Phyllis Chesler: Turning a blind eye to Islam’s brutal treatment of women
National Post, March 12, 2011 – 7:03 AM ET/Last Updated: March 12, 2011 5:10 AM ET
http://www.nationalpost.com/ Phyllis Chesler in New York City
My feminist generation believed in universal human rights — one standard for all. I still do. Therefore, I have taken a strong stand against the persecution of immigrant women and dissidents. I now submit affidavits on behalf of women who have fled the threat of such killings and who are seeking asylum in the United States.
Those of us who condemn the plight of such women, who are mainly Muslims and ex-Muslims, have been demonized in activist circles as “Islamophobes” and racists because we do not, in the same breath, blame America, the West or Israel for their suffering. Many Western academic feminists are so afraid of being condemned as “racists” that this fear trumps their concern for women’s rights in the Arab and Muslim world.
Islamic gender apartheid, which has penetrated the West, is characterized by normalized daughter- and wife-battering, forced veiling, female genital mutilation, polygamy, purdah (the segregation or sequestration of women), arranged marriage, child marriage and first-cousin marriage. Girls and women often are honour-murdered if they resist such practices, if they wish to divorce a dangerously abusive husband, or if they are viewed as too independent, too modern.
Today, at its most extreme, Islamic gender apartheid is characterized by acid attacks, public stonings, hangings, and beheading of women in Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Saudi Arabia — countries in which female rape victims are jailed, tortured and executed.
Feminists should be crying out from the rooftops against these practices. Some are. I am. Yet, many Muslims, as well as many intellectually “progressive” Western infidels, are not. They are welcoming the imposition of Islamic religious law, Sharia law, not only in the Middle East but also in the West.
I have published two academic studies and nearly 100 articles about honour killings, both in the West and in the Islamic world. An honour killing is a collaborative conspiracy carried out against one victim, usually a young girl, by her parents, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, sisters and male cousins. Her relatives believe that her “impure” behaviour has shamed and dishonored them.
An honour killing is not the same as a Western domestically violent femicide. Many honourable feminists disagree with me on this point. They believe that honour killings belong in the same category as Western domestic violence. Understandably, such feminists fear singling out one group for behaviour that may be common to all groups. But if, for reasons of “political correctness,” we fail to properly understand a crime, we will never be able to prevent or to prosecute it.
I began writing about honour killings in the West in 2004. My first study about such killings appeared in 2009 in Middle East Quarterly, the second appeared there in 2010. I studied 230 victims who were honour-murdered on five continents over a 20-year period.
These killings are carefully planned by the victim’s own family of origin, who have warned her, repeatedly, from childhood on, that they will kill her if she dishonours her family in any way. World-wide, women are honour-murdered based on mere rumoors of inappropriate behaviour, for wanting to choose their own husbands, for having infidel friends, for choosing a non-Muslim husband — or a non-Muslim god.
It is rare for a domestically violent Western father to routinely batter, stalk, patrol and murder his own daughter, and to be assisted in this gruesome task by his entire family. In the West, the majority (91%) of honour killings are Muslim-on-Muslim crimes. While Hindus and Sikhs do honour murder, they do so mostly in India, not in the New World.
Honour killings also are distinguished by their barbaric ferocity. The female victim often is gang-raped, then burned alive, stoned or beaten to death, cut at the throat, decapitated, stabbed numerous times, suffocated slowly, etc. This may resemble what Western serial killers do to prostitutes.
In the West, child-murderers, wife batterers and wife-killers are now (courtesy of second-wave feminism), seen as criminals. Yet those who commit or assist in the commission of honour killings view such killings as heroic, and even as the fulfillment of a tribal or religious obligation.
Based on my research, I have increasingly been asked to submit affidavits on behalf of girls and women who have fled being honour killed and who are seeking asylum in the United States or Canada.
My first case was that of an abused Muslim-American teenage immigrant who had secretly converted to Christianity. This was a high-profile case. Lawyers in Florida (she fled there), and in Ohio (her home state), both won her the right to remain in foster care and helped her obtain a green card. The girl now lives in hiding, apart from her family, somewhere in America.
My second case concerns a North African woman who has fled a small European country to seek asylum in America. Just because a Muslim woman lives in Europe does not mean that she lives in a Western environment. Her large, tight-knit, violent, Islamist family inhabits a parallel universe. As a convert to Christianity, this woman’s family will hunt her down until they find and kill her. They will never stop trying.
My third case concerns a brilliant graduate student from a prominent family in a southeast Asian country. She has applied for asylum here. What is her crime? She dared to marry a man whom she loved but who belonged to a different sect of Islam; she did so against her parents’ wishes.
My fourth case concerns a woman who was born and raised in the killing fields of Congo. After her father was murdered, her mother fled to a neighboring African country, where she married a Muslim man who insisted on marrying his new stepdaughter off as the fifth wife to an elderly Muslim man; in turn, her chosen husband insisted that she be genitally mutilated.
Desperate, defiant, this brave soul fled Africa and arrived in the United States with falsified documents. Without going into too much detail, let me say that she has languished in jail in Buffalo, NY for more than three months. Recently, a judge ordered that she be deported to Congo. She has six weeks to appeal this decision.
Just as we have shelters for battered Orthodox Jewish women, shelters for battered Muslim girls and women should be established, and multilingual staff appropriately trained in the facts surrounding honor killings. Young Muslim girls are frequently lured back home by their mothers. When a shelter resident receives such a phone call, the staff must immediately go on high alert.
Perhaps the equivalent of a federal witness protection program for the intended targets of honour killings should be created. England has already established just such a program.
We must issue clear government warnings to all immigrants to the West: Honour killings and female genital mutilation will be prosecuted under Western law. Since honour killings are collaborations, conspiracies, both the perpetrators and accomplices will all be prosecuted. European courts have recently begun to do all this. Unlike the United States, they have a large Muslim immigrant population.
The battle for women’s rights is central to the battle for Western values. It is a necessary part of true democracy, along with freedom of religion, tolerance for homosexuals and freedom of dissent. Here, then, is exactly where the greatest battle of the 21st century is joined.
Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies at City University of New York. She is an author, psychotherapist and an expert courtroom witness. A longer version of this article originally appeared on FoxNews.com.