Most important human right in our lifetime, Part 2
In my attempt to understand the mind-set of a Muslim woman, I will put into one combination speech the words of many Muslim women who have talked to me over the years, plusa lot from the scholarly literature of Western observers—primarily women—who have studied the lives of Muslim women:
We know more than you think about American women. We read your magazines and watch your television programs. More than half your marriages eud in divorce or abandonment, with devastating consequences for the children. In the thirty-year period from 1973 to 2003, over 44 million abortions were performed in the United States. Think of all the suffering and trauma hidden behind those statistics. In my country, the divorce rate is less than one per cent and there are hardly any abortions—only those necessary to save the life of the mother.
Instead of getting rid of a wife, don’t the men in your country simply add another one?
Polygamy makes everyone better off. Let’s say a man is not pleased with or satisfied by wife #1. So he goes out and marries wife #2. The deal certainly makes him better off, although he has to pay for it—a point I’ll come to in a minute. It makes wife #1 better off because she doesn’t have to “fake it” any more with her husband, and when he’s upset, he’s got a relief valve over in wife #2’s bedroom. And wife #2 herself is better off: she preferred a polygamous marriage to remaining single. No one forced her to make that choice.
Now let me get back to the man paying for a second wife. You cannot understand the situation of a woman in an Islamic country without knowing some of the basic things about property rights. A single woman usually has some personal property consisting of monetary assets and jewelry, and maybe land, depending on what her parents have given her and their economic status. When she enters into marriage, her personal property remains her own; her husband cannot take any of it. And she is under no obligation to use it for family purposes. For example, if the family is starving, she doesn’t have to spend any of her own money for food, though of course she may want to do so. The husband in a marriage is legally responsible for the welfare of the family. He must go to work if the family needs food or shelter. So you can see that marriage is a very good economic deal for the woman. She gets support and welfare throughout the marriage and does not have to spend any of her own money. That’s why I mentioned that the husband will have to pay for the luxury of having a second wife. Most husbands can’t afford it, and so polygamy isn’t much of a concern in practice.
In a magazine a few months ago I saw a panoramicphoto of the interior of a huge shopping mall in your country. There were shops of very kind selling clothing and goods from all over the world. There were over a thousand people in the picture. As I looked more closely, every one of them was a man.
Men like to shop. Besides, as I said, it’s their money. If a woman wanted to shop she would have to use her own money. Why not let her husband shop for the both of them on his money?
But wouldn’t you like the freedom of choosing your own clothes, shoes, accessories, that sort of thing?
It’s not freedom at all; it’s a nerve-wracking experience. If I were married, I’d have to think, “Will my husband like what I’ve chosen? If he doesn’t, it’s worthless; I’d have to leave it in the closet.” So the efficient solution, as you Americans might say, is to let him pick out my clothes and accessories, because that way he’s sure to like them. Besides, the silly fool gets a kick out of giving gifts.
But suppose you do want to go out and shop, or at least look around. You have to be completely covered in a burkah. Isn’t that oppressive?
No, it’s sexy. Girls can hardly wait till they get their first chador and burkah, because at that moment they become real, desirable women. They spend months picking out the lace for the burkah, because fine imported lace is the most important distinction between burkahs. Men are very good at spotting the women who have the best taste in burkahs.
How can a man find out what a young woman looks like?
Marry her. OK, maybe that was a bit glib. But the more profound truth is this: by being covered in black, Muslim women have achieved perfect sexual equality. Compare this to Western women. I’ve read that above 80% of American women are very unhappy with their own bodies, and more than 50% are actually ashamed of their own bodies. It’s worse for them when they see a television series like Sex and the City where the four friends are ridiculously good looking. But also the models, and magazine covers, and movie stars contribute to the neurosis and depression of the vast majority of young women in America. Young women feel that nature has played a cruel trick on them by giving them unattractive bodies. They should take a clue from us and solve their problem by getting themselves completely covered from head to toe whenever they go out of the house. Here are some statistics for you. The United States has a female suicide rate of 4 per 100,000. The more “liberated” countries are even worse: France has a rate of 9, Finland 10, Cuba 12, the Russian Federation 12, and Japan 13. Let’s compare that with the female suicide rate in Muslim countries: zero.
Well, you’ve made it difficult for me to argue that you are in fact oppressed and that your basic human rights are being unconscionably violated. But that is the argument I intend to make in Part 3, the final installment of this thread. My argument will be helped—or hindered, as the case may be—by readers’ comments on the first two blogs.