Sunday, November 24, 2013


The National Post in Canada wrote about the cases of child abuse that have been surfacing in recent years in Haredi communities. It's worth reading (though as I ought to remind, it's definitely very chilling and not something recommended for dinnertime), but I get the feeling they're not being honest enough on the issues involving Islam, when it's brought up along the way:
Western Muslims, in particular, might be especially curious why there is not more attention paid to these Jewish fundamentalist practices. Whenever some controversy emerges over the cloaking of women or the disparagement of “infidels” by fundamentalist Muslims, I often receive emails from right-wing bloggers claiming that this is but one step on the Islamist path to the complete Sharia-fication of North American society. And it is true that an obsessive patriarchal domination of women, especially in the public sphere, is a hallmark of retrograde interpretations of Islam. But the same goes for fundamentalist Judaism: Any religious sect that imposes crippling taboos on healthy sexual interaction between adults will inevitably breed a culture of sexual abuse and perversion.
Is writer Jonathan Kaye downplaying the fact that a lot of oppression of women - including, but not limited to - forced veiling, is a major belief condoned in the Koran and Hadith? Alas, I believe he is, and that's just plain awful. This isn't simply "interpretations", it's fact as found within the Koran. And some western Muslims might be more pleased than curious that this could help divert attention from some of their own sins. So Kaye's basically dampening the impact of his whole discussion by all but letting Islamofascism off the hook, and would almost succeed if it weren't for what's in the following paragraph:
Which brings us to the profoundly creepy tradition by which women in extreme Hasidic communities are expected to shave their heads, and live out their married lives as bald women, in deference to an absurd interpretation of Jewish scripture. Earlier this month, a brave female exile from the Hasidic community in New York, Frimet Goldberger, went public with her disgust at this practice. The most memorable part of her account comes when she describes her meeting with the Va’ad Hatznius — a sort of Taliban-like Committee of Vice and Virtue that purports to judge God’s will in regard to female modesty — after word had spread within the community that she secretly carried an unshaven head of hair under her turban. During the entire proceeding, the chief of the group kept his right hand in front of his eyes, to shield himself from Ms. Goldberger, lest he contaminate himself visually with her wanton harlotry, and directed his comments only to her husband. In a move straight out of Saudi Arabia, the Va’ad Hatznius indicated that it would soon be spending a female inspector to Goldberger’s house, to examine what lay under her turban.
Well at least he admits this kind of Orwellian inspection echoes the kind of totalitarian customs common in the House of Saud. When some of these practices first came into being during the 19th century in eastern Europe, any similarities to Islam's were surely coincidental. Since then, there's every chance the most extreme sects of Haredis like Satmar were influenced by Islam, to the point of trying to ape them. It mostly depends how much the upper echelons researched it before foisting it upon their subjects. At the end, Kaye also says:
Since the dawn of modern feminism, social liberals have sought to liberate women from the clutches of conservative Christian doctrines that keep them under their husbands’ thumbs. Since 9/11, a similar project has been underway in regard to Muslims. It is time to take a broader view toward this project. All patriarchal religious traditions that make a fetish of separating the sexes, that entertain phobic and repressed attitudes to human sexuality, that privilege group solidarity over the well-being of children, and that treat women as debased creatures who cannot be trusted to walk among us, except under wig or veil, must be subject to the same scrutiny.
Reading this, I sure hope he's got no problems whatsoever with Pamela Geller's own efforts to help Muslim women in trouble.

But if Kaye is suggesting Muslims who live in the west are any different from their middle eastern counterparts, he's either dishonest, or just plain mistaken. There has been child abuse in Muslim communities in the west as well, along with sexual abuse of women. And if he's raising the issue of child abuse in Haredi societies while turning his back on Muslim victims, then he's not qualified to argue.

The subject of Haredi abuse in itself is a definite concern. I'd even add that instructing women - married or otherwise - to shave their heads reeks of the most horrifying tactics the Nazis used on Jewish prisoners in WW2, much worse than how the ancient Egyptians had no respect for their own natural hair (could that be where the Haredi wig-custom comes from?), and the Satmar should be ashamed of themselves for enforcing such a vile custom that has no place in true Judaism. But Islamisogyny and other abuse committed in the name of the Religion of Peace is just as repulsive, and they shouldn't act as though the Koran doesn't have dangerous influences, nor should they be drawing moral equivalence between all religions, failing to make distinctions about which are good and which are bad. It can be said there's good religions like Judeo-Christianity that suffer the misfortune of bad spinoff movements, but bad religions like Islam are just bad all the way through, and again, there may be moderate Muslims, but no moderate Islam. When will we ever find a mainstream writer who's willing to take the challenge and courage to make distinctions?

1 comment:

BZ said...

Isn't membership in Haredi voluntary? Why is this more shocking than someone leaving Scientology or a Mormon community? If someone can leave a cult or community, what's the big deal?