Read Ayaan Hirsi Ali on the nature of this not so much puritanical as qur’anical dress code, and what it means. Then compare what she wrote with the so-called Muslim “feminists” such as Leila Abu-Lughod (of Columbia Univeristy — what did you expect?), celebrating the “portable seclusion” that the burkha provides.
Whenever these “Muslim feminists” sense that Islam itself may be implicated, may be under attack, they beat a quick retreat, rally round Qur’an and Sunnah, and tell us a number of things:
1) There is no misogyny in the texts. If the Infidel audience knows better, then everything from misinterpretation (that “toothpick” idea), to feigned ignorance (“I’ll have to check this, I’ve never heard of the Hadith you quote.”) are used to deflect criticism.
2) There may be some apparent misogyny, but Islam represents a great advance, in its treatment of Islam, compared to what was practiced in the time of pre-Islamic Jahiliyya. Muhammad’s first wife was an energetic businesswoman, so how could one claim that Islam sanctions the mistreatment of women? Polygamy makes sense in a world where men die off (yes, come to think of it, it does, and if Muslims are killing every non-Muslim male and seizing the women, then polygamy makes sense, doesn’t it?).
3) Aisha wasn’t six when Muhammad first saw her. Aisha wasn’t nine when he married her. She was nineteen, or eighteen, or nobody knows. Please show me those Hadith you have just quoted — I’ve never heard of them. Didn’t royal families in Europe give their daughters in dynastic marriage at the age of 12? So what’s a few years? That story about Aisha’s toys, and her being on the swing — prove that that is one of the authentic Hadith. Stop talking about Aisha. Put the story in context. Yes, Islam is true for all time, and Muhammad is the Perfect Man for all time, but still — context. In any case, even if Khomeini happened to reduce the marriageable age of girls to nine, what does that have to do with Muhammad? No, it’s just a coincidence — there you go again, being islamophobic.
4) Women love the burkha. They hate being the cynosure of all eyes. It’s such a relief. It’s like being in your own little shell, even as you move about in public. What could be better? Don’t knock it unless you’ve tried it. Why shouldn’t men insist on this? We all know what men are like, don’t we? Beasts. Beasts that must not be aroused. In the privacy of your own home, however, just the way the Infidel secretary takes off her glasses and shakes out her hair and lifts up her skirt in those 1930s screwball comedies, a Muslim woman can take off that burqa and — va-va-va-voom.
5) So many excuses. So much nonsense to feed the Infidels. So many ways of keeping them off the real scent. So little time.
Occasionally, only occasionally, there is honesty. Recently the BBC had a story about a study by the World Health Organization (or so I remember) on the effect of genital mutilation on mortality rates of women giving birth. On the side of the study was a black African woman. She was opposed by an Egyptian doctor, one Mounir Fawzi, who on the BBC declared the “diminishment” (as he demurely put it) of the female was done in accordance to the Sunnah and the Prophet Muhammad. That struck me, because seldom does one hear, openly expressed by female Muslims, the connection between this practice and anything to do with Islam. The phony Muslim “feminists” – the Leila Ahmads and the Fatima Mernissis and the Leila Abu-Lughods — always end up defending Islam when they feel it is being linked to a practice that they know cannot be defended. While Leila Abu-Lughod, for example, can defend the imposed burqa as “portable seclusion” (carrying around your own tent, and pitching camp wherever you go), she can’t quite find words to soothingly present female genital mutilation as a practice that women themselves desire. So she, and Mernissi, and Ahmad, try to convince Infidels that this has nothing to do with Islam.
Well, Mounir Fawzi happens to be an Egyptian doctor and a man. And he happened to tell the truth — the truth that Muslims like himself believe that the Sunnah, the practice and example of the Prophet Muhammad, condone or even require this “diminishment.”
It was good to have it there, expressed openly, for all those BBC listeners. How rare it is, after all, to have anything like the truth or truths about Islam coming through on the BBC. It will never happen when Israel is involved. It will never happen when America is involved. It will never happen when Muslims in Europe are involved.
But when it is a matter of some world organization condemning mistreatment of women, and when the spokesman for that condemnation is a certifiable third-worlder, a woman and a black African — then, and perhaps only then — will a BBC Program permit the truth to emerge. And the truth to emerge from the testimony of an Egyptian male doctor is that he, and many other Muslim males, are convinced, because of what Islam (not the Qur’an, but the Sunnah) teach him is that women’s sexuality needs to be reduced, and the way to do that is to “diminish” certain parts of their body.
That justification by the Sunnah is not necessary for such a practice: not all those who practice female genital mutilation are Muslims.
But it is sufficient.