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Posted in: Islamism/Muslim Dissidents

Published on Apr 14, 2011 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for NewsRealBlog

The Battle That Dare Not Speak Its Name

48 Hours in the Life of an Anti-Islamist


The information is in and I don't like it one bit. On the other hand, if one remains flexible, realistic, and calm and persists in telling the truth, one may also prevail.

I am talking about the hoops one has to jump through in order to be heard on any subject having to do with Islam.

I am not talking about the Danish Mohammed cartoon controversy, the criminal trials of the heroically determined Dutchman, Geert Wilders, or the unexpectedly great Austrian, Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff. I am not even talking about Lars Hedegaard of the Danish Free Speech Society, who was put on trial for making "racist" statements about Muslims, or Lars Vilks, the Swedish cartoonist, who has required 24-hour protection. I am not even talking about the high-profile and world-class beauty, Aayan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-Dutch-American feminist anti-Islamist.

Nor am I talking about Random House's 2008 decision to renege on its contract to publish "The Jewel of Medina," a novel about Mohammed's wife Aisha—and all because a single professor suggested via e-mail that the book "might lead to violence"—or about the Yale University Press 2009 decision to omit the Danish cartoons from a book they published about the Danish cartoon controversy; they did not even bother to tell the author.

No, I am not talking about any of this. I am only talking about what happened to me personally in the course of one 24-48 hour period.

A deservedly popular network radio program asked to interview me—but then begged me to "work with them" because they are being closely monitored in terms of their "Islamic" content. "Please be sure to say something like 'Many Muslims are moderate,' or 'All Muslims are not jihadists.'" I assured him that I usually say these kinds of things anyway because I believe them—but still, a cold wind blew across my grave.

A distinguished American government publication had previously interviewed me at great length and very respectfully about honor killings. The editors ultimately asked me to participate in a debate about whether coverage of honor killings in the West "stigmatizes" Muslims. I said it did not—that if anyone was "stigmatized" it was Hindus, whose India-based honor killings are covered by the same American mainstream media which will not cover Muslim honor killings in America. Guess what? When they sent me the final version for my approval I saw that they had dropped the word "Muslim" before "honor killings" and had added a sentence that softened what I had to say about such Muslim-on-Muslim crimes. I immediately re-inserted the word "Muslim" and hope that the piece sees the light of day as I wrote it.

I believe it will. I did not raise my voice or lose patience. Calmly but firmly, I re-inserted my own words and once more explained why they were logically necessary.

But I did wonder: To what extent have the Saudis bought up our government media? Or are the same-old-same-old "politically correct" speech code censorship regulations operating behind the scenes without benefit of legislation?

Finally, on the same day, a magazine commissioned me to write a piece about honor killings but the editor asked me to "try to be balanced so that his bosses will approve the piece more easily." I pointed out that it was an opinion piece, not a news item. I wrote the piece. It is slated to run—but alongside a piece which will oppose my point of view.

The message is clear: Either steer clear of all Muslim subjects or write only positive things about Islam. At the very least, be prepared to have a companion piece which differs from your own, not in the next issue, but right alongside you, speaking over you, as you speak. Be prepared to have to "debate" as the price for being able to present your own arguments.

Towards the end of the same afternoon, I was asked to appear on a network radio program about the French burqa ban. Wearily, I said that I did not want to have to debate anyone or to absorb the toxicity of hostile callers. The producer promised me that the one hour program would be civilized and respectful. I took a deep breath and decided to take a chance. I do not regret having done so.

True, as I suspected, I had to share the time with a burqa-wearing woman (who remained unnamed) and with a pro-hijab ex-parliamentarian from Turkey. She kept insisting on the right to wear hijab (the headscarf) and I kept repeating that the French ban on the burqa (the face-veil) in public concerns only the face veil not the headscarf and that I do not oppose the headscarf. Nevertheless, the Turk turned out to be something of a closet Islamist and a believer in the false concept of "Orientalism," which concept she wielded as a club meant to shame me into silence. It did not work. I referred her to the work of Ibn Warraq which has utterly demolished Said's claims, and I talked about Islam's long history of racism, imperialism, colonialism, white slavery, black slavery, and apartheid. Reasonably, I pointed out that the West is not the only culture which has engaged in extremely bad behavior and that Muslim-majority countries may have actually surpassed us.

"Why don't you busy yourself in criticizing how badly the West treats women before you start criticizing a culture you know nothing about."

Ah, dear lady: For more than 40 years, I have specialized in criticizing discrimination against women worldwide and have challenged much else under the sun. What I refuse to do is to limit myself to Western culture only. In fact, I said, "the new colonialism consists of westerners abandoning the concept of universal human rights. It's a way of saying: 'Let them (Muslim women, Muslim homosexuals, Muslim free thinkers and Muslim truth-tellers) eat their barbarian cake.' They are not worthy of any universal human rights."

She then proceeded to lecture me about how women are treated as sex objects in the West. I pointed out that face-veiling women in Muslim-majority countries does not prevent those very same women from being routinely battered, raped, force-married, and honor murdered; that sexual slavery and prostitution are very much alive and flourishing in Muslim-majority countries; and that the "good girl bad girl" dichotomy that veiling creates justifies an even more open aggression against naked-faced women. I conceded:

"Half-naked Western women, unwed teenage pregnancies in the West (a point she raised) are far from ideal—but is the solution to throw a garbage bag over a woman's head or to keep her entirely hidden at home?"

The Turkish-American professor, (she's teaching at a university here), then turned on the rather excellent moderator and demanded that he stop interrupting her and that she be given as much time to speak as I had. Actually, he had. I believe she was objecting to the fact that I offered an argument with which she disagreed and she was unable to offer a more persuasive argument. Many, not all, of the callers and email-writers were supportive of my position. One caller with a Muslim name said that the burqa is the sign and symbol of Wahabi Islam, of Saudi and Afghan Al-Qaeda, and that anyone who thinks otherwise is fooling themselves.

It is not supposed to happen this way. The pro-Islam point of view is supposed to triumph, the allegedly anti-Islam point of view is meant to be jeered, heckled, shamed, and silenced.

The politically correct approach to the subject of Islam and to subjects such as the French burqa ban is on display in the 4/12/11 edition of the New York Times. Not only do they have a news piece about the burqa ban, they also have an editorial which takes France to task for having passed such an intolerant law, which the Paper of Record views as a "cynical attack on Islam" and as a way to "curry favor with France's increasing anti-immigrant right-wing." The editorial sees such a ban as "serving to encourage the spread of Muslim-bashing in France and elsewhere in Europe." The Gray Lady editorial closes with this: "Mr. Sarkozy and the rest of his party should…stop their shameless exploitation of intolerance for political gain." Of course, the editorial is titled: "Government-Enforced Bigotry in France."

How much of the Times do the Saudis own—or is this simply the eagerly willing Dhimmi behavior that Edward Said and his minions modeled long ago? (Said himself was a Dhimmi; he was a Christian "Palestinian.")

The alleged news article on the subject in the same issue is by Steven Erlanger. It is based on interviews he did only with face-veil wearing women: one "Karima" and one Nelly Moussaid, both of whom claim that covering their faces (which is not a religious requirement in Islam) is an expression of their "faith" and "devotion to God." Finally, Erlanger refers to 32 interviews done by Naima Bouteldja. Her findings? Not a single woman had been "forced to wear the veil," and ten said they began veiling "in response to the political controversy." Many of these women are "angry," are thinking about leaving France as other "niqabs" have already done. "Most" of these 32 women claim that they confront "verbal abuse on a daily basis."

If so, it does not make me very happy. I am not in favor of verbally abusing either women or men on the street.

Please note: Erlanger did not interview a single Muslim woman or Muslim feminist, religious or secular, who might have given him a very different view of what the face-covering is and does. Erlanger did not talk to Tunisian-French Samia Labidi, Algerian-American Marnia Lazreg, or Indian-American Asra Nomani, all of whom have written and spoken out on this exact subject. He did not interview Turkish-American Zeyno Baran, who has edited a major anthology titled The Other Muslims: Moderate and Secular.

Nor does Erlanger refer to the work of the great Ibn Warraq, who has been dealing with the issue of universal human rights and the nature of Islam.

Why is that? Why are Erlanger and the New York Times so unwilling to print all the news that's fit to print?


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