Posted in: Islamic Gender & Religious Apartheid
Published on Jan 18, 2008 by Phyllis Chesler
Iran’s Ayatollah: West Abuses Women, Islam Honors Them
They are clever these Iranian Islamists; subtle and sly. Deranged as no men have been before them. For example, just a few days ago, Iran’s Supreme Ayatollah, Ali Khamenei, claimed that the West “abuses women” and that Islamic Iran “honors them.” His proof? Islam forces women to “wear the hijab.” Veiled women are entirely invisible to your average man-on-the-street whom, it is assumed, would otherwise sexually harass or rape every woman they see.
He said it. I didn’t.
Khamenei is really a Second Wave American-born feminist in disguise. I kid you not. He agrees completely with the views of Ann Chamberlain . I reviewed her 2006 book, “A History of Women’s Seclusion in the Middle East. The Veil in the Looking Glass” for Middle East Quarterly. Chamberlain writes that Western women who seek to integrate previously male-only space are far more “conservative” and “patriarchal” than are veiled Muslim women who live in purdah.
Chamberlain sees women-only space as equivalent to anti-patriarchal protest or resistance movements. She claims that pagan-era slave women in the Middle East were forced to work naked and to be sexually available at any moment to all men. Thus, “covered” and secluded women were safer than slave women. Wealthy women were veiled and the veil was a statement about their power and hence, unavailability.
Is Khameini trance-channeling Ann Chamberlain? According to Terence P. Jeffrey in the CBN, “Khamenei told the Iranian students’ conference that in the Iranian vision of Islam, it was determined that poor women should be compelled to cover their entire bodies and faces in order to honor them and make their dress conform to the style adopted by aristocratic women. This policy, he said, logically followed from the conclusion that men have an “inborn desire for sexual violence.” In ancient Iran, aristocratic women used to wear hijab,” he said. “Women from lower classes did not bother. But when Islam came, it rejected such instances of discrimination. It said that all women must wear the hijab. In other words, it wanted to honor all women. This is what Islam says. Now, they [in the West] behave as if we are doing something wrong and they are doing the right thing! No, they are in the wrong. They must answer why they have been treating women like a commodity in order to gratify their own lust.”
He does not mention (or possibly even view) the practices of polygamy, temporary marriage, or stoning for alleging rape as “dishonoring” women. Instead, he focuses on the West’s use of naked women (that hair, those elbows!) to sell products and the West’s refusal to allow women to veil themselves in universities. He also insists that newly gathered statistics document that one-third of all men in the West batter women. A recent poll suggests that 12-16% of all women in Europe are battered at home. Does that figue soar when Third World countries are included?
I wonder what the statistics are in Iran: Closer to 90%? Maybe those abayas are not thick enough, dark enough, suffocating enough; maybe Iranian women have too many elbows? We’ve already seen Iran’s rulers insist that women not swim, swim separately, or wear full body-bags when they swim in public . We have seen special outfits for riding bicycles. What next? Little eye-brow veils? Or just smother the whole face and be done with it.
Listen Mister: When you leave this much to the imagination of male jerks, a fully veiled woman can be pretty enticing. Why not give the men curfews (as Golda Meir once famously suggested)? They seem to be the problem. Not the women.
Jeffrey’s article may be found at the following site. The above title is his. It could not be improved upon.
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