Over in Toronto, a Muslim cleric with the unwieldy name of Al-Hashim Kamena Atangana had a great idea. Al-Hashim’s idea was for Toronto to pass laws forcing women to wear Burkas. “Cover up or get raped”, was the implied message. Toronto only has an estimated 5.5 percent Muslim population so the Toronto Taliban probably won’t be getting their way until they have higher double digit numbers, but they can wait.
Meanwhile in Egypt where the population is 90 percent Muslim and the other 10 percent are running for their lives, a new TV channel represents a brave new frontier in Islamic feminism. Maria TV features women giving lifestyle and makeup tips while wearing the Niqab, which covers their faces and leaves only their eyes exposed. According to some Saudi clerics who think that women are only allowed to leave one eye exposed, this makes them either a bold feminist experiment or shameless strumpets.
In a country where Tahrir Square has become synonymous with sexual assault; the Al-Hashim paradigm is taking hold. There are photos of female students at Cairo University from the 60’s and 70’s that showed them dressing like women did in the 60’s and 70’s. But by the time Obama showed up to praise Cairo University as a great representative of Islamic civilization, the cover-up had begun. The question is where will the cover-up end and what will the Cairo University class of 2020 look like? They probably won’t have faces, but will they even have eyes?
You can attend a university with your head covered, even with your face covered, but it gets harder to attend class when your eyes are covered. If the trend means anything in a decade Muslim feminism will mean fighting for the right to keep one eye open in a religion that wants everyone to keep their eyes shut.
The liberal West has reacted to the Islamic cover-up with its own cover-up. The Western liberal will run through the gamut of his own civilization’s sins before reluctantly admitting that some parts of the Muslim world may not be an ideal place to be a woman, but he immediately reaches for a rolled up copy of the New York Times and uses Tom Friedman’s latest report from an airport’s luxury lounge in Dubai or Kuala Lumpur as proof that the reforms are coming.
Indeed if you read anything from Tom Friedman, who is expert at writing books about how the world is becoming a global village because it’s so ridiculously easy for him to fly anywhere on his frequent flyer miles, that is all he can talk about. Saudi Arabia is constantly being reformed. Why in 1962 it abolished slavery and recently the Saudi king has agreed to let women vote in municipal elections in 2015. This is naturally a big deal in an absolute monarchy that has been ruled by the same family for longer than it had oil companies.
There is no question that King Abdullah is a great feminist. If you doubt that just ask any one of his 13 wives. It may be true that women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive or leave the country without permission from their husband and have their lives controlled by a male guardian; but so long as Tom Friedman has a comfortable seat and an alcohol-free drink whenever he flies to Saudi Arabia, the reports of reforms will keep on coming about this cheerful outpost in our global village.
Outside of an airport there is no such place as a global village. International travel hasn’t flattened the world. It may be possible to fly to a remote location in twelve hours, disembark into a luxurious modern terminal designed by British architects and constructed by slave labor, but it can take you another twelve hours just to make your way through a city that may be ornamented with the occasional noveau riche skyscraper but is still built on a plan designed to defend desert tribes from nomadic raids. Travel twelve hours out of that city and you will encounter millions of people living in actual villages who don’t think that globalism is flattening, but do think that the world is flat.
Jet setting is exciting, but not transformative. Tom Friedman in Jeddah is still the same man he is on Fifth Avenue. The only difference is that there’s more sand in his shoes and sweat under his mustache. And the Saudi whose great-grandfather grew up in one of those villages, fought the Ottoman Empire, bought children from Syrian traders and kept them as slaves or concubines, and taught his children that living this way is what convinced Allah to open up some oil wells under the desert, is still that man even when he’s having lunch with Tom Friedman on Fifth Avenue.
We all live in villages. Our village is a place where women are considered human beings, but in the village that is an ocean and a desert away, women are considered property. For all the ridiculous noises about Islamic feminism and all the reforms coming out of Riyadh, a proper Muslim can no more consider a woman his equal, than he could consider a sheep or an African slave his equal.
The problem is that lately our two villages have been overlapping thanks to the heap big magic of the airport. Americans travel to Saudi Arabia, where they are told to cover themselves up and respect the local customs, and Muslims travel to Canada where they tell the city of Toronto that it needs to cover up its women or they won’t be responsible for the consequences. Our village just can’t seem to win.
This is not the sort of stuff that you put in tourist brochures, this is the sort of stuff you cover up, and these days our nations exist as long tourist brochures covering up the problems and extolling the virtues of all these people who visit, move in, learn to fly planes and ram them into buildings because a medieval warlord claimed that a fellow named Allah wanted him to conquer the world, but didn’t provide him with any transportation more reliable than camels and a flying horse.
Our tourist brochures say, “Diversity”, but diversity is another one of our village’s unique virtues. It’s not a virtue when you reach Saudi Arabia, and it’s not a virtue when Saudi Arabia reaches us. Our noble commitment to diversity leads us to diversify by investing in multiculturalism, but many of those villages full of men with thirteen wives and sharp knives are not interested in multiculturalism.
The Taliban showed us what they thought of multiculturalism when they blew up Buddhist statues and the Islamists in Mali are showing us what they think of multiculturalism with a rampage directed against Sufi shrines. The Muslim Waqf in Jerusalem is continuing its vandalism of the remains of the Second Temple. All of them are following in the footsteps of Saudi Arabia which has waged a campaign of destruction against the cultural artifacts of every other culture.
In India, Hindus had the temerity to sing in their own country during the month of Ramadan, which ended in violence as furious Muslims tried to explain their views on multiculturalism with big rocks. In that same spirit, Al-Hashim Kamena Atangana, like so many other Muslim clerics, is trying to explain to us that while in our village it may be the custom to treat women as human beings, in his village it is the custom to treat them as property.
Common sense says that our village means our customs, but diversity says that our village is on the shores of the global village which is moving into our village and insisting that it’s now their village. This is a problem, but only for those of us who are Jews, Christians, Hindus, Atheists, Zoroastrians, Wiccans, Buddhists, Sikhs and Bahai. Not to mention female or in any other way differing from the Muslim male that runs the other village and is trooping through our airport with thirteen wives in tow.
It used to be that when in Rome, you did like the Romans. Now it’s when in Toronto, you do like Al-Hashim says. Because his voice is the booming echo of diversity and like all the voices of diversity, it isn’t promoting multiculturalism, but a single culture. Their culture. One Ummah, one Caliph and one Burka.
The Muslim Brotherhood succeeded in changing Egypt through the twin expedients of propaganda and violence. 70 years after educated Egyptians wanted to be more Western, the Brotherhood is in power and Westerners are told to want to be more Muslim. The Al-Hashims bellow that Western women should act more Muslim and Western feminist groups encourage their members to try on Hijabs as gestures of tolerance and servitude. That great Islamic feminist, King Abdullah and his thirteen wives, whose kingdom spends billions on such propaganda, no doubt approves, and wishes they would move on to not driving cars as another gesture of tolerance for our new wonderfully diverse village.
The Hijab is the gateway to the Burka and both are just forms of mobile Purdah, the segregation that requires a woman to stay at home. And if she can’t stay in her tent, then she can only go out while wearing a big black tent that goes everywhere she goes. The cover-ups function like a cattle brand informing other Muslim men that this is someone else’s property. That was the ancient function of the garment when bands of Muslim raiders were collecting slave women and some distinction had to be made between married women who couldn’t be raped and slave women who could.
Under the Burka, the Muslim woman is still locked up in her room in her husband’s house even when she’s out and about in the marketplace. It is a liberal concession that allows her to occasionally leave the house while still being locked up in the house. And this brilliant bit of Islamic feminism, this reform which says that women can occasionally leave the house and shouldn’t be raped so long as they’re wearing a tent that makes it look like they’re still in Purdah, is just one of the ways that Islam is enriching our multiculturalism with its monoculturalism. To say nothing of all the Muslim rapes of women who refuse to walk around wearing tents.
Western liberals respond to the problem with the same methods as Middle-Eastern Islamists. Their solution to everything is the great cover-up. Muslims cover up women, Western liberals cover up the Muslim abuse of women. Muslims are afraid of dealing with the idea that women are more than mobile property and Western liberals are terrified of dealing with the idea that this is what Muslims actually believe about women.
Sunlight is the best disinfectant, whether it’s for the bacteria that thrive under full body robes or the kind that thrive in ideologies which try to control everyone. No matter how many cover-ups are made and how many cloaks, Hijabs and Burkas are thrown over the truth, sooner or later the cover-ups have to end and the truth has to shine forth.
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