The facts just keep coming out of Ohio. It is hard to comprehend what they went through, those young women. What they felt while trapped by a monster through those lost years of their early adulthood is almost impossible to fathom. How did they cope? How did they get through each day?
A close friend of mine was sexually abused as a teenaged girl. It was a man she knew. It lasted for years. She never told anyone — not her mom, not her friends. She didn’t tell because, like so many women who are abused, she blamed herself. She didn’t tell because she was ashamed. Because she was afraid. Because she just wanted to move on. For all kinds of other reasons she will never know, and no longer cares to know, she never told anyone. Until she told me.
Why did it last so long? Why didn’t she just call the police? Unlike those Ohio girls, she wasn’t chained or locked up. But he had chained her mind. Besides abusing her body, he had burrowed into her mind and abused her trust. He provided alcohol and a pathway to adulthood, but he stole her childhood. And her heart.
Her monster — and too many women in this world have a monster in their lives — told her he was doing it for her own good. He told her she was different from the other girls. He told her she was sexy. And he told her she was bad, too. He told her all kinds of things, all of them manipulations to serve his own evil purposes. She believed him.
Stockholm syndrome prevailed as the survival mechanism for my friend, and quite probably for those young women in Ohio. Thank God, they are free today. They will have those horrible memories for a long time. But maybe, just maybe, those beautiful young women in Ohio will be able to trust a man again. It took my friend 15 years to do it.
I know. I married her.
Last week, my wife rushed into my office and showed me an article in the Wall Street Journal. It was about the rise of TV preachers, known as sheiks, in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, and one popular TV sheik in particular, Khaled Abdullah.
His brand of Islam is a retrograde brand, a form of Islamism that spews hate toward women. Christians, Jews, gays, and Americans are not far behind. Two paragraphs had caught my wife’s eye. This was the first:
“The Salafi TV preachers advocate restrictive views on women, railing against female protesters and even advising audiences of what they see as the Islamically correct way for a husband to beat his wife.”
That’s right. To some Muslims — to too many — there is a correct way to beat your wife. And this show gets big ratings. And no protests from enraged mobs.
Then came the second paragraph:
“Even so, many viewers of TV preachers are women. In the most conservative Egyptian households, women rarely leave their homes and account for nearly two-thirds of television viewers.”
The women rarely leave their homes? How could that be? It took my wife to connect things I was incapable of connecting.
“Don’t you see,” she explained. “These women are prisoners. And on those rare times they are permitted to leave the house, they wear burqas. And a burqa is just a prison made out of clothing.”
But why do so many Muslim women watch these sheiks on TV? And wear the burqas?
“It makes sense,” my wife told me. “These Islamist men convince women that this way of living is for their own good. It is for their protection. And the women believe it, because they don’t know what else to do. Or are afraid to do it.”
And they say there is a war on women in America?
All over the world, it’s that Ohio house for millions of Muslim women every day. And yet we hear too little about this horrifying state of affairs from feminists in America. Or from the media.
No one has written more eloquently about women and Islam than Ayaan Hirsi Ali. As a young woman, Ali escaped an arranged marriage in her native Somalia by emigrating to the Netherlands. She went on to write the screenplay for Theo van Gogh’s movie Submission. They both received death threats; van Gogh ended up being brutally murdered.
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.