Feminists and Franklin Graham

DANIELLE AVEL

Although I am a modern feminist, like most people, I stopped paying serious attention to the feminist movement right around the time the movement lost its voice to political correctness. Unfortunately, there are no promising indicators that the current feminist establishment will be regaining that voice anytime soon. The silence of the movement on critical issues gives the impression that all is well for the women of the world, when in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

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Last week, Evangelical Rev. Franklin Graham was disinvited from the National Day of Prayer event at the Pentagon because of his remarks about Islam which included, “When you look at what the religion [Islam] does to women and women alone, it is just horrid.” Due to the level of media coverage surrounding this event, it was the perfect opportunity for some feminist group to seize the moment and speak out against the atrocities committed against women every day in the name of Islam, but the establishment chose to remain silent.

Feminists certainly could have come out in support of Franklin Graham’s truthful remarks and brought attention to some simple facts, like how women who live under Shariah Law are virtual prisoners and are not allowed to leave their home unless accompanied by an appropriate male guardian. Or perhaps, start a discussion on the fact that over 90% of married women in supposedly “moderate Islamic” countries like Pakistan report being “kicked, slapped, beaten, or sexually abused” for crimes like failing to cook or clean to their husbands’ approval or for giving birth to a girl instead of a boy. Maybe it would have been a good time to mention that now even here in the United States, fathers, brothers, and sons sometimes feel they have the right to viciously attack and murder their own female relatives in order to preserve their so-called “honor.” At the very least, it would have been an appropriate moment for some feminist group to denounce the heinous practice of female genital mutilation or the stoning to death of women who are raped. What about the Islamic tradition of forcing children to “marry” adult men who then take complete control over their little bodies — control enough to rape little girls to death as we saw in Yemen just weeks ago.

Even though feminists generally remain silent about this issue, the treatment of women in Islam can be, as Franklin Graham stated, “horrid.” Critics claim that Graham is an “ignorant bigot” who is “attacking Islam” but how many of those critics have actually visited the Middle East and/or studied the Quran and Hadith? How many of them have even heard of Hadith? (Hadith are narratives about Muhammad’s life and the vast majority of Muslims consider them essential for understanding the Quran). Over the past 40 years, Franklin Graham has travelled and worked in places like Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan — he has witnessed the Islamic way of life where true Islamic law is actually practiced.

Those who have studied Islamic teachings are well-aware that violence against women is not only condoned, but often encouraged as a practice to make women submissive (Quran Sura 4 Verse 34 is just one example). The concept of “marrying” children comes directly from the Prophet Muhammad whom Muslims believe is an example of the “perfect man” — he “married” his child bride, Aisha, when she was 6, but didn’t take her virginity until she reached the mature age of 9. In Western civilization, men who rape children go to prison and become outcasts of society — under Islamic law, the term “marriage” can be used to sanction these acts and men can claim to be following in the footsteps of the “perfect man.” Graham may have been blunt when he described life under Islamic law as “wicked” and “violent” but how else can one categorize atrocities like the ones listed above?

Although the feminist establishment is often silent about the plight of women in Islam, thankfully, there are still some brave individuals like Franklin Graham who will speak out for those whose voices have been stolen, beaten, raped, and stoned in the name of this misogynistic political and religious ideology. Graham may have been silenced by Islamic apologists at the Pentagon but he did not lose his public forum because he is “attacking Islam” — he lost his forum simply because he is telling the truth about Islam. Feminist groups may often choose to ignore the issue but it is time for all of us who live under the protection of Western governments to learn about the realities of the world’s fastest spreading religious/political ideology. More of us need to speak out for the women who cannot and we all need to ensure that apologists do not succeed in silencing anyone. As a gay woman in particular, I do not share many similar views with Evangelical Rev. Franklin Graham, yet I still admire him for speaking the truth about an oppression that in varying degrees affects hundreds of millions of women throughout the world. Maybe one day, the feminist establishment will be brave enough to follow in his footsteps. Now that the Islamic Republic of Iran has been given a seat on the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, feminist groups have yet another perfect opportunity to speak out — will they?

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