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Posted in: Islamic Gender & Religious Apartheid

Published on Aug 03, 2010 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for NewsRealBlog

What Happens to Women if We Leave Afghanistan?

Time Magazine Gets it Wrong


We take our freedoms for granted in America and assume that everyone is either like us or wants to be. We find it hard to believe that this is not so.

Of course, I am not talking about thee and me but about all those American journalists, academics, and politicians who actually believe that the Cordoba House (the Mosque at Ground Zero) is a great idea; that women should have the "religious right" to wear the burqa in the West; that Muslims as a group must not be viewed as terrorists—even if most terrorists today happen to be Muslims who commit their bloody deeds in the name of Islam; above all, I am brooding about the American inability or refusal to distinguish between real Muslim and ex-Muslim dissidents and feminists and those who pretend to come in peace (in English) but who preach hatred and war within their mosques and in Arabic.

Please read Zeyno Baran's excellent anthology, The Other Muslims. Moderate and Secular, in which genuine anti-Islamist Muslims cry out in frustration because they are consistently marginalized by Western governments and interfaith leaders who consistently choose to support Islamists as the true voice of Islam.

Westerners have a very hard time believing that Islam may not be like Christianity or Judaism, and that radical evil exists. Doctrines of reason and logic, fairness and decency, do not have the power to successfully "negotiate" with it. The idea that Good must actually get down and battle Evil until one side wins is anathema to those averse to any risk-taking. More important: Perhaps Americans cannot accept the idea that they may not be able to rescue people elsewhere, everywhere, from truly terrible fates.

Historically, American Christian missionaries, mainly the women, were obsessed with elevating women in the Arab and Muslim world. They did not so much want to convert them to Christianity as to save them from being beaten to death, and perhaps to teach them to read and write. British colonialists were alarmed by these do-gooders and did not want to interfere with the status quo lest that lead to instability and the loss of Empire.

Alas, Time magazine has it all wrong. The cover is brave, startling. It is a photo of an Afghan woman in hijab, with lustrous dark hair, whose nose has been cut out. It is titled: "What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan." But their article is also illogical and does not state some fairly obvious realities. The article believes that the women of Afghanistan will be further endangered if American troops withdraw. (Funny that Time is saying this, but maybe the famous multi-culturally relativist "paradigm" is shifting.)

Please realize: These women whose noses and ears were cut off by the Taliban were punished while American troops were right there. American forces are very much present right now even as Afghan women have been forced back into wearing the much-hated burqa and into arranged, sometimes polygamous marriages to highly abusive men. Right now—as American troops are on the ground and dying in huge numbers, battered child brides are imprisoned, not rescued, by President Karzai's government when they dare run away from beatings at home. Right now, Afghan women are living miserable, dangerous lives even as American troops are fighting their hearts out.

I now question how much blood and resources America is morally bound to expend in a) funding the puppet-tyrant, President Hamid Karzai in order to achieve what passes for "stability" in the region; b) keeping the Arabs, the Iranians, and the Pakistanis from gaining the upper hand in Afghanistan; c) gaining access to precious metals, gas deposits, and a world-class opium crop; d) hunting down the elusive Mr. Bin Laden.

Does anyone really believe that America went into Afghanistan in order to liberate women?

Why am I not surprised that President Karzai has decided to negotiate with the Taliban? He is a drug lord (well, at least his brother is); but he is also an Afghan who will make deals with everyone and just as quickly betray all parties. Yes—and with a peasant-like cruelty and good humor. Has no one read any Afghan history? Are the American people willing to give up our standard of living, which is already sinking, so that the women of Afghanistan are free or even minimally safe? And how low are we prepared to go? Next up are the women of Pakistan who live near the border with Afghanistan; after them, there's the entire fundamentalist Muslim world. And, then there's Africa. Personally, I would start with Congo, where the public gang-rapes of female children and women are beyond belief. And let's not forget India where, despite vast sophisticated modernity, gross, unyielding poverty turns men into pimps and children into prostitutes every single minute.

I am asking a real question about our "White Man's" Burden: Are We our Sisters' Keepers? At long last, are the postcolonial/morally relativist journalists and academics now raising this question?

Poor Afghanistan, where once I lived when I was young, has been reduced to rubble, to utter dust, so many times before, but perhaps never so totally, so heartbreakingly. I hope this is not an augur of worse to come in our world.


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