Will Muslim Women Defeat Islamofascism?

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I get quite intemperate during alcohol-fueled arguments about how backward cultures that subjugate women need to be "smashed"—preferably as Marx predicted ("The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilization."), but not only. Of course, I am accused of being anachronistic—that there were good explanations for why women's freedom was curtailed by earlier primitive cultures, not least of which was the desire of men not to work and provide for children not their own. That's true, but so what now? Two centuries after the Enlightenment finally began the process of emancipating women there is no excuse for denying them dignity and worth equal to that enjoyed by men. Cultures that refuse to recognize the autonomy of women are by definition backward.

Anyway, the foregoing outburst was inspired by an article in the Toronto Star about a recent talk by Princeton University Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis in which he argued that Muslim women are the hope for finally modernizing those societies.

I firmly believe that women are our best hope in dealing with the Muslim world, because they have so much to gain from modernization…

[W]omen have made enormous progress in some countries, although by no means all, and that is in education. And here, one of the encouraging features of the situation is that one of the countries where women have done best is in Iraq. Now, don't misunderstand me, I'm not speaking of rights—the word "rights" has no meaning at all in that kind of society—I'm speaking of opportunity, of access. Women in Iraq—and this goes back a long way; it started under the monarchy and continued under the various succeeding regimes—had access to higher education to a degree without parallel in the Arab world, with the possible exception of Tunisia. They could go to university. They could enter the professions.

This, I feel, is a very hopeful sign for the future. Women generally do not receive the brain-deadening indoctrination that passes for education in many of these countries, because they're not thought important enough to be given it.

This does have a beneficial result, and I would say in many respects women are the greatest hope for much of the Islamic world, notably—but by no means exclusively—in Iraq.

Whole thing here.

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  1. Yes, a cultural revolution that will cause a great leap forward as bad ideas are purged.

  2. Two centuries after the Enlightenment finally began the process of emancipating women there is no excuse for denying them dignity and worth equal to that enjoyed by men. Cultures that refuse to recognize the autonomy of women are by definition backward.

    Well, here’s another view of that proposition.

    Let the outraged howling begin!

  3. You don’t know anything, Ron. Muslim women aren’t going to defeat “Islamofascism.” The US Department of Agriculture is going to defeat Islamofascism! Everybody knows that.

  4. Women are subordinated in society in which the family is the only reliably functioning institution. In such societies families form the basis of all economic, political and even military units. To minimize conflict and to provide a clean chain of command every individual (except the very top) is subordinated to another. Having equal decision making authority within a marriage is an invitation to disaster under such conditions.

    Woman gained equality in the west as institutions took over the functions of the family. The family is no longer a critical decision making unit so it no longer requires hierarchy or inequality.

    Liberating women in the developing world will also depend on creating institutions that people can rely on instead of their extended family. Only then will the true cultural shift occur.

  5. I get quite intemperate during alcohol-fueled arguments about how backward cultures that subjugate women need to be “smashed”

    But how much stock do you own in Ms. magazine, Mr. Bailey?

  6. The dreaded XX Lobby–fear its evil influence.

  7. Pig Mannix,

    I found that article fascinating. Thanks.

  8. From the article linked by Pig Mannix:

    “Instead, the falling ratio of workers to retirees is overwhelmingly caused by workers who were never born.”

    I see this argument frequently, yet there is no shortage of “workers” attempting to populate this country from all parts of the planet. Whatever else may be in the argument for Postive Population Growth, this bit about not enough workers to pay taxes, social security, etc. just doesn’t hold water. We’ll have all the workers we want to let in.

  9. jesus, that dude from the acuf looks like a smoking gun mugshot gone awry!

  10. Ronald:
    get quite intemperate during alcohol-fueled arguments about how backward cultures that subjugate women need to be “smashed” — preferably as Marx predicted

    All this alcohol-fueled ‘intemperate’ behavior while at a strip club, I’ll bet.

    Ok, that was cheap.

  11. Let’s elect Hillary Rodham Clinton; then we’ll talk.

  12. Women (or anyone else not on the top of a traditional social structure) are not liberated until the economy reaches a point where the individual is a viable, independent economic unit. Until that happens, government protection would just make them wards of the state. Once the average individual no longer has to rely on old social structures for basic survival (food, clothing and shelter) they can tell them to take a flying leap.

    I see no indication that things have changed enough in the last 20 years to make most men in the Middle East viable economic units. A tiny number are gainfully employed to the degree they do not have to rely economically on their families. I don’t see this happening for women anytime soon.

    As a side comment, I received a Middle Eastern Studies education strongly colored by the likes of Lewis and Ajami. I’ve been a bit disappointed by Dr. Lewis in the last few years. Perhaps it’s just facing the limitations of heroes. Ultimately, he is still an academic.

  13. On Marx and women’s issues…

    I have a friend that teaches a Women’s Studies class at a university in Michigan (no, not that one). We were talking one day about a year ago and I told her that I could sum up Women’s Studies in one sentence. She was incredulous, but bade me tell her. I summed it up like this:

    Take everything Karl Marx ever wrote, replace the words proletariate with women, bourgeoisie with men, and every other exploitation with rape, and you have Women’s Studies.

    She thought about it for a couple of minutes and simply said “Damn it!”

  14. Here is another opinion as to why Lewis is wrong:

    http://www.opinionjournal.com/federation/feature/

  15. Do all the Muslim women want to be liberated? Is there some hidden psychological benefit to them in their tradional way of life?

  16. The following comment is about Pig Manniz’s link to the “breeding” article. It seems to me we’d be better off to focus on reducing breeding in poor Third World nations – making birth control and voluntary, repeat – volluntary – sterilazation as available as possible.

  17. Is it really surprising that, being the ones that bear children and are generally smaller due to sexual dimorphism, women prefer the social-welfare state more than men?
    It’s the opposite of surprising.

    Once the US treats the sexes equally under the law (affirmative action, the draft, SS, etc), I might get interested in other countries’ situations.

  18. Once the US treats the sexes equally under the law (affirmative action, the draft, SS, etc), I might get interested in other countries’ situations.

    Right, because until those very important issues are resolved why should we be interested in the relatively minor issues of women being beaten to death with rocks for adultery, teenage girls being executed for “acts incompatible with chastity” and young girls having their genitals mutilated.

    After all, what is mere horrible human suffering in some distant part of the world when women here don’t even have to register for a draft.

  19. Yes, Brian, why should we go and solve problems in areas where we don’t have jurisdiction, when we can stay home and solve problems in areas where we rule?

    The idea that “x is bad, we’re powerful, let’s stop x” is noble yet pernicious.

  20. I never advocated any particular action to “solve” the problem, jb. I do however think it merits our “interest” as decent human beings and we ought to at least call attention to it, denounce it and hopefully get rid of the truly pernicious view that beating women to death and mutilating them is simply part of their “culture.” It didn’t take military action to get rid of apartheid – just a concerted world effort of consistent and vocal condemnation.

    Saying that you won’t be interested in something has horrible as the horrible abuses women suffer in one part of the world until some relatively minor problems are solved in another seems a very misguided sentiment. Why is it we could oppose apartheid even though things weren’t perfect here? Why is a human’s suffering due any less interest (to the point comparatively trivial issues are due more concern) simply because they live far away from us?

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