« Genes and Atheist Radio Fun | Gene Expression Front Page | A piece of empirical evidence »
June 12, 2005

The Nation on a European Culture War

Yahoo! News has reproduced Deborah Scoggins' article from The Nation, "The Dutch-Muslim Culture War". Starting from the person of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Scoggins goes on to examine the wider role of Islam on some of Europe's more conservative communities.

Moors and others don't dispute the existence of the social problems Hirsi Ali identifies. Many Dutch Muslim women do live in segregated "parallel cities" where Islamic social codes are enforced. Muslims make up only 5.5 percent of the Dutch population, but they account for more than half the women in battered women's shelters and more than half of those seeking abortions. Muslim girls have far higher suicide rates than non-Muslim girls. Some Muslim girls, mostly African, are genitally mutilated. But in putting all the blame on Islam, they say, Hirsi Ali ignores the influence of patriarchal custom as well as the work of a generation of Muslim feminists.

A custom phrased in terms of religious necessity is, in fact, a religious custom. Trying to disclaim responsibility for the less savoury elements of a religious culture because, well, they're not really part of the religion is a classic response by cornered reactionaries. It's a risible response, of course, tailored. Compare the allegations of some Western communists that Stalin's regime wasn't really Communist, or that genocidal anti-Semitism has nothing to do with traditional Christian proscriptions against the Jews.

Scoggins goes on to argue that Islamist misogyny is a higher-profile issue in western Europe than in the United States, owing to the former's greater social liberalism and secularism. Partly because of this European cultural tendencies, partly because of the growth of radical feminism among Muslim women, and partly because recent events in the Netherlands and elsewhere have caused a shift in policies towards immigrant minorities, she hints that this misogyny likely doesn't have much of a future.

Posted by randymac at 08:21 PM