Making the rounds on YouTube these days is a film of a group of manly looking
women preparing for and conducting a “flash dance” in a Philadelphia food store.
The crew of ladies, dressed in tight black clothes and sequined accessories,
arrives at The Fresh Grocer supermarket, breaks into a preplanned chant ordering
shoppers not to buy Sabra and Tribe hummus and telling them to oppose Israeli
“apartheid” and support “Palestine.”
From their attire and attitude, it
is fairly clear that the participants in the video would congratulate themselves
on their commitment to the downtrodden, the wretched of the earth suffering
under the jackboot of the powerful. They would likely all also describe
themselves as feminists.
Iran woman with stoning sentence shown on state TV
Terra Incognita: Veiled nonsense
But if being a human rights activist means
attacking the only country in the Middle East that defends human rights, then
that means that at the very basic level, the term “human rights activist” is at
best an empty term. And if being a feminist means attacking the only country in
the Middle East where women enjoy freedom and equal rights, then feminism too,
has become at best, a meaningless term. Indeed, if these anti-Israel female
protesters are feminists, then feminism is dead.
IN 1995, then first lady
Hillary Clinton spoke at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. There
Clinton seemed to embrace the role of championing the rights of women and human
rights worldwide when she proclaimed, “It is no longer acceptable to discuss
women’s rights as separate from human rights…If there is one message that echoes
forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and
women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.”
Yet as secretary of
state, Hillary Clinton – like her fellow self-described feminists – has chosen
to single Israel out for opprobrium while keeping nearly mum on the
institutionalized, structural oppression of women and girls throughout the
Muslim world. In so acting, Clinton is of course, loyally representing the views
of the Obama administration she serves. She is also representing the views of
the ideological Left in which Clinton, US President Barack Obama, the human
rights and feminist movements are all deeply rooted.
Since the height of
the feminist movement in the late 1960s, non-leftist women in the West and
Israel have been hard-pressed to answer the question of whether or not we are
feminists. Non-leftist women are opposed to the oppression of women. Certainly,
we are no less opposed to the oppression of women than leftist women
But at its most basic level, the feminist label has never been
solely or even predominantly about preventing and ending oppression or
discrimination of women. It has been about advancing the Left’s social and
political agenda against Western societies. It has been about castigating
societies where women enjoy legal rights and protections as “structurally”
discriminatory against women in order to weaken the legal, moral and social
foundations of those societies. That is, rather than being about advancing the
cause of women, to a large extent, the feminist movement has used the language
of women’s rights to advance a social and political agenda that has nothing to
do with women.
So to a large degree, the feminist movement itself is a
The deception at the heart of the feminist movement is nowhere
more apparent than in the silence with which self-professed feminists and
feminist movements ignore the inhumane treatment of women who live under Islamic
law. If feminism weren’t a hollow term, then prominent feminists should be the
leaders of the anti-jihad movement.
Gloria Steinem and her sisters should
be leading to call for the overthrow of the antifemale mullocracy in Iran and
the end of gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia.
Instead, in 2008 Ms.
Magazine, which Steinem founded and which has served as the mouthpiece of the
American feminist movement, refused to run an ad featuring then foreign minister
Tzipi Livni, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and then speaker of the
Knesset Dalia Itzik that ran under the headline, “This is Israel.”
too partisan, the magazine claimed.
Leading feminist voices in the US and
Europe remain unforgivably silent on the unspeakable oppression of women and
girls in Islamic societies. And this cannot simply be attributed to a lack of
interest in international affairs. Islamic subjugation and oppression of women
happens in Western countries as well. Genital mutilation, forced marriage and
other forms of abuse are widespread.
For instance, every year hundreds of
Muslim women and girls in Western countries are brutally murdered by their male
relatives in so-called “honor killings.”
Pamela Geller, the intrepid
blogger at Atlas Shrugs website, has steadfastly documented every case she has
found. This year she ran an ad campaign on public buses and taxis in major US
cities to bring public awareness to their plight. And for her singular efforts
in championing the right to life of Muslim women and girls, she has been reviled
by the Left as an anti-Islamic bigot.
Former Dutch parliamentarian Ayaan
Hirsi Ali was forced to flee Holland and live surrounded by bodyguards for the
past six years because she has made an issue of Islamic oppression of women and
girls. The Left – including the feminist movement – has treated this remarkable
former Muslim and champion of women’s rights as a leper.
IF ALL the
feminist community’s policy of ignoring Islamic oppression of women did was keep
it out of the headlines it would still be unforgivable. But the fact is that by
not speaking of the central challenge to women’s rights in our times, the
organized feminist movement, and the Left it is a part of, are abetting Islam’s
unspeakable crimes against women and girls. It does so in two
Tyranny unchallenged is tyranny abetted.
And the first way
that the organized feminist movement and the Left abet the oppression of women
by Islamic authorities is signaling to those authorities that they can get away
with it. This truth is laid bare by the responses of Islamic authorities in the
rare cases where their oppression of women has received Western
For instance, in 2006, an Iranian Islamic court found Sakineh
Mohammadi-Ashtiani guilty of adultery and sentenced the ethnic Azeri
kindergarten teacher and mother of two to death by stoning. She was later also
found guilty of murdering her husband.
Ashtiani’s confessions in both
cases were extracted under torture. She has already received 99 lashes for her
reputed initial crime. Not a Farsi or Arabic speaker, when her adultery trial
ended, Ashtiani didn’t even know she was convicted or what her sentence
In recent years, Ashtiani’s children assisted by Iranian émigré and
non-leftist human rights groups launched a courageous campaign to save her life.
Over the past year, the campaign was covered in the Western media and garnered
the support of notables such as the French and Canadian prime ministers’ wives
as well as international film stars like Lindsay Lohan, Colin Firth, Emma
Thompson, Robert Redford and Juliette Binoche.
Human Rights Watch and
Amnesty International got on board this past summer and decried her treatment.
Clinton herself gave a half sentence condemnation of Ashtiani’s persecution in
August. Indeed, the international attention focused on Ashtiani may have been
the reason the Obama administration belatedly voiced opposition to Iran’s
election to the new UN women’s rights council. Iran was elected by acclamation
in April, but later defeated by India when a roll call vote was
Reeling from this criticism, Iranian authorities began
backtracking. First they claimed Ashtiani’s death sentence would be
Then they said she would be hanged rather than stoned. Today
her fate remains unclear and her life is still in grave danger.
pressure on Iranian authorities keeps up, there is a reasonable chance that
Ashtiani’s long ordeal will end in life, rather than death.
case is proof that when the West makes the barbaric abuse of women an issue, the
Islamic world attenuates its abuse of women. Pressure works. In contrast, an
absence of pressure empowers the oppressors.
THE SECOND way that the
feminists and the Left they are a part of abet Islamic oppression of women is
through their animosity towards Israel. When the Shariahbesotted leaders of the
Muslim world see the Western Left devote its energies to attacking Israel – the
only human rights and women’s rights protecting country in the Middle East –
they see there is no reason for them to reconsider their willingness to
tyrannize their women and girls.
Take Indonesia for example. In 2003,
then Indonesian president Megawati Sukarnoputri agreed that as part of a
ceasefire agreement, the separatist Aceh province was allowed to institute
Shariah law as the law of the province. In 2009, the Aceh parliament passed a
law making adultery punishable by stoning. On the central squares of the
province that is home to four million, people are routinely publicly whipped for
offenses against Islam.
Just last Friday, Anis Saputra, 24, and Kiki
Hanafilia, 17 each received eight lashes in a public ceremony outside a local
mosque for being caught kissing in October. The two are reportedly married to
other people and they apparently were given lashes rather than stoned to death
because they had yet to consummate their alleged romance.
Last year the
province also forbade women and girls from wearing pants. A France 24
investigation of Shariah in Aceh showed a traumatized 14-year-old girl who was
beset by Islamic police on her way home from school. They cut her jeans off in
the middle of the street.
Yet rather than criticize Indonesia for these
appalling developments, last month Obama visited Jakarta and waxed poetic about
Islamic tolerance of differences and applauded Indonesia for its commitment to
And while ignoring Indonesia’s repressive Shariah-ruled
province where Islamic oppression is the rule not the exception, Obama devoted
his criticism to attacking Israel for allowing Jews to build homes in
There is no doubt that attitudes that discriminate against
women exist today in Western countries as well as in Israel.
Women in the
free world have unique challenges to overcome because of our gender.
a sense of proportion is required here.
These challenges are not
overwhelming, systemic or in most cases life-threatening.
On the other
hand, hundreds of millions of women and girls throughout the Islamic world are
terrorized daily by everyone from their families to their judges. They have no
reason to believe that if challenged their rights – even their right to life –
will be protected.
The fact that the ladies in Philadelphia decided to
take their stand against Israel and that Clinton and Obama attack Israel for
building homes for Jews in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria while they all ignore
the suffering of the women of Islam speaks volumes about the degradation of the
West under the Left’s social and political leadership.
It also tells
non-leftist women in the West that being pro-women’s rights and being a feminist
are increasingly mutually exclusive.