A video from Egypt which went viral on the internet tells the true story about Islam and women. Like the Roman Catholic Church, Islam makes a strict distinction between the roles of men and women. Women are confined to their sphere, men to theirs. But women in Islam are not respected or honoured. They are feared, and because they are feared they are restricted and controlled. The sexualisation of women who are dressed in bags is much more obscene than the sexualisation of women who are free to display their sexuality. Hidden as it is from men, and ignorant as Muslim men are about women, they tend to think of women purely in sexual terms. Muslims very often stigmatise the West as decadent, because people express themselves freely, which means, of course, that women even look like women. But women looking like women is not a matter of flaunting sexuality. It allows women as many registers of self-expression as it does men. But a woman dressed in a bag is always a sexual object, by definition, because that is what is being hidden. That is why women in Egyptian and other Muslim societies are so often sexually harassed in public, because the only aspect of woman that is ever on show is her sexual aspect, even though, since Muslim men are afraid of it, they try to hide it, but the more they hide it, the more deeply sexual women become, and the more they fear it and despise it. This, it occurred to me, as I watched this video (of which I show only a part), is how it is with women and Islam. It is a profoundly disturbing realisation, especially when it is seen through this lens:
The level of frenzied violence depicted here is troubling. How is it possible for men to behave in this way towards women? It reveals Egyptian society as a deeply misogynistic, an almost unbelievably misogynistic society. The need to control women that this video illustrates is clearly a foundational aspect of the society. I think it is undoubtedly Islam that is at the root of this. This does not mean that Islam alone, amongst the religions, is misogynistic. This is obviously not the case. Almost all Christian churches display a entrenched misogyny, and the history of the place of women in Christianity is not edifying, as Uta Ranke-Heinemann’s book Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven amply illustrates. The Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox churches of the East, which account for most Christians living today, both exclude women from priestly ministry, and the subordinate role of women in Evangelical Christianity is well known. But Islam outdoes almost all the religions in the degree of oppression of women. That we permit Islam to continue its oppressive practices with respect to women in otherwise free societies is, it seems to me, an offence against the values of democratic societies, and it is storing up social problems precisely like the ones we see convulsing Egyptian society today. We have to stop pretending that this is a legitimate aspect of the freedom of religion. It is not. Those who immigrate to democratic societies must be required to accept, as founding principles, the equality of men and women, and to discard practices that militate against it.