Monday, January 12, 2004


I can't say if this guy overstates the case, but it is informative to see this issue through his eyes.
One night, weary of Iraq's all-male environment, I went to the Al-Hamra Hotel, a well-known hang-out for Westerners. There, in the outdoor courtyard, I took a seat near a table where two American women were conversing. During the course of their conversation, I was startled when the pair burst out laughing at some shared comment-and I realized that, during my entire time in Iraq, I had not heard a woman laugh. Not in a free and unguarded manner, at any rate. The sound of female laughter struck me like music-a wonderful sound I'd taken for granted in the States, but which now seemed more precious, more worth defending, in Iraq and at home, than anything I'd heard before. At once, my "objectivity" vanished: I became a feminist warrior.

I don't mean to sound naïve, or possessed with the outrage of the newly-converted. Endorsing feminism for Iraq is a huge proposition. Once you link women's rights with the country's democratization, it's a short step to connecting the issue with freedom throughout the entire Middle East-and, by extension, victory in the war against terror. In this context, cultural mores take on enormous significance: no longer an exotic foreign custom, hejab now appears as fundamentalist's weapon that oppresses women and retards the spread of democracy. Even more unacceptable are "honor killings"- the tradition of murdering females who have somehow disgraced their families. (I am writing this essay in Amman, Jordan, where a 22 year-old man just received a suspended one-year prison sentence for brutally killing his sister because she persisted in leaving home without parental permission.) In short, what befalls Middle Eastern women affects the security of America.

Of course, you may want to consider this quote...

I have not left after me any chance of turmoil more injurious to men than the harm done to men because of women. -- the Prophet Mohammad

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