Archive for April, 2012

The Burqa Curtain

Sixty-six years ago, Winston Churchill delivered the “Sinews of Peace” address at Westminster College, and he used the term “iron curtain” in the context of Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe:

“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an “iron curtain” has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia; all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow.”

Thanks to a variety of people and policies, the Soviet threat has all but disappeared. But the world faces a new threat, or perhaps more correctly, an old threat re-awakened, the threat of Islamic jihad. It may not be as widespread through Europe as Churchill’s communism, but it is spreading. And one of its principal targets is women. Throughout the muslim dominated world, women are increasingly endangered, abused, and killed; at a rate unheard of in the civilized world. And in areas that muslims are immigrating to, the same thing is happening.

According to the London Telegraph, as many as 100,000 women in Britain have undergone female genital mutilations with medics in the UK offering to carry out the illegal procedure on girls as young as 10. The practice, which involves the surgical removal of external genitalia and in some cases the stitching of the vaginal opening, is illegal in Britain and carries up to a 14 year prison sentence. It is also against the law to arrange FGM. Victims are rarely given anesthetic and frequently suffer long-term damage and pain.

According to the article, female genital mutilation is a cultural practice that is widespread across Africa and in Islam. In fact, while others may practice it, it is justified in Islam: Hanbalis hold that circumcision of women is not obligatory but sunna, while Hanafis consider it a mere courtesy to the husband.)” — ‘Umdat al-Salik e4.3 Muhammad himself refused to condemn the practice, merely cautioning against going overboard: “A woman used to perform circumcision in Medina. Muhammed said to her: Do not cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband.” – Sunan Abu Dawud 41.5251

It is not practiced just in Africa, but in other Muslim areas, such as Iraq and the Maldives. Oh, and Britain.

And as bad as that is, there is worse, although I’m not quite sure how to quantify such things. For example:

Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti okayed marriage for girls starting at age 10 and criticized those who want to raise the legal marriageable age, according to reports in the World Observer.

Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Al al-Sheikh said a girl becomes ready for marriage at 10 or 12 according to Islam and stressed that Islamic law is not by any means oppressive to women, the London-based al-Hayat reported Wednesday.

“Those who call for raising the age of marriage to 25 are absolutely mistaken,” al-Sheikh said in a lecture he gave at the faculty housing mosque of Imam Mohamed bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh. “Our mothers and grandmothers got married when they were barely 12. Good upbringing makes a girl ready to perform all marital duties at that age.”

I can’t even begin to think how someone would defend that, noting that even the UN condemns underage marriages as a breach of several United Nations treaties including the Child Rights Treaty, which Saudi signed in 1996 and the Treaty for the Rights of Women that the kingdom joined in 2000. Which, of course, is funny on the face of it. Saudi Arabia signing a treaty on women’s rights, while forcing them to wear burqas and prohibiting them from driving or reading a bible.

And then there’s so-called “honor killings.” Prevalent in muslim countries, over 90 percent of all honor killings worldwide are committed by muslims.

In 2000, the United Nations estimated that there are 5,000 honor killings every year. That number might be reasonable for Pakistan alone, but worldwide the numbers are much greater. In 2002 and again in 2004, the U.N. brought a resolution to end honor killings and other honor-related crimes. In 2004, at a meeting in The Hague about the rising tide of honor killings in Europe, law enforcement officers from the U.K. announced plans to begin reopening old cases to see if certain murders were, indeed, honor murders. The number of honor killings is routinely underestimated, and most estimates are little more than guesses that vary widely. Definitive or reliable worldwide estimates of honor killing incidence do not exist. These numbers are from a study by Phyllis Chesler, emerita professor of psychology and women’s studies at the Richmond College of the City University of New York and co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology and the National Women’s Health Network.

According to Professor Chester, over half of these victims were daughters and sisters; about a quarter were wives and girlfriends of the perpetrators. The remainder included mothers, aunts, nieces, cousins, uncles, or non-relatives. Honor killings are a family collaboration. Worldwide, two-thirds of the victims were killed by their families of origin. Murder by the family of origin was at its highest (72 percent) in the Muslim world and at its lowest in North America (49 percent).

Worldwide, more than half the victims were tortured; i.e., they did not die instantly but in agony. Torturous deaths include: being raped or gang-raped before being killed; being strangled or bludgeoned to death; being stabbed many times (10 to 40 times); being stoned or burned to death; being beheaded, or having one’s throat slashed.

Finally, worldwide, 58 percent of the victims were murdered for being “too Western” and/or for resisting or disobeying cultural and religious expectations. The accusation of being “too Western” was the exact language used by the perpetrator or perpetrators. Being “too Western” meant being seen as too independent, not subservient enough, refusing to wear varieties of Islamic clothing (including forms of the veil), wanting an advanced education and a career, refusing to marry one’s first cousin, wanting to choose one’s own husband, choosing a socially “inferior” or non-Muslim (or non-Sikh or non-Hindu) husband; or leaving an abusive husband.

And just so it’s not seen as a completely academic issue, there are headlines every day like:


The girls, aged 15 and 16, were lured miles from their home to a dingy hostel. In a horrifying weekend-long ordeal, they were plied with alcohol and repeatedly raped by two men, Shamrez Rashid and Amar Hussain, before being offered to a number of others who also ‘used them for sex’.

One defendant, Rashid, 20, was said to have claimed the girls had enjoyed the sex, which he said had taken place as they celebrated the Muslim festival of Eid.

‘It was Eid,’ he said. ‘We treated them as our guests. OK, so they gave us [sex] but we were buying them food and drink.

‘They could have anything they wanted. They enjoyed it.’

His accomplice Amar Hussain, 22, claimed the girls were ‘slags’.

And when the news isn’t horrible, it’s Kafka-esquely absurd:


According to the Arabic website Al Shorfa, an al-Qaeda affiliated group in Yemen, called Ansar al-Sharia (“Supporters of Sharia Law”) beheaded a woman for “practicing magic and sorcery.” Members of the group broke into the home of a local healer who used natural herbs to treat sick people, “beheaded her, and then hung her severed head in front of the home of another popular healer in the region, as a warning that he might share her fate.”

The remainder of the report notes how several Yemeni officials condemned the attack—not because it is absurd to murder herbalists-deemed-sorcerers, but because the “Supporters of Sharia” actually contradicted Sharia, at least somewhat.

According to Sheik Jabri Ibrahim, general director of Yemen’s Ministry of Endowments and Guidance, punishing “sorcerers and magicians” can only be performed after “first summoning the magicians to a council with the ulema [Sharia scholars], who are obligated to advise and persuade him, showing him evidence from Sharia that Islam forbids the practice of sorcery and magic.”

There is a new curtain falling over Europe and large parts of the world. Only it is not an “iron curtain,” but a “burqa curtain.” A curtain that threatens all of us, but will certainly separate women from freedom the most. We must, all of us who love freedom, and all of us who believe that human rights belong to all humans, fight the encroachment of this burqa curtain. If we don’t, the curtain will shut out the light of freedom for generations to come.

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