Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Abu Ghraib prison

The book that excited Hillary Clinton to Hate “Arabs” and mindlessly side with apartheid Israel: “The Apocalypse”

“The Apocalypse” and “Entretien avec moi-meme” “by Oriana Fallaci

Note: I reviewed this book in 2007 that was published after the September 11, 2001 on the Twin Tower.and posted it on October 24, 2008.

I learned later that this fatal and heinous book excited many colonial powers to launch campaign plans to discredit Islam and the Islamic population. We are still suffering from the consequences of this dangerous generalized ideology. 

Oriana Fallaci was born in 1929 in Florence and died of cancer, maybe of the esophagus in 2006, as her mother, father, and another sister died.

She was a journalist and covered many wars in Vietnam and the Middle East and managed to interview Khomeini for 6 hours and turned to a writer.

Of her publications we can list: “La force de la raison”, “La rage et l’orgueil”, “Un homme”, “Inchallah”, “Lettre a un enfant jamais né”, “Entretiens avec l’Histoire”, and “La vie, la guerre et puis rien”.

Fallaci had a refuge in Manhattan for 10 years and stopped publishing anything and was treating her cancer when the Twin Towers were taken down by Al Qaeda hijacked airplanes.

She remembered seeing Ben Laden in the 1980s in Beirut when the Israeli war planes imploded a high rise to the ground and she conjectured that the way the towers went down was an exact revenge of Bin Laden two decades later.

The attacks on the Twin Towers forced Fallaci to feverishly go back to write about current dangerous phenomena and stored her 800-pages novel in the drawer waiting for an opportune time to work on her “baby”, but she never got around to finish and publish it.

She wrote in “Rage and Pride” that there come times in life where keeping silent is a fault and speaking out an obligation, a civil duty, a moral defiance, a categorical imperative we cannot escape from.

She felt it impossible to stay quiet and apathetic and thus, facing the enormity of the danger she was forced to resume writing.

She wrote a long article in 3 weeks and lived on coffee and cigarettes and her crying was dry because of a congenital nervous case that occurred to her in 1943 when she was about 14 years old.

Then, the allies were bombing Florence and she got scared and started to cry and her dad slapped her hard saying: “young girls do not cry” (go figure, her scared dad reacted nervously and uttered a stupid sentence).

Fallaci fell in love once in her life with the Greek activist Alekos Panagulis who was assassinated at the age of 38 and she wrote a book about Panagulis titled “A man“.

Alekos suffered 5 years of prison in seclusion and when he was freed he cried in front of the Parthenon and repeated “Bitch of democracy, but it is democracy after all”.

Fallaci doesn’t see any other alternative political system but democracy, though it has many flaws and is unable to bring stability quickly when major upheavals strike a nation.

She never returned to Greece because the authorities removed the expensive wedding ring that she inserted in the finger of the deceased when they exhumed the body.

She kept raging against the “falaka” such as hitting the sole of the feet that she says the Greek police have inherited from 4 centuries of Ottoman hegemony in Greece.

Oriana dedicated her introduction to the memories of the many foreigners who were kidnapped and slaughtered by the Muslim fanatics in Iraq and Afghanistan and to the victims in the school of Beslan by the Chechen and to the Danish Theo Van Gogh the director of a short movie on the status of women in the Muslim World.

Her previous volume “The Force of Reason” was in memories of the Madrid train victims.

She unfurled a huge Italian flag over her window to remind the Italian to be proud of their country instead of the rainbow flag of the European Union, along with two tiny US flags to thank America for deposing Saddam Hussein and fighting “Islam terrorism” and for saving Europe during the two World Wars. (US could have remove Saddam, but they wanted to take hold of  strategic Iraq physically and the US created the Islamic extremist movement))

Oriana was furious when her physician suggested not to mention explicitly to others that she is suffering from cancer.

Most people who died of cancer were referred to as dying from incurable disease.  She didn’t think that people would shun her, since cancer is not contagious and not the results of sinful activities, but people were scared to approach cancer afflicted victims.

The atrocities committed by the US forces at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq was frustrating and she felt betrayed, offended and lied to because Western civilization cannot swallow acts of brutalities against helpless and chained prisoners. She took comfort that the perpetrators were legally judged, convicted and imprisoned (Not so sure about imprisoned or got fair punishment. She just wanted to comforted herself on the values of western colonial power “civilizations”).

Fallaci is bitter and angry that the European and Italian leaders, leftist and green parties are pacifying with the Muslims immigrants and being too tolerant to the Islamic laws of living that she labeled Europe “Eurabia” because it is falling under the Arabic Islamic hegemony and Nazi Islamism.

She calls the communists in Italy the caviar left and that the left and right parties the two faces of the same coin as two soccer teams running hard to grab the ball of Power and they are homogenous; the only dirty and backward right that still exists is Islam and those sons of Allah.

She fumes that the crucifix is taken off the school rooms and Christmas crib is no longer installed in, so that not to offend the Muslims. Oriana wonders: “Who is supposed to get integrated, us or them?”

She resent the new laws that allow immigrants to vote which will alter the way the European and Italian live.

Democracy is based on the two concepts of equality and liberty and Oriana believes that people likes equality and are ready to give up on some of their liberty.

Equality is understood to be legal equality under the law of the land, but it does not transfer to moral and mental equality, and equality in value and merit.

Individuality and competition are what make life worth living and fighting for.

Fallaci rages against the Italian Communist party that infiltrated every municipality and the courtrooms and is over lording its monolithic dogma and cultural hegemony as filtered to them by former Communist Russia.

The communists have appropriated the Italian resistance to Nazi Germany although they didn’t react until the American forces were chasing out the occupying forces; worst, they intimidated and killed many Italian national resistance fighters such as Justice and Action party of which Oriana was member when an adolescent.

She lambasted Sigrid Hunke who wrote “The sun of Allah shines over the West” and her activism at smuggling African immigrants to Italy.

The support that Hunke accords to the enemy of Fallaci culture and Christian civilization exacerbates her failing health.

Although Fallaci is atheist she would like to believe that Europe is a Christian culture and was upset when the European Constitution refused to state that the religion of Europe is Christianity. 

She certainly is furious at the Italian successive government acting more royal than France and Germany in matters of the European Union laws and legislations that are emptying the national character and specific culture of Italy.

She admits that she is a manichist, a cult that Mani spread in the 3rd century in Iran and reached Europe. The concepts of Bad and Good are totally separate entities and no shades should alter the process of distinguishing between them and taking firm stands.

Half of the interview with herself is antagonizing most of the Italian leaders and political parties for homogenizing their doctrines and not exhibiting any serious differences in politics and thus, rendering the democratic process void of any meaning.

Fallaci pinched Berlusconi ears in her two previous books but she claimed that she will not become another Maramaldo who killed an already dying man Francesco Ferrucci in Florence in 1530.

Berlusconi did not have much education and he could not believe that the Italians elected him Prime Minister, though he is a very intelligent man in business and one of the richest according to Forbes.

Even his numerous mass media television channels were Not sucking up to him because he was too proud and over confident to attract the right counselors but opted to be surrounded by “yes men”.

Berlusconi worst enemies are of his own coalition and they have been blackmailing him all the time in order for him to remain in power.

Fallaci does not like Bush and she thinks that he lacks education and is antipathetic but much better than the insipid Al Gore.

Bush is a leader because he can take stands and stick by his decision and, mostly, because he has moral and would not humiliate his wife with extra marital activities like Clinton. (Moral inside the household? And this morality can be altered outside the confinement of the family?)

Bush is not two faced and unreliable like Kerry who flaunts his 3 purple hearts that he got from fighting in Vietnam and yet condemn wars without relinquishing his war medals.

Oriana really dig Bush’s wife Laura because she resemble exactly to the mother of Fallaci mother in looks and in manners.

Oriana is starting to like Hillary Clinton after she learned that Hillary loved her book “Rage and Pride” and does not stop commending it to her acquaintances to read but she didn’t considers Hillary sympathetic before.

Fallaci considers that there are only 3 leaders in the second half of the 20th century who are Wojtyla (the previous Pope), Khomeini, and Ben Laden (the Napoleon of Islam and the prophet of darkness).

Ben laden does not need to harangue the masses but can make others execute his orders from a distance and she would gladly interview him, even though she had swore never to interview anyone anymore.

She would dwell on Bin Laden childhood and upbringing because she does not think that religion was the main factors to his megalomania.

Ben Laden was normal adolescent, frequenting bars, drinking whisky and dating girls in abundance and bought his wardrobe from Bond Street.  She strongly believes that Ben Laden anger at the Saudi Royal family was a result of them kicking him out of the palace once King Faisal was assassinated.

Bin Laden’s father was the closest counselor to Faysal and the (Saudi Wahabi caste) disliked this infringement to the rules.

Oriana appreciates the contribution of Wojtyla for the crumbling of the Soviet Union and for continuing to write at the age of 84 and for keeping up with his heavy travel schedule.  She blames the Pope for doing a lot of harm for Christianity and the West because he pacified with the Muslims.

Fallaci condemned the war on Iraq and worried that the end result would be establishment of an Islamic Republic of mullah and imams; but she supported Bush once it started. (The same position of all those Silent Majorities around the world?)

Unfortunately, terrorism has increased and deaths are accumulating for an obscure result because democracy has to be won the people, and to be won it has to be wanted, and to be wanted people has to know what it is.  Thus, since the Iraqi people do not know what democracy is then they certainly do not want it.

The Iraqis as Muslims deeply believe that destiny is not in their hands but coming from Allah. Even the educated people in Iraq proclaim that they want democracy “Islam style”.

The UN is an impotent organization ruled by many members of Islamic states and so far the Janjaweed, the pro-ultra-Muslims of the Sudan government have killed 50,000 Christian blacks and almost one million displaced to camps in Tchad, and in Kalma; the Sudan has a flourishing slave trade of girls raffled during the Janjaweed forays.

The Americans are providing the humanitarian food and the EU refuses to call what is happening as genocide and prefers to label it a complex civil war situation.

Kofi Annan is not sympathetic to her and is two faced and that is why Blair didn’t trust him and had his phone calls intercepted.  She is obfuscated that the UN declared the Wall of Shame that Sharon built on Palestinian lands as illegal; though she would urge Sharon to erase the sections of walls in Palestinian lands proper and reimburse for the damage to the private Palestinian properties.

Her logic considers that anti-Americanism feelings is attached to anti-West behavior which is synonymous to pro-Islamism and thus anti-Semitism.

Fallaci loathes Arafat like the plague and describes as a despot and totally corrupted who amassed over $200 millions and used to send his wife in Paris and allocated $12,000 a day for her expenses.

Arafat was able to control the other Palestinian factions because he held the string to the purse.  Fidel Castro has $150 millions according to Forbes.

As for the state of affairs with the adolescents in Italy Fallaci likes to refers to Plato in a section of his 8th volume of “The Republic“:

When a people, thirsty for liberty, find “echansons” that deliver whatever he wishes, to the point of drunkenness, it happens to calling despots the governments that are eager to satisfying these exigencies of citizens ever more exigent.

A disciplined individual is then decried as void of characters and servile. The scared father end up treating his offspring as equals and lose respect; the teacher refrains from reprimanding the students when they mock him; youth claims the same rights as the old and the latter submit to these claims in order not show severity. 

Under such a climate of liberty and in its name there vanish respect and consideration for anybody.  Within the womb of this kind of license germs and develop a bad grass: Tyranny”

Fallaci tried to glorify her old age because it is at this age that liberty might be attained; a privilege that younger people are striving all their life to grasp it.

At old age fear from judgments stops conditioning our behavior and we are no longer scared of the future because it is here already.

At old age useless desires, superfluous ambitions, and senseless chimeras are out the window.

At old age we are the wiser because we comprehend much better what were obscure through accumulated experience, information and reflection.  She said that she frequented death several times in her career that she has no fear at the idea of dying.

Oriana recalls asking the Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie: “Have you any fear of death?” and the Emperor started screaming “What death?” and he chased her out to the park where a huge lion was eating beef steaks.  Though, as Anna Magnani said: “It is not fair to have to die since we were born anyway“.

Being able to survive so many years is the real miracle and the best gift of reaching old age.  Anyway, if there was no death then the word life would have no meaning.

The vehement attitude of Fallaci toward Islam stems from two premises;

First, all of the terrorist attacks in the Western World are perpetrated by Muslims, and

Second, the practices of Muslims’ behavior in the Western World are based on the teaching of the Koran which cannot b reconciled with the rational civil laws in the western countries they live in.

(Wrong premises: It is Muslims that were the mostly massacred and killed by the extremist Muslim movement in “Islamic world”)

Fallacy used St. John’s apocalyptic vision to offer her version of Islam as the Monster and enliven her ejaculations and substantiate her stand, as if a flawed concept can be clarified by a more obscure premise.

In St. John’s apocalyptic version a Monster with seven heads and ten horns would emerge from the sea and the Beast on land would execute all the Monster’s orders until an angel descends from heaven and lock up the Monster and punish the Beast.

Thus, the Monster is Islam and the Beast is represented by the European liberals and leaders who are trying to appease Muslims and exhorting them to moderation by dangling carrots instead of raising the heavy sticks.

Note: I generated two articles from this manuscript: “Are there moderate Muslims?” and “An alternative version of Fallaci  interpretation of St. John’s apocalyptic vision”

Why Do They Hate Us (Women)? And Counterpoints

In “Distant View of a Minaret,” the late and much-neglected Egyptian writer Alifa Rifaat begins her short story with a woman unmoved by sex with her husband.   As he focuses solely on his pleasure, she notices a spider web she must sweep off the ceiling and has time to ruminate on her husband’s repeated refusal to prolong intercourse until she too climaxes, “as though purposely to deprive her.”

Just as her husband denies her an orgasm, the call to prayer interrupts his, and the man leaves. After washing up, she loses herself in prayer — so much more satisfying that she can’t wait until the next prayer — and looks out onto the street from her balcony.

She interrupts her reverie to make coffee dutifully for her husband to drink after his nap.

Taking the coffee to their bedroom to pour it in front of him as he prefers, she notices he is dead. She instructs their son to go and get a doctor.  Rifaat writes: “She returned to the living room and poured out the coffee for herself. She was surprised at how calm she was.”

MONA ELTAHAWY published in Foreign Policy issue of MAY/JUNE 2012Why Do They Hate Us? The real war on women is in the Middle East”, and Sara Mourad replied in Jadaliyya.

If the two articles feel lengthy, do tell me: I can separate the main themes in the point and counter point and post more than one article on the topic.

Mona EL-TAHAWY wrote :”In a crisp three-and-a-half pages, Alifa Rifaat lays out a trifecta of sex, death, and religion, a bulldozer that crushes denial and defensiveness to get at the pulsating heart of misogyny in the Middle East. There is no sugar-coating it. They don’t hate us because of our freedoms, as the tired, post-9/11 American cliché had it. We have no freedoms because the males hate us, as this Arab woman so powerfully says.

They hate us. It must be said.

Some may ask why I’m bringing this up now, at a time when the region has risen up, fueled not by the usual hatred of America and Israel but by a common demand for freedom. After all, shouldn’t everyone get basic rights first, before women demand special treatment? And what does gender, or for that matter, sex, have to do with the Arab Spring?

But I’m not talking about sex hidden away in dark corners and closed bedrooms. An entire political and economic system — one that treats half of humanity like animals — must be destroyed along with the other more obvious tyrannies choking off the region from its future. Until the rage shifts from the oppressors in our presidential palaces to the oppressors on our streets and in our homes, our revolution has not even begun.

Yes, women all over the world have problems;

Yes, the United States has yet to elect a female president; and

Yes, women continue to be objectified in many “Western” countries (I live in one of them).

That’s where the conversation usually ends when you try to discuss why Arab societies hate women.

But let’s put aside what the United States does or doesn’t do to women. Name me an Arab country, and I’ll recite a litany of abuses fueled by a toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend.

When more than 90% of ever-married women in Egypt — including my mother and all but one of her six sisters — have had their genitals cut in the name of modesty, then surely we must all blaspheme.

When Egyptian women are subjected to humiliating “virginity tests” merely for speaking out, this is no time for silence.

When an article in the Egyptian criminal code says that if a woman has been beaten by her husband “with good intentions” no punitive damages can be obtained, then to hell with political correctness. And what, pray tell, are “good intentions”? They are legally deemed to include any beating that is “not severe” or “directed at the face.”

What all this means is that when it comes to the status of women in the Middle East, it’s not better than you think. It’s much, much worse. Even after these “revolutions,” all is more or less considered well with the world as long as women are covered up, anchored to the home, denied the simple mobility of getting into their own cars, forced to get permission from men to travel, and unable to marry without a male guardian’s blessing — or divorce either.

Not a single Arab country ranks in the top 100 in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, putting the region as a whole solidly at the planet’s rock bottom. Poor or rich, we all hate our women. Neighbors Saudi Arabia and Yemen, for instance, might be eons apart when it comes to GDP, but only four places separate them on the index, with the kingdom at 131 and Yemen coming in at 135 out of 135 countries. Morocco, often touted for its “progressive” family law (a 2005 report by Western “experts” called it “an example for Muslim countries aiming to integrate into modern society”), ranks 129; according to Morocco’s Ministry of Justice, 41,098 girls under age 18 were married there in 2010.

It’s easy to see why the lowest-ranked country is Yemen, where 55 percent of women are illiterate, 79 percent do not participate in the labor force, and just one woman serves in the 301-person parliament. Horrific news reports about 12-year-old girls dying in childbirth do little to stem the tide of child marriage there. Instead, demonstrations in support of child marriage outstrip those against it, fueled by clerical declarations that opponents of state-sanctioned pedophilia are apostates because the Prophet Mohammed, according to them, married his second wife, Aisha, when she was a child.

But at least Yemeni women can drive. It surely hasn’t ended their litany of problems, but it symbolizes freedom — and nowhere does such symbolism resonate more than in Saudi Arabia, where child marriage is also practiced and women are perpetually minors regardless of their age or education. Saudi women far outnumber their male counterparts on university campuses but are reduced to watching men far less qualified control every aspect of their lives.

Yes, Saudi Arabia, the country where a gang-rape survivor was sentenced to jail for agreeing to get into a car with an unrelated male and needed a royal pardon; Saudi Arabia, where a woman who broke the ban on driving was sentenced to 10 lashes and again needed a royal pardon; Saudi Arabia, where women still can’t vote or run in elections, yet it’s considered “progress” that a royal decree promised to enfranchise them for almost completely symbolic local elections in — wait for it — 2015.

So bad is it for women in Saudi Arabia that those tiny paternalistic pats on their backs are greeted with delight as the monarch behind them, King Abdullah, is hailed as a “reformer”  — even by those who ought to know better, such as Newsweek, which in 2010 named the king one of the top 11 most respected world leaders.

You want to know how bad it is? The “reformer’s” answer to the revolutions popping up across the region was to numb his people with still more government handouts — especially for the Salafi zealots from whom the Saudi royal family inhales legitimacy.

King Abdullah is 87. Just wait until you see the next in line, Prince Nayef, a man straight out of the Middle Ages. His misogyny and zealotry make King Abdullah look like Susan B. Anthony.

SO WHY DO THEY HATE US? Sex, or more precisely hymens, explains much.

“Why extremists always focus on women remains a mystery to me,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said recently. “But they all seem to. It doesn’t matter what country they’re in or what religion they claim. They want to control women.” (And yet Clinton represents an administration that openly supports many of those misogynistic despots.) Attempts to control by such regimes often stem from the suspicion that without it, a woman is just a few degrees short of sexual insatiability. Observe Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the popular cleric and longtime conservative TV host on Al Jazeera who developed a stunning penchant for the Arab Spring revolutions — once they were under way, that is — undoubtedly understanding that they would eliminate the tyrants who long tormented and oppressed both him and the Muslim Brotherhood movement from which he springs.

I could find you a host of crackpots sounding off on Woman the Insatiable Temptress, but I’m staying mainstream with Qaradawi, who commands a huge audience on and off the satellite channels. Although he says female genital mutilation (which he calls “circumcision,” a common euphemism that tries to put the practice on a par with male circumcision) is not “obligatory,” you will also find this priceless observation in one of his books: “I personally support this under the current circumstances in the modern world. Anyone who thinks that circumcision is the best way to protect his daughters should do it,” he wrote, adding, “The moderate opinion is in favor of practicing circumcision to reduce temptation.” So even among “moderates,” girls’ genitals are cut to ensure their desire is nipped in the bud — pun fully intended. Qaradawi has since issued a fatwa against female genital mutilation, but it comes as no surprise that when Egypt banned the practice in 2008, some Muslim Brotherhood legislators opposed the law. And some still do — including a prominent female parliamentarian, Azza al-Garf.

Yet it’s the men who can’t control themselves on the streets, where from Morocco to Yemen, sexual harassment is endemic and it’s for the men’s sake that so many women are encouraged to cover up. Cairo has a women-only subway car to protect us from wandering hands and worse; countless Saudi malls are for families only, barring single men from entry unless they produce a requisite female to accompany them.

We often hear how the Middle East’s failing economies have left many men unable to marry, and some even use that to explain rising levels of sexual harassment on the streets. In a 2008 survey by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights, more than 80 percent of Egyptian women said they’d experienced sexual harassment and more than 60 percent of men admitted to harassing women. Yet we never hear how a later marriage age affects women. Do women have sex drives or not? Apparently, the Arab jury is still out on the basics of human biology.

Enter that call to prayer and the sublimation through religion that Rifaat so brilliantly introduces in her story. Just as regime-appointed clerics lull the poor across the region with promises of justice — and nubile virgins — in the next world rather than a reckoning with the corruption and nepotism of the dictator in this life, so women are silenced by a deadly combination of men who hate them while also claiming to have God firmly on their side.

I turn again to Saudi Arabia, and not just because when I encountered the country at age 15 I was traumatized into feminism — there’s no other way to describe it — but because the kingdom is unabashed in its worship of a misogynistic God and never suffers any consequences for it, thanks to its double-whammy advantage of having oil and being home to Islam’s two holiest places, Mecca and Medina.

Then — the 1980s and 1990s — as now, clerics on Saudi TV were obsessed with women and their orifices, especially what came out of them. I’ll never forget hearing that if a baby boy urinated on you, you could go ahead and pray in the same clothes, yet if a baby girl pee on you, you had to change. What on Earth in the girl’s urine made you impure? I wondered.

Hatred of women.

How much does Saudi Arabia hate women? So much so that 15 girls died in a school fire in Mecca in 2002, after “morality police” barred them from fleeing the burning building — and kept firefighters from rescuing them — because the girls were not wearing headscarves and cloaks required in public. And nothing happened. No one was put on trial. Parents were silenced. The only concession to the horror was that girls’ education was quietly taken away by then-Crown Prince Abdullah from the Salafi zealots, who have nonetheless managed to retain their vise-like grip on the kingdom’s education system writ large.

This, however, is no mere Saudi phenomenon, no hateful curiosity in the rich, isolated desert. The Islamist hatred of women burns brightly across the region — now more than ever.

In Kuwait, where for years Islamists fought women’s enfranchisement, they hounded the four women who finally made it into parliament, demanding that the two who didn’t cover their hair wear hijab. When the Kuwaiti parliament was dissolved this past December, an Islamist parliamentarian demanded the new house — devoid of a single female legislator — discuss his proposed “decent attire” law.

In Tunisia, long considered the closest thing to a beacon of tolerance in the region, women took a deep breath last fall after the Islamist Ennahda party won the largest share of votes in the country’s Constituent Assembly. Party leaders vowed to respect Tunisia’s 1956 Personal Status Code, which declared “the principle of equality between men and women” as citizens and banned polygamy. But female university professors and students have complained since then of assaults and intimidation by Islamists for not wearing hijabs, while many women’s rights activists wonder how talk of Islamic law will affect the actual law they will live under in post-revolution Tunisia.

In Libya, the first thing the head of the interim government, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, promised to do was to lift the late Libyan tyrant’s restrictions on polygamy. Lest you think of Muammar al-Qaddafi as a feminist of any kind, remember that under his rule girls and women who survived sexual assaults or were suspected of “moral crimes” were dumped into “social rehabilitation centers,” effective prisons from which they could not leave unless a man agreed to marry them or their families took them back.

Then there’s Egypt, where less than a month after President Hosni Mubarak stepped down, the military junta that replaced him, ostensibly to “protect the revolution,” inadvertently reminded us of the two revolutions we women need. After it cleared Tahrir Square of protesters, the military detained dozens of male and female activists. Tyrants oppress, beat, and torture all. We know. But these officers reserved “virginity tests” for female activists: rape disguised as a medical doctor inserting his fingers into their vaginal opening in search of hymens. (The doctor was sued and eventually acquitted in March.)

What hope can there be for women in the new Egyptian parliament, dominated as it is by men stuck in the seventh century? A quarter of those parliamentary seats are now held by Salafis, who believe that mimicking the original ways of the Prophet Mohammed is an appropriate prescription for modern life. Last fall, when fielding female candidates, Egypt’s Salafi Nour Party ran a flower in place of each woman’s face. Women are not to be seen or heard — even their voices are a temptation — so there they are in the Egyptian parliament, covered from head to toe in black and never uttering a word.

And we’re in the middle of a revolution in Egypt! It’s a revolution in which women have died, been beaten, shot at, and sexually assaulted fighting alongside men to rid our country of that uppercase Patriarch — Mubarak — yet so many lowercase patriarchs still oppress us. The Muslim Brotherhood, with almost half the total seats in our new revolutionary parliament, does not believe women (or Christians for that matter) can be president. The woman who heads the “women’s committee” of the Brotherhood’s political party said recently that women should not march or protest because it’s more “dignified” to let their husbands and brothers demonstrate for them.

The hatred of women goes deep in Egyptian society. Those of us who have marched and protested have had to navigate a minefield of sexual assaults by both the regime and its lackeys, and, sadly, at times by our fellow revolutionaries. On the November day I was sexually assaulted on Mohamed Mahmoud Street near Tahrir Square, by at least four Egyptian riot police, I was first groped by a man in the square itself. While we are eager to expose assaults by the regime, when we’re violated by our fellow civilians we immediately assume they’re agents of the regime or thugs because we don’t want to taint the revolution.

SO WHAT IS TO BE DONE?

First we stop pretending. Call out the hate for what it is. Resist cultural relativism and know that even in countries undergoing revolutions and uprisings, women will remain the cheapest bargaining chips. You — the outside world — will be told that it’s our “culture” and “religion” to do X, Y, or Z to women. Understand that whoever deemed it as such was never a woman. The Arab uprisings may have been sparked by an Arab man — Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire in desperation — but they will be finished by Arab women.

Amina Filali — the 16-year-old Moroccan girl who drank poison after she was forced to marry, and beaten by, her rapist — is our Bouazizi. Salwa el-Husseini, the first Egyptian woman to speak out against the “virginity tests“; Samira Ibrahim, the first one to sue; and Rasha Abdel Rahman, who testified alongside her — they are our Bouazizis. We must not wait for them to die to become so. Manal al-Sharif, who spent nine days in jail for breaking her country’s ban on women driving, is Saudi Arabia’s Bouazizi. She is a one-woman revolutionary force who pushes against an ocean of misogyny.

Our political revolutions will not succeed unless they are accompanied by revolutions of thought — social, sexual, and cultural revolutions that topple the Mubaraks in our minds as well as our bedrooms.

“Do you know why they subjected us to virginity tests?” Ibrahim asked me soon after we’d spent hours marching together to mark International Women’s Day in Cairo on March 8. “They want to silence us; they want to chase women back home. But we’re not going anywhere.”

We are more than our headscarves and our hymens. Listen to those of us fighting. Amplify the voices of the region and poke the hatred in its eye. There was a time when being an Islamist was the most vulnerable political position in Egypt and Tunisia. Understand that now it very well might be Woman. As it always has been.

The counterpoint is delivered by Sara Mourad

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[Two migrant domestic workers, not allowed a day-off on Sunday, wave to the parade from their employer’s balcony during Migrant Workers May Day Parade in Beirut on 29 April 2012. Image by Hisham Ashkar]
[Two migrant domestic workers, not allowed a day-off on Sunday, wave to the parade from their employer’s balcony during Migrant Workers May Day Parade in Beirut on 29 April 2012. Image by Hisham Ashkar]

What baffles me most about Mona Eltahawy’s Foreign Policy article is that it does not accomplish the task it sets out for itself.  It does not answer the foundation question: Why do they hate us?

Instead of focusing on the why, identifying the structural reasons behind sexism and misogyny in the Arab world, Eltahaway provides illustrative evidence of the oppressions Arab women face.  The list is by now all too familiar both in the West and in the Arab world. The images of a naked woman’s flawless body covered in a niqab of black paint, spread throughout the article (and on the Foreign Policy special sex issue cover) is only a bitter reminder of the resilience of a clichéd fetish of the oppressed Muslim/Arab female body in the media, as pointed out by Seikaly and Mikdashi.

Eltahawy’s description, it is not an analysis, disappoints many Arab, Muslim, and non-Western feminists because it thrives on cultural essentialism: They, Arab men, hate us because this is how our culture is, because something is inherently wrong about the culture itself that they have created.

Instead of moving the discussion beyond essentialist claims—the sort that Christian fundamentalists, racist Islamophobes, neoconservatives, LePen supporters in France, and Rick Santorum, to name a few propagate—Eltahawy  as a native speaker and herself a victim of Arab misogyny, provides fodder for such misconstrued claims that Arab feminists have been desperately trying to deconstruct.

The disappointment lies not in the fact that Eltahawy made us look bad in public—as she claimed in a television appearance on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry show—but in the failure to perform the very task her article title promised: Providing an answer.

The result is a tautological piece, that starts with the conclusion and misidentified the who and the what of that hate.

To be sure, the answers to such a complex question cannot be provided in one article. However, Eltahawy’s intervention could have benefited from much-needed constructive deconstruction.

For instance, she finds no problem collapsing her diverse oppressed subjects into one category: Arab women.

The first problem with such a category is that it screens away the different—nationally-specific—types of oppression that these women face. As a Lebanese woman, I feel hated by the secular state and its civil laws that deny me the right to give my nationality to my hypothetical children. As a Muslim woman living in the United States, I feel hated whenever I am subjected to screenings and secondary inspections during my travels. As a Sunni woman I feel hated by the religious establishment that does not grant me an equal right of inheritance as my brother. As a young Arab woman, I feel hated by society—with its men and women—when I refuse to adhere and subscribe to certain values that I find outdated. As a woman from the middle-class, I feel hated by my government that enacts neoliberal economic policies that are making the prospects of one day renting my own apartment in the city nearly impossible.

Oppression is always multilayered. It is exercised by different jurisdictions, institutions, and discourses—from the secular to the religious, from the local to the transnational, from the private to the public, from the social to the economic. This is what makes the hate so difficult to locate.

This is what makes our predicament that more complex: we are waging daily struggles against a system that oppresses us in different spaces and multiple ways. And here I concur with Eltahawy, we have yet to remove the Mubarak in our head and in our bedrooms.

But it is a deeply troubling and dangerous mistake to identify the Arab man—and the Muslim Arab man at that—as our sole enemy.

Here is another question that may help us provide better answers: What happens when, instead of using “Arab women,” we refer to “women in the Arab world” as an object of study?

The plights of migrant domestic workers in the Arab world—from Saudi Arabia to Lebanon—have recently found their way into public discourse. Thanks to activists and grassroots movements and initiatives, the current racist and deeply flawed sponsorship system regulating the work of migrant workers from South Asia and different parts of Africa has been subjected to public scrutiny and criticism.

The most vulnerable segment of the already exploited class of migrant workers is the domestic worker who, of course, is a woman—a woman of color in deeply racist societies. What is both disturbing—and useful—in the case of the migrant domestic worker is that her oppression brings forth new culprits: Arab women themselves.

As the managing head of the household, the boss, the Arab woman, the madame, is often the one who holds the key to the misery of these vulnerable women whose labor within the domestic sphere makes their plight invisible and much harder to regulate.

Eltahawy urges the West not to fall prey to cultural relativism when formulating their foreign policies vis-à-vis Arab States: These laws and cultural norms oppressing women were not made by women! But…of course they are! And yes, women can also be oppressors!

This is where gender, as a category of analysis, hits its theoretical and practical limit. When we deploy gender as a man-woman binary (indeed, a very modern construction), we fail to account for the diversities within each supposedly uniform gender role.

Instead of pitting man against woman, gender can be deployed to pit young woman against older woman, and nuances in the politics of gender oppression will ensue. [1] Indeed, as women of all ages and classes we are subjected to similar forms of oppression; but as I have attempted to show in my previous examples, our identities are themselves so stratified: to prioritize gender (and a binary formulation of gender at that) above all other categories of affinity—class, race, education, age, sexual orientation—is misleading at best and dangerous at worst.

It pits us against others whom we have much more in common with, both in terms of our oppressions and our aspirations. It creates antagonisms where potential alliances could be forged. But it also, whether Eltahawy admits it or not, distinguishes us as a category that needs to be saved from the barbaric men of our societies.

Eltahawy rehearses the same imperial refrain that our enemy is always from within, never from without. Although she hints at the supportive role played by the United States in sustaining authoritarian regimes, she fails to openly recognize that its violence too is gendered and sexualized.

Footage from Abu Ghraib is too recent, too fresh in our memories to be forgotten. [2] Only when we juxtapose the sexual torture in Abu Ghraib and the virginity tests of Tahrir Square do we get the full picture of the workings of power today, where militarized authorities serving global capital are aligned in their oppression of Arab bodies, blurring the gendered binary of us and them and the unidirectional vector of women oppression it presupposes.

Postcolonial feminism have worked tirelessly to highlight the complexities of identities and resistance. Let us not undo all the blood, sweat, and tears with a comfortable yet taxing regression to a binary mode of thinking.

Foreign policies, exclusionary domestic politics, racist immigration laws, and wars have been formulated and launched “at the tip of the clitoris,” to borrow Elizabeth Povinelli’s expression. [3] This is the preferred site where anxieties about national identity and cultural diversity are played out; this is where Eltahawy drives her argument of hate home.

Povinelli shows that in the mid to late 1990s, debates on “genital mutilation” and clitoridectomy abounded in the Western European and American public spheres that were increasingly dealing with the presence of ethnic others. Outlawing these practices as barbaric made it possible to exclude the uncivilized other while producing the fantasy of a national civilized collective will.

In the United States, the urgency that an Illinois legislature expressed around the issue in 1997, “which suggested that the Midwest was in the grip of a clitoridectomy epidemic, was perhaps rather more motivated by their anxiety that urban areas like Chicago were haunted by the Black Muslim movement.” [4] This is not to suggest that genital mutilation and other cultural practices should not be subjected to scrutiny, nor to accuse, as some did, Eltahawy of merely performing for a Western audience.

These are discussions we should necessarily be having, in both local and international public fora. However, holding up the clipped bundle of nerves to public scrutiny is not an answer. It is only when we start looking beneath the nerve endings to identify the roots and layers of our multiple oppressions that we can begin to ask the right questions; and the best answers, to be sure, lie beneath the tip of the clitoris.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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