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More on Islam, women, and the West

A correspondent, who had read my previous comments on women in Islam, asked whether I thought he was hysterical to say Islam enslaves women. He lives in a part of England where Muslims have recently become more of a presence, finds the routine sight of women in niqab shocking, and can’t understand why intellectual Western women take it in stride as an addition to multicultural richness or whatever. What, he asked, could ever serve as a wake-up call?

Here’s my (somewhat edited and perhaps wishy-washy) response:

It’s not hysterical to use the term, but “enslaved” shouldn’t be taken literally. Women can’t be bought and sold, and they have legal and moral rights (the legal right to share in inheritance, the moral right to equal treatment when there are other wives, etc.). A slave has no share in honor, so even the institution of honor killings shows that women are not literally slaves.

Or maybe I’m just saying that our current conception of slavery, as the reduction of a human being to an absolute chattel, is too narrow? In Islam they’ve had slave ruling classes, the Mamluks and Janissaries, so it’s obviously a broader category. Still, they don’t categorize women as slaves, and they’re not chary of using the classification, so I suppose I’d stand by the statement that women are not actual slaves in Islam.

I haven’t responded to your real concerns though. To say someone is not literally a slave is not to say his situation is OK. Women are obviously at a radical disadvantage in Islam, for both religious and cultural reasons. Their most basic problem I suppose is that men can have multiple wives and concubines and they can just dismiss wives they don’t like. So in principle women can be acquired in large numbers and disposed of at will, although (unlike slaves) they can’t legally be acquired without consent. And then there’s the basic problem that Islam has no use for natural law so there’s no bottom-line concept of reason in how people should act. That means that radical arbitrary inequalities and the principle of rule by will are a natural part of the system. That’s another influence that makes the system rather like slavery.

As to Western multicultural responses, here are some possible partial causes:

  1. The necessity of showing equal respect to foreign and native standards. If we don’t then native standards will have the edge but that would be a moral catastrophe because they’re non-universal.
  2. The basic principle of non-evaluation. There’s just atoms and the void and human subjectivity, so what you want and how to get it are the only real principles of conduct. Sharia is what the Muslims want.
  3. Complete loss of proportion. Any deviation from absolute equality is a moral catastrophe, so if women used to wear hats to church and a few still do who are we to talk about purdah. (Loss of proportion is necessary: common sense can’t be formalized, and it comes out of particular histories, so it’s irrational and racist.)
  4. A subliminal feeling that there’s some point to traditional culture and something amiss with the Western understanding (or non-understanding) of sex and the sexes. That can come out harmlessly (from the standpoint of maintaining and advancing the radicalism of Western society) in admiration for non-Western cultures. It’s like the Green movement in that respect: the need for something that transcends human wishes comes out harmlessly in worshipping the rainforest and promoting transnational bureaucratic control of all human activities.

As for what would count as a wake-up call: what would wake up? The English? The West? That would be the end of the world from our rulers’ standpoint. It would mean accepting that racism and xenophobia are the right way to look at things. So no wake-up call is possible within our current system.

If Western culture became disrupted and degraded enough so it no longer seemed a threat then our rulers could then turn their attention more directly toward disrupting and degrading other cultures. Dunno if the system will last that long. Presumably by that time it will be corrupted beyond recognition.

It seems to me that in this as other respects the right strategy isn’t looking for a wake-up call, it’s fundamental intellectual and spiritual revolution. The disaffected have to articulate a better view (which will require dealing with absolutely basic issues) and push it in public fora every way they can.

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Comments

“If Western culture became disrupted and degraded enough so it no longer seemed a threat then our rulers could then turn their attention more directly toward disrupting and degrading other cultures.”

This seems key to me. Feminists (and so on) have bigger fish to fry. As Islam becomes more influential, more commonplace, and perhaps eclipses elements within Western civilization as the biggest ‘opponent’, then it will start to become the recipient of more attacks vis a vis how women are treated and so on, I would guess …

The question of how badly women are treated in Islamic societies seems a good one for a Westerner to consider if he finds the need to critique Islamic societies, perhaps to contrast it with Western societies’ traditional way of treating women. However, in doing this, there is often a feminist-typical fallacy present that sees only evil things done to women, while ignoring, or at best minimizing, the sorry lot in life presented also to the men, at least as traditional Westerners judge it. For instance, is it likely that the Islamic suicide bombers, almost exclusively male, see themselves as departing a fulfilled earthly life when they actively cause their own deaths in addition to others’? On the contrary, I think if male life in Islamic societies was generally good and fulfilling, recruitment for suicide missions would be nearly an impossible endeavor. I don’t say this because I am here expressing a desire to understand the psyche and reasoning behind the perpetrators of suicide-bombing, but to point to feminist distortions often present in the evaluations of Islamic society, often done in an unwitting manner.

I think Mr. Kalb has expressed something previously, perhaps in the earlier post he referenced, to the effect that what goes on in Islamic societies is their business in which we Westerners generally have no business interfering. If I’ve represented him accurately, I agree with him. A related question I often ponder is that if women as a whole in Islamic societies find their lot so disagreeable, could they not do something about it, even if by no other means than that they represent roughly fifty percent of the population? I can’t help but conclude that if women in these societies really wanted a significant change in their way of life, they would see that it happened. If they really don’t want it, who am I, or who are we, to insist upon it?

Women are hard-wired to be adaptable. They also lack the strategic sense necessary to “wake up” sufficiently to counter a long-term threat such as Islam. Women operate short-term and on emotion; their primary goal is harmony and immediate safety. They cannot see past their own personal situation, nor do most care to.

Only men can fix this multiculti nightmare. If good men actually stood up and fought liberalism openly, our women would follow and support us. Until then, they will support the intruders, whom they view as the stronger, more likely victors.

Although I don’t see it mentioned here, women in Islam are also oppressed by wife-beating (of which the culture approves, within limits, I suppose) and by honor-killing of women who so challenge their subordination that they are deemed to “dishonor” their families. From what I’ve read, there is no female solidarity among Muslims, i.e., women satisfied with their lot are pleased to cooperate with men in oppressing rebellious women.

“there is no female solidarity among Muslims, i.e., women satisfied with their lot are pleased to cooperate with men in oppressing rebellious women.”

Heck, that’s simply how the female mind operates. We used to see that in the secretarial pool all the time.