The West should condition foreign aid and trade with Muslim countries on the advancement of women's rights as part of a long-term diplomatic attempt to weaken the rise of Islamic extremism, a conservative Israeli group of academics and thinkers said Monday.
The proposal, which was made by a private right-wing NGO, 'The Jerusalem Summit' and has been presented to parliamentarians and Christian religious leaders in both the US and the UK, comes as a new survey conducted in Britain finds that 40 percent of Muslim youth in the UK would prefer to live under Islamic law.
"Israel is frequently and fallaciously called an apartheid state when in fact the Muslims perpetrate a true and perpetual 'gender apartheid' where hundreds of millions of women living in the Muslim world, including in so-called moderate Arab nations such as Egypt and Jordan, are denied basic human rights," said Tel Aviv University's Dr. Martin Sherman.
Citing a UN report which found that the treatment of women in the Arab world ranked lower even than that of Sub-Saharan Africa, Sherman said that a diplomatic campaign by the West on this issue would transcend the traditional divide between the Left and the Right, and could serve to unite conservatives and liberals alike in the fight against Islamic extremism.
"We should use political correctness against the people who hide behind it," he said.
The issue of women is "a major cleavage line" and "the soft underbelly" of Islamic society, which could be effectively used as part of a strategic initiative against Islamic extremism, that could include financing organizations advocating women's rights in Muslim countries, imposing punitive measures against countries which violate women's rights, and even conditioning foreign aid and trade on the issue, Sherman said.
A political campaign by the West against the Islamic fundamentalism on this issue coupled with an international focus on the religious persecution of minorities living in the Muslim world could cause the two central pillars of totalitarian Islamic ideology to crumble said the group's executive director Dmitry Radyshevsky.
The Moscow-born Radyshevsky said that just as the Soviet empire looked invincible a quarter century ago Islamic extremism could be weakened over time by such a political campaign.
The British poll, which was carried out by a conservative think-tank, found that more than a third of Muslim youth aged 16 to 24 wanted to live under Islamic law instead of British law.
"Many young Muslims living in inner cities in Britain are becoming more and more rebellious and increasingly allied with Muslims in other parts of the world," said Peter Teasdale, a UK based Christian leader.