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Establishing Your Credentials – Feminists and Islam
A powerful new book exposes some of the problems of Western feminists struggling to deal with the anti-woman stance of militant Islam. (Update: Many doubts - to put it mildly - now surround the book.)
Forbidden Love by Norma Khouri (who now lives in Australia) is the true story of Khouri’s best friend in Jordan who fell in love with a Christian man, and as a result was murdered by her father, in an “honour killing” for which he has effectively gone unpunished. It is to be published next month in the US as Honor Lost.
The problem? How do you praise the book while maintaining solidarity with a sisterhood that views the corrupt West – and particularly the US under George Bush - as the main source of the world’s troubles?
As Tim Blair wrote:
Feminism is a Western cultural achievement. Many feminists – being of a mind-set that holds the materialistic, capitalist West in contempt – have a problem with this. It puts them on the same team as the wicked Western imperialists. Thus the silence from Western feminists on Muslim treatment of women.
So hats off to Diana Simmonds, who reviewed the book in The Australian (review not available online), and handed out some valuable pointers in how to approach such a sensitive issue.
1. Make clear your contempt for President Bush.
…George W’s inane obsession with Saddam Hussein…
2. Demean September 11.
It [the conflict with militant Islam] began, not as sentimentally supposed on September 11, 2001…
3. Highlight your solidarity with the Third World.
…but on August 7, 1998, when the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam were bombed. These terrible events have been overlooked because the casualties were mostly Kenyans and Tanzanians – just like the Mombassa hotel bombing, in which a few Israelis were killed amid a massacre of Kenyans. Who, after all, gives a damn about the black folk?
4. Highlight your solidarity with Third World women.
Let’s face it, despite platitudes, the West doesn’t give a fig about Third World peoples – its women in general, and women in Islamist societies in particular.
5. Attack the Australian government’s policy on refugees.
…and because of the treatment (dreadful) of asylum seekers in this country,…
6. Emphasise that your unhappiness with the treatment of women in some Muslim countries doesn’t mean you harbour Christian or Jewish leanings.
This is not an endorsement of Judeo-Christian beliefs.
7. And then, finally, having used half your allotted wordage to establish your credentials, you are ready to discuss the book.
In fairness to Diana Simmonds, her review makes some fine points.
The irony is that Western feminists are the first to defend Islam when someone is non-PC enough to suggest its militant configuration is the worst threat to our way of life and to women since the rise of Nazism in the 1930s.
And she concludes:
Forbidden Love is a desperate cry for help. If we in the West allow Khouri’s anger and optimism to go unanswered, our grand-daughters could be the ones to suffer.
But how many readers of the review will have gotten that far?
January 21st, 2003