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Posted in: Feminism, Jihad & Terrorism, Woman's Inhumanity to Woman

Published on Jul 10, 2008 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

Muslim Women Are Heroes And Collaborators As Much As Victims


Cultural differences exist, they are real and they matter. As a lifetime critic of injustice, I understand that it exists everywhere but as someone who has also once lived in the Islamic Third world and studied it thereafter, I understand that, as my dear friend Ibn Warraq says, the West is worth defending; our values and virtues, our laws and customs are different from and in many ways more evolved than the (absence) of laws and abusive customs that characterize totalitarian, fascist, tyrannical, and fundamentalist regimes.

Just today, here is a small sampling of news about the recent and ongoing fate of women in the Islamic world.

Two women shot dead in Quetta.
Abdul Qayuum killed both his sister-in-law and her mother. The object of his desire had been married to his brother who had been killed in Afghanistan. Her mother repeatedly refused his offer–and so he killed them both.

I have written before about women's own sexism and complicity with patriarchal barbarism and evil In Pakistan (from which so much terror and misery emanates). Thus, I am not surprised by the mass demonstration of women who vowed: "Babies for Jihad." According to the Daily Mail,

Babies For Jihad.
About 2,000 Islamist women gathered at the radical Red Mosque in the Pakistani capital on Wednesday and vowed to raise their children for holy war, days after a suicide bomber killed 18 people after a similar rally.

Chanting slogans of "jihad is our way", burqa-clad women, some with babies, listened to fiery speeches from the daughter of the mosque's jailed cleric on the eve of the anniversary of a commando raid on the complex in which more than 100 people died.

Slavery in Saudi Arabia

Yesterday, I referred to the Human Rights Watch Report about slavery-like conditions in Saudi Arabia. Today, (thanks to a reminder from my colleague, Professor Donna Hughes) I want to link to the Report itself here. It is titled: "As If I Am Not Human. Abuses against Asian Domestic Workers in Saudi Arabia." According to Hughes and to Human Rights:

"Saudi Arabia should implement labor, immigration, and criminal justice reforms to protect domestic workers from serious human rights abuses that in some cases amount to slavery, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today. Employers often face no punishment for committing abuses including months or years of unpaid wages, forced confinement, and physical and sexual violence, while some domestic workers face imprisonment or lashings for spurious charges of theft, adultery, or (when they sue, counter-accusations of) "witchcraft."

Poor investigations and criminal proceedings that often stretch for years mean that abusive employers are rarely punished through the criminal justice system. For example, after three years of proceedings, a Riyadh court dropped the charges against the employer of Nour Miyati, despite the employer's confession, ample medical evidence, and intense public scrutiny. Nour Miyati, an Indonesian domestic worker, had her fingers and toes amputated as a result of being starved and beaten daily by her employers."

Please understand: There are many people, customs, and values in the Islamic world that have drawn me close. The smells, sights, food, hospitality, and charm are, or rather were, a small part of it. And, upon reflection, the traditional and historical Muslim desire to "protect" women from enormous stranger male hostility, to keep women out of the workforce, veiled, perhaps in purdah (seclusion) is as much an expression of "caring" and a statement of privilege as it is also an example of tyranny, hatred, fear, and ownership-cruelty. Small, material compensation for such a total lack of freedom is only possible in very wealthy families which are in the minority.
Given the above news about women in the Islamic world, I am awed by the bravery of Muslim feminists.

Feminist Hunger Strike in Iran
For example, ten are now sitting in the dreaded Evin Prison and on a hunger strike. According to Mahboubeh Akrami, they were arrested two weeks ago in Mellat Park for "collecting signatures calling for a revision of the laws that discriminate against women." Read it in Adnkronos International (AKI) here.

Afghan Female Olympic Athlete Resurfaces After Death Threats
Mahbooda Ahadgar, the missing Afghan Olympic female athlete, has resurfaced–and she is on her way to Norway where she plans to apply for political asylum. However, according to the Times online:

Concerns for her family's safety are not over…While her safety is a relief within Olympic circles, her decision to go into hiding a month before the Games is a galling blow because, as an Afghan woman who is proud of her athleticism and her Muslim religion, she became a poster girl for the Games.

Ahadgar is not the first Olympic Solidarity scholar to seek asylum in this way. Two Bangladeshi athletes also vanished last year and a runner from Gabon did the same in 2001. "

Dear friends and Readers: Please keep sending me relevant clippings. My thanks to my British-based colleague, Dikka Colville whose choice of clippings usually "makes my day."


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