Politics & Media
Mar 10, 2016, 06:42AM

Travesty Of Justice In Afghanistan

When will feminists start defending Muslim women?

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In March of last year, 27-year-old Farkhunda Malikzada was falsely accused of burning a copy of the Quran in Kabul, Afghanistan. An enraged mob of men then brutally murdered her and set the body on fire. Many of them filmed scenes of their barbarity and posted images to social media.

The four main culprits received death penalties, which gave false hope of progress, but the legal system quickly began chipping away at the sentences. On Monday, Afghanistan’s Supreme Court upheld previous court decisions to nullify those four death sentences, while confirming that nine other defendants will also have their sentences reduced. Women in Afghanistan hoping to celebrate International Women's Day on Tuesday had reason to despair. The sentences of the four main killers were reduced down as far as 10 years in prison.

Women like Farkhunda desperately need the help of the international feminist movement because, as the court's decision indicates, change is not going to come from within. Yet Western feminists are reticent to criticize any anti-female practices in Muslim-majority nations. That's ironic, given the fervor with which they go after the "patriarchy" in their own nations. Nothing the patriarchy imposes on them compares to what women like Farkhunda have to deal with. Much of it goes on behind closed doors, perpetrated by male family members.

Western feminism, with its leftist orientation, doesn’t take on Islam for the treatment of its women, choosing instead to blame hundreds of years of "white supremacy" for making the religion into what it’s become. White males are the bad guys in their worldview, so brown men—who are also "victims"—get a pass. Consequently, the women who suffer under Islam get little support from their Western sisters, who choose to focus instead on First World problems like the alleged wage gap in well-paying white collar jobs.

Cowed by fear of being called white supremacists or imperialists, otherwise vocal Western feminists are timid in their approach towards defending Muslim women. The ones who might be inclined to speak out have already seen the price they'd end up paying. In 2012, feminist Adele Wilde-Blavatsky wrote in The Feminist Wire that the hijab is a symbol of male oppression. This may seem like a commonsense observation, given that it's a dress code men impose on women, but shrill leftists had a conniption. A statement signed by 77 academics, writers, and activists stated that the essay was evidence of Wilde-Blavatsky’s “white feminist privilege and power.” This could’ve been a starting point for a debate, and maybe some intellectual progress, but that’s not the way of the rigid, doctrinaire left. The Feminist Wire caved immediately, of course, and pulled the piece. The message was chillingly clear.

A feminist (or anyone, for that matter) calling out Islam for its treatment of women will be called an Islamophobe and shamed for contributing to discrimination against Muslims in Western countries. Westerners have no right to interfere in the practices of Islam is the party line. Whenever non-white former Muslims or "outsider" Muslims like Maajid Nawaz or Ayaan Hirsi Ali speak out, they’re torn down for being a "native informant" or a person of questionable character. The unspoken rule is actually "no criticism allowed."

Critics are not making blanket condemnations of Muslim nations as monolithically misogynist. All Muslim nations are not all keeping women uneducated and routinely depriving them of basic human rights. The debate, if one were actually allowed, should be focused on determining precisely to what extent the religion is holding women back and, in many cases, placing them in physical danger. Censoring the discussion on the left only means that the right wing's heavy-handed Muslim-bashing is the only dissent heard when it comes to Islam.

It takes courage to be called an imperialist or a white supremacist, but not so much to rail against an easy target like the "white patriarchy." Feminists need to be braver. A lot of women all over the world need their help.

—Follow Chris Beck on Twitter: @SubBeck

  • What a load of narcisistic crap. 1. What gives you the right to judge and interfere with another country's laws and cultures? How'd you feel about Afghanis pushing Sharia in the U.S.? 2. Why are you excused from helping the women while you so condescendingly imply that international feminisits are culpable through inaction for these laws? Why do you only focus on Islam? Don't you realize that both orthodox judaism and conservative christianity include sects that are just as abusive to women? Do you even understand the difference between Islam and Sharia and cultural beliefs/mores? From your writing you sure don't appear to. Last question, Who banned you from getting an education and why not go after them first?

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  • You raise many salient points, Texan, and I'm sure Chris Beck will answer. In fairness, though, Beck wasn't pretending to be a cleric, but instead pointing the hypocrisy of holier-than-thou Western feminists. It was a good article.

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  • I appreciate your point and agree that Beck was not pretending to be a cleric. However, I think he displays the same level of hypocrisy while accusing others of said crime. Personally, I don't want anyone to be treated the way Farkhunda was. But I also don't blame others for not stopping it or protesting it while I sit in a comfy chair in the U.S.A. Furthermore, I don't blame any one religion for the ill treatment of women. The vast majority of human cultures have treated women as second-class citizens (at best) at some point if not currently. To blame a religion, which is nothing more than a reflection of a given culture, is futile at best. Sure, Beck included all the P.C. caveats (not all Muslims are misogynists and women should be treated equally etc.), but, he became what he claims to detest, a white, chauvinistic, supremacist, who believes that the women of color from other other cultures need to be saved by their white western superiors. If that is harsh I'll quote Beck himself "Women like Farkhunda desperately need the help of the international feminist movement because, as the court's decision indicates, change is not going to come from within." What if the suffragettes felt that way? Often times, the only change that sticks is one that starts from within, not Deus ex Machina or western feminists who have zero comprehension of the given culture.

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