Is It Racist to Condemn Facism?

I thought I would share this article with you all. It is the resposibility of the free people in this country, where we still have the capacity to speak out and create change, to cry out for those men, women and children in fanatical Muslim situations who have no voice and no choice…

From “The Times”
March 07, 2007

How my eyes were opened to the barbarity of Islam

Is it racist to condemn fanaticism?

Phyllis Chesler

Once I was held captive in Kabul. I was the bride of a charming, seductive and Westernised Afghan Muslim whom I met
at an American college. The purdah I experienced was relatively posh but the sequestered all-female life was not
my cup of chai – nor was the male hostility to veiled, partly veiled and unveiled women in public.

When we landed in Kabul, an airport official smoothly confiscated my US passport. “Don’t worry, it’s just a
formality,” my husband assured me. I never saw that passport again. I later learnt that this was routinely done to
foreign wives – perhaps to make it impossible for them to leave. Overnight, my husband became a stranger. The man with
whom I had discussed Camus, Dostoevsky, Tennessee Williams and the Italian cinema became a stranger. He treated me the
same way his father and elder brother treated their wives: distantly, with a hint of disdain and embarrassment.

In our two years together, my future husband had never once mentioned that his father had three wives and 21 children.
Nor did he tell me that I would be expected to live as if I had been reared as an Afghan woman. I was supposed to lead a
largely indoor life among women, to go out only with a male escort and to spend my days waiting for my husband to return
or visiting female relatives, or having new (and very fashionable) clothes made.

In America, my husband was proud that I was a natural-born rebel and free thinker. In Afghanistan, my criticism of the
treatment of women and of the poor rendered him suspect, vulnerable. He mocked my horrified reactions. But I knew
what my eyes and ears told me. I saw how poor women in chadaris were forced to sit at the back of the bus and had
to keep yielding their place on line in the bazaar to any man.

I saw how polygamous, arranged marriages and child brides led to chronic female suffering and to rivalry between
co-wives and half-brothers; how the subordination and sequestration of women led to a profound estrangement
between the sexes – one that led to wife-beating, marital rape and to a rampant but hotly denied male “prison”-like
homosexuality and pederasty; how frustrated, neglected and uneducated women tormented their daughter-in-laws and female
servants; how women were not allowed to pray in mosques or visit male doctors (their husbands described the symptoms in their absence).

Individual Afghans were enchantingly courteous – but the Afghanistan I knew was a bastion of illiteracy, poverty,
treachery and preventable diseases. It was also a police state, a feudal monarchy and a theocracy, rank with fear and
paranoia. Afghanistan had never been colonised. My relatives said: “Not even the British could occupy us.” Thus I was
forced to conclude that Afghan barbarism was of their own making and could not be attributed to Western imperialism.

Long before the rise of the Taleban, I learnt not to romanticise Third World countries or to confuse their
hideous tyrants with liberators. I also learnt that sexual and religious apartheid in Muslim countries is indigenous
and not the result of Western crimes – and that such “colourful tribal customs” are absolutely, not relatively,
evil. Long before al-Qaeda beheaded Daniel Pearl in Pakistan and Nicholas Berg in Iraq, I understood that it was
dangerous for a Westerner, especially a woman, to live in a Muslim country. In retrospect, I believe my so-called
Western feminism was forged in that most beautiful and treacherous of Eastern countries.

Nevertheless, Western intellectual-ideologues, including feminists, have demonised me as a reactionary and racist
“Islamophobe” for arguing that Islam, not Israel, is the largest practitioner of both sexual and religious apartheid
in the world and that if Westerners do not stand up to this apartheid, morally, economically and militarily, we will not
only have the blood of innocents on our hands; we will also be overrun by Sharia in the West. I have been heckled,
menaced, never-invited, or disinvited for such heretical ideas – and for denouncing the epidemic of Muslim-on-Muslim
violence for which tiny Israel is routinely, unbelievably scapegoated.

However, my views have found favour with the bravest and most enlightened people alive. Leading secular Muslim and
ex-Muslim dissidents – from Egypt, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Pakistan, Syria and exiles from Europe and North
America – assembled for the landmark Islamic Summit Conference in Florida and invited me to chair the opening
panel on Monday.

According to the chair of the meeting, Ibn Warraq: “What we need now is an age of enlightenment in the Islamic world.
Without critical examination of Islam, it will remain dogmatic, fanatical and intolerant and will continue to
stifle thought, human rights, individuality, originality and truth.” The conference issued a declaration calling for such
a new “Enlightenment”. The declaration views “Islamophobia” as a false allegation, sees a “noble future for Islam as a
personal faith, not a political doctrine” and “demands the release of Islam from its captivity to the ambitions of power-hungry men”.

Now is the time for Western intellectuals who claim to be antiracists and committed to human rights to stand with
these dissidents. To do so requires that we adopt a universal standard of human rights and abandon our loyalty
to multicultural relativism, which justifies, even romanticises, indigenous Islamist barbarism, totalitarian
terrorism and the persecution of women, religious minorities, homosexuals and intellectuals. Our abject
refusal to judge between civilisation and barbarism, and between enlightened rationalism and theocratic
fundamentalism, endangers and condemns the victims of Islamic tyranny.

Ibn Warraq has written a devastating work that will be out by the summer. It is entitled Defending the West: A Critique
of Edward Said’s Orientalism. Will Western intellectuals also dare to defend the West?

Phyllis Chesler is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and
Women’s Studies at the City University of New York

To top