by David J. Rusin
Prince, the purple-clad rocker, caused many a jaw to drop last month over his laughably sanguine view of life in the Muslim world:
It's fun being in Islamic countries, to know there's only one religion. There's order. You wear a burqa. There's no choice. People are happy with that.
As a piece in the Guardian notes, "The singer who once sang of '23 positions in a one-night stand' praises Islamic countries for offering 'no choice.'" Indeed, this writer of "Darling Nikki," a song celebrating a rendezvous with a "sex fiend" who likes to "grind," appears to have switched loyalties to the "darling niqab," symbol of a freedom-crushing system that persecutes women for doing far less than "Nikki" would.
Though the words of an eccentric musician might seem irrelevant, they highlight a trend of prominent Americans whitewashing the plight of women under Shari'a:
Dalia Mogahed, Obama appointee and Gallup Center for Muslim Studies executive director, declared in a 2009 TV interview: "We found that the majority of women around the world associate gender justice, or justice for women, with Shari'a compliance, whereas only a small fraction associated oppression of women with compliance with the Shari'a." According to Cinnamon Stillwell, Mogahed works to "portray Shari'a law as what Muslim women want."
Naomi Wolf, a leftist author, penned a valentine to Islamic garments in 2008, characterizing them as the regalia of female liberation. After walking through a Moroccan bazaar in some concealing attire, she gushed over "the curve of my breasts covered, the shape of my legs obscured, my long hair not flying about me — I felt a novel sense of calm and serenity." Phyllis Chesler savaged Wolf, reminding her that in many Islamic nations, uncovered women risk being "beaten, threatened with death, arrested, caned or lashed, jailed, or honor murdered."
Miriam Cooke, a professor at Duke and reputed expert on Middle Eastern women, has argued that Islamic "polygamy can be liberating and empowering." As the linked 2003 article explains, Cooke holds that "some women … are relieved when their husbands take a new wife: they won't have to service him so often," perhaps even freeing them to find a lover. Asked if this is likely given the punishments for adultery, Cooke claimed not to know. "I'm interested in discourse," she added.
Whether ideology or ignorance drives high-profile Westerners to becloud the hardships of women in Shari'a-heavy nations, their words promote blindness just the same. Only by recognizing the realities that female Muslims face from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan can we effectively support women's rights there, while countering emergent Islamist threats — including polygamy, honor crime, and Shari'a tribunals — to women's rights here.
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