By Robert Fulford, try with permission of the author

Last Saturday’s column about the apparent indifference of Western feminists to the crimes against women by the Islamic State brought me letters from readers anxious to explain the contradiction between feminism’s universal goals and its narrowness in practice.

Three readers said feminism has been swallowed by Marxism and now concentrates its anger on capitalism. In answer to the headline on this column, sales “Where are the feminists?,” one woman wrote, “They are too busy organizing boycotts and sanctions against Israel.”

By ignoring the Islamic State, “feminists risk losing their credibility,” another reader commented. It “disqualifies them from any position of authority.” It’s just a way (according to another letter) for feminists “to claim a position of moral and intellectual superiority in their own culture and society.”

“I’m not surprised that feminists have remained silent on the plight of their Muslim sisters,” another reader declared. “Feminists don’t want to be seen on the same side as capitalists, conservatives, men or their own governments.” Another stated the same point concisely: “Hatred of the USA and imperialism (and oneself as a Westerner) trumps Muslim atrocity.”

Blaming Marxism seems a stretch to me. My observation is that many feminists are frozen by their own vague but pervasive feelings, which govern their actions. Any force opposed to NATO, the CIA, the U.S. and its allies must be ignored. A prejudice like this gains strength when it’s held subconsciously.

The real fault, one last reader argues, is multiculturalism: it has prevented us from realizing “that there are depraved, hate-ridden pathologies in specific cultures, i.e. Islam & others.” The West has been so disarmed by its own hopes and prejudices that we can’t face the grave problem in Islam’s desire to impose its law on the planet.

An influential supporter of that argument has now been heard from: a Muslim woman bearing sterling feminist credentials, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Following up on her recent book, "Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now", Hirsi Ali says in the current issue of Foreign Affairs magazine (July-August), that Islam contains the seeds of an escalating jihad. She knows the Muslim world from the inside and her views must command attention. She also has some good news: she believes Islam is in the early stages of reform and there’s a place in that process for outsiders, feminists included.

She believes the idea of reforming Islam is emerging among Muslims “disenchanted with Islamist rule (as in Cairo and Tehran) or attracted by Western norms (as in London and New York).” It includes clerics who realize that their religion must change if its followers are to avoid an interminable cycle of political violence.

Reformers are appearing in key states, such as Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Abd al-Hamid al-Ansari, a former dean of Islamic law at Qatar University, has said that he wants “the religious scholars, through their religious discourse, to make our youth love life, and not death.”

Ayad Jamal al-Din, a Shiite cleric in Iraq, has said Muslims must decide “whether to follow man-made civil law … or the fatwas issued by Islamic jurisprudence. We must not embellish things and say that Islam is a religion of compassion.”

Hirsi Ali suggests the U.S. and its allies compare 2015 to the Cold War, when the West encouraged and funded intellectuals to speak out against the evils of the Soviet system

She cites Hassen Chalghoumi, the 33-year-old imam of the Drancy mosque, near Paris. He predicts that Islam, reforming its doctrine, will follow the same pattern as Christianity and Judaism. “However,” he says, “this battle will not be concluded if the rest of the world sits as an idle observer, watching the catastrophe as it unfolds.”

Hirsi Ali suggests the U.S. and its allies compare 2015 to the Cold War, when the West encouraged and funded intellectuals to speak out against the evils of the Soviet system. She suggests that the great foundations of the West, such as the Ford Foundation, fund Islamic reform, and that the universities make it a priority for study. Perhaps even feminists can speak up.

The Cold War was not won on economics but because the West preached individual freedom. She believes many dissidents today challenge Islam with as much courage as the dissidents who opposed the Soviet Union. Today’s dissidents also need help.

Searching for a parallel, she goes back much farther, to the 17th century and Baruch Spinoza, the Jewish Dutch philosopher who considered the Bible a collection of moral teachings, not God’s literal word. The Jewish community excommunicated him and the Dutch Reformed Church reviled him. But he set the stage for the Enlightenment and the reasonable discussion of the Bible in modern times.

Is it too much to hope for a similar result from 21st-century Muslim reformers?

Robert Fulford’s e-mail address is:


The preceding commentary originally appeared in the “National Post” newspaper, on June 20th 2015:


Proudly powered by WordPress   Premium Style Theme by