In Islam, believers are superior to infidels, masters to slaves, and men to women. All these relationships are so fixed by the faith and the customs of Muslims that reform to bring in equality is the tallest of orders. The very idea that women are the equal of men touches masculine vanity, sexuality, opportunity for conquest, financial exploitation, the shape of the family – all issues that have the utmost social resonance. Muslim men are never going voluntarily to let go of their advantaged position. When it comes to gaining equality in the Middle East women are on their own, and they are taking the law into their hands.
A video is circulating showing a scene in a supermarket in Saudi Arabia. A lady who seems both young and elegant is surrounded by several members of the Saudi morality police known as the Mutawwa who go around enforcing the observance of prayer time and more particularly insisting that women are behaving and dressing as they are ordered to do – the fantasy of sexual domination is unmistakable, and I wish Dr Freud was here to spell it out. The mutawwa have just told this woman that her head-scarf is tied to show too much of her hair. Furious, she starts screaming at them, making such a scene that they beat a retreat.
Last week in Iran, Hojatoleslam (meaning he’s a rank below an ayatollah) accosted two women in a street in Shahmirzad and ordered them to cover up. “Cover your eyes,” they said, and set about beating him up. They pushed him to the ground, and kicked him so hard that he had to go to hospital. Like the Saudi mutawwa, the Basij is a fascist militia that does much of the regime’s dirty work and the London Times further relates how in Tehran two of its members reprimanded a woman for listening to music in her car. Bystanders then beat up this miserable pair of sneaks. One of them revealed that the women had found blows to be good, but humiliation better: “while I was unconscious they even removed my underwear.”