AFDI Geller Fellow Nonie Darwish explains why we won’t see any uprising of Muslim women calling for basic human rights:
Many in the West are hopeful that Islam will undergo a reformation at the hands of Muslim women. That it is just a matter of time before Muslim women will wise up, figure out what must be done, and stand together in unity to march for their equality and human rights. That’s what happened with non-Muslim feminists in the West, so why not in the Middle East?
The answer is complicated, but unlike Western feminists, who had no legal obstacles and who became media and popular culture darlings, Muslim women are facing an impossible task: legal, religious, constitutional and cultural obstacles. Muslim women not only reject a Western-style feminist rebellion, but also never took any opportunity, even during the Arab Spring, to carry signs stating “End Sharia’s oppression of Women,” or “equal rights under the law for women.”
It is puzzling and inexplicable for the West to see Muslim women defending Sharia and Islam and even taking pride in wearing the Islamic head cover. Muslim women are not ashamed, and do not feel that they must explain their to silence regarding the rape of non-Muslim women and women of a different sects of Islam by Muslim men.
The West will understand the horrific culture of Islam regarding women if they apply principles of psychology, such as the Stockholm syndrome and PTSD.
For 1400 years, Islam has used women against each other, and that is another reason why Muslim women have not united to start a feminist movement.
An example of Islam’s use of women against other women happened recently in the Islamic State (ISIS), which created an all-female brigade for the purpose of apprehending civilian women who do not abide by Islamic law. The duties of that brigade are similar to the all-male virtue police in Saudi Arabia, but in the ISIS case, it is women who will arrest and apprehend other women. The all-female force has arrested women and schoolgirls, kept them locked up for hours, and even subjected some to whipping and humiliation for reasons such as showing hair from under a thin veil that does not meet proper Islamic standards.
Even within the Muslim family, distrust is prevalent because it is often the mothers and sisters who help and cover up for the men who commit honor killing of a woman within the family.
A feminist movement requires a degree of rebelliousness, but Islam closed that door of any hope for rebellion for women when the Quran condemned the rebellious woman by name. Islam gives the right to a husband to beat his rebellious wife, prevent her from leaving the house, and end her financial support. Muslim women are also encouraged and rewarded for shunning a rebellious woman.
It is the ultimate state of abuse when the slave is forbidden from rebelling or speaking out against a cruel master. A feminist movement within Islam without the approval of men is thus out of the question. All doors and windows are closed shut for women in Islam, under penalty of humiliation, beating and even death.
Over the centuries, Muslim women learned to cope with this horrific legal, religious and cultural burden placed on them, by adapting. In such an atmosphere, right becomes wrong and wrong becomes right, and the only way for a woman to be safe is to comply and express her pride in the Islamic bondage and learned helplessness.
Thus women in the Muslim world had no choice but develop survival tools and convoluted coping mechanisms similar to the Stockholm syndrome. They learned “if they can’t beat them join them,” and they had to improvise. So for Muslim women to achieve a certain level of power and respect, they learned never to defy their oppression, but to embrace it. They developed a warped and twisted sense of self, in which the self must be sacrificed for the sake of appearing obedient and proud to be a Muslim: a pride in bondage and high tolerance to oppression, not only on themselves but also towards other women.
Even today, educated Muslim women who consider themselves feminists support and defend Islam and sharia. Muslim feminist Linda Sarsour said: “I am a feminist and the reason I am a feminist is because I am a Muslim.”
Western institutions of higher learning have many eloquent and veiled academic Muslim feminists who defend Islam and Sharia. Over the years, Muslim women learned that defending Islam and Sharia would be very rewarding. Saudi Arabia and other Muslim nations always rewarded loyal Muslim women with prestigious positions in American academic institutions to teach Middle East studies or Islamic studies. Muslim nations especially like to hire Muslim women and also Christian Arabs to defend Islam in the West.
Many in the West believe that Islam will reform at the hands of women, but I disagree, because an Islamic reformation requires rebellion by both men and women, and preferably a miracle from God.
AFDI Geller Fellow Nonie Darwish is the author “The Devil We Don’t Know” and president of “Former Muslims United,” a program of the American Freedom Defense Initiative.