Bring On The Burkhas

Osama bin Laden's ilk can't abide free women.

One of the defining characteristics of a culture or a nation is how men and women relate. says that a nation is a group of people who are unified enough to have their own separate government.  Nationhood does not require a common language, but it requires cultural unity.

The ways in which men and women relate are deeply embedded in every culture.  It's difficult for groups of people to be unified if their mating habits are too far apart.  Some cultures have the concept of "honor killing" which says that it is OK for a father or brother to kill a sister or daughter who gets involved with an unsuitable man.  People who believe that "honor killing" is murder have little in common with men who believe that any civilized parent is required to kill a woman who dates the wrong guy.

In Saudi Arabia, the law forbids women to drive cars or to travel without being accompanied by a man.  Osama Bin Laden is a Saudi who has demonstrated his hatred for America.  One of the reasons he finds it difficult to live on the same planet with America is that we let our women run around loose.  Not only may an American woman drive a car, she can get a job, earn her own money, buy her own car, and drive it without permission from a man!  Imagine that.

A great deal of the disunity between Bin Laden and America is based on differing perceptions of how men and women ought to get along.  It's difficult to reconcile his view of women with American customs.

During the middle ages, "knightly chivalry" was a code of conduct which was designed so that men would treat women decently.  Women were supposed to be honored.  The idea of slaying a dragon to win the hand of a young lady taught that women were treasures.

Women prefer to be treated as treasures, but our society teaches young ladies to act like toys.  Boys play with toys and throw them away, bringing great grief to the women.  Sexual liberation was supposed to bring freedom to women, but it hasn't turned out as well for women as predicted.

For example, USA Today published "A neo-feminist's view of abstinence" by Elizabeth Sandoval at

She begins, "I don't want to have sex.  Clarification: I do want to have sex, but only with my husband.  And I don't have one of those yet."  In concluding, "Women give it up as if it's nothing.  When in fact, it is everything," she stated the issue well.

Her idea is supported by scholarly research.  In the BBC News reports that men and women have different approaches to dating.  The article concludes:

It is well known that men select women for fairly superficial reasons, whereas women think much more about the long-term and the qualities and resources needed to bring up children.  Men will often find themselves falling into relationships by default after starting off looking for sexual adventure.

If a woman wants a long-term relationship that leads to marriage and a man wants sexual adventure without involvement, how does a woman get what she wants?  Ms. Sandoval wants to get married before having sex; she has a realistic understanding of a man's value system.

When a man embarks on a sexual adventure with a particular woman, he tends to be possessive of her whether he marries her or not.  In the Middle East, male possessiveness is expressed by requiring women to wear veils.  In some cases, women are required to wear the burkha which covers everything but the eyes.  Men claim religious reasons for enforcing their dress codes, but it has the smell of old-fashioned tyranny.

I have a friend who traveled in Iran just before the Shah was overthrown.  Women wore modest western dress in Tehran and on the eastbound train but switched to burkhas before getting off in the more traditional towns near the Afghan border.

My friend was traveling with his wife and her sister.  They paid 75 cents for two hotel rooms in Eastern Iran.

The next morning, a local dignitary offered my friend 5 camels for his wife's sister.  The going bride price was 2 camels, this was a generous offer.  The locals thought that my friend was rich because he had a matched set of wives; the resemblance between the two women was obvious.  The younger wife was clearly out of favor, however, since she had been put in a separate hotel room.  The local chieftain saw an opportunity to acquire an enticingly exotic woman.

They were a long way from the US Consul, so my friend had to be tactful.  Could you pay in cash?  We haven't sold the herds yet, no cash.  Do you have vaccination certificates for the US government?  The what?  Camels can't come into the US without the right papers, do you have papers?  Given that he didn't have papers, the chief reluctantly concluded that the deal wouldn't work.

My friend's sister in law listened to this conversation with disbelief.  It took her a while to realize that if my friend had given her passport to the chief, it would have been illegal for her to leave his house without his permission.

In August of 1984, Betty Mahmoody, who had been a Michigan housewife, accompanied her husband to his native Iran for a two-week vacation.  To her horror, she found herself and her four-year-old daughter virtual prisoners in a country where women are near slaves.  This is precisely what would have happened to my friend's sister-in-law if he'd closed the deal with the chief.  The book and subsequent movie Not Without My Daughter tells how Mrs. Mahmoody managed to escape Iran.

In historical terms, American women's greater freedom is recent.  Although agitation to let women vote started around 1820, New Zealand women were not allowed to vote until 1893.  Women were given the right to vote in Utah in 1870, but the US Congress took away their right to vote after they voted in favor of polygamy in 1887.  Political correctness goes back a long way.  American women finally got the national vote in 1920 - it took one hundred years.

Not being satisfied with voting rights, the women's liberation movement strove for changes in employment law and in divorce law.

In most states, it's easier for a woman to get out of a marriage than to get out of paying for a refrigerator.  If a woman wants out, she usually gets the children and her ex-husband has to pay both alimony and child support.  If a couple lives together, he may have to pay child support if she stops taking her pills to have his child, but he won't have to pay alimony if they aren't married.  Is it any surprise that many men are reluctant to marry?

This degree of women's freedom is anathema to Bin Laden and to other conservative Saudis.  In Saudi Arabia, women aren't even allowed to drive, can't own property, have no right to divorce, and their testimony in court counts for less than a man's testimony.  In Pakistan, another Islamic country, a rape accusation requires two male witnesses.

Given the long struggle for the rights they now have, it's amazing that American women aren't more concerned about the political rise of Islam.  The American example is potent indeed.  Twenty years ago, a Japanese friend was musing on the effects of American women getting jobs.  "Although Japan is a male-ruled country," he told me, "as a practical matter, if women want to stop being mothers and want to get jobs, there's not much we can do about it."  Sure enough, the average number of children being born to Japanese 20-somethings is .9, less than one child per couple.

Bin Laden and other Islamic theocrats know what happens when women really see the freedoms American women have.  Bin Laden would like nothing better than to impose Islamic law in the United States so that his women won't dare imitate Western women and seek the same freedoms.  The last thing an Islamic theocrat wants is for women to get out from under his thumb.  They're willing to kill anyone who threatens their power to kill women who date the wrong guys or won't dress "properly."

Western women are deeply threatened by the worldwide march of Islam.  Women are at risk if Al Queda or a Bin Laden look alike starts to gain power anywhere in the world.  It's understandable that women don't like the war in Iraq, nobody does, but if the wrong side wins, they have a lot to lose, far more even than their male counterparts.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments

AMEN! I hardly thought I was alone in this view, but this is the first I've seen it voiced.

Sharia law (and frankly a lot of Middle Easter culture that surrounds gender) terrifies me for that reason. I will fight to retain my right to make my own money, drive my own car, and do as I please.

September 15, 2007 3:13 PM

Will says Osama's mad at America because we give women too much freedom.  Osama does want to change the whole world to Islam by killing anyone who won't become a Muslim.  He wants Islamic sharia law to rule America, but that isn't his beef with us.

Will may not know it, but in saying Osama doesn't like us for what we are, Will says Islamics don't mind what we do.  So long as people like Will believe Islamics can't tolerate America being what it is, we'll keep doing what we do and terrorism will get worse.

Whenever his guys murder kidnap victims on Internet TV, Osama repeats what he doesn't like about what we do.  He's never said he doesn't like America because we let women wear short skirts.  If that made us his "great Satan," he'd go after Sweden or Denmark where people go naked on beaches.  Osama never said he doesn't like America because we let women drive cars.  From right after 911 until now, he told us over and over that he's mad at America, not because of what we are, but because of three things we do:

1) We support Israel against Palestinians.  Osama remembers that Israel was once full of Palestinians.  Jews control the Dome of the Rock, the 2nd holiest place in Islam.  Remember the riots when the Jews started working on a walkway near the Dome of the Rock?  They polluted a Muslim holy place.

2) Non-Muslim troops are in Saudi Arabia, Osama's home country.  Our troops drink beer near Muslim holy places which pollutes them.  We mess up their top three holy places, Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem which makes us his "great Satan."

3) We were giving Iraq a hard time.  Our issues with Saddam after Gulf I made life hard on Iraqi Muslims.  Giving Muslims a hard time makes us his "great Satan."

Osama's suicide bombers kill more Iraqis than Americans, but killing Muslims is OK with Osama so long as Americans die.  Killing Americans sends suicide bombers to heaven to be taken care of by 75 virgins each.  Women suicide bombers get to be one of the 75 virgins.

Regardless of what Will thinks, Osama attacked America because of what we do, not because of what we are.  Will is right that Osama wants Muslim law in America, but no more than he wants it everywhere.  Osama tries to get other Muslims to share his anger at what we do to Palestinians and to Muslim holy places so they'll kill as many of us as they can.

When we attacked Iraq after 911, we put more beer drinking invaders on Islamic soil.  That's why his guys go there to kill us instead of coming here to kill us, but we won't be in Iraq forever.  If we leave too soon, Osama's guys will take over Iraqi oil revenue.  If Muslims who don't want to kill us take over, he won't get the oil money.  Iraq won't be a big issue much longer.  Who'll get the oil money?  Guys who want to kill us or guys who don't want to kill us?

Osama gripes about troops in Saudi Arabia, but mainstream Muslims don't mind that so much.  The Saudi government doesn't want Osama to throw the king out and take over their oil money.  They won't let Osama's guys do their Iraqi thing in Saudi Arabia, at least not without a fight.

That leaves Israel.  What freaks Osama is Jews controlling the Dome of the Rock where Muhammad left his footprint.  Jews couldn't have taken East Jerusalem without American help.   They couldn't keep it without American help.  Muslims could push Israel into the sea any time if it weren't for America.

We have a process called "politics" which decides what our government does.  We give billions to Israel every year.  That should lead to political discussion, but Jewish money has unseated lots of politicians who weren't strong enough in supporting Israel.  Politicians who want to be reelected don't criticize Israel.

I don't know if it's good or bad for America to support Israel against Osama's friends, but Americans ought to know what it costs.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has been around since 1965, but we played one country against another to drive the price down until 1973.  Remember gasoline at 30 CENTS per gallon in 1972?

Muslim factions and nations hate each other almost as much as they hate us.  They could never get together on anything.  President Nassar of Egypt tried over and over to get them to cooperate, but they wouldn't.  Even today, Sunnis and Shias blow each other away.

How could they get together to raise the price of oil?  They hated Israel.  Greed couldn't get them together.  Israel drove them together.

The cost of supporting Israel is not only the billions we give them each year, Israel also costs us higher oil prices.

Although Osama complains about other things we do, his real beef is our supporting Israel.  If we stopped doing that, it would be harder for him to recruit young people to kill us.

September 15, 2007 7:18 PM

To George:

As you say, Osama refers to the US as the "great Satan".  Therein lies the difference.  The reason he doesn't go after Sweden or Denmark for their debauchery is because they are "not-so-great Satans".   Yes, they are equally sinful (in his view) but why focus on little nations with small global impact when you can make headlines by attacking the leading superpower.  He'll get to the little guys after he's done wiping out the US.  And I seem to recall plenty of *other* Al-Queda attacks outside the US in the past few years.  England subway ring any bells?  Spain train depot ring any bells?  Indonesia ring in any bells?  So clearly, he is keeping those other "lesser Satans" warming on the back burner.

September 16, 2007 9:50 AM

Kit has a real concern.  Muslims are trying to get Americans to change our laws to match theirs.

In most places, the law says that if you want to be a taxi driver, it is illegal for you to refuse to pick up a fare.  This law was put in to keep white cab drivers from refusing to drive blacks.

Now Muslims want the right to refuse fares for their own reasons.  Haven't we had enough of this sort of discrimination?

Given Muslim attitudes toward women, if Kit knows anyone in the National Organization For Women, she might suggest that they ask Hillary about letting Muslims apply their laws in the US.  If Hillary's against it, they can ask if she REALLY thinks we should walk away from Iraq.  If we do that, Osama will get all the Iraqi oil.  Would that be good?

September 17, 2007 3:49 PM
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