus is on the “terror” at home. Katha Pollitt, a columnist at The Nation, talks of “the common thread of misogyny” connecting Christian Evangelicals to the Taliban:
It is important to remember just how barbarous and cruel the Taliban were. Yet it is also important not to use their example to obscure or deny the common thread of misogyny that connects them with Focus on the Family and the Christian Coalition.
In a similar vein, journalist Barbara Ehrenreich characterizes Christian evangelical movements as “Christian Wahhabism,” using the name of the sect that is the state religion of Saudi Arabia and the inspiration for Osama bin Laden. Eve Ensler, lionized author of The Vagina Monologues, makes the same point somewhat differently in her popular lecture “Afghanistan Is Everywhere”:
(HH here: I can see why, pre-9/11 this might have been their attitude. Hyperbole in service of progress. But now that Radical Islam has made itself at home in our living room these comparisons are divisive and disingenuous. The so called “Christian Taliban” IS alive and well but their proponents are considered idiots and laughingstocks by the vast majority of Americans. They also have little political power above the local level and are routinely trumped by the courts and Constitution. Finally the damage Bush’s presidency did to their mindset has put them into major retreat in many states.)
Soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Pollitt wrote the introduction to a book called Nothing Sacred: Women Respond to Religious Fundamentalism and Terror. It aimed to show that reactionary religious movements everywhere are targeting women. Says Pollitt:
In Bangladesh, Muslim fanatics throw acid in the faces of unveiled women; in Nigeria, newly established shariah courts condemn women to death by stoning for having sex outside of wedlock. . . . In the United States, Protestant evangelicals and fundamentalists have forged a powerful right-wing political movement focused on banning abortion, stigmatizing homosexuality and limiting young people’s access to accurate information about sex.
Pollitt casually places “limiting young people’s access to accurate information about sex” and opposing abortion on the same plane as throwing acid in women’s faces and stoning them to death. Her hostility to the United States renders her incapable of distinguishing between private American groups that stigmatize gays and foreign governments that hang them. She has embraced a feminist philosophy that collapses moral categories in ways that defy logic, common sense, and basic decency.
(HH again: I have to completely agree here. Radical feminism has so little moral high ground that if it rained they would drown in minutes. Both proper sex ed and a basic right to choose are among the things of which I am VERY vocally in support. But I cannot put them in the same breath as the horrors to which non-Western women are routinely subjected. Here again is where the independent, moderate mind cannot comprehend the inability of the political mind to view each issue as it comes and not try to lump it all into a “platform”.)

Though Ensler’s perspective is warped, her courage and desire to help are commendable. She went to Afghanistan during the reign of the Taliban and smuggled out now-famous footage of a terrified woman in a burqa being executed at close range by a man with an AK-47. Ensler has firsthand knowledge of the unique horrors of Islamic gender fascism. But her “feminist theory” obliterates distinctions between what goes on in Afghanistan and what goes on in Beverly Hills:
, a World Health Organization 2000 fact sheet reports: “Today, the number of girls and women who have undergone female genital mutilation [FGM] is estimated at between 100 and 140 million. It is estimated that each year, a further 2 million girls are at risk of undergoing FGM.”
Given her capacity for conceptual confusion, it is perhaps not surprising that Ensler cites “gang rape in a suburban high school parking lot” to show how women in America are menaced. Yes, that is an atrocity, but it happens rarely, and America’s allegedly “misogynist” culture reacts to it with revulsion and severe punishments.
Backward Feminism?
On February 20, 2007, a Pakistani women’s rights activist and provincial minister for social welfare, Zilla Huma Usman, was shot to death by a Muslim fanatic for not wearing a veil. And he had a second reason for killing her: she had encouraged girls in her community to take part in outdoor sports.
The plight of women like Usman does not figure in the National Organization for Women’s (NOW) “Six Priority Items,” although Global Feminism is one of the nineteen subjects it designates as “Other Important Issues.” NOW hardly mentions Muslim women, except in the context of the demand that the U.S. military withdraw from Iraq. So what sort of issue does the flagship feminist organization consider important?
The inability to make simple distinctions shows up everywhere in contemporary feminist thinking. The Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, edited by geographer Joni Seager, is a staple in women’s studies classes in universities. It was named Reference Book of the Year by the American Library Association and has received other awards. Seager, formerly a professor of women’s studies and chair of geography at the University of Vermont, is now dean of environmental studies at York University in Toronto. Her atlas, a series of color-coded maps and charts, documents the status of women, highlighting the countries where women are most at risk for poverty, illiteracy, and oppression.
One map shows how women are kept “in their place” by restrictions on their mobility, dress, and behavior. Somehow the United States comes out looking as bad in this respect as Uganda. Both countries are shaded dark yellow to signify extremely high levels of restriction. Seager explains that in parts of Uganda, a man can claim an unmarried woman for his wife by raping her. The United States gets the same rating because, Seager says, “state legislators enacted 301 anti-abortion measures between 1995 and 2001.” Never mind that the Ugandan practice is barbaric, while the activism surrounding abortion in the United States is a sign of a contentious and free democracy working out its disagreements. Besides which, Seager’s categories obscure the fact that in Uganda, abortion is illegal and “unsafe abortion is the leading cause of maternal mortality” (so states a 2005 report by the Guttmacher Institute), while American abortion law, even after the recent adoption of state regulations, is generally considered among the most liberal of any nation.
On another map the United States gets the same rating for domestic violence as Pakistan. Seager reports that in the United States, “22–35 percent of women who seek emergency medical assistance at hospitals are there for reasons of domestic violence.” Wrong. She apparently misread a Justice Department study showing that 22–35 percent of women who go to hospitals because of violent attacks are there for reasons of domestic violence. When this correction is made, the figure for domestic-violence victims in emergency rooms drops to a fraction of 1 percent. Why would Seager so uncritically seize on a dubious statistic? Like many academic feminists, she is eager to show that American women live under an intimidating system of “patriarchal authority” that is comparable to those found in many less-developed countries. Never mind that this is wildly false.
(HH here: Anybody else getting a tad disgusted here? I call MYSELF a feminist for crying out loud but this makes me nauseous. If there is no progress that is enough to be called progress then..oh never mind, they just wouldn’t understand.)
A Solid Foundation
The good news is that Muslim women are not waiting around for Western feminists to rescue them. “Feminists in the West may fiddle while Muslim women are burning,” wrote Manhattan Institute scholar Kay Hymowitz in a prescient 2003 essay, “but in the Muslim world itself there is a burgeoning movement to address the miserable predicament of the second sex.” The number of valiant and resourceful Muslim women who are devoting themselves to the cause of greater freedom grows each and every day.
They have a heritage to build on. There have been organized women’s movements in Iran, Lebanon, and Egypt for more than a century, and many women in Turkey, Morocco, and Tunisia already enjoy almost Western levels of freedom. But as radical Islam tightens its grip in places like Iran and rural Pakistan, and as it increasingly threatens Muslim women everywhere, even some devoutly religious women are quietly organizing to resist. Mehrangiz Kar, an Iranian human rights lawyer and researcher at Harvard Law School, predicts that “a feminist explosion is well on its way.”
Islamic feminists believe that women’s rights are compatible with Islam rightly understood. One of their central projects is progressive religious reform. Through careful translation and interpretation of the Koran and other sacred texts, these scholars challenge interpretations that have been used to justify sexist customs. They point out that forced veiling, arranged marriages, and genital cutting are rooted in tribal paganism and are nowhere enjoined by the Koran. Where the Koran explicitly permits a practice such as the physical chastisement of wives by husbands, the feminist exegetes try to show that, like slavery, the practice is anachronistic and incompatible with the true spirit of the faith. This kind of interpretation of scripture has been practiced by Jewish, Christian, and Islamic scholars for centuries. Now Islamic women want to play a part in it, and nothing in Islamic law, they believe, prohibits their doing so.
(HH here) and this is why I started this blog. Mainly to highlight and disseminate the constructive and the progressive. Not just to shine light into the dark cracks but to put a spotlight on the ones who will not lie down to oppression but also will not stoop to the level of their enemy. These women are why the Heretics Crusade will triumph!!!)
Helping Muslim Women Help Themselves
This past November more than a hundred Muslim lawyers, scholars, and activists from twenty-five countries gathered in New York City for the express purpose of supporting the modernization of Islamic jurisprudence and reviving the spirit of ijtihad, a once-vibrant Islamic tradition of independent thinking and reasoning about sacred texts. The organizing group, the Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equity (WISE), plans to launch an international shura, a consultative council of Muslim women leaders who will advise religious and political leaders on women’s issues. They are also establishing a scholarship fund for the training of gifted female students to become Koranic scholars, or muftia. These women would be licensed to render fatwas, religious judgments that, while nonbinding, drive custom and practice in Islamic societies.
“This could be Osama bin Laden’s worst nightmare.” Ipso facto, it should be our fondest dream. And if, along the way, Islamic feminism were to have a wholesome influence on American feminism, so much the better.
Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at AEI.