An article has recently appeared in Foreign Policy Magazine, entitled Why Do They Hate Us? Written by Mona Eltahawy, it deals with rampant, universal misogyny in the Middle East.
Name me an Arab country, and I'll recite a litany of abuses fuelled by a toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend. When more than 90 percent of ever-married women in Egypt -- including my mother and all but one of her six sisters -- have had their genitals cut in the name of modesty, then surely we must all blaspheme. When Egyptian women are subjected to humiliating "virginity tests" merely for speaking out, it's no time for silence. When an article in the Egyptian criminal code says that if a woman has been beaten by her husband "with good intentions" no punitive damages can be obtained, then to hell with political correctness. And what, pray tell, are "good intentions"? They are legally deemed to include any beating that is "not severe" or "directed at the face." What all this means is that when it comes to the status of women in the Middle East, it's not better than you think. It's much, much worse.This is an issue which the Western Commentariat usually regards as too impolite to talk about. Decent people, apparently, don't discuss such things.
This myopic vision--where Islam is believed to be a religion of peace, and all Islamic societies are believed to be "just like us" beneath the encrustation their old fashioned cultural habits--interprets Middle Eastern misogyny as something inappropriate, or politically incorrect to discuss. It beggars belief. But our wilful myopia, under the blankets of condescension and perverted doctrines of human rights, is an abiding indictment of the Western hypocrisy.
Eltahawy explains that the horror extends even to young girls.
Horrific news reports about 12-year-old girls dying in childbirth do little to stem the tide of child marriage there [in Yemen]. Instead, demonstrations in support of child marriage outstrip those against it, fuelled by clerical declarations that opponents of state-sanctioned pedophilia are apostates because the Prophet Mohammed, according to them, married his second wife, Aisha, when she was a child.Sexual harassment is common on the streets and in public.
Yet it's the men who can't control themselves on the streets, where from Morocco to Yemen, sexual harassment is endemic and it's for the men's sake that so many women are encouraged to cover up. Cairo has a women-only subway car to protect us from wandering hands and worse; countless Saudi malls are for families only, barring single men from entry unless they produce a requisite female to accompany them. . . . In a 2008 survey by the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights, more than 80 percent of Egyptian women said they'd experienced sexual harassment and more than 60 percent of men admitted to harassing women.Saudi Arabia is one of the worst offenders.
How much does Saudi Arabia hate women? So much so that 15 girls died in a school fire in Mecca in 2002, after "morality police" barred them from fleeing the burning building -- and kept firefighters from rescuing them -- because the girls were not wearing headscarves and cloaks required in public. And nothing happened. No one was put on trial. Parents were silenced. The only concession to the horror was that girls' education was quietly taken away by then-Crown Prince Abdullah from the Salafi zealots, who have nonetheless managed to retain their vise-like grip on the kingdom's education system writ large."Liberated" Libya is similar.
In Libya, the first thing the head of the interim government, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, promised to do was to lift the late Libyan tyrant's restrictions on polygamy. Lest you think of Muammar al-Qaddafi as a feminist of any kind, remember that under his rule girls and women who survived sexual assaults or were suspected of "moral crimes" were dumped into "social rehabilitation centers," effective prisons from which they could not leave unless a man agreed to marry them or their families took them back.And, as for the revolution in Egypt:
And we're in the middle of a revolution in Egypt! It's a revolution in which women have died, been beaten, shot at, and sexually assaulted fighting alongside men to rid our country of that uppercase Patriarch -- Mubarak -- yet so many lowercase patriarchs still oppress us. The Muslim Brotherhood, with almost half the total seats in our new revolutionary parliament, does not believe women (or Christians for that matter) can be president. The woman who heads the "women's committee" of the Brotherhood's political party said recently that women should not march or protest because it's more "dignified" to let their husbands and brothers demonstrate for them.Sadly, the established religion of the West cannot and will not deal with this. It will not address it honestly. Rather, it is reduced to living underneath a full body burqa. See no evil. Hear no evil.
The hatred of women goes deep in Egyptian society. Those of us who have marched and protested have had to navigate a minefield of sexual assaults by both the regime and its lackeys, and, sadly, at times by our fellow revolutionaries. On the November day I was sexually assaulted on Mohamed Mahmoud Street near Tahrir Square, by at least four Egyptian riot police, I was first groped by a man in the square itself.