Below is my FrontPage article for today, “Islamic Misogyny,” about the feminist Left’s silence on the Aqsa Parvez case. I wrote this article before the murders of Amina and Sarah Said, but as it happens, it touches on many themes that are newly relevant in light of their horrific deaths. For this morning Islam Said, the brother of Amina and Sarah Said, says that the killings were not honor killings: “It’s not religion. It’s something else. Religion has nothing to do with it.”
Maybe they weren’t honor killings. But whether they were or not, one certainty is that the denial among Muslims in America will continue. There is no doubt whatsoever that even if it were definitively established that Yaser Said murdered his daughters because they had brought shame on the family by dating non-Muslims and behaving in a non-Muslim manner, Muslim spokesmen would be on TV and radio insisting that this had nothing to do with Islam, and that it was a product of the culture in which Yaser Said was raised.
Indeed, we had a commenter here last night insisting that he was a friend of one of the murdered girls, and bearing in his email address the name of a friend of Sarah who is quoted in this Dallas Morning News article. This person claimed that Sarah longed to read the Qur’an and know more about Islam, and that her father was irreligious and even anti-religious. This person was indignant that we suggested that the girls were killed because they were dating non-Muslims, although in reality that suggestion came from the boys they were dating, via KXAS-TV in Dallas, and claimed they were killed for cultural, not religious reasons.
I have no idea whether or not this person is who he claims to be, or whether or not what he wrote here about Sarah Said is accurate, but there are several good reasons for doubt:
1. People who will go out of their way to clear Islam from any responsibility in any wrongdoing by any Muslim are legion, we have seen them at this site many times, and they have never shied away from the most brazen lies;
2. What he says contradicts the reported statements from the two boys dating Amina and Sarah;
3. There is no indication of any burning interest in Islam on the material we have from the girls;
4. If the poster here were who he claimed to be, some similar statements might have shown up in that Dallas News article in which Sarah’s actual friend whose name was used here is quoted — since that article touches on exactly the same issue raised here, the relationship of the killings to Islam.
However, none of that is conclusive. The IP checks out as being from the Dallas area, which is where the girls lived. So the comment may indeed be authentic. In any case, what’s more important is the content of the message. Because now Islam Said has said essentially the same thing: this has nothing to do with religion. It is a cultural matter. The Daily Mail glibly informed us yesterday that female genital mutilation “is not even mentioned in the Koran,” and the same thing can be said for honor killing. So that means it is an un-Islamic cultural practice, right?
Well, it is not so easy as all that. It is interesting to watch Islamic spokesmen happily affirm that Islam encompasses every aspect of life, and then, when confronted by unpleasant aspects of the culture created by Islam, turn around and claim that such things are untouched by any aspect of Islam whatsoever. Well, which is it? Does Islam encompass all of life, and hence leave an indelible mark on the cultures of the societies that adopt it, or does it leave untouched large areas of life, in which pre-Islamic pagan practices continue?
That’s a serious question, and for which there is no single or easy answer. But I don’t think there can be any serious doubt that a culture in which a man can write in a mainstream newspaper that violence against women is necessary for the stability of the family and the society, and invoke Islam to support his view, and a culture in which a national parliament can reject on Islamic grounds an attempt to stiffen penalties for honor killings, is a culture that has been deeply influenced by Islam. And since Islam is used as the justification for such barbarities, it becomes incumbent upon Muslim spokesmen to confront this directly, and work for positive change, rather than simply to consign it all to culture, as if that absolves Islam from all responsibility. For this is the culture that apparently gave Yaser Said the idea that he had to kill his daughters. It is a culture suffused by its religion, thoroughly permeated by its religion — such that a clear distinction between the two is not so easy to find.
But the denial and obfuscation will continue. That is as certain as the sunrise. Not a single Islamic spokesman will read this and take up my challenge to confront honestly the elements of Islamic culture that create people like Yaser Said and Muhammad Parvez. That is as certain as oxygen. No fearless, un-PC conservative TV host will challenge any of these Islamic spokesmen on this obfuscation and denial. That is as certain as the oceans.
And it isn’t just Islamic spokesmen, either. Here is my piece about the denial and finger-pointing on the Left.
A Muslim girl has been murdered, and the Left, which claims to care about women and their oppression, is silent.
Aqsa Parvez, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl living in Canada, was, according to police, strangled to death by her father because she refused to wear the hijab. Muhammad Parvez, Aqsa’s father, has been charged with murder, and her brother, Waqas Parvez, with obstructing police. A friend of Aqsa explained: “She wanted to live her life the way she wanted to, not the way her parents wanted her to. She just wanted to be herself, honestly she just wanted to show her beauty, and not be pushed around by her parents telling her what she has to be like, what she has to do. Nobody would want to do that.”
One might have assumed that the Left would be leading the charge against a culture that victimizes those who want to live their lives the way they want to, but that has not been the case. Leftist publications had little to say about her death. Feminist writer Katha Pollitt, as of this writing, still hasn’t written a word about it. Nor has anyone else at The Nation. CounterPunch? Not a word. The National Organization for Women? Nothing. Even Human Rights Watch has shown no interest in the case of Aqsa Parvez.
By contrast, on December 14, Horowitz’s FrontPage Magazine published an article about the incident called “Horror Under the Hijab,” by Stephen Brown. Then followed my article, “Canadian DisHonor Murder,” on December 19. Of course, Katha Pollitt and others on the Left would take issue with both of those articles, since Brown wrote about an “unbelievable attempt to detract people’s attention from the real issue of Muslim intolerance, even hatred, towards females” desire for freedom,” and I suggested that “an examination of some elements of Islamic theology and culture was necessary in order to try to prevent more young Muslim girls from being similarly victimized in the future.”
The Daily Kos was not moved. It devoted one of its two posts on the killing of Aqsa Parvez to asking, “Why, why, WHY is it that whenever someone who is Muslim, or has a Muslim-sounding name, does something… it’s automatically blamed on Islam?” Of course, the answer to this is that Muslims who commit acts of violence so often explain those actions by reference to Islam, but that possibility isn’t part of the Left’s worldview. It is noteworthy also that the Daily Kos has not hesitated to blame Christianity for the decline of public education, for instance, or to claim on the basis of the actions of a few individuals that “Apocalyptic Premillennial Dispensationalist Christianity is the de-facto state endorsed religion in the US armed forces.” Only when it comes to Islam are such large conclusions, no matter how well supported by the evidence, never acceptable.
Rather than making the hijab murder a cause celebre the way it did, for instance, with the Matthew Shepherd murder, the Left has, moreover, attacked Horowitz and Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week for raising concerns about Muslim women in the first place. “The Islamofascist Awareness people aren’t interested in what’s actually going on in the Muslim world. They just use the woman question as an easy way to target Muslims.” So said Columbia University anthropologist Lila Abu-Lughod over the phone to Pollitt, who highlighted the quote in an attack on Horowitz in The Nation. Pollitt airily dismissed the central charge of Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week organizers–that the academic Left was ignoring the plight of women in the Muslim world””with a flick of the wrist: “And how likely is it that women’s studies professors think female genital mutilation is great and honor killing is “˜just their culture”?” Abu-Lughod also told her that Columbia’s women’s studies department was offering three courses on women in the Islamic world, “none of which paints a rosy picture.”
But if this is the case, why is every Islamic crime of violence against Muslim women–and the Parvez case is just the most recent in a long line””met with silence? Why hasn’t Katha Pollit been using her bully pulpit to make this murder a major story? Because she is more interested in protecting “the Muslim world” than its victims.
The silence extends also to Noorjehan Barmania, who took up Pollitt’s criticism of Horowitz in The Guardian. “It was Katha Pollitt,” she declared, “who made me see it”¦.She speculated that by focusing on the oppression of women, Horowitz had found an easy way to target the Muslim world.” Well, then, why doesn’t Barmania offer an alternative from the Left? Why doesn’t she outdo Horowitz in championing the rights of women in the Islamic world? Why doesn’t she demand justice in the Aqsa Parvez case and eloquently, more eloquently than David Horowitz, decry this barbaric murder? Because to do so would be to break ranks with the Left’s vision of an America that is inauthentic in everything except its Islamophobia. Barmania and Pollitt seem impervious to the irony: although they attack Horowitz for allegedly being a faux feminist, his FrontPage magazine is one of the few places that is actually standing up for this poor girl, and calling for an end to the conditions that led to her murder in the first place.
Pollitt concluded her attack on Horowitz in The Nation by recounting Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s “rightward trajectory,” and suggesting: “Maybe we leftists and feminists need to think a bit more self-critically about how the AEI — to say nothing of the clownish Horowitz — managed to win over this bold and complex crusader for women’s rights.” This is a calumny against Hirsi Ali, who accomplished more in one book, Infidel, than Katha Pollit has in an entire career, and who is forced to move through her public life with five bodyguards because of the cowardly ambivalence of people like Pollit who see her merely as a prize won by the vast right wing conspiracy. If such people will not unambiguously defend Aayan Hirsi Ali, perhaps the most knowledgeable and outspoken critic of violence against Muslim women in the world, it is little wonder that they won’t defend a 16 year old girl in Canada whose life was taken by that violence.