Western Feminists AWOL in Supporting Abused and Dissident Muslim Women
Muslim and ex-Muslim feminists and dissidents have been risking torture and death in the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa, and the Far East by refusing to wear the hijab and by adopting other Western ways.
Bizarrely, Western feminists and accomplished and powerful women, including diplomats and politicians, are donning the hijab as a gesture of cultural “sensitivity” and as a symbol of resistance to alleged racism.
For example, the American female lawyers defending the jihadists in Guantanamo Bay, including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, are wearing hijabs and abayas so they will not “offend” their clients, and as a way of gaining their trust.
“Women on Mr. Mohammed’s team mostly wear long skirts and other loose-fitting clothes topped by a variety of colorful scarves, shawls, head coverings and, in at least one instance, a one-piece, pull-on hijab,” The New York Times reported on December 27.
Something is radically wrong with this picture, and I’ve been writing about it for more than 20 years. My strongest allies are brave Muslim and ex-Muslim women and men, as well as other tribal feminist activists (Sikhs, Hindus). With exceptions — like Eleanor Smeal’s campaign against the Afghan burqa in the 1990s — most liberals, leftists, and feminists support Sharia-compliant customs of all kinds. Westerners support barbaric behaviors due to the influence of multi-cultural relativism, a commitment to tolerating even the intolerant, and as a statement against Western racism. In doing so, they betray their own feminist and humanitarian principles.
The hijab is a symbol of female subordination. When Western feminists fetishize it, they also cover for the extreme and barbaric abuse of women that often is hidden beneath the Islamic veil.
Ex-Muslim Yasmine Mohammed, a Canadian citizen of Egyptian and Palestinian ancestry, just published a dramatic and heartbreaking memoir, Unveiled: How Western Liberals Empower Radical Islam. In it, she describes a childhood of horror, one in which, as a girl, “you are taught to be ashamed of everything you do, everything you are.”
Daily beatings, strangling, slapping, hair pulling, death threats, and domestic servitude are normalized, as is the most extreme verbal abuse, mainly from her mother.
Yasmine Mohammed’s childhood reads like a page taken from my book, Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman, a book that major feminist leaders in the West cautioned me not to publish lest the “men use it against us.”
Like other victims of torture, and prisoners of war and combat, such extreme childhood abuse leads to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is rarely valorized or viewed compassionately when the sufferer is a woman.
Yasmine’s tale is a terrifyingly typical account of growing up in a tribal family, trapped with a mother whose only power resides in tormenting, breaking, controlling, and destroying her daughters.
For similar examples of normalized extreme child abuse, we have Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel; Sami Alrabaa’s Veiled Atrocities, Sunny Angel’s Wings, Sarbit Kaur Athwal’s Shamed, Aruna Papp’s Unworthy Creature, Jasvinder Sanghera’s Shame, Soraya Mire’s The Girl with Three Legs, and Souad’s Burned Alive.
In The Girl with Three Legs: A Memoir, Somali-American Muslim Soraya Mire writes about her mother’s insistence that she be genitally mutilated and about what happened when the butchering went south. Doctors wanted to open her scar but her mother refused, thus sentencing Mire to a lifetime of pain. Her mother refused surgery: “Tell these doctors I respect their opinions but they have to show respect for our life.”
Many abused victims, both Muslim and non-Muslim, often return to their families for help. In the West, abused women tend to marry men who abuse them. Tribal women are forced into arranged marriages in which they are routinely abused. Too many face honor violence from relatives if they step out of line even slightly.
Girls who have suffered such extreme abuse also have identities which are defined only as that of a daughter, sister, cousin, and wife; they would have a hard time breaking free, even to save their own lives. They do not exist, psychologically, as individuals and have been taught that they do not really deserve to live. This is what got me interested in studying the variables associated with successful escapes from honor violence.
Yasmine tried to escape when she was still a child but a politically correct Canadian judge sent her back into an abusive home despite the evidence of physical abuse. “The judge ruled that corporal punishment wasn’t against the law in Canada,” she wrote, “and due to our ‘culture,’ sometimes those punishments can be more severe than the average Canadian household.”
Yasmine wonders: Had she been “white,” would the authorities have removed her and sanctioned the parents/step-parents who believed in practicing child torture? What Yasmine does not understand is why Western feminists have refused to stand with feminist dissidents such as herself. In addition, “[The Western authorities] only see the skin color or the ethnicity of the perpetrator, not the acts they commit.”
Lost in all these politically correct narratives are the fates of girls and women of color who are being tortured or slaughtered by their families for “honor’s” sake and/or being jailed, tortured, or murdered for refusing to wear a hijab, marry their first cousins, and for adopting other Western ways.
Some years ago, the London-based Centre for Social Cohesion posited that such ownership, coercion, and forced “covering” of women could be correlated with support for, or even the perpetration of, violent jihad. Common sense suggests that this might be the case, but hard evidence eludes us. At the very least, such Sharia-compliant family control of women may function as a breeding ground for infidel hatred.
Dr. Phyllis Chesler is the author of 18 books, including A Politically Incorrect Feminist, Islamic Gender Apartheid, A Family Conspiracy: Honor Killing, and An American Bride in Kabul. She is a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
A version of this article was originally published by The Investigative Project on Terrorism.