Phyllis Chesler, the premier American writer on women in Islam, has generously offered to post a guest essay at Gates of Vienna. She asked that anyone who links to it be sure to include the GoV URL.
Before you read the essay, let me introduce you to Dr. Chesler’s work. She is prodigiously productive: just google her name and see the MSM links come up: everything from Fox News to the London Sunday Times. Dr. Chesler’s foundation is a font of information on her work and background.
She has told her story many times, of being married to a westernized Afghan man, only to have the façade drop when he took her as his new bride to a nightmare life in Muslim Kabul. Her biography is here.
Notice the long list of books she has authored, and the two important studies she has done on honor killings. These may be the only systematic studies available on the topic. Both have been translated into Italian and Polish. Dr. Chesler has carefully documented the sharp distinctions between Western-style domestic abuse and that “Cold, Premeditated, Ritual Murder” which is part of Islam’s cultural and religious ‘heritage’. Don’t let anyone tell you there is a moral equivalence between the two.
Her biography includes broad areas of expertise:
Dr. Chesler has lectured on mental health, legal, medical, interfaith, and feminist subjects. In the last decade, her work has concerned women’s religious rights, the resurgence of anti-Semitism and jihad, Islamic gender and religious apartheid, and the ideological and propaganda war against America, Israel and the West.
She is an old hand at “the talking head” routine on national media:
Dr. Chesler has appeared on The Today Show, The O’Reilly Factor, Oprah, Nightline, CSPAN, 700 Club, CNN, Court TV, CSPAN, The Dennis Prager Show, Donahue, Geraldo, The History Channel, Israel National Radio, Al-Hurrah, The MacNeil-Lehrer Report, MSNBC, NPR, and Washington Journal and on network and local radio and TV programs all over North America and Europe. For three years, she was a regular contributor to NPR’s program At the Opera. In the last few years, she has been interviewed hundreds of times in the media about anti-Semitism, jihadic terrorism and violence against women, including honor killings, and has delivered many lectures on these subjects.
Dr. Chesler is an eminent scholar who has been systematically shunned by Leftist feminists who don’t want to hear the truth about women’s fate in Islam. She has earned their enmity for refusing to follow the p.c. line or to be silent about life for women under Sharia. Having survived a nightmare marriage in Kabul, Dr. Chesler brushes away the fatuous criticisms of the spoiled so-called feminists in the West.
This past year during the Rifqa Bary trial in Florida, she was asked to present written expert testimony on the likelihood of the danger Ms. Bary faced if she were to be returned home. Dr. Chesler’s letter to the judge was placed in the file of evidence that followed Ms. Bary back to Ohio. At the time, when I asked Dr. Chesler if she thought Bary was in danger should she be forced to return home, she replied, “Of course she’d be at risk. This is a script for an honor killing eventually. And she may not be safe even if she reaches adulthood without returning home. She could be targeted eventually”…
Our thanks to Dr. Chesler for generously offering Gates of Vienna the opportunity to publish one of her essays. It is a signal honor. Not only is she is a psychologist but she is also an anthropologist in the old-fashioned academy’s sense; one whose field work in her area of expertise became an unexpected and dangerous kind of participant observation in Kabul all those years ago. That experience was to transform her life as it become the nucleus of her studies.
Is the Obama administration ready to consider banning the burqa in America-as France and Belgium have done?
by Phyllis Chesler
I wasn’t there, I can’t be sure exactly what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the other day in Melbourne, Australia but the reportage sure had me sit up and take notice.
According to an Australian news article titled “The Burqa Ban Has Merit,” Clinton said that “the belief that burqas should be banned in order to stop suicide bombers disguising themselves is a legitimate one,” and she also described the status of women as ‘one of the biggest pieces of unfinished business in this century.’ and said their persecution was a common factor in repressed and impoverished nations.” Secretary of State Clinton went on to say:
‘‘I know that in Pakistan, many of the men who are conducting suicide bombing missions arrive covered in a burqa,’’ and ‘‘If you’re a Pakistani police officer, respectful of the women of your culture and that’s being abused and misused by the suicide terrorists, that causes a real dilemma. So if you are looking at other countries that are understandably nervous about extremist activity, like France and other European countries, I think it’s a close question.’’
Clinton seems to be straddling two fences…
…she is suggesting that security concerns may trump cultural or ethnic customs and that the burqa itself may be part of the way in which women are being “persecuted in repressed and impoverished nations.” Although she specifically mentioned Pakistan she did not use the word Muslim.
Do her words represent a small and welcome departure from President Obama’s position-that of a respectful dhimmi-vis-à-vis the Muslim world?
Clinton’s words may represent a trial balloon, or they may be entirely spontaneous comments made in the course of a public conversation in Melbourne.
I have a more considered piece just out in the new issue of Middle East Quarterly which is not yet online. I do argue for such a ban, not only on the grounds of security, a case which Dr. Daniel Pipes has argued before, but also as a violation of a woman’s human rights. Think about it: The face veil and the burqa (I am not talking about the headscarf) are sensory deprivation isolation chambers. They literally constitute a low-level form of torture which leads to both physical and mental illnesses. Imagine having no peripheral vision while you walk, imagine allowing no sunlight into your life for your entire life, imagine being at risk for dangerous falls. But also imagine the inevitable social isolation that such clothing, a “moveable prison” entails.
Most of all, please understand that many Arab and Muslim countries are banning or restricting the face veil and the burqa. They have security and anti-terrorist concerns of their own and they know full well that such clothing is not a religious requirement and that women have not always veiled their faces. From the 1980s onward, Turkish women have been prohibited from wearing face veils (and even headscarves) in parliament and in public buildings. Since 1981, women in Tunisia have been prohibited from wearing Islamic dress, including headscarves, in schools or government offices. In October 2009, Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, perhaps the foremost formal spiritual authority in Sunni Islam and grand sheikh of al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam’s highest institution of religious learning, was reportedly “angered” when he toured a school in Cairo and saw a teenage girl wearing niqab. Asking the girl to remove her face veil, he said, “The niqab is a tradition; it has no connection with religion.” He then instructed the girl never to wear the niqab again and issued a fatwa against its use in schools. And on July 18, 2010, Syria became the latest Muslim state to ban full face veils in some public places.
When will the West wake up and smell the bomb/the fear and abject subordination of Muslim women?
I am not talking about freeing the women in Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia. I am talking about banning this visual symbol of political Islam, fundamentalist misogyny, and jihad on our own soil, in our own country.