Naomi Wolf is “simply appalled” at my “misrepresentation” of her disposition toward Muslim veiling on my recent NewsReal blog. She has asked my boss, David Horowitz, to “remove this falsehood from your site and correct the record.” She has also made similar demands of Phyllis Chesler, who has also touched on Wolf’s totalitarian odyssey in a recent Pajamas Media piece.
Wolf insists that she does not find the burqa “sexy” and that she does not wish to institutionalize it, even though her recent piece in the Sydney Morning Herald is entitled Behind the Veil Lives a Thriving Muslim Sexuality and discusses how, upon her travels to Morocco, Jordan, and Egypt, she found a lot of hot sexuality going on because of the veil (i.e. marital sex is steamy when women cover up and show themselves only to their husbands, etc.).
There is something eerily pathological about Wolf’s pretension to have made some kind of amazing discovery in finding human nature existent in the Muslim world. She found sexuality – as if someone in the West, probably an evil Republican in Wolf’s imagination, believes that Muslim women are not interested in sex. The issue, of course, is not that anyone says people in the Muslim world do not enjoy sex, or yearn for sex. The issue is that women are not free to make their own choices without fear of punishment – an issue that a leftist like Wolf, unsurprisingly, deliberately ignores.
Reminiscent of creepy and pathetic tales that fellow travelers told (about what they had “learned”) upon their returns from Stalinist Russia and Maoist China, Wolf comes back to share the news. Many Muslim feminists, she implores, apparently told her that they wish that we Westerners would focus on examples of women’s rights in their societies rather than on “what they wear.”
Sorry Naomi Wolf, the mere fact that someone told you something does not erase the reality of how tyrannical structures employ dress codes to wield various forms of oppression. If Jews were, for instance, once again forced, in any given society, to suddenly start wearing particular articles of clothing to identify and distinguish themselves from other people, should those of us who are concerned suddenly become unconcerned merely because a Jewish person in that society told you to tell us not to worry about it?
Not that you know or care anything about history, but there is a reason why despotisms and apartheid structures create dress codes. The enforcement of such codes plays a crucial role in keeping the structures of tyranny and the enslavement of a people in check (e.g., Maoist unisex clothing had a ruthless purpose). Ms. Wolf, do you really fail to grasp the fact that dress codes in the Islamic world, such as the niqab and the burqa, play a crucial role in keeping the chains of gender apartheid in place, and that this is precisely why the guardians keep them in place?
No Ms. Wolf, I won’t stop worrying about what Muslim women are forced to wear. I care about the Muslim women who have had acid thrown in their faces, or who have been raped or killed or set aflame, because of the dress code they chose not to follow. I know you don’t care about them, because they eluded you somehow during your political pilgrimage and you have yet to utter one of their names and tell us, with heartfelt concern, what happened to them and why.
So I also can’t refrain from asking you, Naomi Wolf: Who is it exactly that you were talking to during your fascinating trip? How is it that from everything you have related, one doesn’t get the sense of any dissent or difference of opinion? Are Muslim women really not like members of the human race, all with different perspectives and opinions? Are you not uncomfortable with what you didn’t hear? With what someone may have feared to say? Did you try hard to go to the prisons, to perhaps visit a woman who had suffered incarceration because she had violated some Islamic taboos? Or to visit a woman who had been hurt in some way because she had violated the laws of the veil? Did you ask around to speak with the families of victims of honor killings?
Like the pathetic fellow travelers who have come before you, it is no surprise that from all your findings, it never occurred to you to even consider the vital questions you ought to have asked those around you – and also yourself: What if one of these women had stood apart from the crowd and voiced her dissent? What if she had announced that she did not think like the others, and that she did not approve of the veil and of the Islamic theology behind it? What if, in an environment where everyone was veiled, she had thrown the covering off of herself and run outside into the street because she wanted to do so? Could she speak of having a lover and do so without fear for her life? What would happen to such an individual after you returned to your life of comfort and privilege in the West? Would you care?
If a person traveled to the Soviet Gulag under Stalin and talked to the slave laborers and returned telling stories only of how some of the workers commented on how the slave labor helped their cardio-vascular system and had built strong muscles, what do you think our reaction should have been? If a person traveled to Auschwitz and returned to tell only that some of the surviving camp inmates related that they had really bonded with the other inmates in ways they had not bonded with others in previously in their lives, and that therefore there was happiness in Auschwitz and that we must keep that in mind, what should our reaction have been?
No parallel? No analogy?
Ms. Wolf, you cannot, with dignity, talk about any kind of veiling in the Muslim world without the context that there is a ramification, and a deadly one on myriad levels, for a woman who does not veil. Feminist hero and a survivor of Islamic oppression, Wafa Sultan, has explained this dark reality – upon which maybe you might want to reflect before you do more harm to those you are pretending to help. She writes about the veil, and how it is not a choice even when it appears to be:
In 2005, I traveled to Syria with my American friend. We visited a small Syrian Island (Erwad). My friend noticed that the majority of women in that place were head covered. I asked our tour guide to explain the reasoning behind it. I asked: “Are ALL women in this island covered? Without any hesitation he responded: “Yes, they are ALL covered except for a few whores.”
So, yes, it might be their decision, but it’s not their choice. When you make a decision, your society does not necessarily allow you to freely choose. The decision in this case is made to avoid humiliation and reprisal by the Muslim community around these women.
These are the issues that one would expect someone concerned with human dignity, freedom, social justice and women’s rights would raise when visiting and writing about the Muslim world. But these issues are clearly not for you, Naomi Wolf. Like all fellow travelers, you intentionally make yourself oblivious to the most central truth staring you right in the face: Expressions of support for a form of tyranny are utterly meaningless in a system where any contrary expression or behavior will be punished by social stigma, imprisonment, torture, and/or execution.
Feminist hero Phyllis Chesler has already issued a withering response to Wolf, explaing why Wolf won’t get an apology from her. It is difficult not to cringe while witnessing this mismatch between an intellectual heavyweight scholar — who has herself suffered under Islamic gender apartheid — and a lightweight like Wolf, whose role in all of this clearly stems not from her concern for persecuted women, but from personal narcissistic cravings to feel good about herself. Indeed, apologizing for tyrannical adversarial structures will make anti-Americanism and anti-capitalism easier for her and for her many comrades who will pat her on the back.
Once a leftist herself, Chesler had the courage and humanity to abandon her leftist faith for the sake of standing up for suffering women. Her leftist milieu made her pay the price and, like it does to all of its heretics, the Left made her into a non-person. But Chesler chose to suffer that banishment because she cared for the truth and for the victims of brutality. This is a step that Wolf, living in the luxury of praise and acclaim among her liberal and leftist friends, cannot take. She’s chosen the easier, lazier and hypocritical path: to win tremendous material and cultural rewards from an affluent society that has freed her from the drudgery of work and routines so that she has a virtually limitless amount of time to sit around and think up everything she hates about that society.
So sorry, Naomi Wolf, I won’t apologize for saying you support the institutionalization of the burqa.
First, since it appears to be over your head, the key is that the burqa is a symbol of women’s oppression under Islamic gender apartheid. And it is the natural outgrowth of the premises that underlie forced veiling of any kind.
Second, in terms of institutionalization: If you travel to despotic lands, where women face social stigma, physical violence, torture and death if they choose not to veil themselves, and if you justify veiling without stressing the consequences for not veiling, then you are in league with the oppressors — and you are calling out for, and are complicit in, the institutionalization of the burqa.
So sorry, Naomi Wolf, on this side of the battle, with real feminists such as David Horowitz, Phyllis Chesler and Robert Spencer fighting on behalf of women’s rights under Islamic gender apartheid, we are a bit reluctant to apologize to people who style themselves as feminists but who sacrifice millions of suffering Muslim women on the altar of their own narcissism and their own politics of self-indulgence. And for that, it is you who owe an apology – to your sisters in the Islamic world whom you profess to have befriended, but whom in fact you have betrayed.
Editor’s note: Get the whole story of leftist feminists’ alliance with Islamofascists in Jamie Glazov’s new book, “United in Hate: The Left’s Romance With Tyranny and Terror.”