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Do Clothes Make the Muslim? Buddhists Don’t Wear Burqas

Posted on May 24 2010 10:00 pm
Phyllis Chesler is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies at City University of New York. For extended biography visit The Phyllis Chesler Organization.
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Last week, Newsweek published yet another liberal opinion piece: Superficially but falsely even-handed, optimistic, pro-Arab and Muslim culture, pro-Judeo-Christian Western culture—safely middle-of-the-road. So “middle” that the reader does not really know what road she is on or where she is going. The journalist, Christopher Dickey, is writing about the new winner of the Miss America contest, Rima Fakih, who is an Arab-American Shiite Muslim with family roots in Lebanon.

And they say that Americans are “Islamophobic?”

Speaking out of all sides of his mouth, Dickey tells us that the French Cabinet has drafted an anti-burqa/anti-niqab law; that the new Miss America has been accused both of having “family ties to Hezbollah terrorists”—and of being too-sexy a pole dancer; that in 1985, Lebanon was filled with “bearded radicals holding Americans hostage at the Beirut airport in 1985” and, at the same time, with women “tanning in their bikinis at a beach club just a couple of miles away.”

This continues for another ten-eleven paragraphs. All things are true. Opposites exist. Contradictions abound. Therefore, nothing is true, there are no objective or universally moral truths. What exists is Dickey’s and the mainstream media’s point of view: He writes: “The fact is that most Arab and Muslim women, like people anywhere, are basically just trying to get by in the culture that’s been handed to them, looking to make a little space for their ambitions, take advantage of opportunities, and find freedom where they can.”

Does he include Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabaab, Islamic Jihad (in Palestine and Egypt), the Muslim Brotherhood, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jemaah Islamiya or the Islamist terrorists who perpetrated 9/11, 3/11, 7/7, 11/25 in this happy-go-lucky description of Muslims who are just like us? He mentions the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, but he does not seem truly worried about them. Alright, Dickey and his supporters might say: C’mon, these terrorists are national and supra-national players. They have hijacked the true, peaceful Islam and have nothing to do with the large majority of Muslims who are peaceful and pro-modernity. A good point—and I believe in supporting anti-Islamist Muslims: the dissidents, the feminists, the pro-democracy activists, the secularists, etc. Alas, they are an endangered minority both in the West and in their countries of origin.

But really, how can Dickey so totally overlook the local, indigenous, tribal, cultural, and/or religious customs that define Islamic gender apartheid? How about those Islamist men who throw acid into the faces of young Muslim schoolgirls because they are wearing their Islamic Veils improperly? How about those civilians who honor-murder their daughters, sisters, and wives when they refuse to wear the Islamic Veil, who dare to leave a dangerously abusive husband, who are seen as too “Western?”

Dickey avoids these questions entirely. Instead, he focuses upon the false moral equivalence between the burqa and the bikini. He quotes Amal Gandour, a Stanford-educated Shiite (unveiled) woman who says that “the very educated and professional—but veiled—woman in the southern suburbs of Beirut may have a stronger claim on the cosmopolitan vision than the bimbos with bare stomachs, big lips, and fake eyelashes walking downtown on Rue Foche.”

Just a minute. While I may not like the pornographication of the female body that has taken over Western culture, neither my family nor the state will ever force me to wear a bikini—or kill me if when I refuse to do so. Increasingly, the Islamic Veil has become either a life—or a death sentence for Muslim women. The veiling of women is also related to fundamentalism and terrorism. Bin Laden’s wives are all fully veiled. Follow the chador or the burqa, in Muslim lands and in the West, and soon enough, you will stumble upon an anti-infidel, anti-Zionist den of extreme haters or terrorists.

Continue reading on Page 2 here.

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