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It's Time to Take the Campus Back By: Phyllis Chesler
PajamasMedia.com | Tuesday, October 30, 2007


[The following is Phyllis Chesler's speech at Columbia last Wednesday for Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week]

It is an honor and a privilege to be here today. Talking about Islamo-fascism and the violent Islamic oppression of Muslim women, Muslim intellectuals, and Muslim homosexuals is exactly the right thing to do at this moment in history. The western university campus is exactly the right place to do so since it is the university that has been hijacked, Palestinianized, Stalinized, Edward Said-ized, by a series of truly Great Lies.

It is time to take the campus back so that the rights of “free speech” and “academic freedom” also apply to those who tell the truth about Islam and who espouse minority and dissident intellectual points of view. Such rights also belong to those of us who are pro-American and pro-Israel and not only to those who demonize the West and valorize Islamist misogyny, death-cult terrorism, and Wahabi and Salafi fundamentalism.

Telling the truth about Islam is, apparently, “provocative.” One risks everything for doing so. In my opinion, one risks even more for failing to do so.

I want to thank the students at Columbia who have made this evening possible as well as David Horowitz and the Horowitz Freedom Center which has organized similar panels all over the country this week and has, in addition, published a pamphlet which I co-authored together with Robert Spencer which is titled The Violent Oppression of Women in Islam.

It is both extraordinary and tragic that one needs serious security in order to be heard on campus, that one must run a gauntlet of hostility for the right to teach. Please note who needs the security and who does not. Who disrupts and protests speeches and who does not. Goon-squad tactics of intimidation and disruption should have absolutely no place in the free exchange of ideas. We should exchange competing ideas civilly, with an open mind, and our ideas should be based on facts and truth, not on propaganda.

I have spoken at Barnard and Columbia many times over the years. Long ago, in the 1960s and 1970s, when I was a politically correct “rebel-girl,” I was more than welcome here.

More recently, in 2003, my words about Islamic gender and religious Apartheid caused a near-riot at a feminist conference at Barnard and I had to be hustled out for my safety.

In 2006 or 2007, I was persona non grata at Barnard at a panel organized by the Veteran Feminists of America. Although I am a founding member, my own group would not allow me to speak about the Islamist War Against Women. Here’s why.

No western academic is supposed to criticize anything that a formerly colonized man of color does—including gang-rape or stone women of color to death. Nor can he or she focus on the savage persecution of homosexuals or on the epidemic of homosexual pederasty in the Islamic world; or on the persecution of heroic Muslim and ex-Muslim intellectuals and human rights activists.

Muslim-on-Muslim homicide and genocide are also “unmentionables.” Any western academic who dares discuss such tabooed subjects will be defamed as a “racist” and “colonialist.” Fear of this allegation is so great that false concerns about racism have inevitably trumped all feminist concerns about sexism. This is the new McCarthyism and it is coming to us from the left.

In the early 1960s, I was held captive in Kabul, Afghanistan, in fairly posh purdah. I was a young bride. I escaped, I survived, I learned a thing or two. I write about this in The Death of Feminism which describes Islamic gender apartheid both way back then and now, as it is penetrating the West.

For example, I learned that what characterizes Islam (not Islamism) is mainly indigenous to the culture, the region, and the religion and is not necessarily caused by Western imperialism, colonialism, or capitalism.

The Christian crusades did not “cause” Arab or Muslim slavery, racism, polygamy, arranged child marriage, female genital mutilation, honor murders, forced face-veiling, capital punishment for apostates (Muslims who leave Islam), or the segregation of women. It did not cause Islamic jihad or Islamic imperialism which preceded the Crusades by centuries.

In the early 1970s, American imperialism and Israeli policies of self-defense did not force Bangladeshi Muslims to murder their own women for the crime of having been raped by enemy Muslim soldiers.

In the 1980s, when Iranian village mullahs ordered that women be lynched, the villagers did not stone their daughters, mothers, and sisters because America had, in the past, interfered with Iranian politics.

No American or European oil company ordered the men of Saudi Arabia to prohibit Saudi women from driving, or from going out without a male escort, nor did they order the be-heading of a Saudi Princess for daring to choose a love match.

No Israeli law forced Palestinians to honor-murder their women, beat their wives and daughters, or to force-veil women against their will. Only Hamas did that.

My Second Wave feminist credentials are rooted in a universalist vision of human rights. Because I believe that all women and men are equal, I am therefore, not a multi-cultural relativist. I believe that all human beings deserve certain unalienable rights, whether they live in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or in New York City.

I especially support such human rights for the most heroic of heroes today who are fighting against Islamism in their own countries and who are themselves Muslims, ex-Muslims, or Arab and Asian Christians. Their extraordinary heroism is in sharp contrast to and puts the blindness and cowardice of our tenured western radicals to shame.

Such secular and religious activists, influenced by western concepts of democracy, freedom, human rights, and women’s rights, are now fighting for those very rights in their own countries. They are being murdered, imprisoned, tortured, and censored for daring to hold the ideas that we safely take for granted in the West.

Fatwas (or death threats) have been issued against them. Some who live in hiding require serious, round-the-clock protection. Some must write under pseudonyms. Many such dissidents live in exile and simply cannot understand why western multi-cultural relativists refuse to side with them and instead, side with their persecutors.

Think: Salman Rushdie, Taslima Nasrin, Ayaan Hirsi Ali for starters.

For daring to defend them I (and many others) are being censored in both Europe and America, whose Islamification is well under way.

Western dissidents have also been sued for telling the truth about Islam and about the Saudi and Islamic funding for terrorism against Western civilian targets.

Think: Oriana Fallaci, Rachel Ehrenfeld.

Western feminists and pro-woman academics must understand that like women everywhere, Arab and Muslim women have internalized their culture’s views of women. Therefore, like men, some women will justify wife-beating, purdah, polygamy, veiling, and female genital mutilation. Thus, just because Muslim women can be trotted out to support Islamic Gender Apartheid, does not necessarily mean that their words on such subjects are any more inviolate than those of their male counterparts.

In America, in the 1960s, most women denied that they were economically discriminated against or, if proven wrong, insisted that it did not bother them. They blamed themselves entirely when they were sexually harassed, raped, or beaten. Only years of education and struggle have begun to change these attitudes among American women and men.

If Western feminists are not committed to the same struggle for Muslim, Arab, and Third World women they have betrayed their own moral vision of equality for all women and men.

Today, in Muslim countries, women are being more forcefully and fully veiled. They are being imprisoned, gang-raped, flogged, and in Iran, often hung or stoned to death when they allege rape or run away from unusually cruel and life-threatening-families. Honor murders are either increasing or have become more visible – perhaps because Western and Western influenced feminists and human rights activists have begun to document them.

Recently, in the fall of 2006 (the end of Ramadan), perhaps a thousand men conducted a ‘sexual wilding’ in Cairo. They surrounded individual girls and women who were fully veiled, partly veiled, and unveiled, and groped and assaulted them. Individuals tried to help these women – who escaped from the male crowds naked and half-naked. The police refused to make any arrests and the media did not cover it. I and others only learned of this incident because some foreign journalists blogged it – and because one brave Egyptian woman spoke about it on a live Egyptian television programme.

Pro-Islamists are perfectly free to criticize, even to demonize the West in the West, because they live in a democracy where academic freedom and free speech are (still) taken seriously. Were they to dare criticize the barbarism, misogyny, and despotism of Third World countries, were they to do so in Afghanistan, Algeria, Iran, Bangladesh or Saudi Arabia (to name only a few such countries), they would be in serious danger of being shot to death in her own home, as happened recently to an Afghan woman journalist, or of being imprisoned, tortured, and murdered. This has happened to many Muslim dissidents and feminists.

In 2003, Wajeha Al-Huwaider was barred from publishing in the Saudi Kingdom; in 2006 she was arrested, interrogated, and forced to sign a statement agreeing to cease her human rights activities.

Bangladeshi writer Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, had his office bombed, was jailed for two years and is now on trial for his life. His crime? ‘Praising the Jew and Christians’, ‘attempting to travel to Israel’, and ‘predicting the rise of Islamist militancy’. These charges may carry a death sentence.

Women are not yet free from violence and inequality in America but really, we do not face these conditions.

In The Death of Feminism, I also describe another incident which took place in July 2001 in Hassi Messaoud, Algeria, in which a mob of three hundred men conducted a three-day pogrom against thirty-nine economically impoverished Algerian women. In his Friday sermons, the local mullah, Amar Taleb, had described these women as ‘immoral’ because they were working for a foreign company. The men tortured, stabbed, mutilated, gang-raped, buried alive and murdered these women.

Feminists especially need to acknowledge that this is happening. We need to wrestle with it and take a stand against it. We need to make common cause with Third World and Muslim feminists and dissidents who want to create alliances.

Western feminists and academics must end their unnatural obsession with the so-called “occupation” of Palestine and focus of the occupation of women’s bodies throughout the Muslim world. If they care about women, they must confront the issues that characterize Islamic gender apartheid and affect at least half a billion women in the Islamic world.

Western feminist academics have now become allied with Islamists—against Muslim and ex-Muslim women and against their own feminist principles. Now is the time for western intellectuals who claim to be antiracists or committed to human and women’s rights to stand with Muslim and ex-Muslim dissidents. To do so, requires that we adopt a universal standard of human rights and abandon our loyalty to multicultural relativism which justifies, even romanticizes, indigenous barbarism, totalitarian terrorism and the persecution of women, religious minorities, homosexuals, and intellectuals.

Our abject refusal to judge between civilization and barbarism, and between enlightened rationalism and theocratic fundamentalism endangers and condemns the victims of Islamic tyranny even further.


Dr. Phyllis Chesler is the well known author of classic works, including the bestseller Women and Madness (1972) The New Anti-Semitism (2003) and The Death of Feminism: What’s Next in the Struggle for Women’s Freedom (2005). She has just published a new edition of Woman's Inhumanity to Woman (2009). She is an Emerita Professor of psychology and women's studies, the co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology (1969) and the National Women's Health Network (1976). Her website is www.phyllis-chesler.com.


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