Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Australian PM calls for Muslim women's rights.


Heed the PM's call for women's rights

By turning a blind eye to beatings, intimidation, genital mutilation, forced marriages, domestic slavery and honour killings, feminists and so-called progressives are letting down Muslim sisters, writes Janet Albrechtsen .


THE young Turkish mother never stood a chance. Standing at a Berlin bus stop one February night last year, 23-year-old Hatin Surucu was gunned down at point-blank range, three bullets tearing into her face. This was no random killing in the heart of progressive Europe. Three of Surucu's Muslim brothers were arrested. This was an honour killing.According to foreign newspaper reports, Surucu was pulled out of her German school in Year 8 and sent back to Istanbul where, at 16, she was forced to marry an older Turkish cousin. She was killed because she rebelled. She fled Turkey, taking her young son to Berlin. She discarded the Islamic headscarf. She moved into a women's shelter, finished school and enrolled in a technical school. In the eyes of her family, that display of female independence brought dishonour on them. She was slaughtered to restore their honour. Her youngest brother, who allegedly bragged to friends about killing her, confessed to the murder. In his statement, he said: "She wanted her own circle of friends ... It was too much."
What shocked Germany even more came in the weeks after the slaying. According to German magazine Der Spiegel, during a classroom discussion of the murder at a school not far from the murder site, 14-year-old Muslim boys mocked Surucu for getting what she deserved. One boy said: "The whore lived like a German."
So let's not beat about the bush. John Howard was right to point to the inequality confronting some Muslim women. But it is a shame the Prime Minister did not elaborate further. This is not about the banalities bandied about by Australian feminists obsessed with glass ceilings, pay discrepancies and men not changing the right number of nappies.
Though rarely reported in the Australian media, for some Muslim girls living in liberal Western nations, a lack of equality means being yanked from school lest they get too educated. It means genital mutilation, forced marriages, beatings, intimidation, domestic slavery. And for some who want to dress and live like the rest of us, it can mean becoming another victim of honour killings.
Last year there were eight honour killings in Berlin. According to Papatya, a Turkish women's group, there have been 40 such cases across Germany in the past decade. Some reports suggest the numbers are higher. It makes for horrifying reading. A girl beaten to death by her brothers with a hockey stick because she slept with her boyfriend. A young girl strangled by her father because she had a boyfriend.
Earlier this year, a court in Denmark sentenced nine members of a family for the honour killing of 18-year-old Ghazala Khan. She had married an Afghan man against her father's wishes.
According to The Brussels Journal, Khan's brother, who pulled the trigger, went to prison along with her father, her aunt, two uncles and other family members who colluded in her slaying at a local train station.
It's happening in Britain, too. In 2002, a Kurdish immigrant from Iraq stabbed his 16-year-old daughter and slashed her throat over a bathtub. Her crime? She had an 18-year-old boyfriend. Since then, there are reports that a police review of 22 domestic homicides last year led to 18 being reclassified as "murder in the name of so-called honour" and to Scotland Yard reopening investigations into more than 100 suspicious deaths during a 10-year period that may have involved family conspiracies to murder Muslim women. It may only be the tip of the iceberg. Other Muslim girls are sent back to Muslim countries where they are murdered away from prying Western eyes.
In Australia, we need to be asking some serious questions. We know we have problems, though not on the same scale as Europe, with a small group of Muslims refusing to integrate and rejecting the most basic Western values. Last month Faheem Khalid Lodhi was sentenced to 20 years for terrorism. Muslim boys have been jailed for a horrible series of gang rapes. If we have no idea about oppression meted out to Muslim women at the hands of Muslim men in Australia, that's because those in a position to know are not talking.
Instead, any attempt to highlight the problems is met with a swift and predictable response. After Howard's comments last week, out came the cry of discrimination. Muslims would be alienated, said our Muslim leaders. If these are the responses from so-called moderate Muslim leaders, it's little wonder they are fast losing credibility on a crucial issue confronting Western nations. That same reaction kept the murder and mistreatment of Muslim women under wraps in Europe for too long. As Blair government minister Mike O'Brien said years ago, multiculturalism became an excuse for "moral blindness".
Most disappointingly, this multicultural moral blindness has silenced our feminists. Instead, it's left to a conservative Prime Minister, derided by feminist critics as Mr 1950s Picket-Fence Man, to make headlines about the inequality facing some Muslim women. Meanwhile, our feminists have been making headlines with their trivial pursuits.
Just over a week ago, 400 feminists gathered at the NSW Parliament House for their annual boo-in. These women jeered and howled, with the loudest boos determining the winner of the Ernie Awards for the most sexist comments. In July, their American sisters at the National Organisation for Women celebrated their 40th birthday with a three-day conference. The program listed sessions on fashion and feminism, music and feminism, political blogging and feminism and something called "womanopoly", where the audience was asked to imagine a feminist budget. It was feminism at its most tired and trivial. I searched and searched but there was no mention in the program of the problems facing Muslim women.
NOW's younger activists, who convened that same weekend for the Young Feminist Summit, hardly raised the bar. Conference manager Bonnie Rice asked participants: "Are you ready to change the world?" She then reported that NOW's Women of Action award would go to a group of Pennsylvania gals who forced clothing giant Abercrombie & Fitch to pull its "attitude" T-shirts from stores.
Go, girls.
Fortunately, a handful of brave Muslim women is confronting the real calamities facing some of its number. Women such as Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who, as a Dutch parliamentarian, blew the lid on what was happening in The Netherlands. And Canada's Irshad Manji. Some Western feminists are waking up, too. Self-styled 1970s feminist Pamela Bone recently wrote on this page she would wear the right-wing tag if that's what comes from fighting to protect women from the rise of Islamic extremism. But a few wise voices does not a groundswell make. True reform will come only when women stop marching under banners screaming "We are all Hezbollah now" and are willing to side with a conservative Prime Minister, even if that means admitting that on this issue, at least, we are all right-wing now.

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