Phyllis Chesler on Islamic gender apartheid
Infidel Task Force
ITF: First of all, I would like to thank you for taking the time to speak to the viewers of the Infidel Task Force. It is quite an honor to have you here.
Phyllis Chesler: It is also my honor and pleasure to be with you.
ITF: For viewers who are not aware of the term "gender apartheid," could you give us an overview of just what it is?
Phyllis Chesler: Gender apartheid—and I am mainly talking about Islamic gender apartheid--consists of all those practices which condemn girls and women to a separate and subordinate sub-existence and which turn boys and men into the permanent guardians of their female relatives' chastity. Because of polygamy, boys and men are condemned to compete with siblings and half-siblings for a wealthy and polygamous father's attention and inheritance; and condemned to lead lives in which men are extremely uncomfortable with women, whom they have been taught to view as only sex objects and breeders. Any other emotion might fill a man with shame.
Islamic gender apartheid is also characterized by normalized daughter- and wife-battering, forced veiling, arranged marriage, child marriage, first cousin marriage, and sometimes, female genital mutilation. In addition, women are honor murdered if they resist such practices. Imagine growing up female in such a setting: You know that your family-of-origin intimates and protectors might become your executioners based on idle rumor or fact.
Male homosexuality and homosexual pedophilia is also, therefore, rampant in the Islamic world but is hotly denied. Fifty years ago, I saw men openly holding hands on the streets of Kabul, some wearing lipstick and rouge, some with flowers behind their ears—both armed with ancient rifles. Liberatory, Western-style homosexuality is also officially persecuted. Islamic homosexuality, which includes child rape and prison-style sex, is a given that is never mentioned.
Today, at its most extreme, Islamic gender apartheid is characterized by acid attacks and the public stonings to death, hangings, and beheading of women in Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia—countries in which girls and women who are raped or who report being raped are often accused of adultery and sometimes jailed and executed. Islamic gender apartheid is also characterized by the honor murders of girls and women who want to choose their own husbands, or who have dared to resist total subordination. Women, both veiled and unveiled, are routinely harassed by men in extreme ways on the streets in the Middle East, in Southeast Asia, and in North Africa.
Islamic gender apartheid in an Islamist era is the most anti-woman system known to humanity. Feminists should be crying out from the rooftops against it. Some are. I am.
Unlike most academics and feminists, I am not a multicultural relativist. I believe in universal human rights, one standard for all. I have chosen to speak out about the criminal misogyny both among Muslims and among Islamists. For doing so, I have been demonized as an Islamophobe and a racist. And, by the way, I have long condemned and actively opposed misogyny in the West. I have been doing so as of 1967. I am not now just targeting Islamic misogyny because it is Islamic but rather because it is criminally misogynist.
In my view, western academic feminists, including gay liberationists, have deserted their own vision of gender equality and human rights by refusing to take a stand. They fear that doing so will be seen as a new form of "colonialism" or "racism." That concern – that of their own reputations – trumps any concern they should have had for Arab and Muslim women's rights and human rights. In my opinion, this is a new form of racism.
Many Muslim feminist academics and pro-Islamist spokesmen and women are no better. They are very aggressive towards anyone who exposes Islamic or Muslim apartheid practices and immediately begin shouting "crusader," "colonialist" and "racist" at you.
ITF: To quote from you: "The battle for women's rights is central to the battle for Europe and for Western values. It is a necessary part of true democracy, along with freedom of religion, tolerance for homosexuals, and freedom of dissent. Here, then, is exactly where the greatest battle of the twenty-first century is joined." The ITF is in total agreement with you; we have been saying that for quite some time now. But is anybody listening? Where in the world is the oppression so bad that all eyes should be focused there?
Phyllis Chesler: All eyes should be on Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Libya—for that matter, on all Islamic countries—but also on Africa (especially Congo, which is the rape and gang-rape capital of the world, and South Africa which has a very high rate of sexual violence towards women).
Pakistan may well be the honor killing capital of the world. According to the United Nations, approximately 5,000 honor killings take place worldwide each year. But according to one Pakistani expert I've worked with, that number may be reasonable for Pakistan alone. Honor killings are mostly secret, hidden, and rarely prosecuted seriously in the Islamic world. No reliable statistics exist.
ITF: As Americans we realize that Freedom has some basic forms, such as freedom of the press, free elections, an independent judiciary, and of course the emancipation and empowerment of women. But doesn't freedom come in different forms in different countries, because of the vast differences in culture?
Phyllis Chesler: Yes. But also no. For example, the "vote" means nothing if there has not been one hundred or more years of universal co-education, rule of law, a genuinely free press, academic freedom, separation of religion and state, and a tradition of individual human rights. The "vote" will get Muslims Hamas Islamist totalitarianism if women are not truly free to veil or unveil without risking enormous peer pressure, familial shaming, loss of status, ineligibility for marriage, beatings, and possible death. But this is what I, as a post-Enlightenment Westerner and feminist, think.
A Muslim feminist intellectual living in Saudi Arabia might talk about taking very gradual steps, and within an Islamic framework, in fact drawing upon the Qur'an for support in changing current day practices of woman-beating, female inheritance and forced veiling. However, I do not think this will take her very far, but it is definitely another important approach. A religious Muslim feminist living in the West might say that she freely chooses to wear hijab (the headscarf) and that there are other more important issues to fight for including an end to serious but normalized child and woman-abuse, arranged marriage, the right to a good education, a greater female role within Islam, etc.
ITF: How do we combat gender apartheid, including honor killings, when our own media refuse to acknowledge it? What is it going to take to create more awareness and bring it to the attention of the western world?
Phyllis Chesler: We don't stop telling the truth. We raise money to have our voices became more visible and effective. In fact, if you'll excuse the plug, I need funding desperately for this purpose, as do others. International cable channels are needed. My anti-honor killing work needs to be translated into many languages, as does my feminist and psychological work in general.
ITF: The media refuse to acknowledge it and in some cases the police refuse to deal with it. Are they, by maintaining silence, condoning gender apartheid, or are they afraid of Islamic reprisals through lawsuits or veiled threats?
Phyllis Chesler: The American mainstream media does acknowledge honor killings—but only when they are committed by Hindus in faraway India. But if an honor killing is committed by Muslims in North America, chances are you won't read about it in the mainstream American media, except perhaps locally, and briefly.
The media refuses to cover Islamic gender apartheid in a serious way for several reasons: they don't want to appear racist because they've been sold quite a bill of goods about "Islamophobia," they don't want to be sued, they want to be trendy—and, of course, they don't want their offices to be bombed or their employees stalked and murdered.
ITF: Islam has settled into almost every country in the world, and yet the barbaric honor killings still continue. Why does it continue? Is it education or the lack of? Is it the fact that Muslim women are generally treated as property and it is something they live with? Or is it because Muslims put their submission to Allah and the Quran before anything else, such as their wives, daughters or the love of family?
Phyllis Chesler: Wealthy, educated, and powerful Muslims honor murder their daughters, as do poor, uneducated, Muslims. Whether honor killing is commanded, allowed, or prohibited in the Qur'an or whether it is a hold-over pre-Islamic tribal custom is irrelevant. As my studies have shown, ninety percent of the honor murders in the West are committed by Muslim immigrants. Hindus and Sikhs confine such crimes to India. Of course, honor killings are also rampant in the Islamic world. Often, people confuse "custom" with religious law; more often, people do what their parents and neighbors do—as long as they can get away with it, as long as they are honored for it. This ugly practice will continue to flourish if Muslim religious and political leaders do not speak out against it and if governments do not prosecute such crimes seriously.
Today, in the West, pro-Islamist academics, politically correct feminists, and Islamist religious leaders, all insist that honor killings are simply "domestic violence" (I have shown that this is not the case). Or, they claim that it has nothing to do with Islam or that "everyone" does it or that it is a "teenage" problem. Such Defenders of the Faith also insist that honor killings are a pre-Islamic tribal custom, that Christians and Hindus do the same thing, and that singling out Muslims-only is "racist" and "Islamophobic" and that doing so also downplays the much larger number of less sensational murders of women in the West.
ITF: Have any Islamic organizations such as CAIR made any attempts to counter the rise in Islamic honor killings? Or are they in complete denial?
Phyllis Chesler: Not really. They are more interested in defending Muslim honor than in saving Muslim or Muslim female lives. CAIR helped the parents of Rifqa Bary; they did not help the child who had fled to escape being honor murdered by her family for having converted to Christianity and who no longer wished to be terrorized and beaten at home. I submitted an affidavit on her behalf, and I have done so for other Muslim girls and women who are in flight from being honor murdered. There are some mullahs and imams who have begun to work with western feminists on the problem of domestic violence within Muslim immigrant communities. They are important but too few in number. Leading Muslim clerics must issue fatwas against honor killing and against woman-battering and even that will take time to circulate among the believers.
ITF: On March 4th the United Nations rewarded Iran with membership on the UN's Commission on the Status of Women, which is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and the advancement of women. The United States had the audacity to join others in approving the new member.
How could the United Nations do something as abhorrent as this?
How can women truly make advances when the United Nations seems to be in partnership with Islam?
Phyllis Chesler: The Organization of the Islamic Conference has 56 member states (57 if the U.N. eventually decides to recognize the totally fictitious "State of Palestine"). Its sole agenda is Jew hatred and the desire to abolish Israel, the one and only Jewish state. The United States should leave the UN and form an organization open only to democracies. The UN has accomplished nothing except legalizing Jew hatred and allowing Third world/developing world individuals the opportunities to live handsomely in the West, with servants and secretaries galore; they have also been empowered to present themselves as champions of freedom. They do very little to help their countrymen and women but they themselves are spared their fate of enormous poverty and violence.
Take the case of Pakistani human rights activist and lawyer, Hina Jilani. She is the driving force behind the infamous and recanted Goldstone Report. She is not fighting for the lives and rights of girls and women in Pakistan who are being raped, beaten, force-veiled and honor murdered at alarming rates. Instead, she is using her time on the historical stage to follow the UN agenda. She should know better. The lies and slander that have been generated against Israel are every bit as false and unjust as the lies told to justify the honor killing of girls and women.
Jilani will not risk losing her safe and honored perch at the UN by breaking with UN-Think or with Third World Think which is so intensely anti-American, anti-Western, and anti-Israel—the convenient scapegoats for all the crimes and ills of the Arab and Muslim world.
There are a few members in Congress who are speaking out about the possible Islamification of America and about women's rights abroad, such as Congressman Peter King. Hillary Clinton makes noises. Condoleezza Rice made noises. But what would be needed is sanctions with sharp teeth, although that will never happen for altruistic reasons alone; such policies would have to be seen as in America's best interest.
ITF: The list of crimes committed against women in Muslim countries is horrifying, to say the least. In your own words, these crimes include "daughter- and wife-battering, forced veiling, female genital mutilation, polygamy, purdah, the segregation or sequestration of women, arranged marriage, child marriage, first cousin marriage, acid attacks, public stonings, hangings, and beheading, and the further victimization of rape victims who are jailed, tortured, and executed. Why aren't the feminists calling for indictments, prosecution, protests? Are the people in Congress turning a blind eye to this because speaking up will not get them re-elected?
Phyllis Chesler: Feminists are legitimately concerned that we have not yet won our freedom in the West. We don't have an Equal Rights Amendment, we're still subject to gender-based poverty, violence, sexual violence, etc., and some feminists are trying to take care of these issues in their own country where they feel they can be more effective. However, most feminists have been Stalinized and Palestinianized and are more afraid of being called "racists" than they are concerned with universal human rights. In my opinion, this is a new form of racism.
ITF: We know many who are speaking up about the oppressed Muslim woman, you being one of the most vocal and authoritative. Brigitte Gabriel, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Nonie Darwish also come to mind. Are there others out in the world fighting for womens rights?
Phyllis Chesler: I assume you mean Muslim women's rights, yes? Infidel women in the West have been and continue to fight for women's rights in the West. And yes, today there are also Muslims and ex-Muslims who are living in the West who are fighting for Muslim women's rights. Let me name only a few.
First, in Europe: Hege Storhaug and Rita Karlsen in Norway, Maryam Namazie (Iran) in the UK, Fadela Amara, (Algeria) Samia Labidi, (Tunisia) Maryam Rajavi, (Iran) and Benjamin Ismail in France, David Ghanim (Iraq) in Sweden, Elham Manea (Yemen/Egypt) in Switzerland, Valentina Colombo in Italy, Lars Hedegaard, Jesper Langballe in Denmark, Elizabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff in Austria, and Seyran Ates (Turkey) in Germany.
In Israel: Mordechai Kedar.
In North America: Wafa Sultan, Zeyno Baran, Manda Ervin, Asra Nomani, and Amina Wadud.
There are also many feminists and incredibly brave dissidents in the Muslim world, including Wajeha al-Huwaider in Saudi Arabia, Asma al-Ghoul in Gaza, Malalai Joya in Afghanistan, and Nawal El-Saadawi in Egypt.
ITF: Finally, Dr. Chesler, are we making any progress? Are we succeeding in any areas of the world? Have we met any goals? Are Muslim women actually making some democratic gains?
Or will the suffering of Islamic gender apartheid continue?
Phyllis Chesler: If Iran and other non-state terrorist jihadists have their way the women of the West will soon be veiled and converted against their will. My work about honor killings is becoming known, challenged, praised, and used. At a G8 conference in Rome I bonded with an amazing group of secular and religious Muslim feminists who live on many continents. I am receiving many calls about my honor killing studies, most importantly from lawyers who want me to write expert Affidavits for asylum for their clients who have fled being honor murdered. And, I am working on a third honor killing study.
ITF: Dr. Chesler, on behalf of the Infidel Task Force I would like to thank you for coming and speaking to our viewers. I'm sure our readers will want you to come back for another chat. Would you do that for us?
Phyllis Chesler: Of course I will.
Comment on this item
The 2003 edition of this book was a pioneering work that has stood the test of time.
The 2014 Edition of The New Anti-Semitism
The 2011 Edition of Mothers on Trial
The 2009 Edition of
Note: The content of external articles does not necessarily reflect the views of The Phyllis Chesler Organization.