Every time I despair of the way women are treated in Muslim countries—and the few syllables Western leaders and op-ed columnists expend on their humiliations, mutilations, harassments, and, yes, murders—I turn to the Web site of Mona Eltahawy. Eltahawy spent her formative years in Egypt and Saudi Arabia:
A couple of years after I stopped visiting, a horrific fire broke out in a school in Mecca, home to the Muslim world’s holiest site. Fifteen girls burned to death because morality police standing outside the school wouldn’t let them out of the burning building. Why? Because they weren’t wearing headscarves and abayas, the black cloaks that girls and women must wear in public in Saudi Arabia.
And here is Eltahawy on a girl’s lot in Egypt:
When I was only four years old and still living in Cairo, a man exposed himself to me as I stood on a balcony at my family’s, and gestured for me to come down. At 15, I was groped as I was performing the rites of the hajj pilgrimage at Mecca, the holiest site for Muslims. Every part of my body was covered except for my face and hands. I’d never been groped before and burst into tears, but I was too ashamed to explain to my family what had happened.
To anyone who, like me, has lived in a Muslim nation, none of this behavior is either singular or surprising. It is the way men in most Islamic nations prefer things to be. We can talk forever about the nature of culture versus faith: how ancient rites and practices like the circumcision of girls (85 percent of all Egyptian girls have endured this procedure), or the tradition of keeping women ignorant and housebound, can corrupt a religion that never intended for these things to happen.
But it is no coincidence that women who must submit to Sharia law find themselves in a very bad place, wherever those women and those places happen to be.
This includes France, where only last year a court in Lille upheld the right of a Muslim man to hold fast to his faith and annul his marriage when he discovered his bride was not a virgin. And it includes Germany, where in Berlin in 2005 there were eight murders of young women of Turkish origin, executed by members of their own families. And Australia, where, after a group of unveiled Muslim women were raped, the succinct Mufti Taj al-Din al-Hilali explained away the crime as an attack on “uncovered meat.” And it includes the United Kingdom, where Scotland Yard has probed 109 suspicious deaths of women, also likely slaughtered by relatives. Islam is an easy rider: it travels everywhere and often brings with it a lot of baggage.
Bet let’s start with Islam as it affects women in their home countries. Last year, in a poll of 2,000 Egyptian men, 62 percent admitted harassing women: an activity most of those interviewed insisted was not really their fault as their advances, however intemperate and offensive to their victims, had after all been provoked by the women themselves.
Source: World Affairs Journal