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Bestselling writer and speaker Nonie Darwish is the author of the compelling autobiography Now They Call Me Infidel, about growing up in Egypt and her break from Islam, and Cruel and Usual Punishment, an exposé of the stark reality of sharia. Her new book, The Devil We Don’t Know: The Dark Side of Revolutions in the Middle East, explains what really lies behind the Arab Spring movement, and it exposes Islam as the belief system that will inevitably doom those revolutions.
For the first part of this interview, click here.
Mark Tapson: You write that “liberty and equality for women in the Middle East are closely linked to defeating sharia.” But you note that “Islamic feminism is a twisted kind of feminism that champions pride in Islamic bondage.” Can you elaborate on that?
Nonie Darwish: It is a fact that there is hardly any Islamic feminist movement. How could it be that female citizens of the most oppressive anti-women system on Earth fail to take the opportunity of the Arab Spring to change their destiny and the destiny of their daughters and granddaughters? The answer to this question is very complex and part of the larger problem of Islam itself. Muslim women are at a much greater disadvantage if compared to Western feminists who did not have to overcome death penalties, humiliation, flogging and societal rejection and isolation if they violate religious laws.
There are some who believe that the defeat of Sharia and reformation of Islam itself will come at the hands of its most oppressed group – the women. That seems to be a logical conclusion, but I disagree that Muslim women can do it alone. One cannot expect the prisoner to be in charge of her own release when the guards of her prison are often Muslim women themselves. For centuries Muslim women have molded their lives to adapt to Sharia and its prison, which has resulted in many having grown comfortable hiding behind their burqas. In many cases they have created a warped mechanism of coping with a system that treats them as a minor juvenile who needs the permission of male family members to travel, to tell her who she can befriend and who not, and even whom to marry.
When Muslim women open the Muslim scriptures they read descriptions of women as being half the value of men, deficient in intelligence and religion, not to be trusted or entrusted and that they are slaves, possessions and toys to their husband, and even that they are like dogs in distracting a man. For Muslim women to rise against what Islamic holy books and laws condemned them to be, they must criticize Sharia, which is an act of apostasy in itself. Expecting Muslim women to be behind the reformation of Islam and Sharia is like asking slaves to end their own slavery without the approval of their masters or asking prisoners to get out of prison without the guards opening the doors.
That does not mean that there are no brave and strong women in Muslim society. To the contrary, the brutality of Islam has produced some of the sharpest, most aggressive and persistent women in the world. But Islamic feminism has incredible obstacles to overcome, the most important of which is the accusation of apostasy if they criticize Sharia. That is one reason they find it extremely hard to develop a grassroots movement and bring onboard the majority of the population. A Muslim woman’s inferior status in Muslim society has gone too deep and is intertwined with all Islamic institutions. For Muslim women to simply revolt against it would be regarded as an act of subversion that is anti-man, anti-family, anti-religion, anti-government and, worst of all, anti-Allah himself.
Women who defy Sharia or try to change it are harshly attacked and silenced and they end up withdrawing from the scene altogether. Islamists admit that the attacks against feminists are partially made to make an example of them for any woman who would dare to follow in their footsteps. Another major obstacle that Muslim feminists face is the difficulty in connecting and reaching out to other women, especially the poorer and less educated majority. Isolation in their homes, distrust of strangers, and social taboos are major factors in Islamic gender-segregated societies that restrain women’s relationships, even with each other, and prevent them from organizing, especially for feminist causes.
Because of blasphemy and apostasy laws forbidding anyone from speaking or criticizing Islam and Sharia, feminists end up dancing around the issues without hitting the bulls-eye or getting concrete results. The only feminism allowed in this dynamic is the militant Muslim woman wearing her Islamic garb with pride and promoting Sharia, the very law that oppresses her. The only outlet for respect, power and dignity to a Muslim women, is compliance and submission to Islam. In other words, she can earn her dignity and pride only by accepting her bondage.
That is why the few Islamic feminists seem to be running in circles only to achieve minor cosmetic changes that scratch the surface, and they have done so at a heavy price of earning disrespect and threats without being taken seriously. And even more sadly, their example has produced a group of Muslim women who embrace another solution: those who believe if you can’t beat them, then join them. They have discovered that the key to power and respect in Muslim society is to become as radical, if not more radical, than men. We have all seen Muslim women in black showing nothing but their eyes, demonstrating in London carrying signs against British law and in support of Sharia and warning Europe of another holocaust and another 9/11. Sharia enforcers are pursuing a policy of generously rewarding women who tell the world that women are happy under Sharia. And many embrace jihad with open arms. We have all seen Arab mothers celebrate the death of their jihadi sons and volunteering their other children for jihad. I do not know what is in the hearts of these women, but mothers who did so in Gaza were highly respected and rewarded handsomely with life pensions; one mother was even elected to a position in the Palestinian parliament.
An extreme and almost laughable case of pandering to Sharia occurred in mid-2011 when a Kuwaiti woman, Salwa al-Mutairi, spoke to the Kuwait Times demanding the re-establishment of sexual slavery for the poor Muslim men. Seducing Muslim women to be on the side of Sharia has reached even as far as U.S. academia. Islamic and Middle East Studies departments in the U.S. have a good number of Muslim female professors who defend the veil as “liberating.”
Dalia Mogahed, the head-covered Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer and Sharia defender who became President Obama’s Islamic advisor, has been recently voted the most powerful woman in the Arab world. Only defenders of Sharia and Islamism get such honor.
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