The Silence of the Western Feminists
In Tehran in June, several thousand people held a peaceful demonstration calling for legal changes that would give a woman's testimony in court equal value to a man's. The demonstrators, most of them women, were attacked with tear gas and beaten with batons by men and women from Iran's State Security Forces, according to Amnesty International.Pamela Bone also takes aim at the lack of opposition towards the establishment of reactionary Islamic laws in Canada.
Iranian women may not travel without their husband's permission but they are allowed to wield a truncheon against other women.
Do you think women in Western countries marched in solidarity with the Iranian women demonstrators? Of course not. Do you think there are posters and graffiti at universities condemning the Iranian President? Of course not. You know, without needing to go there, that any graffiti at universities will be condemning George W. Bush, not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (I concede Bush is easier to spell.)
You know, before you get there, that at the Melbourne Writers Festival starting this weekend the principal hate figures are going to be Bush and John Howard. You know there will be many sympathetic references to David Hicks but probably none to Ashraf Kolhari, an Iranian mother of four who has been in jail for five years for allegedly having sex outside marriage and, until last week, who was under sentence of death by stoning.
Feminism is not quite dead, however. The execution of Kolhari was stopped after a petition gathered thousands of signatures from human rights activists in Iran and across the world, including more than 5000 from the Feminist Majority Foundation in the US.Let's hear it for right-wingers! If the only people willing to call multiculturalist, moral relativist nonsense bunk are right-wingers, let's hope that the Western world turns solidly right-wing in a nanosecond.
Yet in Canada it took an Iranian exile, Homa Arjomand, to lead the fight to stop sharia courts being established there; she did so with almost zero support from Anglo-Canadian feminists and academics. Named Canadian Humanist of the Year, she's now running a campaign to stop honor killings. In Canada? "In Canada we are not witnessing honor killing much simply because in Canada women and young girls who are not submissive are taken to their home countries such as India, Pakistan, Afghanistan or Nigeria, and there they are being murdered by the male member of the family or a hit man," Arjomand said in a speech earlier this year. "And the (Canadian) state is not obligated to protect the individual citizens who were forced to leave Canada by the head of the family."
The question is why so many Western feminists do not speak out about the cruelty that blights the lives of millions of women in Islamic countries and would do the same to women everywhere else should the Islamists succeed in their stated aim of creating a worldwide caliphate. "On the defining issue of our times, the rise of Islamic extremism, what is left of the sisterhood has almost nothing to say," Baxter writes. Says Chesler: "Women's studies programs should have been the first to sound the alarm. They did not."
The reason, as writer Fay Weldon has said, is that these days racism is a much worse sin than sexism: a consequence, perhaps, of the success of the women's movement in the West. Women who would speak out don't because of a (justified) fear that they will be branded racists. Chesler has been ostracised by many of her old friends in the women's movement. It has been said she has become paranoid or gone mad or, worse, turned right-wing.