They Oppressed the Wrong Woman

Waris Dirie was born in the desert of Somalia. Her family were Muslim nomads. When she was 13 years old, her father announced to her he'd found her a husband and she would soon be wed. Her "groom to be" was an old man. She protested and begged, but the old man had already paid her father, so the deal was done.

The next morning, before her father awoke, she ran away. She took off into the desert knowing only that somewhere was a city named Mogadishu and somewhere in that city she had an aunt. Amazingly, after a very difficult journey, she found her aunt and stayed with her a short time. Then one of her uncles became the Somalian ambassador to the UK and would be stationed in London. Waris begged her uncle to take her with him to be a maid. He consented.

She eventually became a fashion model whose face adorned the covers of many glamour magazines.

At one point in her career, Waris had been interviewed many times. The interviews were always about how a barefoot Somalian nomad became a famous model. But one day as another of these interviews was beginning, Waris took a bold step. She said the rags to riches story had already been told. "Would you like a real story?" she asked.

She told the interviewer about the day she experienced female genital mutilation (FGM), an ancient practice of removing a woman's clitoris, labia minora, and labia majora. Waris was then sewn up with a small hole for urination, which is usually how it's done. This procedure guarantees that she will be a virgin when she gets married, and it ensures she will not feel pleasure during sex (and thus helps prevent infidelity). A girl is not considered marriageable if she is "uncut" — she is considered no better than a whore, so parents make sure she undergoes FGM.

The interviewer was moved and shaken by Waris's story. And the magazine had the guts to print it. This was the beginning of an increasing global awareness of FGM and a movement to do away with it, in the same way that binding girl's feet was banned in China in the early 1900s. Already several countries have committed themselves to eradicating the practice.

Banning FGM would not only save millions of girls from the horror, pain, and death caused by this barbaric practice (it is done to 8,000 girls a day worldwide, with one out of four girls dying from the procedure), it would also help to marginalize, discredit, and disempower orthodox Islam.

The practice is over 4000 years old, and it was taken for granted during Muhammad's lifetime that all women underwent FGM, so he mentioned it a few times as a forgone conclusion, and his mention was written down, so it has now been enshrined in Islamic doctrine as an Islamic practice. Fundamentalists want it to continue because whatever Muhammad said is right for all time.

Banning the procedure would stop this orthodox practice, which would help disempower the fundamentalism itself. Everywhere we can prevent an orthodox practice, like covering women or beating them for disobedience or FGM, we weaken the forces of orthodoxy. If some Islamic fundamentals can be abandoned or seen as wrong, other fundamentals might be more easily abandoned as well.

I encourage you to help your friends and family become aware of FGM. You don't even have to mention the word "Islam." Read Waris's story in her excellent book, Desert Flower (written with Cathleen Miller). And then share the book with people you know. Talk it up. And watch National Geographic's movie by the same name and share that too. This is a way to help innocent girls, a way to pit humanistic empathy against Islamic domination, and a way to get people involved in marginalizing orthodox Islam — people who might never otherwise get involved. The Islamic oppression of women can and should be stopped. Let's start by saving the weakest and most innocent victims: Girls.

You Are the Cure

On our Facebook page, someone wrote (I'm paraphrasing), "I'm not able to say how disgusted and angry orthodox Muslims make me feel. No words can convey it. I'm just hoping mankind can find a cure for this deadly social cancer."

That last sentence is a very common comment by people who have discovered the intolerance and hostility and calls to violence embedded in core Islamic doctrines. My answer to the commenter is a message I want to give to everyone:

YOU are the cure. When someone is running a scam on people, what's "the cure?" Can you track them all down and stop them? Not a chance. Can you eradicate scams once and for all? No, you can't. Can you "ban" scams? It wouldn't do any good. But you don't need to even try any of these things. You only need to blow the lid off the game.

Here's how we deal with scams: We share information when we find out about a scam, and then other people are wise to the scam and don't fall for it. That's all we need.

Orthodox Muslims are making inroads in the free world only because too many of us don't know the scam. Too many of us don't understand the true nature of Islamic doctrine. That's where YOU come in. We can't rely on the media. We sure as hell can't rely on politicians. That leaves personal relationships.

Reach people. If you are having trouble doing that, here is a handbook on the subject: Getting Through.

What's the Difference Between a Habit and a Headscarf?

Why are some people vehemently against a Muslim headscarf but have no objection to a nun's habit? What's the difference?

The main difference is the ideology represented by the clothing. Islam's ideology is 51 percent political and only 49 percent religious. That is, 51 percent of the Koran is about what Muslims should do with non-Muslims.

A Muslim is obligated to strive to establish the law of Allah in all nations, imposing it against the will of non-Muslims if necessary. Islamic law is very detailed and specific, and includes the death penalty for apostates and gays, women are legally only worth a half a man, etc. The Muslim headscarf is one of the few visible signs of a commitment to the fundamental principles of Islam. That's why people are bothered by it.

But aren't Christians obliged to "establish the rule of Christ in all nations?" Isn't a nun's habit a visible sign of commitment to the fundamental principles of Christianity?

That's seems like a legitimate counter-argument, but are there "Christian countries?" That is, a country where the "laws of Christianity" are imposed on everyone in that country?

So far, there are 58 Muslim countries, and orthodox Muslims are dedicated to expanding that. These countries have joined together to form the largest global organization outside the UN, and they form the largest voting bloc in the UN. They have been pushing to legally impose Islamic blasphemy laws on the entire world, which means legally nobody would be able to have this conversation, even in "free nations." It would be illegal to criticize Islamic doctrine. It is already illegal in many countries.

Islam is having a huge and growing influence on world affairs. Everyone should learn more about this ideology. It isn't like other religions. The closest religion to it is Scientology, and it's not even close.

The assumptions people make about Islam are mostly wrong. But those assumptions are guiding our legal policies, and that is dangerous.

But wait a minute. Doesn't all this only apply to the most extreme and fundamentalist followers of Islam? Wouldn't the views of extreme and fundamentalist Christians be just as disturbing? It isn't fair to paint all Muslims with this same brush, is it? We could say all Scientologists are bad people, but that isn't the case either.

First of all, we're not talking about Muslims. We're talking about Islam, which is a set of written documents. It is a written ideology. When we say "orthodox Muslim," we mean someone who follows the principles written in Islamic doctrine. Yes, of course, there are many Muslims who do not follow the doctrine, just as there are Christians who don't follow the written doctrine in the Bible.

But what this argument obscures is that the orthodox Muslims are not misguided. They are doing what it says they must do in their written holy book. It says in the Koran 91 times that a Muslim should follow the example of Muhammad in every aspect. And Muhammad (according to biographies of Muhammad written by Muslims for Muslims) raided caravans, led battles, tortured people, ordered assassinations, and personally oversaw the beheading of 800 Jews. He captured and held slaves. He raped women. He started having sex with his favorite wife when she was nine years old. This is not slanderous rumor aimed to discredit Muhammad. This is taught with a straight face in Islamic universities, without any hint of embarrassment. This was the messenger of Allah and he could do no wrong.

A fundamentalist is one who follows the teachings closely. So the actual teachings make a big difference. And all we're saying is that the teachings of Islam are dangerous to non-Muslims. In Islamic doctrine, Muslims are the best of people and non-Muslims are the worst of creatures. This is not a conspiracy theory. This stuff is very easy to find out. You don't have to trust anyone's opinion. Just read the Koran. The Muslims who are true believers (orthodox) are counting on people not wanting to know.

In a conversation about this the other day, someone brought up a good example: the Amish. They have special dress and customs but they don't seek to impose it on anyone else. That's the difference. And it's a big difference.

Look up the Holy Land Foundation trial. The FBI raided the house of a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in America and found a document laying out their plan for our country. So far they have 73 legal organizations in America bent on replacing our laws with Islamic law. One organization has been altering the way Islam is portrayed in school textbooks. One organization puts pressure on Hollywood to make sure Islam is portrayed positively in movies. One organization sues people who try to educate others about what Islam is, or gets them fired from their jobs.

Scientologists aren't bad people, by the way. Most people who read the statements above would think I was slandering Scientologists. But I was talking about Scientology, the ideology. Specifically, I was referring to the "fair game" policy of Scientology. Again, it is a written document, and followed by the true believers. It says that if someone leaves Scientology (becomes an apostate), they are fair game. They can be tricked, lied to, sued, harassed.

But that's not as bad as Islamic doctrine. Islam says the penalty for apostasy is death.

Think about something for a minute. If someone says they're a member of a group that has a written ideology, would you assume they believe in at least some of the tenets of that ideology? Of course. Otherwise, why claim your membership? It's not always the case, of course. Oskar Schindler was a member of the Nazi party, after all.

But if you could choose who would be your next door neighbor or who would date your daughter, would you voluntarily choose someone who claims membership in a dangerous ideology? They might not be "true believers." But on the other hand, many Muslims who were perfectly nice people and not true believers were reached by the more orthodox who educated them on their obligations as a Muslim. They said, "You say you're a Muslim, but have you read the Koran? Do you know what you should be doing?" And they are "radicalized" which is a politically correct way of saying they began following the written doctrine and the example of the founder of Islam.

By the way, I'm not a Christian. I'm not any religion. And I'm not out to slander any particular religion. All I did was read Islamic doctrine and biographies of Muhammad. I wasn't trying to find out that Islam is evil. I just wanted to know what was really true because we've got some people saying it's a religion of peace and some people saying it's a religion of violence. I wanted to know for myself rather than listen to the opinions of others.

I went on a decade-long program of reading, including lots of pro-Islam books and the Koran, which I read twice from beginning to end. It's a fascinating subject to study. Especially the life story of Muhammad. It is completely mind blowing that someone like that founded a religion. And that the religion (the doctrine, not the people) reflects his personality. I would never have believed it, and over time, it has become obvious to me that many people don't believe it and don't want to believe it. But if they want to be well-rounded, if they want to be an educated member of the modern world, it seems to me that one of the things they should really know about is Islam as it is, and not how they wish it was or how others want them to think about it. They should find out for themselves.

Back to the headscarf. The reason people don't like it is that the headscarf says, "I believe in the tenets of Islam" and any non-Muslim who knows what those tenets are will not like them. Also, researchers have discovered that when the women in an area with a high Muslim population begin wearing headscarves, it is a signal that the Muslims in the area are becoming more devout (more "extreme," more fundamentalist). It is a visible sign of increasing devotion to the fundamental principles of Islamic doctrine, which includes an intolerance for non-Muslims and non-Islamic laws, and usually foreshadows violence to non-Muslims and those Muslims who are "insufficiently Islamic." That's why people make such a big deal about Islamic head and face coverings. That's why France and other countries have banned them and many are considering it. 

I personally think it's foolish. If you have a visible sign of growing fundamentalism, why would you ban it? To blind yourself? On the other hand, maybe it would help weaken the fundamentalism. And it would certainly help women be free of the obligation to do it in those countries.

What about the nun's habit? The answer is that being a nun is voluntary. But if a woman is born a Muslim, she is considered a Muslim and the penalty for her leaving Islam is death.

Catholic men are not likely to beat nuns if they don't wear their habits, but orthodox Muslims have been known to beat Muslim and non-Muslim women who don't cover up, and I have yet to read a report of a Catholic man throwing acid into the face of a woman because she was not wearing her habit. Orthodox Muslim men have been doing that to Muslim women in many places in the world.

People who are relatively ignorant of Islam are puzzled by the push toward banning headscarves, and would like to write it off as just ignorant bigotry. But if they looked a little deeper, they might find sensible reasons for it.

Seeing More Headscarves

When I was a kid, I never saw Islamic-style headscarves worn by anyone in my town. I first saw one a few years ago. Now I see them all the time. And it bothers me. Does that make me a racist?

People all over the free world are seeing the same thing, and are feeling disturbed by it. Concerned. Frightened even. Does that mean we are xenophobic bigots? The answer is no. I'm sure there are racist xenophobes among us, but for those of us aware of Islamic ideology and Islamic history, the reason we are uncomfortable with a growing number of Muslims in our midst is simple and reasonable: It has traditionally spelled doom for the existing culture. Islam annihilates cultures.

Islamic headscarves are indicative of ideology. If a Muslim woman believes in Islamic ideology, she will wear a headscarf. A headscarf is one of the few publicly visible signs of Islamic devotion. And if she believes in Islamic ideology, she will probably have lots of children and indoctrinate her children with the ideology too (Islamic texts encourage fecundity and indoctrination). And Islamic ideology is dangerous to non-Muslims. The higher the percentage of Muslims in a given population, the more dangerous they are (because of Islam's rule of numbers).

But I'm not a bigot or a xenophobe, and here's how I can tell: When I see a Hindu woman in a headscarf, it doesn't bother me a bit. Hindu ideology is not dangerous to non-Hindus. When I see a Buddhist monk, I don't feel concerned. If I saw a growing number of Buddhist monks in my town, it wouldn't bother me at all.

And I'm not a racist. If I saw more and more Japanese people in my town, it wouldn't disturb me at all.

It's the ideology. Anyone who understands what it says in Islamic texts should be concerned at the growing number of Muslims in our midst.

No One Would Listen

If you haven't read the powerful book, Night, by Elie Wiesel, you really should. It is his account of what happened to him during WWII. He was a young teen living in a small village in Hungary when, in 1942, the Hungarian police arrived to announce that all foreign Jews had to leave. The police loaded them all into trains and took them away.

The people in the town were disturbed, of course. It was a sad day. But after a few months, the memory began to fade, and life eventually returned to normal. They felt they were far enough removed from the war that it would end before it ever came to their remote village.

Then one day, one of those foreign Jews found his way back to the village. His name was Moishe. He was an old man, but the young Elie Wiesel had known him fairly well. Moishe had an extraordinary story to tell. He said when the trainload of Jews crossed the border into Polish territory, the Gestapo loaded them into trucks and took all the Jews into a forest where they were forced to dig huge trenches, and then they were all shot! Moishe himself was shot in the leg and left for dead. But he escaped and had been struggling to get back to the little village so he could warn people of what happened. He was urging everyone to flee; to get away before the Germans came.

He went "from one Jewish house to the next," wrote Elie Wiesel, "telling his story..." And he repeatedly and urgently told his story at the synagogue.

But nobody believed him.

They thought he must have lost his mind. Why would the Germans just kill Jews like that? Germany was a modern, industrialized, enlightened country. They wouldn't simply murder people so heartlessly and for no reason. Moishe must have lost his mind.

Moishe was insistent. He begged people to listen to him. He cried. He pleaded. But not one person believed him. They didn't want to believe him, and that's a formidable barrier to communication.

Our message — that what is written in Islamic texts is dangerous to non-Muslims — is also something many people do not want to believe. The implications are too heavy. The people of Elie's village didn't want to contemplate what it would mean if Moishe's story was true. It would mean tragedy and heartache and a loss of faith in humanity. It would mean a drastically different future for everyone. If they believed Moishe, the wise course of action would be to immediately pack up or sell everything they own and move somewhere they'd never been before. They'd have to start over. The journey would be fraught with uncertainty and danger. Most of them had lived their whole lives in that little village.

But they had another option, didn't they? They could explain away Moishe's terrifying story. They could decide there must be some other explanation.

That's what we run into also, isn't it? People are desperately trying to explain it away. If it's true that the doctrines of Islam are dangerous to non-Muslims, we should all drop what we're doing and address it. What's the point of going on about our lives, as they did in Elie's village, if it will all go terribly wrong in a few years? No, there would be no return to normal. If someone truly and fully grasps the real situation, they're in a whole new world, and the "important goals" they were busy trying to accomplish up until now would be abruptly abandoned in order to handle this new (and far more pressing) reality.

But they have another option, don't they? They can decide there must be some other explanation. You must not understand it correctly. You must be taking the Koranic passages out of context. Muslims who believe in Islamic doctrines must be a very small minority. There must be some other explanation.

I invite you to read Night and think about this: What would you have done if you were in Moishe's situation? Do you think you could have gotten someone to believe you? How would you get through to people? Or would you have given up, as Moishe did, and leave them all to their fate?

In 1944, the German Army arrived at Elie's village and immediately initiated new policies to limit freedoms for Jews. The noose closed in tighter and tighter, one policy at a time, until one day all the Jews of the village were imprisoned in a ghetto and ordered to board the transport trains. People were terrified. What did this mean? They were busy in Elie's house frantically packing up food for the trip when Moishe came up to the front door and shouted, "I warned you!" Then he turned and left without waiting for anyone to respond.

It was too late to do anything about it. They were transported to Auschwitz, and all of them suffered terrible, unbelievable physical and psychological torment. Most of them ended up dead.

If Moishe had been able to make people believe him, everyone in the village would have had plenty of time to flee.

Let's not repeat the same mistake. Let's get through. Not with force. Not with crying or pleading or intensity. Let's find out what allows our message to penetrate, and let's use it with ever-growing skill. If you need help, it is available here: Tools.

Good News: Some Things Changed This Year

Things change. Sometimes things improve. Here are a few changes from this year that demonstrate a weakening of orthodox Islam in Muslim countries: 

Child marriage was banned this year in Palestine and Saudi Arabia. They both made the minimum marriage age 18 years old. 

Honor killings have been criminalized in the United Arab Emirates. 

Pakistan has passed a new anti-rape law. 

After 30 years of being ruled by orthodox Muslims, Sudan has deposed them, abolished the death penalty for apostates, and made FGM illegal.

(Source: Future Crunch

Child marriage, honor killings, FGM, laxity about rape, and the death penalty for apostates are all basic features of Islamic law. For true believers, these are not negotiable. The fact that these countries are changing their laws to be less Islamic is a testament to a growing pressure from within the country and also international pressure. It is concrete evidence of a movement away from orthodox Islam, even in the Muslim world. It means Islamic law has been, to some degree, discredited for a greater number of people. This is what we're working toward

There is still a lot more to be done. We haven't won. But let's celebrate when we have something worth celebrating.