Friday, April 15, 2011

More from Phyllis Chesler

This piece is well worth reading though as it describes the non-sensational struggle of somebody who tries to speak the truth about the position of women in Islam. Of course, she also has to fight genuinely misguided and unimaginative "liberals" and "libertarians".
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?”
As I said, read the whole piece.


  1. Its an excellent article and a stance I firmly take with the veil.

    This whole "banning is wrong" rhetoric is damaging. The burkha/hijab may allow those women to cover their modesty but there are definitely much better ways of doing that. The damage is causes to health and to women's safety far outweighs the rights of those women that say they want to wear it for religious purposes.

    In a society where millions of people are expected to live together in harmony, there have to be rules, like it or not.

  2. I have no problems with the hijab, which is a headscarf. Lots of women wear headscarves for all sorts of reasons. Covering your face (which is what the French law is about) is quite another issue.

  3. We have a few muslims here in Spain in the town where I live. Not many I might add as the Spanish people have their own ways of "discouraging" such migrations. There's even a town in the mountains up the road from me where they just won't speak to any foreigners at all. They refuse to sell property to them or serve them in shops. I have an English girl-friend who is married to a Spanish guy. Some of his family live there and when they got engaged, they went to visit. They completely blanked her and now refuse to speak to him even though they have two children now.

    Imagine if Brits did that?

    Anyhow, those that do live here, wear ordinary "modest" clothes and a headscarf. The difference here is that they actually wear pretty ones. All colours with patters which don't look quite as menacing. I know of none that wear the veil.

  4. A large number of Muslim girls and women around where I live wear the prettiest scarves tied in all sorts of intricate ways. They do not look menacing but rather gorgeous. I feel quite envious at times. But then we get the ones in the burquas. Quite a different kettle of fish.