From  the  book  “THE  CAGED  VIRGIN”  by  Ayaan  Hirsi  Ali

All  black  and  large  lettering  is  mine  -  Keith Hunt

The Virgins' Cage

Arab culture has spread to non-Arab societies by way of Islam, but is in many ways far behind that of the West. 

The three main shortcomings are: insufficient individual freedom; inadequate knowledge; and a lack of women s rights. 

These problems may also be seen in non-Arab countries that have embraced Islam and have begun to follow the Koran and the Hadith as political and economic guides for how a community should be organized. In countries such as Pakistan and Iran, and to a lesser extent in parts of Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, and Tanzania, after the introduction of Islam, a significant regression occurred in individual freedom, the acquisition of scientific knowledge, and the rights of women.

There are prospects for improvement, but progress is slow. The United Nations reports on Arab Human Development, prepared by Arab scholars, are first steps in the right direction, and they identified the core of these problems. The Arab world's current wealth comes exclusively from the oil that is extracted by Western corporations. Its economic growth is the lowest in the world, with exception of sub-Saharan Africa; illiteracy is widespread and persistent. 

Only about 330 foreign books are translated per year in the entire Arab world (compared to 5,000 in the Netherlands alone and). The situation for human rights is equally dire. Arab authorities use force against their own people, and population groups employ violence against each other.

People are oppressed, and the position of women is, in my view, nowhere as bad as it is in the Islamic world. 

United Nations reports state that women are virtually excluded from any public and political life, and that legislation with respect to marriage, divorce, inheritance, and adultery puts women at an extreme disadvantage. The same disadvantaged state of affairs in the Islamic world is reflected to a lesser degree in the position of Muslim immigrants in Western Europe.

Muslims who have immigrated to Western Europe have brought their convictions and traditions with them. It is striking that in the West, Muslim men are overrepresented in prisons and Muslim women are overrepresented in shelters for abused women and the social-assistance system. Many Muslims fare poorly in school and in the job market. They rarely take advantage of the opportunities offered in education and employment, and they do not sufficiently benefit from the freedoms that were unavailable in their countries of origin.

What is blocking the progress of Muslims? Why can't they close the gap between themselves and the Western world? Why can’t they participate in Western society the way other immigrants do? 

According to some experts, Western imperialism and unfavorable climatic conditions are at the root of the lagging development of Muslims. Many Islamic states were created too suddenly and artificially and became dictatorships. The dictators having been installed and maintained by Western states, thereby retarding Muslim development. 

However, historian Bernard Lewis convincingly refutes this claim. 

He believes the delay in Muslim development arises out of Muslims' feelings of grievance against Westerners. 

For centuries, dating back to even before the Middle Ages, Muslims saw Westerners as stupid and backward, lacking in cleanliness, morals, and civilized conduct. 

The Moors, who conquered Spain and ruled there for seven hundred years before 1492, were responsible for introducing basic hygiene, for preserving the great Roman and Greek classics, for introducing modern agricultural practices such as irrigation, and for a great flowering of culture. 

Starting in the twelfth century however, the Muslim mind-set became less tolerant, less inquisitive, more extremist in its views. At the same time, the Judeo-Christian West realized it needed to improve, and its people began learning, traveling, and exploring. As a result, the West caught up with Islamic culture and overtook it in a very short time.

An explanation from the Islamic point of view is provided by Sayyid Qutb and Hassan al-Banna, the founders of radical Islam. According to them, the umma, the community, can flourish only if its members keep to the letter of the Koran and the Hadith, the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad. 

They are of the view that Muslims have strayed from the path that the Prophet Muhammad outlined for them and have thereby brought their misery upon themselves. 

But actually, politics that follow Islam to the letter have failed dramatically. 

Islam does not possess a credible and workable political model, as the wavering regimes in Iran and Saudi Arabia illustrate. The Islamists are correct in stating that the huge majority of Muslims do not succeed in closely following all the commands and prohibitions of Allah. Nor should Muslims follow them, nor will they be able to follow them as long as these proscriptions are defined by fundamentalists.

The problems—aggression, economic and scientific stagnation, repression, epidemics, and social unrest—that confront most of the world's 1.2 billion Muslims spread over five continents cannot be explained by simply one or two factors. 

A complex combination of factors, sometimes regional, has evolved over time, one of which is the sexual morality of Islam, originally a tribal morality that has been elevated within Islam to the status of a dogma. This explanation appears too rarely in the existing literature. This premodern morality was sanctified in the Koran and then further developed in the traditions of the Prophet. For many Muslims this morality expresses itself through an obsession with virginity. This obsession with mastery over the sexuality of women is not limited to Islam, but is also evident in other religions (e.g., among Christians, Jews, and Hindus). Yet it has not hindered these other religious cultures' modern development as much as it has the Muslims'. The value attached to a woman's virginity is so great that it eclipses the human catastrophes and social costs that result from it.

Muslim girls are often told that "a girl with a ruptured hymen is like a used object." And an object that is once used becomes permanently worthless. A girl who has lost her "seal of being unused" won't find a marriage partner and is doomed to spend the rest of her days in her parents' home. Moreover, if defloration occurs outside wedlock, she has dishonored her family to the tenth degree of kinship. Other families will gossip about them. They will say that the family is known for its loose women who throw themselves away to "the first man who comes along." So the girl is punished by her family. Punishments range from name-calling to expulsion or confinement and may even extend to a shotgun wedding either to the man who is responsible for the defloration or to some "generous man" willing to cover the family's shame. These so-called generous men are often poor, feebleminded, old, impotent, or all of these. In the worst-case scenario, the girl will be murdered, often by her own family. The United Nations reports that five thousand girls are murdered annually for this reason in Islamic countries, including Jordan, so often cited as a "liberal" regime.

To avoid this cruel fate, Muslim families do everything possible to ensure that their daughters' hymens remain intact before marriage. The methods vary according to the country and specific circumstances in which people live and the means available to them. But everywhere the measures are aimed at girls, the possessors of the hymen, and not at the men who could break it.

Not long ago the spokesman for the Turkish Ministry of Justice, Professor Dogan Soyasian, stated that all men want to marry virgins, and that men who deny this are hypocrites. A raped woman is still advised to marry the man who raped her, the argument being that time heals all wounds. In time the woman will be able to love her rapist, and they may become very happy together. But if the woman has been raped by several men, a marriage like that will have a lower chance of success because her husband will see her as a dishonorable woman.

When it concerns their sexuality, men in Islamic culture are seen as irresponsible, unpredictable, scary beasts who immediately lose all self-control upon seeing a woman. 

This reminds me of an experience I had when I was still quite young. My grandmother had a billy goat. We were playing in front of the house, and in the evening, just before it got dark, all the goats in the neighborhood returned home in a long procession. It was a charming sight, But as soon as Grandma's billy goat saw the other goats, he galloped over to them and mounted the first goat he could get hold of. We children thought this was very cruel. When we asked Grandma what her goat was doing, she answered that it was none of her business: if the neighbours didn't want their goats to be mounted, they should lead them home along another path. Islam represents its own men as though they were like that billy goat; when Muslim men see an uncovered woman, they immediately leap on her. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; a Muslim man has no reason to learn to control himself. He doesn't need to and he isn't taught to. Sexual morality is aimed exclusively at women, who are always blamed for any lapse.

From a very young age, girls are surrounded by an atmosphere of mistrust. They learn early that they are untrustworthy beings who constitute a danger for the clan. Something in them drives men crazy. To illustrate this attitude, let me tell you of an exchange I had with Achmed, a father I met at an Islamic school last year who told me that in the past he had been a nonpracticing Muslim. He drank, committed adultery, and paid virtually no attention to the pillars of Islam. A few years ago he had been converted, as he himself put it. He read the Koran and decided to raise his daughter in the Islamic way. I asked him why his daughter, a child of seven, had to wear the hijab, the headscarf. "I know Islam," I said to him. 'The kijab isn't needed until a girl reaches puberty." "Yes," he said, "but she has to learn to wear it, so that later it will seem natural." He explained to me the rules of Islam concerning the hijab and said, "Here in the Netherlands women wear very little in the summer. That leads to accidents. Achmed had himself witnessed such an accident, he told me. Last summer he saw one truck collide with another. "The truck driver who caused the accident wasn't watching the road but was looking at the bare legs of a beautiful woman who was walking by."

For this reason girls have to cover themselves, make themselves invisible. And for this reason they feel constantly guilty and ashamed, because it is almost impossible to live a normal life and be invisible to men. 

Girls constantly think they're doing something wrong. Not only is their external freedom to choose where to go or where not to go inhibited, but so is their inner freedom. My aunt once put a piece of mutton out in the sun. It attracted columns of ants and swarms of flies. Auntie said, "Men are just like these ants and flies: when they see a woman they can't restrain their lust." I saw the fat melt in the sun as the ants and flies feasted on it. It left a dirty trace behind.

Girls' virginity is protected in various ways, one of which is house arrest, which can start at puberty. 

To secure their virginity, millions of Muslim women are sentenced to domestic work indoors and hours of endless boredom. 

Should it become absolutely necessary for a girl to go outside, she is allowed only if she keeps her head covered and dresses in a cloak that hides everything. 

This is to signal to men that she is sexually unavailable. 

To support this, the Koran is quoted: 

"Stay quietly in your homes, and make not a dazzling display ... And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what [must ordinarily] appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands' fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers, or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their womenfolk, or those whom their right hands possess [their slaves], or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex." 

"Oh, Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons [when abroad]: that is most convenient, that they may be known [as such] and not molested."

A second way of preserving virginity is to keep men and women who are not close family members in separate quarters indoors. This too amounts to house arrest. In Saudi Arabia, a bastion of Islam where the two holy houses of Allah (Mecca and Medina) are located, this division has been taken to extremes—other relatively oil-rich sheikhdoms, as well as Iran, Pakistan, Sudan, and Yemen, follow close behind.

By far the most extreme method of safeguarding virginity is female circumcision. 

The process involves the cutting away of the girl's clitoris, the outer and inner labia, as well as the scraping of the walls of her vagina with a sharp object—a fragment of glass, a razor blade, or a potato knife, and then the binding together of her legs, so that the walls of the vagina can grow together. 

This happens in more than thirty countries, including Egypt, Somalia, and Sudan. 

Although it is not prescribed in the Koran, for those Muslims who cannot do without the labor that girls perform outside the walls of their home, this originally tribal custom has practically become a religious duty, and is defended as such. Proponents point to the fact that the circumcision of women existed in the period before and during Muhammad's time, and that the Prophet Muhammad did not explicitly prohibit it. The so-called infibulation (literally "stitching up") offers a guarantee over women and is implemented under the watchful eyes of mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and other female guardians.

The distrust of women reaches its apex during the wedding night test: is the Muslim bride a virgin or not? 

Due to the gender apartheid that banishes women from public life, a Muslim man has no natural way to get to know a woman with whom he might fall in love. His family is therefore entrusted with the choice, as only they would know where to find a genuine virgin. Although the recently wedded pair often don't even know each other, they nevertheless must have intercourse on their wedding night. Even if the girl doesn't want to, and her body closes up in fear or disgust, she must. And even if her husband doesn't want to, either, he must demonstrate that he's a man and that he can perform. The wedding guests will wait outside until a bloodstained sheet has been displayed. This compulsory coupling is in fact a socially sanctioned rape as well as a blatant denial of the worth of the individual.

A marriage is never simple, but a Muslim marriage begins at the very outset with a sign of mistrust, followed by an act of force. It is in this atmosphere of mistrust and force that the next generation of children is born and brought up…….

After marriage the mistrust of women only intensifies—now that the bride has been deflowered, her husband's fears take on even greater proportions—he has just punctured his unique means of checking whether his wife has been to bed with another man. The only way of preventing her from cheating on him is to deny her access to the outside world as much as possible. She must have his permission, or his company, for every step she takes outside the door. Supposedly, he has obtained this authority from Allah and from centuries-old traditions. The eleventh-century imam Al-Ghazzali, a scholar widely known among the orthodox, wrote: "The well brought up woman ... doesn't leave the house, except with his definite approval, and then dressed in unattractive old clothes." And: "She always puts her husband's rights ahead of her own and that of her family. She is neat and clean and is always prepared to let him enjoy her sexually."

A good woman obeys her husband and obliges him. According to the Koran, "Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more [strength] than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore, the righteous women are devoutly obedient and guard in [the husband's] absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them [first], [next] refuse to share their beds, [and last], chastise them [lightly] . . ," 

In accordance with the great and honored Caliph Umar Al-Khattab (whose status, for the Sunnis, almost equals that of the Prophet Muhammad), a woman is given three hundred lashes when four faithful Muslims testify that she has lied. Fortunately, this punishment is stretched out over three days so that the wounds are kept within bounds.

But Muslim women are only human, and from time to time they make up stories. Muslim men are not allowed to make love to a menstruating woman—the Koran says so—and this claim thereby offers excellent protection. A Muslim woman who has no desire to make love, and may become pregnant for the umpteenth time, may tell her husband that she is menstruating, a well-known excuse among Muslim women, comparable to the Western woman's "headache." Or, without her husband's knowledge, she may use contraceptives, if they are available. Some married women have abortions without telling their husbands. All this means that lies are constantly being told about the most intimate matters. It is a survival strategy, but it also becomes a way of living, and when a man discovers that his wife is lying, his suspicions that she is evil are confirmed.

Children experience their mother's lies on a daily basis. For example, if she admitted that she went out alone, her mother-in-law and her husband would be angry, so she lies. Such deceits and denials become commonplace. Admission would lead to loss of face and possibly violence. In many families, children get no allowance. A boy who steals from the household petty cash and is questioned about it does not admit the deed, for if he does he will certainly be humiliated and verbally abused. If he denies it, his honor is unblemished, and as long as he denies it, his father too can deny it to the outside world. Children learn from their mothers that it pays to lie. If they don t want to be punished they've got to come up with stories.

This "virgins' cage" has consequences for women, but also for men and children. 

The virgins' cage is, in fact, a double cage. Women and girls are locked up in the inner cage, but surrounding this is a larger cage in which the entire Islamic culture has been imprisoned. Caging women in order to guard their virginity leads not only to frustration and violence for the individuals directly involved, but also to socioeconomic backwardness for the entire community. These caged women actually exert a harmful influence on children, especially young boys. Since most women in the Islamic world are excluded from education, and are purposely kept ignorant, when these same women bear and raise children, they can pass on only their limited knowledge, and so perpetrate a vicious cycle of ignorance from generation to generation.

Even first-generation Muslim mothers in the West have no more than elementary education. 

Many are illiterate and know nothing of the society in which they have to find their way. With any luck, those who immigrated as children will become educated at a later age, but as long as the traditional sexual morality remains their parents' guiding principle for raising them, their socioeconomic progress will be difficult, if not impossible.

For many Muslims, the sexual morality of Islam has even more-far-reaching consequences. Unable to express openly the hatred they feel toward their husbands, some women direct it against their children. Of course, this does not apply to all women, for many of whom children are a consolation. But the relationship between parents and children almost never resembles what is usual in an individualistic society like the Netherlands.

Of course, violence against women often occurs within Western families, too, but Westerners emphatically repudiate violence, while most Muslim families regard violence against women as something that women themselves provoke because they don't follow the rules. The family and the social environment do not disapprove of it. They reason that if your husband hits you, it must be because you had it coming to you. 

Western neighbors, family members, and friends don't believe that the mistreatment of women is an acceptable educational device.

The Koran assigns great importance to values such as trust, truthfulness, and learning. Yet in just the few examples I have recounted above we can see how things actually stand in daily Islamic life—it is a dismal state of affairs. Mistrust is everywhere, and lies rule.

In order to put Islam's strict sexual morality into perspective, we need to examine and analyze its practical consequences. Relations between the sexes have to be described objectively and critically. Then, on the basis of the resulting data, proposals must be made for changing the way in which men and women relate to each other.

The United Nations reports suggest that the systematic gathering of knowledge is not valued in the Arabic-Islamic countries. According to the Koran, the faithful must ceaselessly strive after knowledge, but the Koran also states that Allah is all-knowing and that the Koran is the source of all knowledge. It is impossible to reconcile these two positions. For Muslim children the study of biology and history can be very confusing. After all, history begins in a time before the Koran begins, and the theory of evolution contradicts the creation story in the Koran. Most mullahs advise Muslims who are confounded by this contradictory state of affairs that, when the Koran speaks of the "search for knowledge," it means that a Muslim must keep on reading the Koran until, as a result of this dedicated reading, gateways to knowledge open by themselves.

The values of the Koran are essentially unattainable for any human being. A great tension exists between the inhumanly strict demands that Islam makes on the faithful and what they are able to live up to. Young men or women may want to meet the demand to remain virgins until marriage, but their hormones give them inclinations and thoughts that conflict with that demand and are therefore considered sinful. Along with the realization that the strict prescriptions of the Koran cannot be put into practice come doubts. Yet one is not allowed to doubt either the Koran or the Sunna (a collection of traditions about the life of Muhammad). After all, Muhammad's life was exemplary. Doubt is immediately punishable, if not by the social environment, then by Allah. But without doubts, without a standpoint reached through questioning, human beings can’t acquire knowledge. Consequently, even ardent followers of Islam find themselves in a precarious dilemma.

Because of this inner impasse, Muslim women and men often become confused; a community that lives according to the prescriptions of Muhammad and the Koran inevitably becomes pathological in its fears of contradictions, in its anger at inner and outside questioning, and in its frustrations at never being able to fulfill the ideals that they are taught to live up to. But many Muslims refuse to attribute responsibility for their misery to their own community or to the sexual morality imposed by their religion. Instead, they blame Allah, the Devil, or other external sources such as the Jews, Americans, or colonialism. Muslims don't recognize that, in fact, the pursuit of a life based on their own Holy Book is the most significant source of their unhappiness.

A large number of Muslims, however, do manage to cope through denial. They say, I'm absolutely not going to ask my wife whether she is a virgin. I don't care. I'll leave that to Allah. And that way they survive.

To break out of the cage in which Muslims are imprisoned and in which they've imprisoned their women, they must start to practice self-criticism and test the moral values they derive from the Koran. 

The 15 million Muslims who live in the West are in the best position to do this because of civil rights and liberties, with freedom of expression not the least among them, A Muslim in Europe who closely examines the foundations of his faith does not have to fear a prison sentence or, as in the Arabic-Islamic countries, the death penalty. 

Ni Putes Ni Soumises ("Neither whores nor submissives"), the group of Muslim women in France that is protesting against gang rapes committed by fellow Muslims, is an example of a group making use of their freedom of expression. The leader of this group, Samira Bellil, was herself a victim of gang rape. A comparable protest is virtually impossible in any Islamic country. Another example is the pamphlet "Off with the Veil!" by the Iranian Chahdortt Djavann. In Iran, where wearing the veil is obligatory, this pamphlet would never even have been published. Several other writers and thinkers with Islamic backgrounds are also taking advantage of Western liberties, for example, the novelist Hafid Bouazza and the philosopher Afehin Ellian, who both work in the Netherlands. Maybe one day their work will be translated into Arabic and Persian, but for now it is banned in most Islamic countries. Perhaps the writer who has best identified the problems within the Muslim world is the philosopher Ibn Warraq, of Pakistani origin, author of Why I Am Not a Muslim. That this courageous man writes under a pseudonym shows that even in the West he does not feel safe.

Muslims who live in the West have easier access to information, and particularly the long tradition of religious criticism in the West. They can gather knowledge from not only libraries and in universities, but also from other people, and they can start to take a critical look at their own faith.

Self-criticism for Muslims is possible in the West, because the West, primarily the United States, is waging war on Islamic terrorism. Paradoxically, the attacks of September 11 have led to an enormous fascination with Islam. This fascination—which admittedly stems in part from, an instinct for self-preservation—gives Muslims in the West an unusual opportunity to escape from their psychological cage.

In spite of these favorable circumstances, however, many Western Muslims are still more strongly influenced by conservative Islamic thought than by the ideas of sociologist Fatima Mernissi, for instance, the author of Beyond the Veil Male-Female Dynamics in Modern Muslim Society, and a scientist who has been influenced by Western thought. 

Of course, I recognize that not all 15 million Muslims are ready to adopt a critical standpoint with respect to the Prophet, and that some of them will resort to threats and intimidation, perhaps even taking the law into their own hands and committing murder. But I do find it startling that many women still strongly resist change, for example by demonstratively wearing the hijah Many women say that they didn't wear a hijah in Turkey but started doing so after their arrival in the Netherlands. This reactionary attitude has a disheartening effect on progressive European Muslims.

There are three kinds of Muslims in the West. 

The first is a silent minority that doesn't live according to the prescriptions of Islam and clearly understands that the future rests with individualism. These people silently take leave of Islam. They work hard and, when they can afford it, they move to better neighborhoods; they send their children to university and don't get mixed up in the current heated discussion in the West about Islam.

A second group feels greatly hurt by external criticism of their faith and takes it personally. For generations these Muslims have accepted that the blame for their distress lies outside themselves and outside the Koran and the Prophet Muhammad.

Finally there are the progressive Muslims. This group consists of individuals who say, "Let's examine ourselves and try to figure out what's wrong." They want to take the cage apart piece by piece and enable more people to escape it. But these attempts to liberate Muslims in the West are being frustrated by vehemently negative reactions from, of all people, secular Westerners. The few enlightened Muslims run into direct opposition from Western cultural relativists who say, "It's part of the culture; you shouldn't detract from that." Or "If you criticize Islam, you hurt your people, and that makes you a racist or Islamophobe." I have even been called an enlightenment fundamentalist, which I took to mean that I am just as radical in my commitment to individual rights—as if that were negative—as the Islamic fundamentalists are committed to religious doctrine. Because of this, the cage persists. A type of satanic pact has been forged between Westerners who make their living by representing Muslim interests, extending aid to them, and cooperating with them in their development, and Muslims who have a vested interest in the cage—a myopic, selfish, short-term interest.

Five years ago I was still one of the silent minority; I believed that I was living in a free country. I thought that if a woman is beaten and tolerates that, she is responsible for her own misfortune. I thought if I were her, I'd run away. I would not have my hymen restored. I would start my own life over, in the here and now. But today, I think differently. I now see how important upbringing is, not only because that is how one's life starts but also because in Islamic culture that is how the cage is built. Psychological conditioning is very powerful, and it takes great energy and force of mind and will to break out of it. Many Muslim girls are brought up according to the Koran and the example of the Prophet Muhammad, to live subserviently and submissively. It is very difficult for them to liberate themselves from this cage when they are older. Every Muslim is expected to submit to the will of Allah, but the girls and women have to submit most of all. This upbringing can have so great an influence that women never succeed in escaping from the cage. Because they have internalized their subordination, they no longer experience it as an oppression by an external force but as a strong internal shield. Women who have mastered the survival strategies derive a certain pride from living this way. They are like prisoners suffering from Stockholm syndrome, in which hostages age takers and establish a deep, intimate contact with them. But it is an unhealthy intimacy, comparable to slaves who are subordinate not only in body, but also psychologically, and who preferred the certainty of their existence in slavery to a freedom that they perceive as treacherous.

When I visited with the women of the Turkish movement Milli Gorus, I found them assertive and clamorous, almost to the point of being aggressive. They angrily defended their own oppression: "I want to wear a hijab, I want to obey my husband." I have also met Moroccan women who said: "I want to wear the hijab, because Allah the Exalted has commanded it." "Well," I respond, "if you want to do everything that Allah the Exalted has said, then you'll stay in your cage." Meanwhile, many are waiting for an enlightenment to take place in Islam….. 

Instead of devoting their energy and money to the development of an even larger atomic bomb—as Pakistan and Iran are doing— the Islamic world would be better employed in critically examining its own sexual morality and the suffocating effects of its own cultures and societies, and devising proposals for change.

Scientific and scholarly research are necessary but not sufficient to overcome the cultural challenges in making large groups of people change their position. Almost all books about Islam written by Muslims are educational texts and guides instructing Muslims on how to behave in accordance with the precepts in the Koran and the Hadith, theological studies with little that is creative or new. Alongside these there are novels by Muslims about love, politics, and crime, in which the role of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad are studiously avoided, although the moral undercurrent is that one should observe religious precepts, otherwise things end very badly. Most Islamic soaps, broadcast around the world via satellite, share not only their bad acting but also an adherence to Islamic sexual morality in relationships between the main characters. The message is that if a young man and young woman choose each other out of love they will come to a bad end; if they come together because their families have arranged it, then everything will end well, with a splendid wedding, mounds of gold, and tears of joy…….

Steps toward modernization are being taken in Turkey, Morocco, Indonesia, and other countries, but champions of modernization will meet a lot of resistance from those Muslim brothers and sisters who would prefer to spend a few more centuries in the virgins' cage. 

Native Westerners themselves have an important task: they must not allow themselves to be tempted to protect the ''injured" Muslims. It is in the interest of the Islamic world and of the Western world to promote a flourishing culture of self-criticism among Muslims and to support it wherever possible. The Islamic world is in a great crisis that also constitutes a threat to the West, a threat that consists not only of terrorism but also of streams of migration and of the risk that civil wars will break out in the Middle East—the greatest source of oil for the West. Such a threat can only be lessened when the Muslim world reforms itself from the inside, with assistance from the West. A reform of the Islamic world is in the interests of both.