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Review: An American Bride in Kabul: A Memoir

She had woken up in a harem – the separate arrangement for women in a Muslim culture with entry in there forbidden for all males except family members.

Salim Mansur


February 12, 2014 - 1:30 pm
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In her memoir, An American Bride in Kabul*, Phyllis Chesler writes about one of the most improbable stories of love, marriage, journey, discovery, survival, and escape. In recalling events from her youth that brought a young Jewish girl from New York as an American bride to Kabul, she opens a window into the culture of a land and its people that no one foresaw drawn into a war with America. Chesler’s story reads as if Desdemona had survived Othello’s effort to smother her in bed; and then in escaping the Moor’s jealous rage Desdemona found her way back home in Venice where at some distance from the stormy days with her warrior-husband she wrote of her experience, and in telling her story shed light into the mind and culture of the man who had beguiled her with tenderness and tales of his adventures.

Chesler is the bestselling author of Women and Madness, and of some dozen other titles that together disclose an illustrious career of a woman devoted to the cause of feminism, individual freedom, struggle against the old and new variants of anti-Semitism, and defending women against all forms of sexual violence. She lives in New York City, having resided previously in Kabul and Jerusalem, and has taught at the City University of New York where she is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women Studies. Her reputation as one of the leading feminist thinkers was established in the company of prominent feminists such as Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Kate Millett and Germaine Greer, who together were the bright lights of the “second wave” feminism of the early 1970s.

But unlike many of her generation of feminists, and those who came later, Chesler stands apart from the sort of feminism that took hold of Women Studies in North American universities during the past thirty years. The focus in the post-“second wave” academic feminism shifted from gender to race, from issues of freedom and democracy to anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism under the influence of Marxist ideology. This brought about the uncritical embrace of non-Western cultures as equal, if not better, for being uncontaminated by racism and imperialism that, according to Marxists and their fellow travellers in “postcolonial studies”, characterize Western culture. The idea that all cultures are equal is the main tenet of multiculturalism, and while this idea is blatantly untrue it has unfailingly worked to corrode the values of liberal democracy based on individual rights and freedoms in the West. 

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Living in Afghanistan isn't living under Islam. Although gender segregation and sexism is no anomaly within Islam, the late medieval practice of purdah certainly is, and that is what Afghanistan is - late medieval.

I find a dark irony whenever I read about "the West’s record of exploiting and oppressing people of dark color." It is people of dark color who exploit political correctness and segregate history who sell that lie. People of dark color exploited each other far more and for far longer than any European ever did. That is because, contrary to modern PC nonsense, war, racism and colonialism are race-neutral words.

The Ottoman Empire is a real thing that really existed. It was aggressive and its reach was vast. The British East India Company didn't take over India from the Hindus, but mostly from ethnic Tartar Sunni Muslims and even Persian Shia colonialists. When the Europeans finally penetrated into sub-Saharan Africa they found Islam had been there long before them.
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