I cringe when I hear the terms “white male privilege” or “mansplaining” uttered from the mouths of Western feminists, but not only because they laughably compare masculinity to original sin.
As an Arab woman, I have closely followed the transgressions against women in the Middle East for years. The nature of the crimes are horrific and gut-wrenching: women are subject to having acid thrown on them, stonings, and murder. Often times, they lose their lives after merely expressing what Americans consider fundamental human rights.
When I consider the barbaric acts women’s husbands, families, and governments commit against them in the Middle East, the American feminist preoccupation with sexist kitchen advertisements or the sexist word “cheer” seems utterly trivial and petulant. When I listen to the plight of my female Arab cousins or even that of my mother, I am overwhelmed with a shroud of guilt and contempt. Western feminists should be advocating for the liberation of Muslim and Arab women, and yet my fellow American feminists are largely failing women living in a region lightyears behind us whose lives literally depend on our actions.
It’s perturbing that the very people who are trigger-happy to defend Hillary Clinton every time someone makes a remark on her outfit are simultaneously remaining mum when Samia Shahid was murdered in July 2016 by her ex-husband because she married against the will of the family. Western feminists flock to berate pro-life men and women for depriving a woman of autonomy over her body, but crawl into their politically-correct sanctuaries when statistics are released that foretell the gruesome fates of millions of Muslim girls who undergo the practice of female genital mutilation, which Sharia Law absolves.
Western feminists have made it clear that they would rather cleanse Islam of its sins by simply ignoring women who suffer at the hands of Sharia’s archaic practices altogether. They have decided that advocating for the equality of women in the Middle East would require criticizing Islam, and Muslims are of greater importance to progressives on the protective-class totem pole.
Western feminists are too enthralled with the delusion that misogyny and patriarchy not only linger in every facet of our lives, but pervades everything we do. They would rather fight abstract notions of Western imperialism, capitalism and colonialism than liberate women who actually face real, direct hardship, and brutal consequences for being raped or simply refusing to wear a hijab.
Not only is it ludicrous and hypocritical to ignore the women in the Middle East who pine for the attention of their sisters in the west, it is undermining an otherwise noble movement that should be attempting to achieve equality for women in dire need of representation.
According to Phyllis Chesler’s “Worldwide Trends in Honor Killings” , 91 percent of honor killings are committed by Muslims worldwide. While Western feminists all too often fill their time lambasting Israel for allegedly committing abhorrent war crimes against Arabs, Palestine has suffered a surge in honor killings where Palestinian husbands, brothers, and families are murdering their own wives, sisters and daughters for tarnishing their family name.
Tangentially, according to the National Post, 95 percent of honor killings committed in the West are committed by Muslim fathers and brothers against daughters or sisters that they perceive as having become too “westernized”. One of the most famous cases of honor killing in the US occurred in 2008 when Sarah and Amina Said were shot in the back of their father’s taxi in Texas when they were 17 and 18 years old, respectively. When Amina was 15, her father took her and her sister to Egypt, where he arranged a marriage between Amina and a 50 year old man. He would beat the sisters, who had American boyfriends and rejected traditional Islamic attire.
While many Western feminists acknowledge that the hijab is not a symbol of empowerment for many Middle Eastern women who are forced to wear it, they are reluctant to denounce the treatment of brutalized women who dared to not wear one. Phyllis Chesler, the author of “The Death of Feminism” told National Review that feminists are often apologists for Islamic religious and gender apartheid, fearing that their critique of veiling might be slandered as “racist.”
While feminists are gun-shy at this prospect of appearing “racist,” in 2007, 40 women were murdered in Iraq for “un-Islamic behavior” which consisted of wearing makeup and not wearing the hijab. In many Shiite controlled regions of Iraq, even Christian women are forced to wear the hijab or risk being killed. In Syria, an Al-Qaeda front group said girls could not attend school unless they wore Islamic clothing including an abaya, gloves and a veil.
Despite the subjugation of women, the only female figure to openly denounce and report on these acts is Pamela Geller, an activist for the counter-jihad movement.
So, where are Western feminists when my Arab sisters are beaten by their husbands as long as the “beating is not so severe as to damage her bones or deform her body?” Where were they when Aqsa Parvez was killed by her father in progressive Canada for not wearing her hijab?
They were within the cozy confines of our college campuses, where us women do not have to worry about having our necks wrung with our hijabs for disobeying our fathers’ orders. They were fighting sexist advertisements while Zahida Perveen’s husband gouged her eyes and sliced off her ears and nose because he suspected her of having an affair in a country that punishes honor killings with a slap on the wrist, if there is a punishment at all. They were continuing to ignore or dismiss every crime committed by a Muslim man or Islamic government unto their women because of a perverted logic mired in self-righteous sentimentalism, whose biggest fear is being deemed prejudicial for making justified criticisms of a regional and religious culture that warrants it.
I used to believe that Western feminists were simply enveloped in their own naivete, with little knowledge of the egregious treatment of women in many Middle Eastern countries. I would much rather this be the case when compared to the alternative — willful ignorance and continued silence.
Perhaps the once compelling strain of feminism that championed dignity for women universally has lost its momentum because of its quick strides, and victimhood is now exclusive to privileged Western women who prefer wallowing in the “patriarchal” American abyss.
Until Western feminists deem the gruesome treatment of Middle Eastern women worthy of the spotlight they have hogged with everything from residual implicit biases against women to Meghan Trainor songs, Muslim women will continue being hidden away in harems, without a morsel of hope for their emancipation.