Muslim women 298.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Admittedly, my fascination with the two authors, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Nonie Darwish, is connected with my profession: As a trainee clinical psychologist, I always hope to reach the bottom of people's motives. Both women renounced their Islamic faith, Westernized and spoke openly in criticism of Muslims. But first, they made a far braver step: They started to question their culture. What were these highly dangerous, apostatical revolutions like to experience?
Hirsi Ali will be known to many readers as a Somali refugee who became a member of parliament in the Netherlands. Her accounts of her earlier life, in Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia lack nothing as an expose. But the radicalization of Muslim youths is a relatively new problem - and one far more complex than Westerners would like to believe.
Not until the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Somalia during Hirsi Ali's childhood were strict dress codes and moral crusades common. From her own explanations, and examples of other strict adherents, we are shown that the burqa and hijab are not, in fact, symptoms of female oppression. Remarkably, they are shows of strength and superiority over others. Not only are female circumcisions more the realm of the female elders, but the severity of the operation symbolizes not suffering, but pride.
Tales of the brutality suffered by women in countries like Somalia and Saudi Arabia will be nothing new to most Israelis. Neither will Hirsi Ali's and Darwish's accounts of the school curricula, focused on the dogmatic, unquestioned immersion in the Koran and a vicious indoctrination of hatred toward Jews and Israel. That so many such countries remain impoverished is entirely predictable.
From the time when Hirsi Ali reaches the Netherlands, one is awakened not to what is occurring daily in far-off lands, but within Europe. One of her first acts as parliamentarian was to demand a police investigation to record precisely how many "honor killings" occur in the Netherlands each year. Such a heinous crime was simply ignored by her adopted homeland - and the uncovering of this and other, quite normal, activities within the Muslim communities forced Hirsi Ali into hiding and, eventually, to emigrate to the US.
For so long, the Dutch believed that the best way to help these immigrants to assimilate was to first build them mini-Mogadishus. Within the refugee centers and, later, the community, Hirsi Ali experienced the very same abusive, disrespectful behavior from Somali men from which she escaped. What the policies of the Dutch government had not only facilitated but, in fact, encouraged, was the ghettoization of both the Islamic cultural belief system and the people themselves. Hirsi Ali could see the damage this caused: Her compatriots remained in stasis, neither integrating nor seizing the opportunities the Netherlands offered. Hackneyed accusations of racism and prejudice were all they had for Europe.
THE LIFE OF Nonie Darwish is markedly closer to Israel. Her father, Lt.-Gen. Mustafa Hafez, was sent by Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1950s to command the Egyptian army intelligence in Gaza. There, he established the fedayeen, which launched attacks on the Negev. Beloved by the Palestinians, Hafez was killed by the IDF in 1956, when Nonie was only eight.
But certain things stuck in young Nonie's mind, other than the supposed glory of having a shahid father. During a previous assassination attempt, Israeli commandos had made it all the way to her family's apartment. Her father not being there, they left Nonie and her family unharmed. Nonie remembered this. Then, on hearing of her father's death, rather than being inculcated with the joy of others, she simply wanted her father back. An all-consuming love of the afterlife was not for Nonie.
Throughout her childhood, like Hirsi Ali, Darwish displayed a constant curiosity about her surroundings; these being only Islamism, a hatred of Israel and the West and the abject poverty and corruption of Egypt and Gaza, she began to criticize what were deemed untouchable. One issue bothered her: How could so many Egyptians be so poor? The reply was always the same: Inshallah - God willing.
This, in time, has become a major cause of concern for those looking in from the outside. A life spent following the Koran is a life doing God's will. As such, in today's world of satellite television and cheap air travel, the impoverished Arab youth is realizing that God's will delivers precisely the opposite of that which is enjoyed by the infidels in the West. As with Hirsi Ali's bitter compatriots in the Netherlands, this causes a troubling conundrum: To pander to one's baser needs is to implicitly reject what one has believed for so long. The promises of a bountiful afterlife clash with the decadence as seen before them.
But there is trouble far deeper still. Darwish describes a family rife with complex problems. The unstable relationship within the family - and especially of that between the man and the woman (who is seen, in Sharia law, as being a chattel) - is initially created by the woman entering the relationship with no power. There begins a Freudian quagmire - something straight from Sophocles' Oedipus Rex. The troubled and unstable relationship is transmitted to the children (slowly realized, and with terrible regret, by Hirsi Ali of her pitiful mother). Thus, the woman looks for protection, but not from husband: from her son. Natural law is being subverted and contorted, leading to the very things that destroy the family unit: suspicion, insecurity and an absence of love.
Outside the family, the Muslim culture assures that women find it difficult to develop friendships. Polygamy creates distrust between female peers, as a wife must remain constantly vigilant lest one woman attract the husband of another.
Thankfully, Hirsi Ali destroyed her own ability, as it were, to remain ignorant enough to suffer a Somali marriage: She had read countless trashy women's novels from the US. She had been corrupted. But, more honestly, she had seen the dynamics of a fruitful relationship.
Sadly, the detrimental policy of assuming Muslim women are not like all others - who desperately need all the attributes I have listed - is the very cause of such strife in Europe today. Most turn a blind eye to the array of brutality suffered by women because it is "their" culture.
In the West, such boldness is hard to appreciate: For many, denouncing their religion, their government, even their country, is a badge of honor they get with minimum effort and little danger. To them, the life-threatening work done by Hirsi Ali and Darwish will mean little. But these two ladies have lifted the veil on Muslim culture - and, most importantly, from within.