Chesler Chronicles

Islamic Gender Apartheid.

My Speech for the Human Rights Rally Against Radical Fundamentalist Islam Today in Times Square, New York

Radical, fundamentalist Islam is the world’s largest practioner of both gender and religious apartheid.

Others are speaking here today about Islamic religious apartheid. I have been asked to focus on Islamic gender apartheid.

We who live in the West, and who have learned how to analyze and protest gender inequality here, simply have no idea how much free-er and safer women are in the West than in Muslim countries.

I once lived in the Islamic world, in Afghanistan. What I learned in Kabul rendered me immune to the romanticization of the Third World or to the glamorization of tyrants and terrorists that defined my generation of 1960s and 1970s radicals.

Being born female and Muslim, especially today, under radical Islamic rule, is potentially a capital crime. The warnings and the punishment begin early on and are both relentless and normalized.

Women are viewed as sub-human, half-demon, dangerous, sexually “wild”—by men whose own lust and progeny knows no bounds. While there are many exceptions, in general, Muslim (and Arab) girls are despised and routinely cursed, beaten, treated as servants or slaves by their fathers and older brothers. Women are hidden, literally suffocated under face and body veils, shrouded, visually buried alive while still alive.

If you have ever worn a burq’a you will understand that it is not the “same” as covering your hair with a scarf or a wig. You have no peripheral vision. You can never feel the sun on your face. People cannot see your eyes, your face, your expressions; you really cannot relate to anyone. You are condemned to move in the universe as if you are a ghost.

Today, eight year old girls are being married off by their fathers to men as old as fifty–in order to pay off their gambling debts. This is happening as we stand here—it happened in the last few months, in both Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. Girls are being forced to marry first cousins against their will and if they refuse—they are being honor murdered.

Muslim women are being legally stoned to death in Iran, and Afghanistan; beheaded, both legally and customarily, in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan; customarily blinded by acid attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan—and not by Jews, Israelis, or Americans, but by other Muslims.

Muslim women are being buried alive (literally, not merely under face and body veils), in Algeria, in Pakistan, and under Taliban and Al-Qaeda rule. Muslim women are being sexually stalked by “wilding” parties in Egypt and Algeria, and gang-raped and then lashed almost to death in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria. They are being normatively beaten at home all over the Muslim world—yes in Gaza and the West Bank as well as in Jordan and Egypt– and normatively killed in honor/dishonor killings. Physical and sexual child abuse is both rampant and hotly denied as is homosexual pederasty.

According to recent studies, in Pakistan, 90% of all women are beaten throughout their lives. One million women in Pakistan are beaten every year while they are pregnant. Honor killings are pandemic but the killers are rarely prosecuted. On the contrary. They are usually glorified, heroized.

In the West, battering and femicide are crimes and are often (not always) prosecuted. Battering and woman-murder are not glorified or acceptable in the West, nor is it a family collaboration.

Honor killings are a Muslim-on-Muslim crime, a collaboration of an entire family against their own female blood. So is female genital mutilation, polygamy, and arranged and child marriage.

These human rights atrocities are happening all over the Muslim world. Make no mistake: Such practices have fully penetrated the West. If a girl or a woman, in Europe or North America, wants to go to college; refuses to veil; leaves an abusive husband; refuses an arranged marriage; chooses to have non-Muslim friends; acts in ways that are considered too “western,” her own family (father, mother, brother, sometimes husband), will kill her. In the last year, this has happened in Dallas, Toronto, Atlanta, and Henrietta, New York. Honor murders happen far more often in Europe because the Muslim population is much larger there.

Recently, a Pakistani-Muslim man beheaded his Pakistani-Muslim wife in Buffalo. Beheading takes great strength and planning. The wife’s crime? After being beaten and living in fear for years, she finally dared to leave him. More: she dared to keep the children and the home. An order of protection forced him out of his castle. In Pakistan he would simply kill her for such insubordination. He would not be prosecuted. Here, American feminists and domestic violence workers refused to see this as an honor killing, refused to understand that a beheading is related to radical fundamentalist Islam and jihad, and insisted that if they did so, it would render them vulnerable to being called “racists.”

Although America is far from perfect, it is still a more democractic, more lawful, more feminist, and more compassionate country than is any Muslim country anywhere in the world—no matter how charming or hospitable its citizens may also be. The same is true of tiny, imperfect, amazing, and much maligned Israel. It stands head and shoulders above its Arab and Muslim neighbors in terms of human rights. This is one of the reasons it is so demonized.

To my sorrow, many western academics, feminist activists, and mainstream journalists actively resist this point of view. They claim that human bomb-terrorism, hate speech, child suicide bombers, honor killings masterminded, funded, and carried out by Muslims, have absolutely nothing to do with Islam; that barbaric practices such as stoning, beheading, limb amputation, and honor killing are all “pre-Islamic” customs and have nothing to do with Islam; and that pairing Islam with what is done in its name by its followers, or by its national and religious leaders—is an example of western “racism” and Islamophobia.

We in the West have also been taught that Islamic barbarism is due to western colonialism, imperialism, racism. We have not been taught to view Islam as the imperialistic, genocidal, slave-owning and misogynist culture which, alas, it is. Today, even saying this is quickly labeled “Islamophobic” and censored as hate speech.

If we do not protect Muslim girls and women in the West from being honor murdered—then their blood will be on our hands too.

Funding shelters, world-wide, for battered Muslim women is long overdue. I challenge the Saudi princes to fund this worthy cause as opposed to their funding of more madrassas or more anti-American and anti-Israel Middle East Studies programs.

I believe we must unite in a vision of human rights that are universal. I believe that long-persecuted Hindus have much to teach the West about Islamic jihad as do Christians, Jews, (especially Arab and North African Jews), Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Ba’haii, etc., who have been persecuted, forced to convert, murdered, and exiled by Muslims in Asia and the Middle East.

Our country and our world is under the most profound siege. This rally is the first step that civilians are taking to fight back against radical fundamentalist Islam.

I congratulate the coalition and its leaders for their visionary brilliance and activism.