The first thing that Osama Bin Laden did, when he decided in 1997 that it was time the world came face to face with the Satan, was to come out of the shadows and give a television interview to a major international news organisation with worldwide reach. He chose the pawn carefully. Ambitious, ratings-hungry CNN producer, Peter Bergen, would act as the willing conduit for his terror.

A self-aggrandising shock-and-awe journalist, Peter Bergen saw himself as an authority on Al Qaida, Bin Laden and terrorism in general and in him, Bin Laden had chosen well.

The interview was like a battering ram. Bin Laden essentially declared war on America (and the west in general).

At one point, Bergen asked if the master terrorist wasn’t concerned that indiscriminate attacks in western cities might kill innocent people, including women and children, who have nothing to do with anything. Bin Laden tellingly responded in his trademark tone of voice – soft, silky and respectful – that let alone humans, even the dogs and cats of the west were considered immoral by Islam and deserved to die.

What struck Bergen was the tone of Bin Laden’s voice – the almost casual manner in which he mentioned the slaughter of innocents.

The interview veered to women in Islam and the requirement of being covered, head to toe. Bin Laden had this to say – ‘If you condition a woman from her birth to strictly adhere to a certain way of life, she grows up believing that that is appropriate. That is the ‘normal’ for her and she doesn’t question it. As long as that woman is sequestered, away from the decadence of the west, she will have nothing to compare her lack of freedom with. This has little to do with Islam….’

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Osama Bin Laden was spot on. Today, no one even knows (or cares) why Islamic women have to go around, fully covered.

Does the practice stop sexual promiscuity, rapes and assaults on women? Judging by that argument, women in Islamic nations would feel the safest, wouldn’t they? Furthermore, have the niqab, the hejab, the burqa or whatever else you choose to call them, made Muslim men in Islamic nations more virtuous? Are Muslim nations devoid of sexual sins as a result?

Quite the contrary. Islamic culture is a seething hotbed of moral hypocrisy. The faux morality and the lack of open contact with women has spawned devilish alternatives. Afghanistan (99.2% Islamic) has a horrendous centuries old custom known as ‘bacha bazi’ (boy for toy), where rich men buy boys as young as 11 from impoverished families. for sexual slavery. The boys are dressed up like girls and made to dance and sing at parties, before being carried off by the men, for sex.

Here is the paradox – owning young boys is a status symbol in Afghanistan, while bacha bazi is strictly forbidden in Sharia Law.

Even between consenting adults, homosexuality is seen as a terrible crime in Islam, punishable in most Muslim majority nations with a certain specific form of punishment that is barbaric – being thrown off the roof of tall buildings and thereafter (if the person is still alive) being beaten to death, run over or burnt alive. They believe that the Quran directs them to carry out the sentence in this fashion.

Pedophilia, a particularly evil form of homosexuality, is alive and well in much of the Islamic world. While it is universally practiced elsewhere in the non-Islamic world, pedophilia would not have been accepted as du jour in Afghanistan, had there been at least some form of limited contact between men and women, permitted within the culture. Instead, Islam quarantines women and conditions them from birth to believe that covering themselves goes hand in hand with moral purity.

Elsewhere, in Yemen (99.1% Muslim) and Saudi Arabia (almost entirely Muslim, discounting guest workers), young girls are the rage. Last year, a 12-year old girl in Jeddah died of vaginal wounds after spending her ‘honeymoon’ with her 80-year old bridegroom, who just happened to be a retired Wahhabi mosque official.

The outward appearance of dignity, propriety and prudishness (fasting from dawn till dusk, five prayers a day, women’s modesty, etc) fuels a cringe-producing holier than thou attitude that sees others outside the community as infidels, while it camouflages a rot within – an extreme prevalence of sexual and moral depravity that rampages on behind closed doors.

There was a time, circa 14th Century AD, when the Islamic world was the most advanced and the Quran was seen as a progressive document. Today, that same culture is a dark shadow of itself, its followers buffeted by a storm of backwardness, intolerance and extremism, stuck inside a medieval worm hole, while the rest of the world has moved on ahead.

In spite of being blessed with enormous amounts of natural resources as most of the Islamic world happens to be, Islamic nations remain the poorest and the most oppressive. A 2012 Pew Research study concluded that of the world’s top 20 nations with the highest degree of religious hostility toward minorities, 14 were Muslim majority.

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In this milieu we have apologists with bleeding hearts, who step in and tell us that we in the west are the ones that are being oppressive toward Muslim women, by ‘not letting them wear whatever they want.’

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Arundhati Roy is a one-trick pony who has built this holier-than-thou activist persona on the strength of the Booker Prize she won for the only book she has ever written (The God of small things). Given her obvious eloquence, I am certain her book is eminently readable. However, this lady has few things going against her argument above …..

Firstly, personal choice of attire is not something that is immutable, set in stone, even in a free society like France. It needs to be tempered by the respect for local sentiments. Just as a Hindu woman on a trip to Iran has to cover herself, so does a Muslim woman in France have to behave so as not make others around her cringe. She owes it to that society and in that, personal choice becomes secondary.

There is no right above and beyond the rights of the society that we choose to make our home. If a Muslim woman seeks shelter (and 99.9% Muslim women who migrate to the west, come there because they seek shelter from oppression), she must live according to the west’s norms. She cannot practice the popular Muslim custom, of having the cake and eating it too.

No one ‘coerced’ these Muslim women to migrate to France. They fled their homes and arrived here because they couldn’t stand the persecution in the stiflingly patriarchal Muslim societies they were living in. Unfortunately, now that they are here in the west, the mindset hasn’t transformed. They are free on the outside, but deep within, they are stuck inside a 7th century time-warp. In spite of having escaped the rot, they still feel ‘impure’ if they don’t cover themselves.

If what is happening in France (vis-à-vis the burqini ban) is seen as an absurdity, then the Muslim community there has brought it upon itself. To say that France is being stupid and should immediately reverse the ban because it might be targeted by more terrorism and therefore an entire nation should feel vulnerable and be cowed into submission, is to be blind to everything that has happened to France so far.

I will go even further with this – to believe that France is being reckless shows a lack of understanding of the Islamic psyche. Islam is not there to preach peaceful coexistence. It is clearly a with-us-or-against-us faith. Islam believes it is the one and only. France was going to be under attack whether or not it banned the burqini on its beaches, the reason for that inevitability being a simple one – 10% of France is Islamic and history shows that anything beyond 2-3% is asking for trouble.

France has put its foot down and I support the move wholeheartedly. Islamic women have to learn the ancient Roman adage –‘ when in Rome…’. They have got to follow the local norms, period. Burqas, burqinis, hejab – call it what you like – just don’t wear them here. It makes us uncomfortable and we don’t like folks we cannot completely see.

It is time to address Muslim women directly – Read my lips, Ma’am, learn to live with the trade-off …… your personal freedom, in exchange for not walking around looking like a penguin. And yes, we men in the west cherish the female form and appreciate the sight of bare skin. A saucy tattoo here and a jingle of bangles there energises us men and statistics show that that doesn’t make western men sexually more predatorial than the men you escaped back home. Rapes and sexual assaults against women are in fact way higher in Islamic nations than in the west. That was in fact one of the main reasons that made you leave and come here in the first place, wasn’t it?

The one thing that the Satan counts on is a bleeding heart. In so-called activists like Arundhati Roy, the Iblis has found his pawn.

By walking around the streets of the west, covered head to toe, Muslim women and their male family members have brought the unwanted attention upon themselves, especially at a time when there is already considerable tension between the communities. It shows a singular lack of sensitivity toward the majority in the host nation, who happen to be non-Muslim.

At its most basic, the burqini is a cumbersome, extremely uncomfortable garment to go swimming in. If any woman says she enjoys it, I would say she is stark raving mad. A burqini robs a woman off that exhilarating feeling of ocean waves crashing down on her.

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Tell me honestly which one is having a ball here.

But heck, when did Islam ever let you enjoy anything? 

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