School and Sexuality
FROM THE BOOK NOMAD by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
All dark lettering is mine - Keith Hunt
MAKING OF A SUBSERVIENT WIFE
When I was about five years old, my grandmother would wake me up in the morning, sometimes by prodding me with a stick, other times by yelling out my name. Her aim was to teach me to light the morning fire and make tea for the adults. 'Wake up!" she would yell. "At your age my daughters would be milking goats and taking them out to the fields, and you can't even wake up!"
So I would make the fire. I would sleepwalk to the charcoal brazier, which was in a room that my mother had more or less arbitrarily deemed to be the kitchen. With the door and shutters open, the early morning daylight spilled into the room, whose walls were black with soot. I would take my wooden stool and carry it to the stone stove, which was knee-high, shaped like an hourglass, and the size of a large cooking pot. The lower part of the hourglass held the stove up, while the upper part contained a mound of ash, buried in which were burning embers from the night before. My grandmother taught me how to dig out the embers using a pair of metal tongs and a metal dustpan.
She would hover over me, urging me to work quickly, for the longer it took for me to find and pile up the embers, the sooner they died. When there were no more burning embers I would carry the brazier a few feet out of the kitchen and throw out most of the ash. Then I would return it to its corner, flatten out the remaining ash, put some of the burning embers on top of the mound, fill the brazier up with charcoal, and put the remaining burning embers on top. Then I would fan the fire and blow into it. Because it had no chimney or window, the brazier was very hard to light, which is why Grandma would scream that I should be quick before the embers died. I would then pick up an aluminum kettle, fill it with water, balance it precariously on three points of the brazier, and continue blowing and fanning until the water boiled.
As the water came to a boil, I would pick up a packet of Lipton English Breakfast tea and put a scoop of tea leaves into the boiling kettle. Very often the kettle would boil over and kill the fire that I had had such difficulty lighting. The entire time, Grandmother would be cursing and spitting on me for my incompetence. Often she would take over for fear that I would kill the fire or spoil the tea. In fact I was so afraid that the kettle would boil over and kill the fire that I often would put the tea leaves in too soon and spoil the tea.
Grandmother could have done all this on her own, but she was convinced that the oldest daughter should master the skill of making breakfast before she turned six.
Once I was more or less competent at boiling water, Grandmother taught me to milk her goat. First she demonstrated: she leashed the goat and put a wooden stool right behind it, parted its legs, put a bucket underneath its udders, and started pulling at them. But when I first sat on the stool and reached for the udders, the goat kicked me on my forehead, knocking me off the stool. Every day it kicked me again and again, until I had bruises everywhere, including on my bottom, from falling over. On some mornings I refused to go near the goat. Grandmother would pull and prod me and even slap me sometimes, but even that was much more bearable than a kick from that animal.
This was a form of education in subservience. Grandma continually lamented the loss of our nomadic way of life—our soul, as she saw it—and that our culture had begun to give way to a new, decadent way of life. She tried to salvage what she could by making me live according to her wisdom; thus I was required to master all the skills of becoming a good wife. To her, the fact that I cried when the goat hit me, that I made a mess when I tried to light the fire, or that she had a hard time pulling me out of bed were all signs of my corruption, an indication that I was destined for ruin. "Who will ever marry this girl when she becomes a woman?" she would lament. "Ayaan is useless."
All the little girls I knew in Mogadishu had to learn these skills. When we lived in Saudi Arabia, even though the Saudi girls who were our neighbors had servants working for them, they too had to learn to cook. In Ethiopia the Somali girls and women were continuously cooking, cleaning, washing, and otherwise serving. When we moved to Kenya, I was glad to find that the charcoal braziers there were different; they were easier to light and were made of metal and had windows, so I did not have to blow as much. Also, by then I was stronger and more able to snatch the kettle off just before it boiled over, without burning myself or extinguishing the fire.
Sometimes I thought life was hard on me, but then I would look at the experience of girls like Ubah, an orphan who lived in one of the houses on our block in Nairobi. Ubah had been brought to Nairobi from Somalia to live with her aunt, who was pregnant every year and worked Ubah like a slave. Ubah had to sleep on a thin mat in the kitchen that was black with soot from cooking and covered in food stains. She seemed to have only one dress, which was full of holes. All day long Ubah looked after the children, did the heavy grocery shopping, washed mountains of cloth diapers, and was yelled at throughout. My mother and grandmother never tired of reminding me of Ubah's circumstances. "Look! You live in enormous luxury compared to Ubah," they would point out. "Ubah is a slave because she is not with her mother. You are well cared for." More important, I went to school and Ubah did not.
Whenever I hear Westerners today say "Education is the answer," I need only think back to that time to recognize the absolute truth of this statement. The women of the neighborhood would get together and complain that school was corrupting young girls like me and making us rebellious. They saw that Ubah and others who did not attend school simply obeyed. These girls were so accustomed to subservience that they never questioned their status. On a few occasions I caught Ubah trying to stifle the sound of her sobs, because even crying was considered to be a form of protest. The Somali men would also complain, "It's because they go to school that they now talk back to us. It's because they go to school that they are now making all of these demands, trampling on tradition and ignoring religion."
Some girls were pulled out of school just after their first menstruation and kept at home to keep them obedient, or they were forced into early marriages. But for those of us who stayed in school, it was true that education did give us a voice and an awareness of the world outside. My sister Haweya and I spoke to one another in English or Swahili; both languages were foreign to my mother and grandmother. It gave us power over them that they had not had over their parents.
We also learned something else in our Kenyan schools that girls like Ubah did not learn: sex education. It was nowhere near as open and graphic as that which I later encountered in Holland, but it was enough to intimidate my mom.
Sex education was embedded in our biology book. Actually my teacher, Mrs. Karim, tried to skip the chapter. But like my friends, I skimmed the pages on amoebae, protozoa, and the reproduction of single-celled organisms and went straight to human procreation and the diagrams of fallopian tubes and the uterus, as well as testicles and the penis. It was very scientific, but even so most of the mechanics of sex remained a mystery. Still, at least with this information we began to understand why we were being told to avoid men and the basics of how our bodies worked. Again, this gave us some relative power over our parents. My mother refused to talk about these things and hit me when I first got my period. She hit me out of pure helplessness, for she herself had never been armed with this understanding of how the body functioned, and she feared that my very basic grasp of the simple facts had already in some mysterious way corrupted me.
Like my grandmother, the other Muslim women in my life, mothers of my classmates and of other Somali girls in my neighborhood, felt that the best strategy was to keep girls at home, to cover them, to circumcise them, and, if the girls rebelled too much, to engage their brothers and fathers and even cousins to punish them. These punishments varied from thrashings to forced marriages. We also heard stories of girls who were killed by their families.
FAMILY AND CLAN TIES
Long ago, in the desert, nomads in clan societies bound themselves together by family ties, through old lineages that gave them protection and assistance across great distances. Outside the clan lineage lay danger and chaos, every man for himself. In a clan society, every kind of human relationship turns on your honor within the clan; outside it, there is nothing—you are excluded from any kind of meaningful existence. This was the most precious lesson that Grandma tried to teach her grandchildren.
A man's honor within a clan society—and these societies are, largely, about men—resides in his authority. Men must be warriors; shame consists in being seen as weak. Women are the breeders of men, and women's honor lies in their purity, their submission, their obedience. Their shame is to be sexually impure, and it is the worst shame of all, because a woman's sexual disobedience defiles herself, her sisters, and her mother, as well as the male relatives whose duty it is to control her.
HONOR ABOVE ALL
No Muslim man has any standing in society if he does not have honor. And no matter how much honor he builds up through wise decisions and good deeds, it is destroyed if his daughter or his sister is sexually defiled. This can happen if she loses her virginity before she's married, or if she engages in sexual intercourse outside of the marriage—and that includes rape. Even the rumor that she may have had sex is reason enough to label her "defiled" and lead to loss of honor for her whole family. A father who cannot control his daughters, a brother who cannot control his sisters, is disgraced.
He is bankrupt socially and even economically. His family is ruined. The girl will not fetch a bride-price, and neither will her sisters or her cousins, because the mere suspicion of independent feeling and female action in their family taints them too. Such a man suffers a social death, exclusion from the mutual assistance and respect of the clan—the worst possible fate that could befall a person, whether child or adult, male or female.
Controlling women's sexuality and limiting men's access to sex with women are the central focus of the code of honor and shame. Muslim women are chattel, and every Muslim girl must be a virgin at marriage. Once wed (with or without her consent), she must be faithful to her husband, who, in traditional societies, she will never refer to by his first name but only as rajel, my lord.
In case of divorce or widowhood, the job of monitoring her sexual activities is assumed by her new guardians: her sons, if they are adults, or her husband's father and his male bloodline. These men may select a new husband for her. Few Muslim women are ever free to choose whom they will have sex with.
An element as powerful and potent as a Muslim girl's virginity also has great commodity value, which means that virginity is above all a man's business. Daughters are bait for attracting alliances, or they can be reserved for the highest bidder. Power, wealth, and the solidifying of clan relations may hinge on marriage alliances, so raising daughters of quality who are modest and docile is important. Using violence to ensure their obedience and to warn them against straying is a perfectly legitimate reminder of the law in a system of values in which women have only a little more free will than livestock.
There must be blood on the wedding night from her broken hymen or she will be condemned as a slut.
This ancient code of sexual morality is derived from tribal Arab culture. It dates from long before the Prophet Muhammad began receiving revelations from the Angel Gabriel, which were written down by his disciples on pages that have long since become dust. At that time, in that place—the desert towns of Mecca and Medina, whose distant tribes worshipped many different idols and gods. Honor and shame were the central ideas that governed life between men and women. Islam cemented this into an everlasting rule. As Islam grew and spread, it brought its sexual mores to other countries, from Mali to Indonesia. Under Shari'a, a Muslim woman is effectively the property of her father, brothers, uncles, grandfathers. These men are her guardians, responsible for her behavior, in charge of her choices. Above all, she must remain sexually pure.
An inextricable mass of traditional dictates and rituals has been incorporated into Islam, and it is being further amplified by the Islamic revivalist movements that are sweeping through the Muslim world today. The fundamentalists seem haunted by the female body and neurotically debate which fractions of it should be covered, until they declare the whole thing, from head to toe, a gigantic private part.
When and why did Arab, and subsequently Muslim, societies become so obsessed with controlling women's sexuality?
Perhaps there was once some logic to it. For a tribe to be strong, its warriors need to be loyal to each other. Maybe independent female sexuality undermined that. Maybe fighting over women was even more divisive to a male society than fighting over camels, and so, once upon a time in the desert, it was resolved to control the women, to confine them to their homes, banishing them from the public sphere, or to veil them so they became invisible, to cut their genitals to limit their sexual desire and sew them shut to make sex unbearably painful.
Grandma did not busy herself with such questions. She understood only that we had to follow the rules as if our lives depended on it—as, perhaps, her own life once had. She explained and enforced that code in our household. As she never tired of saying, "All I am trying to teach you is to survive."
Even today virginity is the linchpin of a Muslim girl's education.
Growing up, I was taught that it is more important to remain a virgin than it is to stay alive, better to die than be raped. Sex before marriage is an unthinkable crime. Every Muslim girl knows that her value relies almost wholly on her hymen, the most essential part of her body, far more important than her brain or limbs.
Once the hymen is broken, a girl is a thing used, broken, filthy, her filth contagious. This is how my cousin Hiran felt about herself when she succumbed to desire and then was diagnosed with HIV. This is how Ladan felt about herself and how she lost her self-esteem. She saw herself through the eyes of those closest to her, people like my grandma, and those old ghosts seemed to blame her and scream at her, "Whore!"
POLICING WOMEN’S VERGINITY
Muslim cultures have evolved various means to police and guarantee women's virginity.
Many confine their women, depriving themselves of their labor outside the home, and monitor their movements obsessively. This constant whisper of gossip, the continual surveillance of every untoward gesture and raised eye, is also a form of confinement, strangling every movement. When a woman leaves the house, she veils, another form of confinement: every breath of air you take outside your four walls is stifled by a thick, heavy cloth; every stride is hobbled, every centimeter of skin enclosed from the sun. Even out of doors a veiled woman is inside all the time. The air she breathes is stuffy; thick material presses against her eyes, her nose, and her mouth. Everything she does is hidden and furtive. Blindfolded and reduced, erased from public contact, Muslim women often lose confidence in their ability to undertake independent action. Even independent motion seems strange. Every woman who has worn such a veil for years and then taken it off will attest that it is difficult to walk at first. It is as if, uncovered, your legs do not work the same way.
After a girl first menstruates, she must have as little contact as possible with men outside the immediate family. In Saudi Arabia women are shut in their homes by law; this is not the case in other countries, but confinement is still common everywhere that there are Muslims. Even after they are married many Arab women are not permitted contact with an unrelated male. It is an offense even to look a man in the eye.
AND WE WESTERN NATIONS HAVE DEALINGS WITH SAUDI ARABIA….I WANT TO THROW UP….WE SHOULD HAVE NO DEALINGS WITH THEM UNTIL THEY CHANGE THEIR LAWS TOWARDS WOMEN - Keith Hunt
Other societies, too poor to do without their women's labor out of doors, must police their chastity by other means: it must be built into their bodies. This may be the origin of female excision, the only possible incontrovertible proof of virginity.
And chastity must be built into their minds. Victims of rape do not report it if they survive it; unmarried women who get pregnant are banished or put to death. Too often girls take their own lives after losing their virginity in a way deemed to be illicit.
Although Muslim doctrine has certainly amplified and confirmed this attitude, the tight web of restrictions on women that characterizes Arab and Muslim clans goes back further than Wahabi Islam, the most common school of Islam in Saudi Arabia. The very word harem, the section of the house where the women dwell (in Arabic, hareem), is derived from haram, forbidden.
In most Muslim cultures people still retain memories of the old, pre-Islamic beliefs in jinn and ghouls. (This is sharply disapproved of by most Islamic purists, who believe it raises the possibility of deities other than Allah.) Those ghouls are most often withered old women or sexually voracious young women, who inspire fear and disgust in equal measure. Defiled every month by menstruation, the female is naturally closer to evil.
PARENTS AND DAUGHTERS WESTERNIZED
When I worked as a Somali-Dutch translator in Holland, I was often called upon in cases where parents reacted violently to the Westernization of their teenage Somali daughters.
I remember one girl at the child protection office close to the city of The Hague. She was about sixteen but looked twenty-five. Her hair had been straightened and colored with red and brown highlights. Her nails were extremely long, curled, and painted in shimmering green. She wore the tightest possible tank top with the lowest possible cleavage and a black skirt that was so short her underwear was visible when she crossed her legs, which were clad in red fishnet stockings and high-heeled ankle boots. Her father had to be physically restrained so that he would not hit her. He kept screaming, "She looks like a whore! Look at her mouth! It looks like she fell on the throat of a slaughtered lamb! She has killed me, this girl has killed me!"
This was, at least metaphorically, true.
I knew that with such a daughter, he was now socially dead to his clan; he had become a thing of mockery and pity. He could leave his house or enter public places only with a bowed head and gritted teeth. But his daughter shrugged in response, waving her hands dismissively.
The Dutch social worker said to the father, "This is what we call self-expression. Your daughter is not doing anything unusual for her age." The girl's mother claimed that her child was possessed, so the social worker added sensitively, "We have done psychological tests on her. She is not mad."
This particular scene ended with the girl being put in a foster home. It was a common conclusion and a very common scenario, not only for me but also for my colleagues who translated between Dutch and Arabic, Turkish, Berber, and Persian. All of us worked a great deal with the child protection services, the police, and other institutions that dealt with Muslim teenage girls who fled their homes because their parents and community would not accept their experimentation with what they interpreted as Western culture.
Later on, when I entered politics and when practices such as honor killings and forced marriages had become public knowledge in the Netherlands, I would often debate with Muslim parents who pleaded with me to understand their perspective.
They claimed that Muslim girls dropped out of school so often not because they were forced into marriage, but because they were lured by "lover boys" into prostitution. They argued that child protection agencies could not replace family, because only parents could teach children the difference between right and wrong. At Dutch schools, they said, their children had learned only sin and disobedience. Dutch schools also discouraged them from learning because of their atmosphere of hostility to Islam and discrimination against Muslims, and this was why Muslim students did so poorly and dropped out so often. The solution, these parents reasoned, was to establish Muslim schools so that girls could get an education without learning to disobey.
They were right about the high dropout rate for children from Muslim immigrant families and their often very low success rate in exams. But I didn't think the cause of all this was Dutch discrimination. I thought it lay with the parents' not having properly prepared their children for modern education in a modern country.
Like my mother and my aunts, these immigrants had refused to give their daughters sex education, to talk to them about how their bodies were changing, or to tell them that it was natural to be interested in boys.
Unlike Dutch parents, they could not bring themselves to teach their daughters that self-expression is fine but that it has boundaries, so that their daughters might find ways to express themselves without flashing their genitals.
They had not taught them how to gradually manage the challenges of independence. And, perhaps just as important, they had not taught their sons respect for women— and in Dutch schools most of their teachers were women.
I didn't think there was anything wrong with Dutch schools, which didn't seem to be preparing Dutch girls for lives of debauchery and prostitution. On the contrary, most Dutch teenage girls I knew seemed to be just fine, well on their way to becoming self-reliant, productive, law-abiding citizens, with good humor and grace.
But the Muslim parents I spoke to did not agree with me. Often they focused on the sex education classes in Dutch schools. These were not classes on how to understand your sexuality and your body, they insisted; they taught you how to have sex. Teachers would place a large wooden or plastic penis on the table, in front of their daughters, and demonstrate how to cover it with a condom. This was abominable, an invitation to prostitution.
I THINK CHRISTIANS WOULD ALSO HAVE TROUBLE WANTING THAT KIND OF SEX EDUCATION IN THE CLASS-ROOM - Keith Hunt
I had not been to schools where they taught sex education, but I had been to asylum-seeker centers where there were programs on hygiene, sex education, pregnancy, prenatal education, and more. I had seen how graphic the Dutch can be, and I had become accustomed to the bluntness with which the Dutch address sexual matters. When the children of my Dutch friends went to their parents to ask about sex—something that floored me at first, considering how unlikely it was that I would have done such a thing—my friends patiently and without panic described sex to the curious child, in detail, using books with very explicit pictures of the body.
I THINK THAT IS THE WAY TO DO IT - PARENTS GIVING THE EDUCATION ON SEX - Keith Hunt
Dutch parents approached drugs and alcohol the same way. When a young child asked, "Mom, what's a joint?," his mother would explain what a marijuana cigarette looked like, how it was made, and what it did to your brain. She would talk about the junkies on the sidewalk. All this education didn't stop some kids from experimenting with drugs or becoming accidentally pregnant, but the majority of the Dutch population has developed an extraordinarily healthy approach to sex, drugs, and alcohol.
I grew convinced that this calm and very explicit education on the possible dangers of freedom was far more effective in preventing disaster than the mystification that I had been brought up with. This isn't just some biased opinion I developed; it has been empirically proven.
The benefit of an enlightened approach to sex and drugs was something that the Dutch never tired of explaining. My colleagues in Parliament, whose responsibility it was to make health care universal, dependable, and affordable, were unanimous in their conviction that prevention was always better than cure.
The spokesperson on health for my political party showed me the number of cases of sexually transmitted diseases, such as AIDS, and which populations they most affected. The gay community was hit hard; so were immigrants. Within the gay community, those who were immigrants were hit the hardest. We looked also at the number of abortions performed every year. The number of native Dutch women who had abortions was declining steeply, except in small pockets of radical Christian communities, whose attitude toward sexuality is somewhat comparable to that of many Muslims. (Although these Christians prohibit both men and women from having sex before marriage, many accidental pregnancies occur and the women have to sneak off to abortion clinics.) The number of immigrant women and young girls having abortions was rising sharply.
Drug usage had a comparable pattern, and in Amsterdam's red-light district it was easy to see with one's own eyes that most of the clients of prostitutes were not tourists but immigrant men. Many, if not most of them, were Arab, Berber, Turkish, and Somali. Most statistics just referred to "immigrants" as a broad category, but if you dug deeper you would find that the health care workers, researchers, doctors, and epidemiologists did not want to be on the record in reports in which "immigrant" mostly meant "Muslim." Non-Muslim immigrants from China or Christian parts of Africa were affected too, but Muslims were affected most.
I did not think that this was just a coincidence. Generally, wherever sexuality is a mystery, where sex and drugs are walled off as unspeakable subjects, people tend to abuse both excessively.
Like my cousin Hiran, who became HIV-positive, they cannot face up to what it is they are doing and thus fail to protect themselves from the terrible consequences. For women in Arab Islamic cultures it is a matter of honor, something to boast about, to be able to say, "I do not know anything about matters of sex." Because to know even the most elementary thing is tantamount to sinning.
MUSLIM PARENTS WORRY BECAUSE…..
Muslim parents in Europe are justified in worrying about the future of their children, but for the wrong reasons. They are adamant in their conviction that their own way of life has nothing to do with the terrible fates that they fear for their offspring. They are unwilling to consider changing their views and will not question their insistence on virginity until marriage, their insistence on separating boys and girls and on keeping girls dependent and ignorant, and their penchant for forcing girls into early, arranged marriages and harsh punishments.
It is easier for them to blame outsiders than to question the Quran, the example of the Prophet, and long tradition. From their perspective the best strategy is to stifle their daughters' voices, school them in subservience, confine them to their homes, and marry them off as early as possible. This may not make their daughters happy, but family honor is more important than the happiness of children.
I believe that the subjection of women within Islam is the biggest obstacle to the integration and progress of Muslim communities in the West. It is a subjection committed by the closest kin in the most intimate place, the home, and it is sanctioned by the greatest figure in the imagination of Muslims: Allah himself.
Many Muslim parents believe that a Western education corrupts the Muslim way of life.
In truth, it does.
The education of girls in independent thought is a challenge to Islamic teaching, just as it once was a challenge to Christian teaching and Orthodox Jewish teaching. A program of sustained education in curiosity and independent thought is a program of sustained erosion of the Muslim way of life. Developing this program will take a long time in Muslim countries. For Muslims in Western countries, it may not take as long.
We can take hope from the example of other societies. Christianity too once made a magical totem of female virginity. Girls were confined, deprived of education, married off as property. And yet Christian societies today are largely free of this habit of mind. Cultures shift, often very rapidly. They do this under the influence of critical thought, and this can be taught in school.
YES TRUE - SOME FORMS OF CHRISTIANITY IN THE PAST, WERE NOT GOOD AT RAISING CHILDREN INTO THE TEENAGE YEARS WITH GOOD SEX EDUCATION - Keith Hunt
It is easy to be disgruntled if you are denied rights and freedoms to which you feel entitled. But if you are not coherent, if you cannot put into words what it is that displeases you and why it is unfair and should change, then you are dismissed as an unreasonable whiner. You may be lectured about perseverance and patience, life as a test, the need to accept the higher wisdom of others. This happened to me. When my father decided to marry me to a distant cousin he had just met (and whom I had never seen), he thought he was making a wonderful decision for me. This man, my intended, was a relative (we shared the eighth degree of grandfathers) and thus was less likely to behave abusively (at least this was my father's reasoning); he shared the values of our people (whatever they were) and would keep me safe at a time of civil war and poverty. A match like the one my father found seemed to him to be a blessing.
I, on the other hand, felt that my father had robbed me of my youth and my body, propelling me into the life of a wife and mother— responsibilities I was not ready to assume—alongside a man I found completely repellent. But I did not have the language and logic to persuade my father of the validity of my position. Even though he had sent me to school and I was one of the few Somali girls in my generation who had learned to read and write in English, I didn't have the strength of mind and tongue to muster a coherent argument. The strongest points I could make were that my husband-to-be did not read novels and that he was bald. From my father's perspective, these assertions certified that I needed to be under the authority of someone more reliable and mature.
So I bolted. Only after I had fled and made my way to the University of Leiden, where I took classes steeped in concepts of individual freedom and personal responsibility, was I able to stand up to my father, mind to mind. I managed to articulate to him that by getting a higher education I was only following his example and learning to make my own destiny. To his protests about the disrespect I was showing and my probable erosion of our religion and culture through selfish pursuits, I was able to respond that he himself had paid less attention to such concerns when he was my age. In my conversations with my father in the spring of 2000 in Germany, where I met with him when he was being treated at an eye clinic, I was aware of his grudging respect and maybe even admiration. He was condescending, and he lectured me in his characteristically lightning-fast, long, unstoppable monologues about the hereafter. But he no longer easily dismissed my wishes or protested as he had in 1992.
To resist subjugation and the denial of rights, an expression of resentment and anger are not enough. You must speak the language of the oppressor and have the clarity of mind to identify the principles that justify the oppression and to dismantle, them intellectually. Slaves must be aware of the fact that they are slaves, and then transcend anger and pain to convince their master of the wrongfulness of their slavery. If you cannot win by might, you may in the longer term be able to win through an appeal to reason.
Girls like my cousins Hiran and Ladan, who, in a powerful urge for freedom, do manage to shake off the control of their parents often end up in disastrous circumstances because they do not have those vital skills or awareness. Such girls become the examples deployed by traditional Muslim parents when they argue that adopting a Western lifestyle leads to horrific results. Fundamentalists whose agenda is to revive an imagined past of pure Islam win much sympathy from Muslim families when they point to girls like Hiran and Ladan.
If they had grown up in the West, perhaps it could have been different. In all Western countries, laws exist requiring girls to attend school even after they reach the age of puberty; those laws can be enforced.
Special programs can be devised to fill the vacuum created by Muslim parents regarding knowledge about sex, drugs, and financial independence. The more Muslim girls do succeed in getting an education, the more likely they are to become financially independent and successful, allowing Muslim parents to see that emancipating their daughters through good schooling is in their material interests, even if it collides with their traditional values.
One final point needs to be made on the subject of the sexual complexes of Muslim immigrants. To claim that the oppression of women has nothing to do with Islam and is "only" a traditional custom is intellectually dishonest, a decoy. The two elements are interwoven. The code of honor and shame may be tribal and pre-Islamic in its origins, but it is now an integral part of the Islamic religion and culture. Honor killing asserts what Islam also asserts: that women are subordinate to men and must remain their sexual property.
In the text of the Quran and in Shari'a law, men and women are self-evidently not equal.
Muslim women are considered physically, emotionally, intellectually, and morally inferior to men, and they have fewer legal rights.
The Quran decrees that daughters inherit half a son's share: "Allah prescribes with regard to your children: To one of masculine sex falls [in the division of an estate] just as much as to two of the feminine sex" (4:11).
The value of their testimony in a court of law is fixed as half that of a man's. Even in the case of rape, the victim's testimony is worth half that of her rapist.
The Muslim father's authority over his daughters is comparable to that of a feudal sovereign over serfs.
Marriage transfers that authority to the girl's husband, and ultimately to his father.
A wedding is a pact between men, implying mutual assistance and debts in the future. It can be a significant financial transaction and an act of alliance to solidify clan relations. The bleating of the reluctant bride delivered to the hands of a stranger is an incidental annoyance. The Quran and the Hadith (the sayings of the Prophet, considered scripture) concur that a woman's consent to marriage is not essential; only her guardian's consent is.
The Quran teaches that a husband may confine his wife within the home—even until she dies there, if he so wishes it: "And if some of your women do something despicable, then summon four of yourselves as witnesses against them; if they give testimony to this, then shut them up in the houses until death overtakes them or Allah gives them an escape" (4:15).
Women living under Islamic law cannot travel, work, study, marry, sign most legal documents, or even leave their home without their father's permission. They may not be permitted to participate in public life, and their freedom to make decisions regarding their private life is severely, often brutally curtailed. They may not choose with whom they have sex nor, when they are married, when or whether to have sex. They may not choose what to wear, whether to work, to walk down the street.
The rule is that a woman must obey her husband, unless, of course, he asks her to leave the Muslim religion. He is her guardian, and if she disobeys he may beat her:
"As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them" (4:34).
It is always instructive to read transcripts of televised discussions by imams on exactly what kinds of punishment (such as beating on the limbs, or only with a small stick) are acceptable when husbands chastise their wives.
When well-meaning Westerners, eager to promote respect for minority religions and cultures, ignore practices like forced marriage and confinement in order to "stop society from stigmatizing Muslims," they deny countless Muslim girls their right to wrest their freedom from their parents' culture. They fail to live up to the ideals and values of our democratic society, and they harm the very same vulnerable minority whom they seek to protect.
THE WESTERN NATIONS, ESPECIALLY BRITAIN AND THE USA, CANADA, FRANCE AND GERMANY, HAVE IN THE MAIN GOOD HEARTS AND HOSPITALITY, KINDNESS, AND THE PHYSICAL MEANS, TO TAKE A WARMHEARTED ATTITUDE TOWARDS REFUGEES, THAT ARE FLEEING FROM VIOLENCE, IN ISALIC NATIONS; WHO CANNOT BE GENEROUS AND KIND IN ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE LITTLE CHILDREN THAT ARE SO HELPLESS.
BUT OUR NATIONS, THE LEADERS, JUST DO NOT UNDERSTAND ISLAM. MOST HAVE NEVER READ THE QURAN [KORAN] AND KNOW VERY LITTLE ABOUT THE ISLAM CULTURE AND MINDSET. BECAUSE WE ARE NOW MOSTLY “SECULAR” NATIONS, WE ASSUME WE CAN TEACH EVERYONE TO BE ACCEPTING OF EVERYONE’S RELIGION, IF THEY HAVE ONE; WE ASSUME WE CAN ALL JUST BE FULLY TOLERANT OF EVERYONE. WE HAVE BY AND LARGE DONE SO FOR “GAYS” EVEN NOW WITH SAME SEX MARRIAGE. THIS ATTITUDE OF “SO WHAT, WE CAN ALL JUST RESPECT EACH OTHER, AND LEARN TO LIVE WITH OUR DIFFERENCES.”
WE FAIL TO SEE IT IS JUST NOT THAT SIMPLE WHEN YOU BRING IN LARGE NUMBERS OF ISLAMIC PEOPLE. THEIR WAY OF LIFE AND CULTURE HAS HARDLY CHANGED IN MANY HUNDREDS OF YEARS. THEY COME WITH RELIGION THAT WESTERNERS LEAVE ALONE, STAND AWAY FROM, AND LET THE ISLAMIC REFUGEES DO THEIR OWN THING.
WE FAIL TO SEE, AND/OR WILL NOT RESEARCH TO SEE, WHAT ISLAM IS ALL ABOUT.
THE TEACHING FROM THE ISLAMIC HOLY BOOK IS PRETTY BLUNT. THE FAMILIES WHO CONTINUE READING AND TEACHING IT; TEACHING THE BOOK THEY WOULD CLAME IS FROM GOD, INSPIRED, AND YOU ARE TOLD OVER AND OVER AGAIN TO SERVE AND OBEY ALLAH.
SO YOUNG CHILDREN GROWING UP IN THIS STRICT MUSLIM FAMILY LIFE, YOU ARE BOUND TO HAVE A PERCENTAGE, WHO WILL TAKE THE KORAN AS HOLY, TRUE, INFALLIBLE. AND, AS ALREADY HAS HAPPENED IN WESTERN NATIONS, THEY WILL COUNT US THE ENEMY. THAT PERCENTAGE WILL ATTACK FROM WITHIN OUR LANDS, OR GO OUT OF OUR LANDS AND JOIN ISIS ETC. AND FIGHT US IN BATTLE ZONES OF THE MIDDLE EAST.
THIS IS THE ONE TIME WHEN KINDNESS AND GENEROSITY COMES BACK TO US AND HITS US IN THE FACE.