Back in 2010, she told a remarkable story about her early life in Mogadishu in a column called “Not the Child My Grandmother Wanted.” She recalls being six or seven years old and being lectured by her grandmother about how to be a proper Muslim girl.
When the young Ali asked her grandmother why such strict rules didn’t apply to her brother Mahad, she got an earful. “Mahad is a man! Your misfortune is that you were born with a split between your legs. And now, we the family must cope with that reality!”
Her grandmother continued: “Ayaan, you are stubborn, you are reckless and you ask too many questions. That is a fatal combination. Disobedience in women is crushed and you are disobedient.”
Then came the most harrowing part of the lesson. Ali’s grandmother pointed to a piece of sheep fat on the ground. It was covered with ants and flies. “You are like that piece of sheep fat in the sun,” she warned her granddaughter. “If you transgress, I warn you men will be no more merciful to you than those flies and ants are to that piece of fat.”
Women are like a piece of sheep fat?
And this advice from — a grandmother?
Where are the voices of feminism reaching out to all of these Muslim women? Is it right to ascribe such treatment to cultural norms? Or to shield it in the name of religious tolerance? Where is the National Organization for Women? And Michelle Obama? Is political correctness regarding extreme elements of Islam trumping the bond of the worldwide sisterhood?
Last March, the Hudson Institute’s Nina Shea published a survey of the world’s worst offenders on the women’s-rights front. Here is how she described life for Saudi women:
Women are required to have male guardians whose permission is necessary for traveling outside the home — even for emergency hospital visits. The state dictates their appearance with dress codes that enshroud them in anonymous black robes from head to toe. Apart from lingerie stores, they are barred from retail jobs and most service work. Under a code unique to Saudi Arabia, they are also banned from driving. They cannot mingle with unrelated men. A special police force, mutaween, patrols streets, shopping malls, and other places to enforce such laws; the mutaween captured rare international attention in 2002 when, during a fire at a girls’ school in Mecca, they caused the death of 15 girls by pushing them back into the blazing building because, in their panic, the girls had run out without their veils.
Talk about a story that is almost too horrible to imagine!
But it gets worse. Here is how Ms. Shea described the state of women’s rights in Afghanistan:
Afghanistan applies, in some areas, tribal law that gives women few rights. The New York Times detailed one particularly abusive tribal law that is said to be “pervasive” in Pashtun areas, aptly named “baad.” It is the abduction, lifelong enslavement, and rape of a girl — who was eight years old in the Times’s story — by a family in compensation for a wrong committed by the girl’s relatives.
That’s right. In some parts of Afghanistan, families settle scores by sending their daughters off to a lifetime of rape and slavery. And Sandra Fluke thinks America is hostile to women because many of us don’t want to pony up for her birth control?
The world is upside down when it comes to how our leaders and our media elites address the abuse of too many Muslim women around the world. One Christian preacher who doesn’t even have a real church talks about burning a Koran, and the story becomes an international sensation. But rape, torture, and imprison your own women as a fundamental part of daily life, and the world hardly yawns.
In the weeks and months to come, as we learn more gruesome facts about what happened to those poor girls in Ohio, pray for them. But let’s also pray for all the subjugated girls and women in places like Somalia, Afghanistan, Egypt, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia whose suffering is so tragic because it is so utterly ordinary. Whose suffering is so tragic because it is met with such silence.
Say a prayer for all the women in the world trapped in cages built on the foundation of depraved cultural norms, and a warped take on Islam.
— Lee Habeeb is the vice president of content at Salem Radio Network, which syndicates Bill Bennett, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, and Hugh Hewitt. He lives in Oxford, Miss., with his wife, Valerie, and daughter, Reagan.