Back in 2005 Phyllis Chesler wrote an important volume entitled The Death of Feminism: What’s Next in the Struggle for Women’s Freedom (Palgrave Macmillan). It was actually not just a book on feminism, but more specifically about feminism’s lack of response to sexist Islam.
In it she bemoaned the fact that many feminists had become “morally blind to the clear and present danger of Islamic gender apartheid.” Many of these feminists were keener on supporting very repressive anti-American and anti-Zionist Islamic terrorist groups than they were in actually supporting feminist causes.
In chapter four of the book she told of her own experience with Islamic gender apartheid. Although raised an Orthodox Jewish American girl, she had married a Muslim. She speaks of her captivity in Kabul as the wife of an Afghan national.
When she was released from her captivity in Afghanistan in December 21, 1961, she kissed the ground upon landing in New York. She had discovered firsthand how women are treated in Islam, and now rightly relished the tremendous freedoms women have in the West.
She told this story, hoping to “help other westerners understand and empathize with Muslim and Arab women (and men) who are increasingly being held hostage to barbarous and reactionary customs.” In the book she also documented the stories of other women and their experiences within Islamic culture.
Well now she has penned an entire volume discussing her time in Afghanistan back in 1961. Just released is An American Bride in Kabul: A Memoir (Palgrave Macmillan). Adapted excerpts of the book have recently appeared in the press, so let me offer a few paragraphs to induce you to get the book:
“I once lived in a harem in Afghanistan. I did not enter the kingdom as a diplomat, soldier, teacher, journalist or foreign aid worker. I came as a young Jewish bride of the son of one of the country’s wealthiest men. I was held in a type of captivity – but it’s not as if I had been kidnapped. I walked into it of my own free will. It is 1959. I am only 18 when my prince – a dark, older, handsome, westernized foreigner who had traveled abroad from his native home in Afghanistan – bedazzles me….
“I do as I’m told. Later I write in my diary: ‘I have no freedom at all. No opportunity to meet anyone or go anywhere. His family watches me suspiciously. Am I getting paranoid?’ In fact, I have reason to be paranoid. I discover that mother-in-law has instructed the servants to stop boiling my drinking water. Because the sewage system consists of open irrigation ditches that are used as public bathrooms and for drinking water, I contract dysentery.
“Perhaps she thinks I am already ‘Afghan enough’ to withstand any and all germs. Perhaps she wants me dead. She then begins her conversion campaign. She gives me prayer rugs and prayer beads and urges me to convert to Islam.”
After giving more details of her ordeal there, and her eventual escape, she says this: “I’ve never told this story in detail before, but felt that I must now. Because I hear some westerners preach the tortured cultural relativism that excuses the mistreatment of women in the name of Islam. Because I see the burqa on the streets of Paris and New York and feel that Afghanistan has followed me back to America.
“I call myself a feminist – but not just any feminist. My kind of feminism was forged in the fires of Afghanistan. There I received an education – an expensive, almost deadly one – but a valuable one, too. I understand firsthand how deep-seated the hatred of women is in that culture. I see how endemic indigenous barbarism and cruelty is and unlike many other intellectuals and feminists, I don’t try to romanticize or rationalize it. I got out, and I will never return.”
Another feminist and leftist, Joyce Carol Oates has also recently come out exposing Islam for what it is. And for doing so, she has felt the heat from the secular left and the Sisterhood. Pamela Geller picks up the story: “The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that Joyce Carol Oates set off a firestorm on Twitter Friday ‘with a pair of tweets about sexual violence in Egypt.’
“One asked: ‘Where 99.3% of women report having been sexually harassed & rape is epidemic–Egypt–natural to inquire: what’s the predominant religion?’ Even for a revered leftist icon like Joyce Carol Oates, the resulting uproar was swift and predictable….
“Welcome to my world, Joyce. Wait until she broaches subjects such as honor killings, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, child marriage, etc. Wait until she dares to subject that Islam has something to do with those, too, as it obviously does. Something tells me she enjoys the blacklist.
“The sharp, piercing shrieks against the truth speak volumes and expose the left for the monsters they are. And they give a hint as to why Western feminists are so often not only silent, but in many cases even justify the Islamic oppression of women. Women in Muslim countries face institutionalized discrimination and denial of their basic rights on a daily basis as a result of Islamic law – and Western feminists generally remain silent about this systematic and violent oppression of women in Islam.
“What are they being silent about? The fact that there are over 70 million battered women in Pakistan, according to government statistics. 70 million. Over 90 percent of Pakistani women have been beaten by their husbands. And even though we constantly hear that honor killing has nothing to do with Islam, Muslims commit 91 percent of honor killings worldwide, Muslim clerics justify such killings, and many Muslim countries give lighter penalties for honor killings than for other murders. Many victims of honor killing are themselves victims of rape, thereby bringing dishonor on their families.”
She goes on to speak about child brides and other Islamic delights, and then concludes: “Joyce Carol Oates is the exception. Feminists routinely excuse, ignore and deny the systematic and institutionalized Islamic oppression of women.
“Their silence is all the more remarkable and self-indicting when they devote their time to protesting matters that are far less life-threatening, spending large amounts of time objecting to the use of male pronouns as generic as oppressive to women, and insisting that words such as ‘spokesman’ be changed to ‘spokesperson.’ Is that really more important than honor killing and genital mutilation?
“But where they are silent, I will not be. To say that feminism was one of the worst things to happen to women is being easy. Their ignoring of the plight of Muslim women and now the ganging-up on Joyce Carol Oates show just how bad it really has been. At the same time as feminists have hastened our societal decay and the destruction of respect for women, they’re also aiding and abetting the most oppressive, anti-woman force in the world today: Islamic law. That is the worst betrayal of all.”
Bravo Pam, Joyce and Phyllis: a few brave women speaking out, even though it is so very politically incorrect to do so. May many more such courageous women stand up and speak out. Refusing to denounce the way Islam treats women simply perpetuates the oppression and misery of millions of women worldwide.
Feminism really should be doing so much better here.