Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism.
America’s leading feminist is Linda Sarsour. The Islamist activist has praised Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women while touting Mohammed, whose sex slave habits ISIS had adopted, as a feminist.
Sarsour is as much of a feminist as her prophet. But what does it say about feminism that it embraces a spokeswoman for an ideology that believes women are inferior to men (Sahih Bukhari 6:301), will mostly go to hell (Sahih Bukhari 54:464) and promotes domestic violence against women (Koran 4:34).
What does it mean when a movement that claims to believe in equality for women instead embraces an ideology of sex slavery, domestic abuse, honor killings, female genital mutilation and so much else?
That’s one reason why Phyllis Chesler’s new book, Islamic Gender Apartheid: Exposing A Veiled War Against Women, Is so timely and vital. Dr. Chesler’s book is a reminder of what fighting for women actually means. The intersectional feminism that sells out women to Islam, to illegal migration and to a thousand other more important leftist causes is utterly absent from her work. Instead her collection of essays unrelentingly shines a powerful light on the suffering of women under Islam. And on the silence of those professional feminists who choose the Muslim Brotherhood over the human rights of women.
From the very beginning, Dr. Chesler does not operate in a realm of abstractions. The Islamic abuse of women is not a hypothetical to her. Nor is it mere empathy on behalf of women somewhere else.
“On December 21, 1961, when I returned from Afghanistan, I kissed the ground at New York City's Idlewild Airport. I weighed 90 pounds and had hepatitis.”
Those are the familiar opening lines of Dr. Chesler’s first essay on feminism. They are a reminder that unlike the movement feminists posing with Linda Sarsour, Dr. Chesler has uniquely lived the life of Mohammed’s feminism. When she writes about what Islam does to women, it’s not an echo, but a voice. It’s not just advocacy, it’s memory.
In a political environment where feminism is both ubiquitous and meaningless, comprising anything from a t-shirt to unthinking adherence to leftist doctrine, Phyllis Chesler bears the scars of her activism from her time in Afghanistan to her activism in America. And so it's unsurprising that Dr. Chesler also remains one of the rare few who are working to confront gender apartheid in Islam.
Gender politics in virtually every other religion is a fit topic for discussion in the Western political and academic sphere. But Islamic gender apartheid is praised and celebrated. Numerous pieces describe the hijab and even the burka as forms of feminist empowerment. The torrent of apologetics is driven by wealthy Islamist groups, but also by a left that is eager to view non-Westerners as victims and to exempt women in the Muslim world from qualifying for equality or human rights.
Condemning the Islamic abuse of women has become “racist”. Intersectionality’s hellish bargain has made Linda Sarsour into the new face of feminism. And behind the Islamist agenda are countless abused women and girls. And that is what Dr. Chesler in Islamic Gender Apartheid never allows us to forget.
Behind the ‘feministwashing’ of Sarsour is a daily horror that many women, unlike Dr. Chesler, can never escape. Linda Sarsour has celebrated Islamic terrorism. Islamists have even turned female suicide bombers into role models. But Dr. Chesler delves into the forcible measures that are used to turn women into suicide bombers. And she speaks of the unspeakable.
Gender apartheid in Islam is the theme of the eponymous book, and section by section, Dr. Chesler delves into ugliness like the use of rape in Islamic warfare around the world, the effects of child marriage on young girls, the women who have been grotesquely disfigured by acid attacks and the FGM mutilation of little girls.
Time and migration have eroded the distance that these topics have from our lives. Today, slaves can be found in Islamic households in this country, an FGM ring was recently broken up in Michigan and acid attacks have become shockingly commonplace in the UK. And before long, we will see them here.
Dr. Chesler’s great contribution continues to be exposing the link between the Islamic mistreatment of women and Islamic violence. It is a topic that ought to be natural to movement feminists, and yet it is the hidden and terrible truth that cannot be spoken. But the essays in Islamic Gender Apartheid speak it.
Islamists and their leftist useful idiots love hurling the “apartheid” charge at Israel. But, as Islamic Gender Apartheid makes clear, the real apartheid has always been there in the Islamic world. And the consequences of the forced segregation, whether it’s manifested in the “mobile purdah” of the burka or the honor killings of girls who talk to boys, are as horrifying as the worst systems of oppression.
“Gender apartheid and honor-based violence are crimes and cannot be justified in the name of multicultural relativism, political ‘correctness,’ tolerance, or anti-racism,” Dr. Chesler firmly states.
And yet that is exactly what has happened.
When Linda Sarsour insists that Zionists can’t be feminists, her definition of feminism becomes Islam. When the intersectional left accepts that definition, it means that a woman who justifies Sharia segregation can be a feminist and a lifelong activist like Dr. Chesler can’t.
That’s not feminism. It’s Islamism. And that is what much of movement feminism has become.
Islamic Gender Apartheid: Exposing A Veiled War Against Women provides a welcome response and relief from the routine ‘veiling’ and ‘feministwashing’ of the truth. It's an in-depth survey of the conditions that women face in the Muslim world and the often controversial figures who fight to expose it.
Islamic Gender Apartheid asks uncomfortable questions about the role of women in Islam. And often provides even more uncomfortable answers. But it never loses sight of its passion and focus on the human rights of the women that it advocates for across the countries and continents of the world.
In a culture where the Islamic oppression of women is given a pass while derivative narratives such as A Handmaid's Tale, which covertly envision the application of the norms that Muslim women already live under to Western women, are treated as feminist statements, Dr. Chesler's essays are a powerful call to arms. They remind us of what she and so many women in the Muslim world have experienced.
And they remind us of the difference between truly advocating for women and exploiting them.
The oppression of women is real and it’s here. Dr. Chesler has lived it and fought it. And Islamic Gender Apartheid is a tapestry of past struggles and a roadmap of the struggle that is upon us.