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Posted in: Islamic Gender & Religious Apartheid, Feminism

Published on Mar 12, 2011 by Julie Gunlock

Written for Independent Women's Forum

A Feminist Duty


I ran across this op-ed on Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Facebook page (I always make sure to carefully read whatever she posts) and indeed, as usual, Ayaan didn't let me down.

The op-ed-actually the adaption of a speech delivered last week by author and self-proclaimed "radical feminist" Phyllis Chesler to the Gender Fairness Committee of the New York City Supreme Court-is a brave commentary on how feminists have a responsibility to the women of the world and how political correctness is leading many feminists to abandon their Muslim sisters.

In the speech, delivered on International Women's Day, Chesler spared the audience the usual bromides (like those delivered by the first lady at the White House's commemoration event, which I wrote about here), and explores two important questions: Are feminists doing enough to support women around the world-particularly in Muslim countries, and is fear trumping Western feminists concern for Muslim women's rights?

While I believe in cultural diversity, I am not a multi-cultural relativist. Therefore, I have taken a strong stand against the persecution of Muslim women and dissidents. Thus, I now submit expert courtroom affidavits on behalf of Muslim girls and women who have fled being honor murdered and are seeking asylum here.

Those of us who expose the plight of such women, and this includes Somali-born feminist hero Ayaan Hirsi Ali, as well as myself, have been demonized as "Islamophobes" and racists because we do not, in the same breath, blame America, the West, or Israel for their suffering.

In my view, western academic feminists, including gay liberationists, are so afraid of being condemned as "colonialists" or "racists" that this fear trumps their concern for women's rights in the Arab and Muslim world.

Chesler then lists some of the horrifying crimes committed against women in these Muslim countries. These crimes include normalized daughter- and wife-battering, forced veiling, female genital mutilation, polygamy, purdah, (the segregation or sequestration of women), arranged marriage, child marriage, first cousin marriage, acid attacks, public stonings, hangings, and beheading, and the further victimization of rape victims who are jailed, tortured, and executed.

Considering these truly gruesome crimes, Chesler excoriates mainstream feminists and the Muslim community for staying silent, saying:

Feminists should be crying out from the rooftops against these practices. Some are. I am. Yet, many Muslim men and women, as well as many intellectually "progressive" western infidels, are not. They are demanding or welcoming the imposition of Islamic religious law, Sharia law, not only in Egypt and Saudi Arabia but also in the West.

Chesler then explains the difference between honor killings and domestic violence--a distinction the Western media refuses to acknowledge.

An honor killing is not the same as western domestic violence or western domestically violent femicide. Many honorable feminists disagree with me. They believe that honor killings are the same as western domestic violence. Understandably, such feminists fear that by singling out one group for behavior which may be common to all groups they will stigmatize the token group and minimize the suffering of all the other groups. They have a legitimate fear-and yet if, for reasons of "political correctness," we fail to understand a crime, we will never be able to prevent or to prosecute it. Honor killings are shameful, secretive; they are allowed to flourish and fester precisely because the perpetrators and their collaborators do not want them exposed. Instead, they blame the victim, and they blame those who expose it.

Chesler concluded her remarks by reminding us why we fight for women's rights. She says "the battle for women's rights is central to the battle for Western values. It is a necessary part of true democracy, along with freedom of religion, tolerance for homosexuals, and freedom of dissent. Here, then, is exactly where the greatest battle of the twenty-first century is joined."


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