Why isn't the poison gassing of Afghan girls simply for attending school generating international outrage? Blood tests have verified that a main ingredient of chemical weapons was the cause of the severe sicknesses suffered by hundreds of girls in two schools in Kabul this last week--just the latest in a series of nine poisonings spanning the last two years. Many of the girls rushing to escape the scene fainted; some collapsed hours later. Scores were hospitalized, requiring oxygen and intravenous drugs.
And yet, the still-ailing girls resolutely resume their educations. "One 12th grader, 18-year-old Khalida Bashir Ahmed, said she was determined to return to school even though she still felt dizzy; she still had a medical tube dangling from her right wrist," reports the New York Times. "As she recounted her ordeal, she fainted and fell to the ground."
The attacks were more than a week ago, but only now, with blood tests revealing the nerve gas ingredient organophosphates, earn any attention: "Many local officials had dismissed the cases as episodes of mass hysteria provoked by acid and arson attacks on school girls by Taliban fighters and others who objected to their education," the article notes. Those pesky Taliban.
Where are the feminists? Where are those vocal for "women's rights" to abortions, who now seem painfully quiet about girls' rights to learn to read without biological attack? It's not enough that the custom of female genital mutilation continues, affecting 140 million women worldwide, most in Africa, though The London Observer reported a few weeks ago that in England this very summer, 500-2,000 girls have undergone the horrifying procedure designed to preclude any sexual pleasure.
Muslim women are regularly beaten by husbands, with little international protest--and complicit support by local authorities. "Wife beating in Islamic countries is more prevalent than one can imagine," writes Brigitte Gabriel in They Must Be Stopped: Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How We Can Do It. Stories of "honor killings" abound internationally, and Muzzammil Hassan, the Muslim head of the "Bridges" TV outlet, formed to reconcile Muslim and American feeling, beheaded his wife last year in Orchard Park--a murder widely attributed to his religious bent.
And it seems things are getting worse. "In a world where education for females was generally accepted only a generation or two ago, women are again being infantilized, writes journalist Jan Goodwin in The Price of Honor: Muslim Women Lift the Veil of Silence on the Islamic World. "In the name of religion, they are being banned from traveling, working, studying, divorcing, voting, holding positions of power, in effect, from making their own decisions about major and minor aspects of their lives."
A page of discussion by an assortment of "moderate" Muslim thinkers in today's Wall St. Journal includes Akbar Ahmed's distinguishing Muslims into peaceful "mystics," "modernists" who want to fit in with present culture, and "literalists" who seek a throwback to "seventh-century Arabia," often employing violent tactics. Mr. Ahmed, former Pakistani ambassador to Britain, doesn't quantify percentages in each group, but if, as many writers assert, just 10% of the total are the "literalists" who use violence in the name of heaven, there are millions willing to kill to oppress women and convert "infidels," including those of differing Muslim strains.
I suspect it's difficult for "progressive" American feminists to defend Muslim women while honoring the "diversity" of Islam. Most Americans are taught that criticizing others' religions is taboo, and certainly post 9-11 there's a tiptoe-on-eggshells sensitivity about implying that Muslims' faith is in any way inferior to those who would not tolerate violence. The right to placement of the Islamic Center within a couple of blocks of 9-11 Ground Zero is universally defended; only the propriety of doing so is questioned, on the basis of compassion for those who lost their lives to fervent Muslims who, at the time of their deed, screamed their motivation.
So, here we have a cluster of stories, as we do every day. Girls gassed for attending school. Women mutilated and oppressed. A discussion of "moderation" in this murderous religion. On other days, we see suicide bombings of one Muslim sect to another, and uneasiness here about tolerating the proximity of potentially-threatening Muslims. Meanwhile, around the world, Muslims celebrate whenever America is injured or embarrassed.
Daniel Pipes, after exhaustively analyzing studies to determine the quantity of Muslim extremists, concludes: "Negatively, 10-15 percent suggests that Islamists number about 150 million out of a billion plus Muslims – more than all the fascists and communists who ever lived. Positively, it implies that most Muslims can be swayed against Islamist totalitarianism." Today's WSJ Opinion page on moderate Islam, however, suggests to me that "moderate" means "milquetoast" --and that some of the passion that motivates the extremists better spread to the Muslim masses, or that violent 10% will wreak havoc on our world.