I recently spoke at length about Islamic gender and religious apartheid in the Arab and non-Arab Muslim world. This was, perhaps, the first time that anyone had ever focused on this subject at this distinguished Ivy League university.One can, of course, argue about those Settlements but it is perplexing that a reasonably intelligent (one assumes) and well-meaning young man should consider the issue to be more important that the absence of freedom and the absence of women's rights in the Middle East. Yet he is not alone either in not ever bothering to hear that side of the story or in dismissing it as soon as he has heard it. I can only suppose that deep in his heart this young man (and many others like him) do not think such matters are of any importance when it applies to Arabs or Iranians (who, as it happens, do not mind being called Persians). Because they are not like us, see?
I described both the level of poverty and illiteracy in the Arab and Muslim world and the absence of a free press, independent judiciary, human rights, and of the increasingly savage persecution of women, infidels, dissidents and homosexuals; about the prisons teeming with thousands of Muslim political prisoners who had been kidnapped and were now being tortured for “thought crimes.”
I described a culture in which women were arrested, whipped, gang-raped, and then either hung or stoned to death for alleging rape or for daring to leave dangerously abusive husbands; a culture that has spawned death-eating terrorists who have exposed Muslim and Arab civilians to permanent, bloody danger; and about how these cunning, brazen jihadists have now expanded their global reach and unleashed their bombs and suicide killers against the entire world.
I argued that, in effect, the demonization of Israel by the media, by governments, international bodies, human rights organizations, and university professors allowed the world to self-righteously bypass, minimize, avoid, utterly disappear Muslim-on-Muslim and Muslim-on-infidel tyranny and torture. Scapegoating Israel is what focuses attention away from the larger suffering in the Middle East and in the Muslim world in general.
And then a young, well-spoken, earnest, curly-headed college student asked this question: “You are talking about diverting attention away from the real issues, right? But, if we focus on the absence of freedom or the absence of women’s rights in the Middle East won’t that divert our attention away from the Settlement issue?”
Monday, November 29, 2010
Each to their own
Phyllis Chesler describes an encounter: