To a hammer, everything is about nails, and to a feminist (that is, a left-winger who's wearing his feminist hat), everything is about the oppression of women. And many people who aren't really feminists seem to have trouble talking about oppression unless it's the oppression of one of a small number of victim classes. Apparently it's just plain boring talking about the oppression of people.
The simple fact, however, is that Islamism is horrible because it involves the oppression of people, one aspect of this oppression being the imposition of extreme sexual roles on people. Are women oppressed more than men? It seems to me rather nasty to engage in such a victimology competition, but if one insists, then one should at least do the comparison seriously. I've never seen a serious comparison.
Such a comparison could be quantitative: for example, which sex has more of its members executed for "crimes" that we would never consider crimes? Or it could be anecdotal. We've seen tons of examples of ways in which women are oppressed by Islamism: they must cover themselves, they can't go to school, they can't drive, etc. Documentary after documentary talks about these things, to the exclusion of any mention of how Islamism specifically affects men. The anecdotes about men appear as individual news tidbits about individual instances. For example, we hear about a man having his nose cut off by the Taliban because he shaved his beard; we hear about Iranians lashing a boy to death because he fasted insufficiently.
I think that many of these feminist-based Islamist-bashers are well-intentioned, and I'm more than willing to give the benefit of the doubt to poor Theo Van Gogh, who was murdered for making a "controversial" documentary about the plight of women under Islamism. But this feminist point of view is not only morally suspect, it is also very dangerous because it completely denies the appeal that Islamism has for women.
And we see this appeal all the time. Of course the feminist documentaries don't show us female support for Islamism any more than they show us male opposition. But whenever we see mass demonstrations for the Taliban or for similar groups, the women are clearly there in great numbers. When the Iranians kidnapped American diplomats in the seventies, we were often treated on network news to scenes of Islamist women making strange bird calls in support of the Mullahs. In the CBC documentary about Abdurahman Khadr, his al-Qaeda mother and sister are interviewed extensively and it is clear they are absolute monsters. Female suicide bombing appears to be a growth industry.
The reason I'm writing this now is because of this article by Theodore Dalrymple that has gotten a lot of (positive) attention on anti-islamist web sites. The author states:
"This abuse [of women] is now essential for people of Muslim descent for maintaining any sense of separate cultural identity in the homogenizing solution of modern mass society. In fact, Islam is as vulnerable in Europe to the forces of secularization as Christianity has proved to be. ... Were it not for the abuse of women, Islam would go the way of the Church of England. ... [A] divide often opens between brothers and sisters in the same European Muslim family; the sisters want liberty, but the brothers enforce the old rules. ... This, I suspect, is the source of the rage against Theo Van Gogh."
I suspect Dalrymple is wrong. After all, it doesn't take much to "enrage" these people. Dalrymple gives no evidence at all for his assertions and certainly provides no statistics showing that sisters like Islam less than their brothers, or that their brothers only like Islam because it allows them to abuse women. He doesn't discuss all the other anecdotal evidence that many women really like Islam. He doesn't feel any need to refute this British program, Mum, I'm a Muslim that states:
"Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, and women are thought to be the largest group among its converts."He should also check out this other Channel 4 program which discusses the shock of a secular, sexual, young male Muslim upon finding out that his old drinking buddies have renounced their whoring ways for Islamism.
It is easy to explain the attraction in the U.S. to slavery: White people profited from it at the expense of Black people. I sympathize with Dalrymple's desire to see an explanation for Islamism that is just as simple, but I don't buy it. And ignoring the danger from Islamist women only increases our peril.