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Deadly Disdain, Deadly Denial By: Phyllis Chesler
Pajamas Media | Wednesday, March 18, 2009

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Sometimes, I despair of ever being able to convey the disdain for women that one may encounter in the Muslim world.

First, many Americans and Europeans simply do not want to believe it; they absolutely refuse to surrender their belief that all people are both “good” and the “same.” Some westerners do not think it is politically correct, or even polite to say so–especially if people really are “different.” Thus, for both reasons, westerners will deny the extent to which most women are despised, feared, controlled, and punished in the Muslim world. Some westerners also say: “Women are oppressed here as well. It’s racist to single out an entire culture and people for the ways in which women are mistreated everywhere.”

Many Muslims, who live both in the West and in Muslim lands, will deny, outright, that Muslim women are mistreated. First, precisely because this is true, they are well trained to deny it–it is shameful to say so; doing so disgraces and endangers the family and the Muslim nation. Also, most people are trained not to “see” that which is normalized all around them.

Some time ago, I met with a small group of charming, heartbreakingly sophisticated, educated, assimilated, modern, secular Muslims. They drank, they smoked, they danced with members of the opposite (and of the same sex), they did not limit their friendships to Muslims-only, they were divorced men and women. From an Islamic/Islamist view, they were mighty sinners, maybe even “heretics.” Of course, I loved them, they were so cosmopolitan.

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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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