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The New York (Islamic) Times: How Propaganda Works to Ensure The Subordination of Women

by Phyllis Chesler

April 2nd, 2008



At a time when Islamists are at full jihadic throttle, the New York Times recently featured a mild and lovely article about the proliferation of home schooling among Muslim communities in America.

How do we cut down on honor murders in the West? According to some people, you do whatever it takes to keep the girls from dishonoring their families so that their families do not have to honor-murder them.

According to the New York Times, “home schooling” the girls in America, re-creating a feudal, rural, parallel universe in California in which girls and women are kept hidden and apart, is the sensible, merciful alternative to honor murders in The New World.

At a time when Islamists are at full jihadic throttle, the New York Times features a mild and lovely — a truly non-judgmental article about the proliferation of home schooling among Muslim communities in America.

How can anyone criticize home schooling? It’s a venerable, Super-American Back-to-the-Land and Back-to-the-Bible custom. Well, according to the article, this folksy custom might be under serious advisement since Osama Bin Laden’s American mouthpiece, Adam Gadahn, was himself home schooled in rural California.

But really: How can I criticize the tendency of immigrants to cling to their customs and their faiths? Isn’t America’s history one in which successive waves of immigrants retained their ethnic and religious identities — while their children and grand-children became integrated into American culture? And, don’t we still allow religious communities to keep themselves apart and to train their women to be docile, modest, family-oriented servants of both men and God?

Well yes, but I have always protested keeping women down in the name of religion, and have been quick to applaud the accomplishments of religious (and anti-religious) women who enter the modern professions, wage feminist battles against violence against women within their communities, and who also become leaders and authorities in their various faiths, both secular and religious.

So, why is the New York Times making so subtle and so powerful an alliance with Islamists against women?

The way propaganda works is through persistence, subtlety, and images. Every week, sometimes every day, the Times has a Muslim- or Islamist-friendly article, usually with positive color photos. The Paper of Record knows how to cover its considerable derriere. Thus, it is careful to have comments from “both sides of the aisle” as long as the critical comments are buried-in-the-balance and do not deflect from the bottom line propaganda having its way with us.

Ian Buruma writes an article that is so cleverly cobbled together than most readers do not understand that it is meant as a devastating attack on the heroic Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Tariq Ramadan, the genetic and intellectual heir to the man who founded the Muslim Brotherhood is, again and again, glowingly profiled, reviewed, published, and shown wearing trendy western dress. Noah Feldman continues to condemn Orthodox Judaism and to extol the virtues of Muslim religious (Shari’a) law, not only for Turkey but for an unsuspecting West. Young, attractive women wearing headscarves are shown and they are quoted saying sophisticated, friendly things.

Steadily, slowly, inexorably, Western readers are being softened for the “kill,” seasoned and habituated to accept the subordination of women as an inviolate cultural and religious reality.

Take a look at the March 26th edition of the New York Times. Titled “Resolute or Fearful, Many Muslims Turn to Home Schooling,” the article was five columns wide and featured two sympathetic color photos. Both show female teenagers wearing head-and-shoulder hijab. The larger photo resonates for Westerners who may have seen similar images in great paintings of the Middle Ages; the photo somewhat resembles a Vermeer. The domestic intimacy, symmetry, harmony is all there. We are meant to “like” the young and smiling girl in hijab who, according to the caption, is reading the Koran.

The article explains that many Muslim families in California have opted for home schooling for their daughters; forty percent of Pakistani and southeast Asian families “in the district” have done so. Why? Many possible reasons are given: So that Muslim children will not be teased or mocked; exposed to pork; “corrupted” by American influences — but mainly, so that their girls do not engage in behaviors that would “dishonor” their families and require that they be honor murdered.

For example, Hajra Bibi stopped attending public school and began home schooling when she reached puberty. "Her family wanted her to clean and cook for her male relatives . . . 'Some men don’t like it when you wear American clothes — they don’t think it is a good thing for girls . . . We don’t want anyone to point a finger at us, to say that we are bad.'"

Because that might render them unmarriageable and as candidates to be honor murdered.

The smiling , Vermeer-like photo and the additional photo of three girls wearing heavy hijab and playing with their yo-yos, soften the blow that this information might otherwise elicit.

Why should American citizens or future American citizens, in California or elsewhere, be taught that girls must wear hijab or even niqab (face covering); that boys and men are entitled to boss girls around; that a minimal education and an arranged marriage to your cousin is all that an American female citizen needs? Why live in America if what you want to do is keep the girls culturally illiterate and down on the farm?

The Orthodox Judaism that Noah Feldman spurns, does not practice honor murders. If a woman marries outside her fundamentalist faith, she may indeed be ex-communicated but then again, she may not. If a Christian woman marries outside her faith . . . but you get my point. The countless successive immigrant waves to America did not practice honor murders. Perhaps ugly, agonizing breaks took place; killing to enforce religious norms did not.

Can we just give it some time, wait and see, give the new-immigrant-on-the block a break? Well sure, but let’s remember that some third-generation immigrants in the UK have become radical Islamists. Given the “politically correct” way in which the British coddled Muslim immigrants (I view this as racist, others would view it as simply incompetent), and the rise of the radical, global mullahs, the expected integration did not “take.”

There might be something different about contemporary Islam that does not lend itself to integration.

Why is the New York Times engaged in disinformation about such an important topic?

First published by the Chesler Chronicles at Pajamas Media.

Culture: Religion, Feminism, Abortion, Euthanasia


Dr. Chesler is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies at City University of New York. She is an author, psychotherapist and an expert courtroom witness.

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