Wednesday, January 02, 2008


THE AUSTRALIAN,25197,22995050-7583,00.html

Pamela Bone |
January 02, 2008

ARE women across the world mourning Benazir Bhutto? They should be. Not because she was a saint; she wasn't. She was at least a beneficiary of the billions stolen by her husband from the people of Pakistan. Nor did she do anything much for Pakistani women during her two periods of leadership, declining even to try to repeal the infamous Hudood laws whereby rape victims can be punished for adultery.

She should be mourned not because of what she was but because of what she symbolised. Her death was a political assassination, not an honour killing, as some have said.

Nevertheless it was a reminder of what we face. Bhutto was murdered because to her enemies she was Westernised, a traitor to her culture and an American stooge. She was murdered because she had vowed to bring secularism and democracy to Pakistan. She was murdered because she was all these things, and a woman.

"I know I am a symbol of what the so-called jihadists, Taliban and al-Qa'ida, most fear," she wrote in her autobiography, Daughter of the East. "I am a female political leader fighting to bring modernity, communication, education and technology to Pakistan."

Yes, fear is the right word. The fear of women, of women's freedom, and most of all, of women's sexuality, runs through Islamism. It is a large part of Islamist hatred of the West. "The issue of women is not marginal," writes the Dutch scholar Ian Buruma. "It lies at the heart of Islamic occidentalism (anti-Westernism)."

It is the "deep, ignored issue", writes Paul Berman, author of Terror and Liberalism. Why, I wonder, is it mainly men who are making these points?

To call these warriors for God sexually repressed is to absurdly understate it. Consider Mohammad Atta, one of the September 11 hijackers who -- despite having spent his last nights in the US going to strip clubs -- wrote in his will that no pregnant woman or other "unclean person" should come to his funeral and that no woman should visit his grave.

Or Sayyid Qutb, the Egyptian philosopher, one of the chief inspirations for al-Qa'ida, who, during a visit to the US in 1948, wrote home about the "seductiveness' of young women he saw dancing at a church hall (to the song, Baby It's Cold Outside), about the "shocking sensuality" of women everywhere he went in the country.

Consider that in parts of Afghanistan still controlled by the Taliban, so great is the need to keep women powerless, silent and invisible that girls' schools are burned down and a male schoolteacher who defied an order to stop educating girls was last year killed and dismembered.

No wonder they hated Bhutto, the first woman to lead a Muslim country, who was not only brave and strong but physically beautiful, her loosely draped Islamic headscarf more an object of adornment than of modesty. No wonder Islamist militants had been trying to kill her for more than a decade.

(Ramzi Yousef, now in prison in the US for his part in the first attempt to blow up the twin towers in 1993, had earlier attempted to assassinate her.)

Now they have succeeded. Her murder is most likely the work of al-Qa'ida or its allies inside Pakistan. Certainly, they've expressed glee at her death.

If the fact that she was a Western-educated woman seeking power in lands they claim as their own was not reason enough, killing her meant they could disrupt the scheduled elections and maintain instability in Pakistan, which would allow them to continue using that country's territory to train the increasing numbers of willing martyrs, funded by trillions of dollars from opium sales.

One wonders why the Western powers don't make a co-ordinated effort to defoliate Afghanistan's opium fields.

Al-Qa'ida has made it perfectly clear that its aim is an Islamic caliphate, first in all nominally Muslim countries and ultimately in the whole world. The jihadis would, if they could, impose the same rampant misogyny on women worldwide as was, and still is to a large extent, imposed on the women of Afghanistan.

They can't win. No one, apart from extremists like themselves, wants the kind of society they envisage. But they could, if the West fails in its determination, win enough to make life very unpleasant for millions of women for a generation or more.

The best hope is that Bhutto's assassination will galvanise opposition to Islamism in Pakistan and elsewhere. It is a small hope. At present, the Islamists are triumphant and energised.

Meanwhile, in Australia, the very people who once would have fought against everything the Islamists stand for are instead obsessed with showing their support for David Hicks, that very stupid young man who once trained on the Islamists' side.

Could the murder of Bhutto be enough to wake up Western women to the fact that the war being waged by the Islamists is very much about them? Could the modern Left be persuaded that the people who killed Bhutto are the ones we are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq and other places across the world? Can we, in our niceness, stop telling ourselves they are justified in their hatred of us?

Maybe they are. God knows the West has made more than enough blunders, supporting corrupt dictators wherever it deemed it suitable. But as British writer Nick Cohen notes, what the Islamists hate is not the worst of us but the best of us: human rights, the rule of law, the equality of women and all those other freedoms we take so much for granted.
Pamela Bone is a Melbourne writer.
Pamela Bone as usual puts it the way it is.


Karen said...

Thank you for blogging about this subject and for expanding on it to cite examples of Islamist mysogynism.

Women in the West should also be calling out loudly and clearly for an end to honor killings, but the feminists are strangely silent.

We are our sisters' keepers, and if we save one life it is as if we have saved the entire world.

Karen Tintori, author
Unto the Daughters: The Legacy of an Honor Killing in a Sicilian-American Family

For All Women Foundation said...

Ms. Bone has got it right. . .brava!!!

And, Karen, I agree with you, too. The shameful, abhorrent practice of "honor" killings must come to an end.

Ellen R. Sheeley, Author
"Reclaiming Honor in Jordan"

Miriam M.OR MM said...

Thank you Karen and Ellen for your comments, but unless the women's organizations in our countries will take up the cause of women's human rights in those Islamic countries and everywhere there is "honor"-killing of women, nothing will change for the victims. The power is with the men and they won't give it up unless forced into it. Start a mass lobbying of the Women's Movement and the UN Commission on the Status of Women.