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Dalia Mogahed: “They don’t need you to save them from Islam. They need your respect.” (Part One)

by Hugh Fitzgerald

“They [Muslim women] don’t need you to save them from Islam. They need your respect.” Thus claims Dalia Mogahed here.

The latest iteration of the so-called “Muslim ban” was upheld by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling, leading many critics to call the decision a triumph of legal technicalities over principle.

In this third version of the Trump administration’s attempt to ban citizens of several Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S., there were some key differences that may have ultimately swung some justices in favor of upholding the executive order. One example was the omission of “honor killings,” which legal analysts pointed to as proof of biased intent in an earlier version of the travel ban.

But the perception of an allegedly inherent misogyny in Islam and its adherents is not unique to the Trump administration.

A recent study I co-authored with John Sides as part of the Democracy Fund’s Voter Study Group revealed something few thought possible: there exists a belief that liberals and conservatives actually share. The survey shows that the most salient stereotype about Americans of Islamic faith, held by liberals and conservatives alike, is that Muslims “have outdated views of women.”

A “stereotype”? Isn’t it, rather, and less tendentiously, a “view”? The phrase “allegedly inherent misogyny” casts its deliberate doubt, implying that there is no such “inherent misogyny’ in Islam. As for “outdated” views, why not describe them simply as “demeaning” views, since in Islam, they do not date. They are derived from the Qur’an, which is immutable. They cannot be updated. What should we call those who believe that, following the Qur’an, a husband has a right to beat his disobedient wife? Is such a person “outdated” in his views, or is he merely being true to the immutable Qur’an? Is he “outdated” if he believes that a Muslim husband can have up to four wives? That a husband can divorce his wife merely by uttering the triple-talaq? That a female guilty of adultery can be stoned to death? That a daughter inherits half that of a son? That a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man? That, according to Muhammad in a famous hadith, “women are deficient in intelligence”? What does Dalia Mogahed think we should make of all that?

As an American woman who is visibly Muslim, I can personally attest to the wide prevalence of this perception, especially on the part of other women. Even among many liberals, the unquestioned assumption seems to be that I am deserving of their pity before their respect. A well-meaning woman approached me recently in a public bathroom to inform me that I was now “in America” (what?) and that I didn’t have to wear that thing on my head here.

A more creative micro-aggression came from a white woman sitting next to me at a coffee shop. Seemingly out of nowhere, she declared to an adolescent girl, who I presumed was her daughter, that she would never be subjugated to any religion that tells women they are inferior and have to wear the veil. The girl looked mortified. I hope the girl will also never be subjugated to being totally embarrassed in a public place again so her mom can feel superior to a Muslim woman she knows nothing about.

Had she taken the time to ask, rather assume to know me, she might have come to learn that I head research at a D.C. think tank, I’m an engineer by training, I went to a business school (where I was one of 20 women in a class of 150) and that I was appointed as an adviser to an American president. Also, I find great meaning and joy in my faith and choose to practice hijab as an act of religious devotion — plus, I find it empowering.

Whew! We are all suitably impressed, and by “suitably” I mean — not at all. Who cares if she “heads research at a D.C. think tank” — actually a Muslim advocacy group — and is an “engineer by training,” like 1.8 million other people in this country, and went to a business school, like hundreds of thousands of other people, one that is carefully unnamed (you can be sure it wasn’t Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, or Wharton) where (it was the business school attached to the University of Pittsburgh) she was “one of 20 women in a class of 150”? So what? And “appointed as an adviser to an American president” actually comes down to this: she was one of 25 people appointed by Obama to the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. If she had any outstanding achievements, any individual recognition, any awards, was responsible for any important policies, she would certainly have mentioned them.

First published in Jihad Watch


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