Here’s a five-minute video Ayaan Hirsi Ali made for Prager University (yes, I know what it is) decrying the neglect by Western feminists of Islamic oppression of women. I’m putting it up to stimulate discussion (but don’t bother saying that because Prager University was founded by a conservative, we can dismiss the entire video). There are lots of questions to deal with; I’ll mention just three.
- Is her talk of a “culture clash” between Western and Islamic values accurate? If so, should we nevertheless avoid discussing it lest it be perceived as “Islamophobic”?
- Is it even the business of Western feminists to fight for the rights of Muslim women, whether in the West or in Muslim countries? (I’m taking it for granted here that, as Hirsi Ali notes, that oppression is worse among Muslim women than among Western women in the West.) Shouldn’t we just deal, as some Western feminists note, with problems that are closer to home—problems we can fix?
- If Hirsi Ali is right, and feminists need to fight harder for their Muslim sisters, what’s the best way to do it?
I’ll state my own feelings about the broader question (not the ones above), which won’t be a surprise to regular readers. I think Western feminists excuse the misogyny inherent in Islam, and practiced by many Muslims, because thinking about it puts them in a situation of cognitive dissonance—they are forced to criticize the behavior of a group they consider oppressed (Muslims) if they want to promote the rights of another group they consider oppressed (women). It’s a clash between two classic progressive values, and to a large extent Western feminists have chosen Islam over women. Why they’ve made that choice baffles me.
Sadly, even if you consider all Muslims oppressed—and I don’t—being oppressed is no guarantee of virtue. Western women should stop coddling all religions that have misogynistic attributes, and those are not limited to Islam.