International Women’s Day and the Middle East

the illusion of a one world

Below is part of the boilerplate from the United Nations  web site on International women’s day.

“Women stand at the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, as health care workers, caregivers, innovators, community organizers and as some of the most exemplary and effective national leaders in combating the pandemic. The crisis has highlighted both the centrality of their contributions and the disproportionate burdens that women carry.

This year’s theme for the International Day,”Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world“, celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is also aligned with the priority theme of the 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, “Women in public life, equal participation in decision making“,and the flagship Generation Equality campaign, which calls for women’s right to decision-making in all areas of life, equal pay, equal sharing of unpaid care and domestic work, an end all forms of violence against women and girls, and health-care services that respond to their needs…… ”

Jihan Sadat opined that the rage for wearing the hijab is similar to teenagers wearing jeans with holes in the knees. Fashion not religion?

Well……. my take on the women’s day is that the world center of hypocrisy, i.e. the United Nations….. is probably the last place to look for any authentic boost for women’s rights. For instance look who is on the Human Rights Council, (HRC) Bahrain, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Libya, Gabon, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Uzbekistan etc etc.

Works for covid too

There can be little doubt that  the Middle East  is near the bottom of any authentic comparison of women’s rights and  their  reach for equality….at least in terms of the Western  concept of equality . This is an important point because the Fundamentalist Islamic clerics will say you are, in effect, comparing apples and oranges.  They would say our Islamic world cannot be juxtaposed next to the western world. We do not want to be part of the materialistic, immoral, corrupt Western world. For instance—-this is something I heard often in the Arab World…..our women  happily trade  your idea of freedom for the safety and security of the Islamic world. Not quite true actually. Many  Muslim women, for instance, wear the Islamic women’s headdress to avoid harassment by predatory males. In Cairo, there are separate cars on the underground for females because even the headdress and the long dress (abaya)  and is not quite enough to stop the groping.

I see these in northern Virginia quite often even before the China virus

head to foot.popular with the Mullahs of Iran

with this the ladies can check out the guys without being detected


If you do believe there are  certain universal rights of man/womenkind  applicable everywhere then one has to examine why the usually deplorable condition of women continues to exist in the Arab Muslim world ( Ill stick to the Arab Islamic world because I’m not comfortable writing about Indonesia  and South Asia.)  I see a number of factors.

What I am writing about here is not applicable across the board and varies from country to country, and class by class. But I will say that these  factors  exist in some degree across the board, in every Islamic country and every country.

a bit of fashion on this one

Most Muslim women are brainwashed from birth to accept an inferior status in life.It is part of the essence of their religion. Many examples are in the Quran. One example; Surah iv “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women)...   Non Muslim women…. especially those not of the book.( Christians, Jews)… (but in reality any not meeting the Ibn Tamiya status of a true Muslim  women ) taken in war are considered  as spoils of war. One  example the horrendous fate of the Yezidi women taken captive  by the predators of the ISIS. The frequent rejoinder to that…frequently used to sugar coat this during the Obama administration and apparently again by the Biden officials…. is that these ISIS were not “real Muslims.”  The 9/11 terrorists were all termed this way as are all Islamic terrorist actions, or alternately with “mental problems.”

These arguments were  shredded by he Kuwaiti official Saad bin Tafla Ajami in an article   (“We Are All ISIS”) reproduced in Elham Manea’s book The Perils of non Violent Islamism. Ajami reminded the readers that…” ISIS did not come from another planet. It is not a product of the infidel West or a bygone orient.No! the truth that we cannot deny is that ISIS learned from our schools, prayed in our mosques, listened to our media and our religious platforms, read from our books, and references, and followed fatwas (religious edicts) we produced.” Nir Rosen,  wrote a number of books (and articles in radical left wing periodicals like Mother Jones, and the Socialist Worker)  about the insurgents fighting Americans troops in Iraq. He spent  a lot of time with Iraqi Islamists,  and recorded their attitude succinctly in terms of scrupulously observing the doctrine of the Quran:  they were not “bad” Muslims…. but were actually the best and most righteous..certainly in their view.

It’s rather comical how Western self-appointed secular liberal  “experts” have become the judges of who qualifies as a good Muslim.  As the author, Yasmine Mohammed, wrote in her book Unveiled, her decision to write was prompted by the  appearance of Ben Affleck on the Bill Maher show denouncing  the racist appellations  being applied to Muslims  while at the same time he was promoting  and starring in  movies denigrating Christianity- A very common feature of Hollywood these days.

Iranian head to feet style preferred by the mullahs But no lipstic

In her book Yasmine details how her family constantly laid the guilt trip on her, …shaming the family, her destination to hell being a certainty, controlling  her life decisions, using the Western liberal social  environment to steal money from the taxpayers.etc. etc. Example: marrying a  widowed second wife with a child using an Islamic cleric to marry them, and then drawing government money sent to his wife as a single mother.

Firstly, the  Islamic women who are sucked into the vortex of Islamism-despite the inbred misogyny  of Islamism- are a consequence of their  imprinted inferior status but also by their desire to be something besides a baby  factory and appendage to their husband. The Islamists promise them a honored place in society. More over  the vast corruption endemic in the  Arab world has diminished any semblance of a positive attitude toward a Western parliamentary democracy in the minds of almost everyone.  This attitude is reinforced by the sleaze Hollywood churns out  and Western professors who go to teach in Muslim countries and reinforce the view of the United States as repository of deplorable Islamophobes.

Some years ago there were  quasi free elections in Bahrain with a few women running for office. The Western observers were surprised when most women voted for Islamist fundamentalists. Seemingly it didn’t make sense. Well, it does if you are a woman who has been  indoctrinated to do as you are told by your brothers and fathers, and firmly believe  you are carrying out the  duties and role in life allotted to you by God. If you believe, as a woman, you are congenitally incapable of being involved in affairs of the State and that women who put themselves out there in the public eye are sluts …well why would you vote for a woman?

Secondly nothing is more destructive  to the status of women in the Arab/Muslim world  than the shame factor. As the sociologists put it, this is a shame society in which your self respect is governed by your reputation among your neighbors. And the most severe damage to your reputation is a transgression of sexual mores by a woman of your family. In the argument of Nature vs Nurture, the Arab Muslims are definitely in the nature camp. Your bloodlines and genes  determine who you are. Thus a women who allegedly violates sexual norms, or appears to, casts shame not only on herself, but more importantly on the entire family. Men are much less ,if at all, blemished by sexual license.  This anxiety of sexual impurity has led to the barbaric practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FMG), supposedly to lessen the temptation of young women to engage in illicit sex. It is far more widespread among the middle class, especially in Egypt, that most would care to admit.

Thirdly another problem is the imbecilic attitude of the Western  intellectual elite, and ego driven celebrities like Ben Affleck, who act as facilitators for Islamist misogyny and religious /ethnic hatreds. It is the liberal/ leftist  form of racism. Their attitude is…….. well who are we to question their culture?  Apparently the Islamists are people from Mars and not governed by any universal laws of  common humanity. Somehow the Islamists have become the new radical chic.

Fourthly Islamism has become fashionable among the illuminati and cognoscenti. As part of the “informed class” you distance  yourself away from the hoi polloi by  a more “balanced” view of the embedded  Islamist hatreds by blaming the usual culprits,  colonialism, imperialism, the Palestinian problem on Western malevolence.  While roundly condemning the foibles and injustices of Christianity, these same “intellectuals” have only tepid objections to Islamist mass slaughter. Their view is like the view depicted in the movie “Killing Fields” to wit; It was American bombing that drove the Cambodian Communists crazy and led to the genocide of the people. Like wise in the Middle East it is the Palestine issue,  invasion of Iraq etc etc. that led to continuing murderous outrages by Islamists perpetrated in the West and Israel, and of course against their own people.

how to be fashionable and wear a hijab. But not in most Arab/muslim countries

Fifthly, The Western civilization and Christian world presently provides a very poor alternative to the Islamist world. A  Western “woke” generation that disparages their history and civilization hardly provides an optimistic and positive example. Christianity, in the words of one priest, has evolved from the ten commandments to the ten suggestions. Spiritual commitments have devolved into occasional feel good appearances at  soup kitchens.  The  slide of  United States  society toward  toward a rootless, amoral,  hedonistic, and  narcissistic  culture has been well documented by Christopher Lasch in the Revolt of the Elites,  and The Culture of Narcissism. Nothing can offer more graphic testimony to that  than the assembly  line abortion  industry, which softened natural human distaste for killing children by subsuming it into  “social justice”.   You can be ostracized for using a “hateful term” but lauded for exterminating your unborn child.  Why would this be an acceptable  to Muslim women  wishing to have a more spiritual life than the dry tedious, and overwhelming weight of Islamic prescriptions and proscriptions?  Just one example of this is the massive  Islamic regulations on toilet etiquette or initiation of sex.  Most of the burden falls on women.

whats’ your sign

My first and very impressionable incident that stuck in my memory regarding gender equality, happened in 1968 in the Gulf. I was out with Trucial Oman scouts on a patrol and we stopped in a bedu village. One of the British SAS troops with us gave an apple to a cute little girl. Promptly the father slapped the girl and took the apple away and gave it to her brother. Things have changed around the edges of gender issues, but not in substance nor among the  last majority of the people.

Two other books to read other than the two I have previously mentioned are Beyond The Veil by Fatima Mernisi and In the Land of the Invisible Women by Qanta A. Ahmad



About Tex

Retired artillery colonel, many years in a number of positions in the Arab world. Graduate of the US Military Academy and the American University of Beirut. MA in Arab studies from the American University in Beirut along with 18 years as Middle East Seminar Director at the JFK Special Warfare Center and School, Served in Vietnam with 1st Inf Division, Assignments in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, plus service with Trucial Oman Scouts in the Persian Gulf. Traveled to every Arab country on the map including Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
This entry was posted in Arab Culture, Arabs, Cross-Culture, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply