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December 19, 2004

Women And The Soul Of Iraq

In the days after 9/11 one question was asked over and over:

"Why do they hate us?"

Try this theory on for size. Maybe it's not George Bush's arrogance, or unilateralism, or any other such nonsense. Perhaps it's something far simpler - the clash of a free and democratic society increasingly permeated by feminine culture and values with a closed society that both hates and fears women:

Suppression of the feminine—whether it be feminine sexuality, freedom or laughter—is the foundation upon which the death-cult of Islamofascism rests. Undermine that foundation, and the entire edifice, from al-Sadr to Zarqawi to bin Laden will collapse.
But...the Left must discard a multicultural mindset that refuses to use Western standards to criticize other cultures, even when Western values—such as feminism--are clearly more beneficial to those cultures. As I describe in my book, one afternoon in Baghdad I listened to a group of Western anti-war activists complain that the American invasion of Iraq was an imperialistic attempt to crush the country’s native culture. When I suggested that some aspect of this “native culture” should be crushed—like forcing women to wear black sacks in blistering summer weather—one of the activists looked at me with a shocked expression. “But feminism has brought such destruction to the American family, do we want to wish that on Iraq?” And she was no post-feminist youngster, but a woman from the anti-Vietnam War days!
...I remember my Iraqi friend Naseer telling me how impressed his mother was to see American women soldiers. His mom didn’t realize such gender equality was possible, or that women could interact so easily with their male counterparts—and millions of other women across Iraq are learning similar feminist lessons. The Left has got to accept one fact that has stuck in their craw since the Vietnam War: where the American military goes, so goes human freedom.
But the Right has to bite some bullets, too. Let’s face it: many of us prescribe for Iraq the very measures that conservatives detest about the 1960s—particularly when it comes to feminism, sexual freedom and rejection of patriarchal authority. So the Right—especially those on the religious right—have to accept the fact that once you let the feminine genie out of the bottle, the results are unpredictable and not always to a conservative’s liking. That means here in America, as well.

Via Ed Driscoll, who links to a National Review except of Chapter 4 of Steven Vincent's book, In The Red Zone. Sounds like a fascinating - and challenging - read.

I don't know that we need to make the Middle East over in our own image, but there is certainly a happy medium between brutally suppressing women and throwing away centuries of Islamic culture and tradition.

Posted by Cassandra at December 19, 2004 05:18 AM

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interesting article. it needs one clarification, Islam is a religion, not a culture. People needs to understand that what the culture imposes on women is just tht, their culture. in Islam men and women are equals, heck the women had the right to vote all along-- about 1400 years and what did the US culture let women vote? 80 years ago. something to think about. I am a woman who is a Muslim, n believe me I am as feminist as it comes because my religion is feminist in it where man and woman are equal. I cover myself (stylishly, u wont' catch me dead in one of those dreadful black things!) because I believe that my body is my business, it is not out there for some man to gawk at and enjoy.

Posted by: kelebek at December 19, 2004 12:12 PM

You make a good point, however there are some who make a distinction between Islamism and Islam (and also maintain that Islamism has perverted true Islam, which honors womens' contribution to the broader culture).

I almost pointed out this morning in my post, but was too pressed for time (the point that, if Iraq were to go back 30 or so years to where it were before Saddam, it would not have women going hog-wild, but would allow them to participate more fully within accepted Islamic guidelines in Arab society.

I see this as the best possible outcome -- not that we try to remake them in our image -- that's not right -- but that women are free of the more repressive elements of extremist Islamist culture (which many have said is not faithful to the Koran).

I don't think woman need to start baring their bodies. But they have much to offer the Arab world in terms of learning. Their voices should be heard, and honored.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 19, 2004 06:11 PM

Even Iraq, under Saddam, was more fair to women than some other Middle East countries (who shall remain nameless, of course).
A friend of mine who was born in Iraq has a sister who rose to be a doctor in Iraq (in Saddam's era). Of course his family was somewhat 'connected', but still, women could rise in secular Iraq.
Since the liberation, the cultural 'destiny' of Iraq is up for grabs, and some religious reactionary elements in Iraq want to run the tape in reverse.
As far as 'the Right' in America, I'm a conservative in the Constitutional sense, in that the wording of the Constitution is not obtuse or inaccessible. The Federalist Papers and the anti-Federalist Papers from the era are plenty comprehensible. We have a pretty good idea what the Founders had in mind with respect to structure and wording of the Constitution.

As far as Republicans are concerned, many were all for Women's Suffrage after the Civil War, but that 'progressive' idea got all bollixed up with the problems of Reconstruction, and faded (from popular perception) until the WWI years. came.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at December 19, 2004 06:57 PM

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