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Islamic Gender Apartheid: A New Book

by Phyllis Chesler (October 2017)


This is an excerpt of the introduction of Phyllis Chesler's new book, Islamic Gender Apartheid: Exposing a Veiled War Against Women, published by New English Review Press, October 2017.

I have tried to convey what Islamic gender apartheid is, both as an academic and as a journalist. It is a system of pernicious tribal, ethnic, and religious customs. Few contemporary feminist scholars have dared to name, document, and condemn this as a violation of women’s and human rights—lest they be demonized as “racists;” this fear has trumped the Western intelligentsia’s concern with barbarism and the feminist concern with misogyny.
The collection opens with an excerpt from my 2005 book, The Death of Feminism, which first appeared in Middle East Quarterly. Here is where I consider the extent to which my American feminism might have been forged in the fires of my long-ago captivity in Kabul, Afghanistan; it is where I first experienced Islamic gender and  religious  apartheid  long  before  the emergence of the Taliban.
Unlike many Western feminists, I do not view the Islamic veil or the burqa as either comfortable or sexy. It is, essentially, a sensory deprivation isolation chamber. It violates a woman’s dignity and it gravely restricts her physical and social mobility.
Islamic gender apartheid includes some or all of the following practices: The masking of the female face (niqab), body (burqa or chador), and head (hijab); child marriage; arranged marriage to a close cousin; polygamy; female segregation/sequestration (purdah); normalized honor-based violence, including the daily beating, monitoring, and stalking of daughters; forcing daughters to become family domestic servants; not allowing daughters to leave home unsupervised; forbidding daughters to befriend non-coreligionists or to talk to male non-relatives; forbidding daughters an advanced education; forbidding daughters to leave a dangerously violent husband; female genital mutilation; forbidding daughters to leave their religion of origin; and honor killing one’s daughter—which is a family-of-origin conspiracy and in no way analogous to Western domestic violence.
In addition, those who practice gender apartheid may also engage in religiously and legally sanctioned sex slavery, concubinage, “temporary” marriage, and pedophilia, as well as the sanctioned sexual harassment and rape of naked-faced infidel women.
Gender apartheid is probably tribal in origin but, worldwide, it is practiced mainly by Muslims. Hindus sexually harass women (it’s called “Eve teasing”) and also perpetrate honor killings, but only in India; they honor kill mainly for caste-related violations in terms of a spouse—not for the many and varied reasons that motivate Muslim honor killings. More importantly, Hindus do not bring this custom with them when they emigrate to the West, whereas Muslims do. Sikhs also perpetrate honor killings, but to a much lesser extent. As tribal people, Hindus and Sikhs practice some, but not all, of the apartheid practices listed above. Many Muslims perpetrate some, most, or all of these practices.
Some of the articles in my new book were originally speeches which I delivered at a Senate hearing, and in which I was "beamed up," live, into Tehran; at a grassroots panel at the United Nations organized by Iranian and Afghan women against their respective regimes; at a G8 conference in Rome; and at the New York State Supreme Court for judges who were interested in the affidavits that I’d submitted on behalf of women in flight from honor-based violence and in search of political asylum.
I wrote some articles in order to assist those who were rescuing sex slaves from ISIS; to publicize the plight of women who were facing extreme punishment or execution in Muslim jails for having killed their rapists in self-defense; having tried to bring their rapists to justice; or for having worn trousers.
I’ve  interviewed  a  number  of  experts,  including  Muslim  free thinkers and reformers such as Asma’a Al-Gul, Nonie Darwish, Tarek Heggy, Asra Nomani, and Nadia Shahram. In addition, I document the extraordinary heroism of Lubna Ahmed Al-Hussein (Sudan), Nujood Ali (Yemen), Mukhtaran Bibi (Pakistan), Wajeda Huwaider (Saudi Arabia), Gulie Khalaf (Yazidi-Iraqi-American), Adoul Keijan (Yazidi-Iraqi American), Fauzia Koofi (Afghanistan), Kainat Soomro (Pakistan), Hans Erling Jensen (Scandinavia, Germany) and Sister Hatune Dogan (Turkey, Syria, Iraq).
Throughout the book, I express considerable anguish and anger about the relative silence of many Western feminists about gender apartheid.
Here’s why.
Second Wave Western feminists exposed, analyzed, and condemned rape. We pioneered rape crisis counseling and changed the laws about rape. Yet, by the 21st century, leading feminists became exceedingly cautious.
In our time and on our watch, rape became a full-fledged weapon—not merely a spoil—of war. Repeated and public gang rape is a form of gender cleansing. This happened in Pakistan-Bangladesh (1971), in Algeria (1992-1995), in the former Yugoslavia (1992-1995); Rwanda (1994), in Sudan (2004—) and in the Punjab (2002). It is happening now in Iraq and Syria.
ISIS kidnapped young girls and raped them nine-to-ten times a day—sometimes thirty times a day—every day. These infidels—Christians and Yazidis—were viewed by Islamists as religiously permitted sex slaves and are auctioned off in videotaped slave markets. Many girls killed themselves or attempted to do so. Such slaves begged for the bombing of the brothels in which they were being held captive—or to be rescued.
Professional Western feminists: our Women’s Studies professors, politicians, journalists, and human rights activists are multi-cultural relativists and “postcolonial” scholars; thus, they are reluctant to accuse formerly colonized men of color of misogyny—not even when it is quite barbaric. They are not merely “politically correct;” they have become “Islamically correct.”
May I suggest that we at least provide refuge to girls and women who live in the West and who are in flight from honor-based violence? Their blood should not be on our hands. We must also prosecute, not only their tormentors and honor killers, but their family-of-origin accomplices.
Today, my 21st century colleagues are Muslim and ex-Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Christian, and Jewish feminists, dissidents, conservatives, and libertarians. With some precious exceptions, radical and liberal Second, Third, and Fourth Wave Western feminists are silent on the subject of Islamic gender apartheid.
Today, my colleagues and I are anti-Islamists or anti-Sharia-ists: As the feminists of yore, we share one universal standard of human rights. We support post-Enlightenment Western values such as the separation of religion and state, freedom from and freedom of religion, free speech, fact-based knowledge as opposed to mere opinion, intellectual diversity, the right to dissent, as well as individual and human rights. We oppose herd thinking and totalitarianism in all its forms.
Some of my allies write under pseudonyms. Others live with round-the-clock bodyguards. This Muslim and infidel anti-Islamist movement is the major resistance movement of our time. It has been marginalized and silenced by Western governments.
Gender apartheid and honor-based violence are crimes and cannot be justified in the name of multicultural relativism, political “correctness,” tolerance, or anti-racism.
The battle for women’s rights is central to the battle for Western values. It is a necessary part of true freedom and democracy. Here, then, is exactly where the greatest battle of the twenty-first century is joined.

Phyllis Chesler, Ph
.D, is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies. She is the author of seventeen books, including the 20th century landmark feminist classics Women and Madness (1972); Mothers on Trial: The Battle for Children and Custody (1986); and Sacred Bond: The Legacy of Baby M (1988). Her 21st century work includes The New Anti-Semitism (2003), The Death of Feminism (2005) and An American Bride in Kabul (2013), which won a National Jewish Book Award, and, in 2016, Living History: On the Front Lines for Israel and the Jews 2003-2015. Her work has been translated into many European languages and into Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Hebrew.  Since the Intifada of 2000, Dr. Chesler has focused on anti-Semitism and the demonization of Israel; the psychology of terrorism; the nature of propaganda and the importance of the cognitive war against fact and reason; honor-based violence and the rights of women, dissidents, and gays in the Islamic world. Dr. Chesler has published four studies about honor killings, and penned a position paper on why the West should ban the burqa; these studies have all appeared in Middle East Quarterly. She has submitted affidavits on behalf of Muslim and ex-Muslim women who are seeking asylum or citizenship based on their credible belief that their families will honor kill them. Her articles are available at her website:

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