Cultural Coolies "Rocking the Casbah:" Review of Newsweek Feature (Dec. 20, 2004)

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Part 1: The Making of Manji: Her Master’s Voice

Recently the Newsweek (Dec. 20, 2004) ran a feature on Ms. Irshad Manji depicting her as a Muslim feminist who’s been defying death threats (probably, a self-promotional claim) to fight for change within Islam.[1] The western media have been pampering and promoting the proud lesbian as a “progressive” voice since the publication of her highly polemical book “The Trouble With Islam.” Their pimply motivation stems partly from Manji’s diatribes where she ridicules the motivation of the martyrdom-seeking resistant fighters, the Muslim Kamikazes, against occupation in Palestine (and also Iraq and Afghanistan) with obscene remarks like: "it’s like a perpetual license to ejaculate in exchange for a willingness to detonate."

In the history of mankind, there has never been a shortage of individuals like Brutus, Jagat Seth, Umichand, Rai Durlabh, Mir Jafar and Quisling.[2] The smell of power, pounds and pennies roused them to sell their country.[3] They made the task of occupation easier for their masters. I wonder how our world would have looked if it were not for those traitors! In the post-colonial period of neo-imperialism, their demand has not tapered down an iota. With modernity, the demand for raw materials from the former colonies has grown and so is the push to sell surplus “modern” products. The former masters required new traitors to leverage the process of buying and selling. So, they created the likes of Batista,[4] Reza Shah,[5] Suharto,[6] Noriega,[7] Papa Doc [8] and Mobutu [9] (and a host of stooges still ruling) in their former colonies. These individuals were supposed to license the perpetual bondage of their nations at the altar of the Capitalist West.

But with the newer discoveries of modern gadgetries, the task of indirect occupation and plunder became somewhat more complex and less translucent than the good, old days. It required a new group of native “intellectuals” to make the task appear less transparent. They were to propagate the benevolent “civilizing” and “modernizing” mission of their paying masters. So, the tactic was to create these native “Oreo cookies.”[10] How does one create such charlatans? Jean Paul Satre, one of West’s best-known philosophers, provided the answer. In the preface to Fanon’s book "The Wretched of the Earth" he said, "We would bring a group of African or Asian youth to Amsterdam, Paris, London for a few months; take them around, change their clothes and adornments, teach them etiquette and social manners as well as some fragment of language. In short, we would empty them of their own cultural values and then send them back to their own countries. They would no longer be the kind of person to speak their own mind; rather they would be our mouthpieces. We would cry the slogans of humanity and equality and then they would echo our voice in Africa and Asia, ‘- – manity’, ‘- – quality’." What a brilliant, albeit a devious, scheme! These were the philosophers, the Western think tanks, who convinced our people to lay aside our orthodoxy, discard our religion, to get rid of native culture and become westernized from the tip of the toe to the top of the head!

Are we, therefore, surprised to find how at numerous occasions our pseudo-scholars came out in the open and launched savage attacks on our religion and culture, trying to legitimize western infiltration and hegemony over our land?[11] For the right price, they don’t mind prostituting to the highest bidder. They are essentially the neo-slaves – the house-niggers – of our modern time. The only difference they have with the slaves of olden days is that at least the latter were intelligent enough to recognize that they were in bondage while the modern-day slaves don’t even know, nor care to admit, that they have been bought. Manji happens to have just joined the rank of such an iniquitous group. She, definitely, won’t be the last of her kind to act as an agent for the neo-imperial powers.

As has been known, prostitutes –” physical or mental –” have nothing good to offer to the society they come from. Their embrace is rather deadly, syphilitic or AIDS-like. None but a fool would fall into their trap. And, like all prostitutes, it won’t be too long that their worthiness would also fade away, and their pimps would fetch others more willing to do the devil’s job.

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Part 2: The Meaning of “Progress” a la West: The Predicament for Women

Newsweek has tried to sell Irshad Manji as a “progressive” voice, even touting her as one of the best hopes in her generation to bring Islam back to the future. So, let us ponder on the messages that Manji is voicing on her master’s behalf.

How are we to measure progress? Is the metric: advancement, liberation or empowerment or something else? Is it by one’s looks (for instance, spiky hair and cantankerous mien), dress (mini skirts, bikini and nude beaching), trash talking and appearances in the western media, let alone sexual perversion, that we label someone as progressive? Are the metrics of “progressive” society the percentages of unwed mothers, divorce, and children – born out of wedlock? Or, is it by the choice it makes? Or, is it simply the modes of consumption? There is a morally flawed inclination in the West to pick the latter criterion as the metric for progress. And interestingly, a Muslim society is considered “progressive” only when its women participate in swimsuit competitions, or bars and brothels are easily accessible, and neon signs or billboards for bras and condoms are displayed!

Manji’s views on the Israel-Palestine conflict mimic those of her promoters and sponsors. She is also for American or western hegemony over Muslim world. To her, America is a liberator, and not an occupier. She abhors those who resist occupation and plunder. Last June, she won the Simon Wiesenthal Award for Valor. One can see why she, with such a conspicuous resume, is all on a sudden such a “progressive” voice –” sought after by our western media!

Manji bemoans the so-called inferior treatment of women in Muslim countries. While all societies have failed in varying degrees in their treatment of women, who could deny the fact that women liberation does not automatically translate into women empowerment? So, while the United States still has not had a woman president or a vice-president, four populous Muslim countries –” Bangladesh, Pakistan, Turkey and Indonesia –” have had women prime ministers or presidents (all holding ultimate political power in either a parliamentary or a presidential system of government). Intriguingly, the ultimate political power in Bangladesh has rotated between two women for the last 14 years (and will probably continue to do so for a foreseeable future). And all this before France has had a woman President, Germany a woman Chancellor and Russia a woman President. Now, if the treatment of women was that inferior, as whined by Manji, how was it possible for those women to get elected for the highest position in their respective countries? Manji may consider preaching her mantra to Chirac, Schroeder and Putin. And who knows, probably, one day, they will catch up with some Muslim countries on women empowerment and will have a male first spouse (instead of a first lady)!

There is no denying that Islamic rules on sexual modesty have on occasions resulted in undue segregation between the sexes in public places, sometimes resulting in marginalization of women in public affairs. In this regard, Afghanistan under the Taliban was a prime example. Women there were prohibited from business and employment. This, in spite of the fact that Khadija (R), the wife of the Prophet (S), was a businesswoman. Women there were even banned from attending schools and universities – an oddity when one reflects upon the fact that Islam, more than any other religion, makes it obligatory on both genders to learn. [Hadith: "It is mandatory for every male and female Muslim to learn knowledge."] Women (unaccompanied) are still not permitted to drive cars in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi rationale stems from safekeeping women, if and when stranded, and not from any ulterior motive. If overprotection is a crime, definitely the Saudi government is guilty of it. Matters of this kind, nonetheless, need to be assessed for potential benefit to harm. (Already signs are there for a gradual lifting of some social restrictions.)

In many Muslim countries today, there is a pool of highly talented scientists, engineers, architects, doctors, lawyers, artists, economists and professors that are women. Truly, there is hardly a profession or trade that women have not infiltrated and excelled. They have shown that they are as capable, if not sometimes better, as their male counterparts. This does not, however, mean that the gender question is not troublesome in some Muslim countries or that things cannot be any better, especially given the fact that of all the major religions, it is Islam that guaranteed women’s suffrages some 13 centuries before most western countries.

As a matter of fact, no western woman could vote before 1893. The credit goes to New Zealand for making that happen. In the United States, women (only White) were allowed to vote in 1920. The British women (over the age of 21) got the right in 1928. France followed as recently as 1944. Switzerland did not permit women to vote in national election until 1971.

British women were granted the right to own property independent of their husbands only in 1870, while Muslim women have always had that right. While in many Western cultures daughters could not inherit anything if there were sons in the family, Islamic law has always allocated shares from every inheritance to both daughters and sons. Islam made primogeniture unlawful.[12] Islam also made sure that mother, wives, sisters and female children were not neglected from their due share in inheritance.

Census data from 2000 showed that women in the U.S. earned 75 cents for every dollar earned by men. Women in the U.S. make up over 50% of the labor force, yet they hold less than 19% of management jobs. Abuse of women is quite common in the western world. Divorce and rape are rampant. Are these the signs of progress or decadence? Muslim women are better off from a fake modernity that reduces them to pin-up girls, miserable and confused.

The Newsweek article alleges: “In some Muslim societies women are systematically mutilated, in others merely humiliated. Last week Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service announced it had identified 117 cases of female deaths and disappearances over the last 10 years that may have been honor killings: executions of girls and women by men in the family who feel they’ve brought shame on them.” As to the first of these charges, female circumcision has nothing to do with Islam. It predates Islam, and has been practiced amongst Jewish, Christian, Berber and other religious communities in Africa and some parts of the Middle East for millennia. Islam discouraged mutilation of female body parts. As a matter of fact, outside male circumcision, Muslims are not even allowed to tattoo (or disfigure) –” a practice that is so pervasive in the West today – their body.

As to the latter allegation about probable disappearances and deaths of roughly 12 Muslim women per year in UK, it is shocking news, for one death is too many. But that statistics pales in comparison to the killings happening in any major city in the West. In my city of Philadelphia alone, the yearly average for wrongful murder was counted at more than 400 (with worst year being 1990, with 500). That average has somewhat come down in recent years to around 338 per year.[13] As far as domestic violence is concerned, any major city would love to have the paltry statistics on Muslim women’s disappearance or probable honor killing.[14] Let us also be cognizant of the fact that honor killing is quite common amongst Japanese, Korean and other conservative communities.

Newsweek talks about humiliation of Muslim women. Now let us look at some records of domestic violence and homicide in the U.S.A.[15]

Domestic violence:

– According to a U.S. Department of Justice report (March 1998), estimates range from 960,000 incidents of violence against a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend per year to three million women who are physically abused by their husband or boyfriend per year.

– Nearly one-third of American women (31 %) report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives, according to a 1998 Commonwealth Fund survey.

– Nearly 25 % of American women report being raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or date at some time in their lifetime, according to the National Violence Against Women Survey, conducted from November 1995 to May 1996. [Note: According to the National Organization for Women (NOW) website: www.now.org, every year nearly 1.2 million women are forcibly raped by their former or current partners.]

– Thirty percent of Americans say they know a woman who has been physically abused by her husband or boyfriend in the past year.[16]

– According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, in the year 2001, more than half a million American women (588,490 women) were victims of nonfatal violence committed by an intimate partner.

– While women are less likely than men to be victims of violent crimes overall, women are five to eight times more likely than men to be victimized by an intimate partner.[17]

– In 2001, intimate partner violence made up 20 percent of violent crime against women. The same year, intimate partners committed three percent of all violent crime against men.[18]

– As many as 324,000 women each year experience intimate partner violence during their pregnancy.[19]

Domestic Homicides

– On average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in the U.S.A. every day. In 2000, 1,247 women were killed by an intimate partner. The same year, 440 men were killed by an intimate partner. (Note: According to the NOW website: www.now.org, approximately 1400 women a year are murdered in the USA by their husbands and boyfriends.)

– Women are much more likely than men to be killed by an intimate partner. In 2000, intimate partner homicides accounted for 33.5 percent of the murders of women and less than four percent of the murders of men.

Health Issues

– The health-related costs of rape, physical assault, stalking and homicide committed by intimate partners exceed $5.8 billion each year. Of that amount, nearly $4.1 billion are for direct medical and mental health care services, and nearly $1.8 billion are for the indirect costs of lost productivity or wages.

– About half of all female victims of intimate violence report an injury of some type, and about 20 percent of them seek medical assistance.

– Thirty-seven percent of women who sought treatment in emergency rooms for violence-related injuries in 1994 were injured by a current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend.

Domestic Violence and Youth

Approximately one in five female high school students reports being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner.

– Eight percent of high school age girls said “yes” when asked if “a boyfriend or date has ever forced sex against your will.”

– Forty percent of girls age 14 to 17 report knowing someone their age who has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend.

– During the 1996-1997 school year, there were an estimated 4,000 incidents of rape or other types of sexual assault in public schools across the country.

Domestic Violence and Children

– In a national survey of more than 6,000 American families, 50 percent of the men who frequently assaulted their wives also frequently abused their children.

– Slightly more than half of female victims of intimate violence live in households with children under age 12.

– Studies suggest that between 3.3 and 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually.

Rape

– Three in four women (76 percent) who reported they had been raped and/or physically assaulted since age 18 said that a current or former husband, cohabiting partner, or date committed the assault.

– One in five (21 percent) women reported she had been raped or physically or sexually assaulted in her lifetime.

– Nearly one-fifth of women (18 percent) reported experiencing a completed or attempted rape at some time in their lives; one in 33 men (three percent) reported experiencing a completed or attempted rape at some time in their lives.

– In 2000, 48 percent of the rapes/sexual assaults committed against people age 12 and over were reported to the police.

– In 2001, 41,740 women were victims of rape/sexual assault committed by an intimate partner.

– Rapes/sexual assaults committed by strangers are more likely to be reported to the police than rapes/sexual assaults committed by “non-strangers,” including intimate partners, other relatives and friends or acquaintances. Between 1992 and 2000, 41 percent of the rapes/sexual assaults committed by strangers were reported to the police. During the same time period, 24 percent of the rapes/sexual assaults committed by an intimate were reported.

Stalking

– Annually in the United States, 503,485 women are stalked by an intimate partner.

– Seventy-eight percent of stalking victims are women. Women are significantly more likely than men (60 percent and 30 percent, respectively) to be stalked by intimate partners.

– Eighty percent of women who are stalked by former husbands are physically assaulted by that partner and 30 percent are sexually assaulted by that partner.

Has the situation improved? According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, USA), in 2002, there were 247,730 victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault. Of these approximately 248,000 victims, about 87,000 were victims of completed rape, 70,000 were victims of attempted rape, and 91,000 were victims of sexual assault. Up to 4,315 pregnancies may have resulted from these attacks. [RAINN calculation based on 2002 National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) and medical reports. The 1999 NCVS report says that 61% of rapes/sexual assaults are not reported to police.] [20]

These are daunting and worrisome statistics about how miserably the “progressive” American society is failing in protecting the lives and honor of women and minors, something that Manji and her sponsors like to hide under the rug. In contrast, aspects of Islamic culture that the West regards as medieval could have prevented such failures. Women are more protected in Muslim countries. A woman there is less prone to sexual and physical violence. A woman in major cities like Cairo and Tehran can walk home at night, without the fear of rape, murder or mugging, something that is unthinkable for women in western cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia.

Last words on the allegations of inferior treatment of Muslim women:

Nearly twelve centuries before the dawning of western Enlightenment, the Prophet (S) of Islam said, "The best among you are those who treat women well." He also said, “No one of my Ummah (community) supports three daughters or three sisters and treats well, except that they will be a shield for him from the Fire (of Hell).”

A man came to Muhammad (S) and asked: “O Messenger of Allah, which person of all people is best entitled to kind treatment and the good companionship from me?” He (S) answered: “Your mother.” The man asked again: “And then?” He said: “Your mother.” The man asked for the third time: “And after her?” He said: “Your mother.” The man asked for the fourth time: “And after that?” He said: “Your father.”

How could a culture that teaches – "Paradise lies under the feet of mother"[21] be oppressive to women?[22]

Contrary to allegations in the Newsweek piece, women in Islam are not inferior to men. According to Shaykh Ibn al-Arabi (R), one of the great Sufi scholars, "In some respects woman is superior to man, and is his equal in most other cases" (Al-Futuhat). The Qur’an says, "Surely the noblest among you in the sight of God is the most God-fearing of you" (49:13). Another way to read this verse would be: "The only superiority in God’s sight consists in preserving oneself from evil." Men and women, says the Qur’an, are garments of one another ["They are a garment for you and you are a garment to them" (2:187)]. God "has created spouses for you among yourselves so that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has planted love and mercy between you. In that are signs for people who reflect" (30:21).

It is painful to see that in spite of such noble teachings, Muslims have sometimes failed to honor and protect women. In this regard, Henry Bayman’s remark is rather illuminating. In his brilliant work –” The Meaning of the Four Books –” he says, “The history of Islam is, by and large, the history of the failure of so-called "Islamic" nations to live up to the high ideals of Islam, as much as it is of their success. … Ideals are always difficult to translate into practice, but the shortcoming here lies with all-too-human failings, not with the ideals themselves.”

We have seen that women liberation did neither empower western women nor has secured them, the questions to consider are: did it, at least, dignify them?[23] Did “progress” enrich the quality of their family and individual life? What is desirable, a mad rush for western “progress” that does not guarantee peace, security and dignity, or a faith-based system that is conservative but still guarantees peace, security and dignity? [24] Well, we may differ with Manji and her ilk on these issues. Enough said!

Notes:

[1]. Rocking the Casbah by Christopher Dickey and Carla Power, Newsweek, December 20, 2004 (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6700425/site/newsweek/)

[2]. Vidkun Abraham Lauritz Jonssøn Quisling (1887-1945) was a Norwegian politician and officer. He earned the reputation as one of World War Two’s most infamous traitors. He held the office of Minister President of Norway from February 1942 to the end of World War II, while the elected social democratic cabinet of Johan Nygaardsvold was exiled in London. Quisling was tried for high treason and executed by firing squad after the war.

[3]. Mir Jafar, Jagat Seth, Umichand and Rai Durlabh collaborated with Lord Clive to bring about the fall of Nawabi rule in Bengal at the Battle of Plassey in 1757. This opened the door for subsequent British colonization of entire India.

[4]. In an uprising known as the "Revolt of the Sergeants," Fulgencio Batista took over the Cuban government on September 4, 1933. The coup overthrew the liberal government of Gerardo Machado, and marked the beginning of the army’s influence as an organized force in the running of the government. It also signaled Batista’s emergence as self-appointed chief of the armed forces, king-maker and favored U.S. strong man.

[5]. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (1919- 1980) was the last Shah of Iran, ruling from 1941 until 1979. At the end of World War II, political unrest dogged Iran and in 1953 the nation’s nationalist Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh forced the Shah to flee the country. He was quickly escorted back to power and fired Mossadegh through a counter coup, led by General Fazlollah Zahedi, which was supported by the American CIA and Britain’s SIS (MI6). On January 16, 1979 he and his family were forced to flee Iran a second time following the Iranian revolution. He was welcomed by President Anwar Sadat of Egypt, and remained there until his death on July 27, 1980.

[6]. General Suharto (b. 1921) was an Indonesian dictator and military strongman, who seized power in 1965 through a military coup that had the backing from the CIA. He was the second President of Indonesia, from 1967 to 1998.

[7]. General Manuel Antonio Noriega (b. 1934)was a general and military leader of Panama from 1983 to 1989. He was initially a strong ally of the U.S.A, and was in the pay-roll of the CIA from the late 1950s to 1986. By the late 1980s his actions had become increasingly unacceptable to American law enforcement officials and policymakers, and he was overthrown and captured by a U.S. invading force in 1989. He was taken to the United States, tried for drug trafficking, and imprisoned in 1992. He remains imprisoned in a federal prison in Miami, Florida.

[8]. François Duvalier was the notorious ruler of Haiti throughout the 1960s. Duvalier was a physician (the source of his nickname, "Papa Doc") who worked in the Haitian government beginning in the mid-1940s. With the army’s support, he was elected to the presidency in 1957. In 1964 he declared himself president for life and indeed, stayed president until his death in 1971, when his son, Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, succeeded him. Papa Doc was an expert in voodoo who ruled Haiti with brute force and terror, with his ruthless security force, the Tontons Macoutes, acting as real-life bogeymen who routinely executed his opponents.

[9]. Joseph-Désiré Mobutu (1930-1997) was the President of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) from 1965 to 1997. On September 14, 1960, a coup d’état overthrew Congo’s first elected Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba in support of President Kasavubu. Colonel Mobutu was a key figure in the coup and was rewarded with rapid promotion. It is believed that the CIA had a hand in this coup.

[10]. The crust of an Oreo-cookie is black, while the inside is creamy white.

[11]. Taha Hussein (Egypt) and a host of ‘imperial’ intellectuals – Fuad Ajami (USA) and Khaled Duran (USA) fall in this category.

[12]. See: Professor Ali A. Mazrui’s lecture on “Islamic and Western Values” at the Al-Hewar Center, Washington, D.C., Dec. 6, 1997, for a detailed discussion on this subject.

[13]. Murder on rise again in city, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Aug. 03, 2003.

[14]. http://www.crimelibrary.com/notorious_murders/family/index.html;

[15]. http://endabuse.org/programs/printable/display.php3?DocID=100001

[16]. Lieberman Research survey report, 1996

[17]. U. S. Department of Justice: March 1998

[18]. Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Feb. 2003

[19]. Gazmararian JA et. al., Material and Child Health J., 2000; 4(2): 79-84.

[20]. See the RAINN website for complete information. As far as Canada is concerned, Statistics Canada says that the homicide rate, which has generally been declining since the mid-1970s, fell in 2003 by 7% to 1.73 victims per 100,000 people. Canada’s rate was about a third the rate in the United States — 5.69 per 100,000 people. It was also lower than England and Wales at 1.93 but slightly higher than France at 1.65 and Australia at 1.63. In 2002, there were 122 deaths involving family members killing spouses, boy-or-girl friends and children (below the age of 12). Of these:

– Sixty-four men killed their wives; 14 women killed their husbands.

– Homicides committed by boyfriends, girlfriends and current or estranged partners dropped to 11 from 17 in 2002.

– Fifty-seven youths aged 12 to 17 years were accused of homicide in 2003, 15 more than in 2002 and eight more than the previous 10-year average.

– Thirty-three homicides were committed against children under the age of 12 in 2003, the lowest number in more than 25 years. Fourteen were under one year of age. In 1992, one out of every 68,000 Canadian women (and one out of every 27,000 Canadian men) was a victim of domestic homicide [Statistics Canada, Canadian Center for Justice Statistics, March 1994; Juristat Service Bulletin Vol. 14, No. 8]. Of the 27 solved homicides against children – 23 were killed by a parent, of which 9 by a father, 4 by a stepfather, 10 by a mother and one by a stepmother. In addition, two children were killed by their day-care provider and two by a stranger (http://www.canlaw.com/rights/whokills.htm).

[21]. It is a well-known Prophetic Tradition.

[22]. For sources and similar citations, see this author’s book: Islamic Wisdom.

[23]. The answer is provided by Karen Armstrong, who said that our "view of women and the relations between the sexes is confused. We preach equality and liberation, but at the same time exploit and degrade women in advertising, pornography and much popular entertainment…” [Muhammad: A Western Attempt to Understand Islam (London: Victor Gollancz, 1991)] [24]. Esmé Wynne-Tyson has put our modern predicament in a nutshell: “It is quite certain that if woman continues to regard unceasing materialistic labour as a proof of progress, she will not only be unable to share [increased] leisure but will have no time to civilize–”even when she is capable of it–”either her husband or children. Moreover, by such blind acquiescence to the plans of our modern Pharaohs to turn the world into a large State-termitary, she is rapidly losing her soul, or divinity… : her sense of spirituality, her natural response to beauty, her innate womanliness most perfectly expressed in selfless maternal love.” [Maitreya 4 (1973), p. 12-13, quoted from Wynne-Tyson, The Philosophy of Compassion (London: Centaur Press, 1970), p. 271]

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