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Will Egypt’s New Freedom Force More Women Under a Veil of Brutality?

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Posted on February 11 2011 4:30 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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Islamism seems to be winning the day in the Middle East and in central Asia. Today, the Obama Times has a highly sympathetic article about how shelters for battered women as well as for women who are at risk of being honor murdered are themselves “under siege.” The shelters are seen as encouraging forbidden female flight and independence and as exposing and tarnishing Afghanistan’s reputation.

According to Amina Afzali, a member of a new government commission,“there [are] cases where women needed protection but [she] was upset about the shelters’ high profile in discussing abuse.” Afzali found it “grating” that Time magazine featured child bride Bibi Aisha on its cover; her husband had hacked off her nose after she tried to run away from home. Such publicity “humiliates us in the eyes of the world.”

In 1937, the British traveler Rosita Forbes visited Afghanistan. In From Kabul to Samarkand, she wrote: “Afghans are peculiarly afraid of criticism.” She found Afghan men utterly charming and unaffected—and yet they lived “as martyr(s) to their own fear of criticism.”

Little has changed. Today, President Karzai’s government has decided to placate the Taliban by putting the fate of desperate Afghan runaways back into the hands of their families or at least into the hands of the pro-Taliban government.

This otherwise useful news reportage provides absolutely no political analysis of the situation or of the way in which both Islam and Islamism negatively affect the lives of Muslim women. And, the op-ed pieces, usually by Nicholas Kristof, that do feature stories about the abysmal plight of women in the Muslim world, also draw no political conclusions about the nature of Islam, Islamism, sharia law, or about its stealth jihadic presence in the West.

Last week, The (Obama) New York Times also described a disturbing scene in Baghdad:

On a raised stage between two shops, four mannequins in Western dress, their blond hair peeking out under colored scarves, stood amid crepe-paper flames. To one side was a banner featuring lust-crazed male ghouls; behind the mannequins, images of eternal suffering.

At the foot of the stage is a piece of scripture:

Whoever fills his eyes with the forbidden, on judgment day God will fill them with fire.

According to the Times, one Iraqi father brought his wife and daughters to see the stage because “everyone has forgotten about God, and they say that this is progress. Well, I call it depravity.”

I do not mourn the passing of Saddam Hussein. Nevertheless, under his brutal and corrupt tyranny, modern Western-style gains for women did take place. True, this did not help the women who were routinely kidnapped and gang-raped by Hussein’s sons and cronies and not for the dissidents who were routinely tortured and murdered. However, the Islamic Republic of Iran tortures and murders even more brutally.

Educated women in Iraq agree that “religious parties are on top right now.” As we have seen in the photos  and videos of female faces in Tahrir Square, Egyptian women are also wearing heavy hijab and even niqab. This is also the case in Gaza and on the West Bank, and of course in Saudi Arabia and throughout the Arab World.

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