Western culture is generally keen on celebrating courage in the face of adversity; documentaries, films and books inspire audiences with narratives of the underdog overcoming seemingly unbeatable conditions.
Escaping controlling, demoralising environments is of great interest. Former Scientologists are, rightfully, given a large platform, as are former cult members in general. And it wouldn’t cross the mind of the average viewer to start defending Scientology or the FLDS after hearing stories of imprisonment, violence, threats and mind control.
Muslim apostates, however, aren’t shown that level of interest or kindness, at least by proponents of public policies on the left or right, who use them in conversation but ultimately ignore them when it comes to envisaging actual solutions to deal with radical Islam (or Islam in general, to the degree to which it contrasts with secular democracies).
Feminism and the unholy alliance
As detailed at this engrossing conference, there is increasing frustration and disappointment with those identifying as feminists yet actively participating in the cover-up of female oppression in Muslim communities. Public speakers like Linda Sarsour, one of the organisers of the Women’s March, who decries the “slanderous talk” surrounding Islam and its restrictions, often unwanted, on women’s lives.
When taken out of that religious context, the treatment escapees describe is nothing short of disheartening. Chastisement and vilification for being alone with a man in a room, for allowing three inches of their forearms to show, for having any male friends at all. Threats of disowning, physical violence or even murder, at the sole mention of a potential transgression. Ostracism and threats from their entire community. One’s hymen treated as a precious family asset. That is unimaginable in societies which left that mentality behind hundreds of years ago.
Should a woman from a different background describe growing up in such ways, feminists would be outraged. In this case however, they turn a blind eye, referring to “their culture”, as if the word “they” did not include many forced participants.
Moreover, people like Linda Sarsour dare vilify public speakers who have overcome these difficulties to the extreme, such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, as traitors to the religion. “They’re not women; I wish I could take their vaginas away” (paraphrasing). Not only is it distasteful to refer in that way to a victim of FGM – it proves the utter disdain fundamentalists have towards apostates. One would think common sense would stop her from being so venomous, at least publicly, but that is not the case, since apostasy carries a death sentence in Islam.
The hypocritical right
Activists on right or far right often refer to the “barbaric rules and traditions” of Islam, especially to counter the non-issues spouted by western feminists nowadays. They get all descriptive and outraged about it, as if they truly cared outside of wanting to rid their countries of Muslims altogether, including those who are trapped into the religion.
“And they’re bringing that over here”, they cry next, not realising that apostates have a far better chance of breaking away in countries offering them minimal protection, at least, and the choice of being able to live as free individuals. De-conversion and apostasy are indeed much safer in the west.
“This is what they do to girls and women in the Middle East!” they indignantly shout. “Bomb them!” they shout next. You know, including those abused women and innocent children they care so much about.
Many right-wingers, in the current climate, would give their approval to have all Muslims deported from western countries. Aside from the grotesque idea of uprooting innocent people based on the religion they were born into, which is not even feasible, they don’t spare a thought for those who have a real chance of getting out, a chance they wouldn’t have in a theocracy.
Although not used often enough, there are laws protecting women and apostates from religious violence; in recent years a law was passed against forced marriage, for instance, and the threat of honour killings is taken very seriously. Victims of rape are treated as such, as opposed to being blamed for their assault, which happens in some countries. Merely being in western countries when these traumatic events occur can and does save countless lives.
Also very popular with this camp are Trump’s famous immigration bans, regardless of some people having waited for years on end to emigrate and having gone though all needed formalities. No thought is spared for the fact that among those wishing to leave will almost definitely be apostates seeking to escape the dangers of living in theocracies, which follow them day and night.
“Islamophobia” – blasphemy laws again?
Imagine heaving a sigh of relief when finally arriving in a safe country, where you cannot be oppressed for your apostasy, as well as your criticism of your former religion, in this case Islam. Imagine how liberating that must feel.
And five or ten or twenty years later, that wonderful, liberal country starting to cave in to demands from your former persecutors, in efforts to suppress your right to criticise the authoritarian ideology that just might’ve got you killed.
If to the formerly neutral (people only exposed to Islam from a distance) it seems restrictive and uncanny for criticism to be criminalised, imagine how it feels to defectors of Islamic theocracies, to witness the ever-growing power of lobbyists, pushing for what can be construed as blasphemy laws.
Supporting or wanting to ban the veil
Former Muslim women are very outspoken about that yet nobody in the public arena seems to hear them.
On the one hand, you have progressive leftists claiming women choose to wear it and that right should not be infringed upon by legislators. That, I actually agree with, should those women be absolutely free of constraint and choose to wear it of their own accord, as adults.
On the other hand, you have right-wingers saying any woman covering up (especially her face) is a threat to national security, and therefore simply banning it would solve the problem. Unfortunately it solves jack shit for the women who are forced to wear it – their relatives are so indoctrinated they will probably resort to banning them from going outside altogether.
A moderate approach would be to support those who truly want to wear it according to their own convictions. As adults.
But at the same time admit that there are many, many cases of girls and women being forced to cover up as a matter of family honour. And consider the problems they will face when any such legislation is passed.
Complicated; I know. As life often is.