The systematic abuse of women in Muslim-majority countries is a “war against women” that amounts to the world’s “largest human rights” disaster, contends one of the voices in a new film that already has been banned on some university campuses after a campaign by a leading Islamic group labeled it “Islamophobic.”
Zainab Khan is among nine Muslim women featured in “Honor Diaries” who have connections to Muslim-majority societies where “honor” killings, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, restriction of movement and denial of education are rooted in the culture.
Last month, the Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations succeeded in shutting down a screening of the film at the University of Michigan, Dearborn, through a Twitter campaign.
In an interview with WND, Khan said she initially was “very baffled” by CAIR’s campaign against the film.
“How could it be controversial when this is actual fact? These are facts that are being presented. These are actual stories,” she said.
“If I am looking at statistics and data, and I see that nine out of 10 countries with the highest amount of gender disparity and violence against women are Muslim-majority countries, that makes me concerned,” said Khan. “And it shouldn’t be that I’m speaking out against my religion.”
CAIR brands itself as a Muslim civil rights group, but federal prosecutors in 2007 named the group an unindicted co-conspirator in a plot to fund the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas, and more than a dozen CAIR leaders have been charged or convicted of terrorism-related crimes.
Khan told WND that most everyone who watches the film – which its makers say is part of a growing movement spurred by the “Arab Spring” revolutions – wants to know how they can help.
Many, she said, respond with: “This happened to me. This brought up old memories that I have been repressing, and I want to speak out and take action.”
Along with its banning at Michigan-Dearborn, an executive producer of the film, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, recently was disinvited from Brandeis University, where she was to receive an honorary degree. The university said it changed its plan because Ali, a Somali-born American known for her critique of Islam, had made statements about the religion that “are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.”
CAIR issued a statement about “Honor Diaries” saying it condemns honor killings, female genital mutilation and other such practices as “violations of Islamic beliefs.”
“The real concern in this case is that the producers of the film, who have a track record of promoting anti-Muslim bigotry, are hijacking a legitimate issue to push their hate-filled agenda,” CAIR said.
But Khan said that CAIR, by attacking the messengers, is “doing an injustice to the very women that are undergoing these awful atrocities, instead of being accountable and saying, maybe it’s culture, maybe it’s a skewed interpretation of religion, (but) whatever it is, we need to stop it.”
“I don’t see that message coming from them at all,” she said.
Along with Ali, the makers of “Honor Diaries” are producer and writer Paul Kweskin, a human rights attorney; Heidi Basch-Harod, executive director of the human rights group Women’s Voices Now; director and editor Micah Smith; producer and writer Alex Traiman; and executive producer Raphael Shore.
Khan said the cause of exposing the systematic abuse and helping stop it is “very near and dear to me,” as she was born and raised in the U.S. to a father from Afghanistan and a mother from Pakistan who encouraged their children to experience in America the kind of life that was impossible in their home countries.
“I have a lot of gratitude to be here,” she told WND. “I know I wouldn’t have had the same opportunities and resources had I been there.
“I just can’t imagine, thinking that my life would have been so completely different due to geography and boundaries and because of cultural impositions,” she said.
“I wouldn’t be sitting here doing this interview if I was over there.”
See an “Honor Diaries” segment featuring Zainab Khan:
‘Produced by Jews’
Shore, co-executive producer with Ali, is the founder of the Clarion Project, a non-profit organization that says it is “dedicated to exposing the dangers of Islamic extremism, while providing a platform for the voices of moderation.”
The Clarion Project’s previous films include critiques of radical Islam, “Iranium,” the “Third Jihad” and “Obsession.”
In its campaign against “Honor Diaries,” CAIR linked to a blog by Richard Silverstein, who says: “One has to ask why a film about the purported abuse of Muslim women was produced by Jews, and ones with a distinct ideological agenda at that.”
In a column for the Toronto Globe and Mail, Sheema Khan also directed criticism at the people behind the film rather than the message.
“Not surprisingly, its backers include a who’s-who of Islamophobes,” she wrote.
She declared that “eradicating honour killings was never the goal of ‘Honor Diaries.’”
The columnist denied that Islamic cultures have a particular problem with the systematic abuse of women, calling it a “centuries-old practice affecting primarily Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh women.”
In “Honor Diaries,” she said, the “terrible scourge of violence against women is conflated as a ‘Muslim’ problem, thus setting the film’s simple premise: honour killings bad. Western civilization good. Muslims kill for honour. Muslims bad.’”
Zainab Khan reacted to the Toronto columnist.
“Anybody who speaks out is Islamophobic? How? I’m Muslim, and I will look at something and say, ‘Hey, you know what, this is wrong,’” she told WND.
“There has to be some sort of middle ground where you can criticize and debate without being condemned.”
‘I don’t identify with them’
Despite the resistance of major Islamic groups in the U.S. – most of which were founded by the Muslim Brotherhood – Khan said she has found allies among Muslims in the U.S.
Khan said CAIR wrongly considers itself the face of American Muslims.
“I’m a Muslim and I don’t identify with them,” she said. “And it’s OK for me to say that.
“There are a lot more Muslims who are like me, who are progressive, and do not identify with that organization,” she said.
Khan said that if CAIR is a credible organization, it “should able to address some of these very concerns.”
“I would like to know what kind of services would they be able to provide to protect a girl who is subjected to honor-based violence here in the U.S.,” she said.
“Honor” killings, the murder of a family member who is regarded as having brought shame to the family, also are taking place in Muslim communities in the West.
Two sisters in Texas, Amina and Sarah Said, were shot and killed by their father in 2008 for having non-Muslim boyfriends. In 2009, Iraqi immigrant Faleh Hassan Almaleki, angered because his daughter was “too Westernized,” struck and killed her in a Phoenix-area parking lot. He also injured the mother of her daughter’s boyfriend.
In the U.K., where more than 2 million Muslims live, there are approximately 3,000 reports of “honor” attacks every year, according to the BBC.
As a licensed clinical therapist, Khan has worked with women, primarily from the South Asian community, who suffer from domestic violence.
She’s also addressing the issue on a much larger scale, working on a petition to stop the passage of a draft law before the Iraqi parliament that is based on Islamic jurisprudence.
Known as the Jaafari personal status law, among its many provisions it would give men a strict guardianship role over their wives, legalize the marriage of girls as young as 9 and restrict women’s family and inheritance rights.
Khan said the proposed law would result in “imprisonment for women who speak out.”
CAIR’s statements of condemnation of the abuse of women in Muslim-majority countries should not be taken at face value, according to Andrew C. McCarthy, a former U.S. attorney who prosecuted the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and now writes about the threat of Islamic jihad.
“It is feigning condemnation in hopes of rendering people more receptive to CAIR’s actual message, which is: Avoid Honor Diaries because anyone who exposes atrocities committed by Muslims is unworthy of consideration, no matter how valid the exposition,” McCarthy wrote for National Review Online.
CAIR, he noted, is a creation of the Muslim Brotherhood, born in 1993 to help carry out the Brotherhood’s aim of institutionalizing Islamic law in the U.S., according to FBI wiretap evidence in the Hamas-funding case.
McCarthy pointed out that CAIR has a very close relationship with another Muslim Brotherhood creation, the International Institute of Islamic Thought, or IIIT, an Islamic-supremacist think tank that has endorsed a manual that outlines how to treat women under Islamic law.
Disclosure forms IIIT filed with the IRS show thousands of dollars in contributions to CAIR, McCarthy noted.
An endorsement by IIIT’s then-president, Taha Jabir al-Alwani, is included in the introduction section of the published manual, “Reliance of the Traveller,” the English translation of the classic Shariah manual “Umdat al-Salik.”
Among the guidance “Reliance” gives regarding the treatment of women under Islamic law is a justification for honor killing.
It says that while retaliation is generally obligatory for the killing of a Muslim, there is to be no retaliation against “a father or mother (or their fathers or mothers) for killing their offspring, or offspring’s offspring.”
Other teachings include:
- Female “circumcision” is obligatory, and it is “recommended for a guardian to offer his marriageable female charges in marriage to righteous men.”
- A Muslim woman may only marry a Muslim man, while a Muslim man may marry up to four women, who may be Muslim, Christian or Jewish.
- A woman is required to be obedient to her husband and is prohibited from leaving the marital home without permission.
- If a wife is disobedient or “rebellious,” her husband may hit her.
- The testimony of a woman is worth half that of a man as is a woman’s inheritance rights.
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