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Posted in: Islamic Gender & Religious Apartheid, Feminism

Published on Dec 31, 2007 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

What does Benazir Bhutto Have in Common with Hillary Clinton?


I knew that Trouble had found me yet again when an Old Asia Hand cautioned me to not “jump off the deep end” and jeopardize my otherwise valuable credibility. Apparently, my second blog about Bhutto’s assassination had begun to ring all kinds of bells and whistles amongst my colleagues, friends, and readers. She felt, understandably, that my bringing a feminist perspective about honor murders to bear on the Bhutto murder revealed a lack of sophistication about Pakistani politics. Point well taken–but read on.

A second colleague informed me that Bhutto had not repealed the Hudud laws and had not used her time in office on behalf of women or the poor. He further insisted that Bhutto had been a wheeler-dealer and pro-Arafat and pro-Palestinian terror. If so–how awful, but what else is new? Islamists certainly did not kill her for this.

Today, my esteemed PJM colleague, Roger Kimball, views the profusion of alarmingly positive eulogies about Bhutto as an idealization, even a “Diana-ization” of a corrupt and frivolous woman. He chides Bernard Henri-Levy (he of the photogenic bared chest and actress-wife), for having written a “saccharine” piece in the Wall Street Journal in which Levy now views the murdered Bhutto as freedom’s “symbol and standard bearer.” Levy also takes world leaders to task for having “shamefully” avoided a show of “grief” and “public mourning” on her behalf.

I dunno. I think Kimball has a point–but so, too, does Levy.

Finally, someone else, who has until now happily forwarded my articles about Islamic gender apartheid, chided me for having suggested that Bhutto had been murdered because she was a woman or a feminist. (I do not think I said this). However, in a comment to someone else, (which was immediately forwarded to me), this critic wrote that “this (article) is an example of how feminists discredit themselves…(since) Bhutto’s father, who brought Pakistan into the nuclear age and wholeheartedly encouraged an Islamic revival was executed…Bhutto was not killed because she was a woman. She was killed because of her own corruption and duplicity.”

Say what?

Politicians do not always get assassinated because they are corrupt or self-serving. If they did–there would be few politicians left standing and fewer still willing to run for public office. More important: Political saints and other innocents are hardly spared the fatwa, the sword, the sniper or the suicide-killer’s exploding bomb. Does this woman really mean to suggest that Bhutto deserved to die because she was a bad…woman? Were Bhutto more to her liking, would she then mourn her death and would Kimball himself then eulogize her?

Let me suggest that these also-worthy comments betray an (unconscious) anxiety about Hillary Clinton’s race for office and perhaps a long-standing dislike of western feminists. When I criticize feminists for failing to stand up to Islamists about Islamic gender and religious apartheid–I can do no wrong. But, if I dare to venture a kind or compassionate word for a woman who is also flawed, perhaps mightily so, (just like her male counterparts) but who is also unacceptably powerful for a girl–ah, then nothing I say can be right.

Benazir Bhutto is not one of the imagined and acceptably powerless female victims of Islamism; my interpretation of how her assassination might function psychologically, symbolically, culturally is certainly useful as one of many ways to understand it and its consequences.

For the record: I did not say that Bhutto was a feminist nor did I say that she died primarily because she was a woman. However, her gender could not possibly have helped her case in the backroom caves and rat-holes that al-Qaeda or the Taliban use for offices–or indeed, in Musharraf’s well-appointed offices. More important: Bhutto’s very public assassination is a symbol which may have grave psychological consequences for the millions of women who are already living under the Islamist boots-and-turbans in their homes and countries.

As the world prepares to greet another New Year, let us not forget their plight or the plight of Muslim and ex-Muslim dissidents whose ordinary, daily lives might constitute fates even worse than death.

NEWSFLASH: Emeritus Professor George Jochnowitz calls this article in the Jerusalem Post to my attention, by Herb Keinon and Michal Lando. The article further confirms that Bhutto might have served as a bridge between Israel and the Muslim World ([3] see HERE).


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