Tomorrow evening, hundreds of men around the world were expected to take part in meetings held in 165 cities, across 43 countries, to meet and learn from a man who once suggested it should be legal to rape women on private property (he said a change in the law would protect women from rape, then later claimed this was “satire”). In the end the meetings were cancelled because, due to the understandable anger from women and feminist campaigners, this man could “no longer guarantee the safety or privacy of the men who want to attend”. And yet there’s been little public condemnation of the pickup-artist known as “Roosh V” from men – even those who have become so vocal in warning of the dangers refugee men pose to European women.
In recent months, disparate groups of men have styled themselves as defenders of European women against the threat of Muslim men: from the European far-right, to Hindu fundamentalists in India, to the British public intellectual and atheist Richard Dawkins. A picture tweeted by the author last week included the caption: “Oh look, it’s the Western feminist movement (with its head in the sand) when it comes to Islam.”
Such accusations are now commonplace among these groups. Why aren’t feminists condemning Muslims and Islam, like we are, they ask? But as the secular feminist and ex-Muslim activist Maryam Namazie has pointed out, these groups each have their own agenda, and should not be seen as allies to modern feminists. They focus on women’s rights and feminism when it suits them.
This is not a defence of the treatment of women by Muslim-majority countries; far from it, for their record on gender rights is heinous. The religious justifications for gender inequality offered by imams in Saudi Arabia and Iran should never be tolerated in Britain. Neither do I believe that refugees or migrants who break the law should be treated softly. However, the repression of women is not, and never was, a uniquely Muslim problem. So to use it as a way to generalise about, and to attack Muslims, isn’t just bogus, but political opportunism.
However, the repression of women is not, and never was, a uniquely Islamic problem, and so to use it as part of a broader argument against the influence of a single religion or system of thought is entirely bogus.
There are more than 60 million women “missing” in India – women who should be part of the Indian population, according to the last census, but whose lives were likely terminated too soon due to gender-specific abortions, the neglect of girl infants, murder and brutal rape. Next to China, India has the world’s largest number of women “missing” from the national population. Yet we’ve heard nothing from these same men – apparent advocates of women’s rights – on the plight of Indian (mostly Hindu) women, unless it is perpetrated by Muslim men.
In Europe, around 8,000 women a year are trafficked for sex, mostly from Eastern European countries into the West. This form of sexual slavery takes place right under our nose and yet there’s little focus on it.
In South America, millions of women are now potentially at risk from the Zika virus, and yet partly because of the influence of the Catholic Church, they are denied access to abortion services and, in some places, even contraception. Where is the anger, the public outcry, over that?
The global fight for women’s rights is ongoing. Men like Dawkins, who join in when they feel it suits their aims, make it even harder for Muslim women in the West to push for greater freedoms when they feel under attack from anti-Muslim bigotry.
The irony is that Roosh V – who can have no claim to sympathy with feminists or campaigners for women’s rights – has also used his platform to highlight a “culture clash” between European populations and migrants and refugees. He says this, while also writing that women today “have reduced themselves to sexual commodities” – a mentality eerily similar to the Saudi mullahs we are told are most deserving of our attention. If someone trying to protect women has no interest beyond what Muslim men do, how legitimate are their concerns?
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