September 13, 2010
Sharia Degradation of Women
The unremitting degradation of women in most of the Mideast, Africa, and other parts of Asia where Islamic law plays a huge role is horrifying and appalling. Islamic law endorses slavery, demands executions for apostasy, and condones the repression of women.
The debasement of women plays a critical role among Palestinian women, where little girls live under a death threat of honor killing. The male sexual abuse of female children is quite pervasive. It traumatizes and shames women into obedience and renders them incapable of resistance or rebellion. This degradation of women is not restricted merely to the Palestinian community, whose lives have been repeatedly squandered by their terrorist leaders. In Iran, for instance, the Islamic government does not recognize women as fully human. In 1992, over 100,000 women were arrested in Tehran for "improper veiling" and "moral corruption." Scores of pregnant women were flogged in public on the same charge. Women appearing in public without traditional veiling are sentenced to up to 74 lashes. As I write this, there is a worldwide protest concerning the injustice being meted out to Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. Unfortunately, she will probably be flogged to death.
Books highlight the terror that permeates daily life for women. Reading Lolita in Tehran describes the endless tales of frustration, humiliation, and sorrow of female college students. The women endure daily indignities by the militia who patrol the streets to ensure that the women are wearing their veils. The patrols demand that the women students walk in public with men who are their brothers, husbands, or fathers. Sporting jewelry and wearing nail polish are punishable crimes. If a woman uses a bus, the seating is segregated. Female students are penalized for running up the stairs if they are late for a class. The age of marriage has been lowered from eighteen years to nine years of age. Stoning is a punishment for adultery and prostitution. Women found guilty of any infraction are forced to wash toilets, fined, jailed, and flogged. Humiliation is the source of the Islamic fundamentalist power.
Not only confined to Iran, such abuse is common elsewhere as well. In March 2002, a Nigerian woman, who had a small baby, was convicted of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning. In Pakistan, an average of two women every day die from "honor killings." In the book entitled Princess by Jean P. Sasson, a father drowns his own daughter because she has met with foreign-born men.
This is not an isolated situation. It is emblematic of a world where girls are sold into marriage to men five times their age and brutally murdered for the slightest transgression. In Afghanistan, women are beginning to wear the burqa again because they fear the resurgence of the Taliban. When the Taliban reigned supreme, music was forbidden and the female voice banned. To walk in shoes that clicked would elicit the Taliban's wrath. Young female children attending school have acid thrown in their faces. Where do such turpitude, cruelty, and vile behavior come from?
Either a strong-willed woman will resist with all her might and possibly die trying -- or those who are broken become physically and mentally impaired shells of a human being. And, in a horrifying perversion, the constant brainwashing so common in totalitarian regimes molds women to become partners in their own demise and in the destruction of their own offspring. After all, Palestinian women are pleased to offer up their own children as suicide bombers -- have these mothers been so unalterably changed that even the fundamental maternal instinct of protecting one's young has become brutally extinguished? Is this why women hold down small girls about to undergo the atavistic ritual of female genital mutilation?
And where are the voices of Western feminists so eager to burn bras, but hardly a word about burning burqas? What more evidence is needed to rise up to aid those sisters around the world who are desperately in need of genuine activism? Hatred, humiliation, suppression, coercion, and discrimination of women make up the fabric of so many societies in the world. The misery and abject conditions of these women are shocking.
As rabbi, teacher, and activist, the late Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote in "The Meaning of This Hour" about the horrors of the 20th century. He was adamant when he wrote that there can be no neutrality. Either we are ministers of the sacred or slaves of evil. Let the blasphemy of our time not become an eternal scandal. Let future generations not loathe us for having failed to preserve what prophets and saints, martyrs and scholars have created in thousands of years. The apostles of force have shown that they are great in evil. Let us reveal that we can be as great in goodness.
It is particularly noteworthy that the Jewish New Year is upon us. Also known as Yom Harat Olam, or the "Day of the Birth of the World," it is meant to usher in a new beginning for all people, not just Jews. It is a universal holiday and commemorates when G-d made man and woman and completed the physical creation of the world. The process of creation, however, is never over. Each generation is given a choice to make a difference.
Moderate Muslims, like moderate Christians and moderate Jews, need to acknowledge the horror of sharia law, address this autocratic, mind-numbing enslavement of women, and never retreat. While Muslim worship is protected under the First Amendment, Islamic sharia law should never be protected or condoned. Only then will the liberating phraseology of the First Commandment be enacted and slavery broken down, brick by brick by brick.
Eileen can be reached at email@example.com.