Bible Commentator

Special Stories

Rabbi Moshe Reiss

moshereiss@moshereiss.org

THE CULT OF VIRGINITY: HONOUR AND WOMEN’S RIGHTS

“www.MosheReiss.Org”

INTRODUCTION:

The idea of ‘Honour killing’ is an oxymoron; it is simply murder. Honoring your parents is noted in all of the Abrahamic religions as a supreme moral principle. Murder is equally noted in all as a forbidden and sinful act. A murder cannot be honourable!  

The idea of the honour of women was some centuries ago understood in western societies differently than in Asia. This is not an Arab or Muslim problem; it is as prevalent among Hindus as in Islam. It does not exist in Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines, a region populated by a majority of Muslims). It is a cultural issue. In societies that are patriarchal and tribal and where women are disrespected as valuable members of the society; where gender equality is not approved in the society regardless of its legality. One can argue as the author has in a published article (‘The Family Relationship of Simeon and Dinah’ - Jewish Bible Quarterly, April – June 2006 – an earlier version is in my website http://www.moshereiss.org/articles/05_dinah.htm) that Simeon and Levi’s killing of the men of Shechem was a form of honour killing for the supposed dishonour of their sister Dinah. Whether she felt dishonoured or loved is problematical.

Shakespeare wrote a world famous play involving a woman’s honour; her name was Juliet. She was forbidden by her parents to marry her lover. She planned with a cleric an escape by using a potent to fall asleep as if dead. The plan miscarried and Romeo believing Juliet dead took a poison killing himself. Juliet awakening seeing Romeo dead kills herself. Both lovers kill themselves. No father, no brother killed her, she chose to kill herself; that is a tragedy, it is not murder.

The Arab equivalent to Romeo and Juliet; in its own fashion as famous is ‘A Thousand and One Nights’. It is about a King who is cuckolded by his wife; he executes her. He then has a virgin from his harem brought in every night, he deflowers them and then has each executed. No more cuckolding for him! Then Scheherazade comes and tell the King a story not quite completed each night, so she remains a virgin until the story can be completed, which it never is. In this story a woman losing her virginity is a death penalty. It is unclear how this relates to the 72 doe eyed virgins awarded to shahids in Heaven. Do they die or remain forever virgins?

Most honour killings of women, but not all, occur in Muslim countries, but it is worth noting that no sanction for such murders is granted in Islamic religion or law. And the phenomenon is in any case a global one. According to Stephanie Nebehay, such killings "have been reported in Bangladesh, Britain, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Pakistan, Morocco, Sweden, Turkey and Uganda." Afghanistan, where the practice was condoned under the rule of the fundamentalist Taliban movement, can be added to the list, along with Iraq and Iran. (Nebehay, 'Honour Killings of Women Said on Rise Worldwide,’ Reuters dispatch, April 7, 2000.)

Writing in her website March 7, 2005 Saudi author Wajiha Al-Huweidar explained: "All of the Arab regimes are U.N. members and have ratified the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights, which clearly establishes justice and equality in the rights and obligations of all citizens. Despite this, women in our chauvinist countries are still considered the property of their relatives. All Arab countries, without exception, harbor covert animosity and open discrimination against women. Arab countries legislation patently discriminates against women and clearly denies their rights, which affronts them as human beings. They are still treated as though they contaminate purity, and arouse temptation and immorality.  .  .  women's issues [are] a religious issue . .  Women's problems are not religious problems, but are purely legal. . . . women's rights as citizens must be replaced by legislation guaranteeing their full rights.”

 

Honour killing of women has been defined as an act of murder in which "a woman is killed for her actual or perceived immoral behavior." (Yasmeen Hassan, "The Fate of Pakistani Women," International Herald Tribune, May 25, 1999.) Such "immoral behavior" may take the form of marital infidelity, refusing to submit to an arranged marriage, demanding a divorce, flirting with or receiving phone calls from men, failing to serve a meal on time, or -- grotesquely -- "allowing herself" to be raped. In the Turkish province of Sanliurfa, one young woman's "throat was slit in the town square because a love ballad was dedicated to her over the radio." (Pelin Turgut, "'Honour' Killings Still Plague Turkish Province," The Toronto Star, May 14, 1998.)

Since honour killing of girls and young women is secretive, the numbers are impossible to determine.

KYGYZSTAN:

In Kyrgyzstan, a central Asian country recent surveys suggest that the rate of abductions has steadily grown in the last 50 years and that at least a third of Kyrgyzstan's brides are now taken against their will – they are kidnapped for marriage.

The custom predates the arrival of Islam in the 12th century and appears to have its roots in the region's once-marauding tribes, which periodically stole horses and women from rivals when supplies ran low. It is practiced in varying degrees across Central Asia but is most prevalent here in Kyrgyzstan, a poor, mountainous land that for decades was a backwater of the Soviet Union and has recently undergone political turmoil in which mass protests forced the president to resign.

In Kyzyl-Tuu, a village not far from the capital, even the head man, Samar Bek, kidnapped his wife, Gypara Tairoya, after she rejected his marriage proposals 16 years ago. She was a 20-year-old university student in Bishkek at the time and he, nine years older, was under family pressure to find a bride. Once at his family's home, she resisted for hours.

"I stayed because I was scared, not because I liked him," Gypara said as the couple's four children played around her. Her husband said he would not object if one of his daughters were kidnapped. For Tairova, the anxiety began on the eve of her high school graduation when a friend confided to her that a man named Bek, eight years her senior, planned to kidnap her at the ceremony the next day. She attended the graduation but was terrified, unsure of whom she could trust. The would-be abductor never materialized. I think this happens to all young women when they turn 16,"  Tairova said, sitting in an empty room of the American University, where she now works.”

She enrolled in the university in the southern Kyrgyz city of Jalal-Abad but soon learned that another family from her village was considering her as a bride for their son. Strangers began asking people at her school what she looked like.

Then one evening there was a knock at the door of the apartment she shared with her sister. Outside were 10 men, including the would-be husband. For six hours, Tairova refused to step outside her apartment. Finally the men gave up and went away.

Tairova went back to live with her parents and began working as a bookkeeper in a tobacco plant. One day a man came in and introduced himself. They spoke for about 20 minutes, but Tairova told him she was not interested in seeing him again.

The next day she was kidnapped. She was waiting with two friends for the company bus to take them home when a car pulled up. The two men inside offered all three women a ride. One of her friends knew the men, so they agreed. But when the driver took a detour, she became worried. When he stopped to pick up the man from the day before, she started to scream.

Tairova refused to eat, drink or sleep as the night wore on. The next day her parents arrived and urged her to consent. "I was angry and I felt betrayed," Tairova said, adding that she had cried the whole day. But as with many Kyrgyz women, she eventually accepted her fate. She since has reconciled with her in-laws and says she is happy with her husband now. "He says he had to kidnap me because he heard someone else was trying to kidnap me first," she said. "He's a good man."

Brutal as the custom is, it is widely perceived as practical. "Every good marriage begins in tears," a Kyrgyz saying goes.

PALESTINE:

According to Shadia Sarraj of the Women's Empowerment Project at the Gaza Community Mental Health Project ‘The honour of a family is very dependent on a woman's virginity. A woman's virginity is the property of the men around her, first her father, later a GIFT for her husband; a virtual dowry as she graduates to marriage’ (capitalized added).  

Forty years ago, Kamel Hader who lives in West Bank killed his unmarried sister when she came home pregnant. Today, he vows he would do it again. ‘If a woman does something wrong you are supposed to kill her to regain family honour, otherwise, we live in shame’.

The Wedding of the Martyr is a ‘religious’ event celebrated by some Muslims. On March 11, 2005, newspapers reported that a terrorist named Raid Mansour al-Banna from the City of al-Salt in Jordan.  According to his father, Raid had studied and worked a number of years in the United States, and in one of the Californian airports.  He was 32 when he blew himself up.

   

Al-Banna's family honoured his act by holding a festive ceremony known as "the wedding of the martyr" ['irs al-shahid] to symbolize his wedding in paradise with 72 virgins. At these events, the bereaved family receives guests who offer it condolences and congratulations for their son's martyrdom. Food is provided in a special tent erected to receive the guests. In justifying the celebration, the family argued that the victims were Americans.

   

Not satisfied with the festivities his family organized in honour of his terrorist brother, Naseer al-Banna published a letter on the internet praising Raid and wished him pleasant days in heaven alongside his grandfather Hassan al-Banna. He was puzzled as to why the Iraqis were calling his brother a terrorist.

   

   

PAKISTAN:

Pakistan, is probably the country with the most honour killings and where such atrocities are most pervasive. Estimating the scale of the phenomenon there, as elsewhere, is made more difficult not only by the problems of data collection in predominantly rural countries, but by the extent to which community members and political authorities collaborate in covering up the atrocities. According to Yasmeen Hassan, author of The Haven Becomes Hell: A Study of Domestic Violence in Pakistan’, "The concepts of women as property and honour are so deeply entrenched in the social, political and economic fabric of Pakistan that the government, for the most part, ignores the daily occurrences of women being killed and maimed by their families." (Hassan, "The Fate of Pakistani Women.") Frequently, women murdered in honour killings are recorded as having committed suicide or died in accidents.

One of the most notorious honour killings of recent years occurred in April 1999, when Samia Imran, a young married woman, "was shot in the office of a lawyer helping her to seek a divorce which her family could never countenance”. The aftermath of the murder was equally revealing: "Members of Pakistan's upper house demanded punishment for the two women [lawyers] and none of Pakistan's political leaders condemned the attack.  . . The clergy in Peshawar want the lawyers to be put to death" for trying to help Imran. (Suzanne Goldenberg, "A Question of Honour," The Guardian,  May 27, 1999.)

Zahida Perveen's head is shrouded in a white cotton veil, which she self-consciously tightens every few moments. But when she reaches down to her baby daughter, the veil falls away to reveal the face of one of Pakistan's most horrific social ills, broadly known as "honour" crimes. Perveen's eyes are empty sockets of unseeing flesh, her earlobes have been sliced off, and her nose is a gaping, reddened stump of bone. Sixteen months ago, her husband, in a fit of rage over her alleged affair with a brother-in-law, bound her hands and feet and slashed her with a razor and knife. She was three months pregnant at the time. "He came home from the mosque and accused me of having a bad character," the tiny, 32-year-old woman murmured as she awaited a court hearing ... "I told him it was not true, but he didn't believe me. He caught me and tied me up, and then he started cutting my face. He never said a word except, "This is your last night." (Constable, "The Price of 'Honour'," The Gazette (Montreal), May 22, 2000.)

So retrograde are Pakistan's laws that there are more than 1,500 women in

prison as a result of rapes -- they were prosecuted for adultery -- while arrests of men occur in only about 15 percent of reported cases.

By now everyone must know of  Mukhtaran Mai’s gang rape; it is worth briefly repeating this continuing story. In June 2002, the police say, members of a high-status tribe sexually abused one of Mukhtaran’s brothers and then covered up their crime by falsely accusing him of having an affair with a high-status woman. The village’s tribal council determined that the suitable punishment for the supposed affair was for high-status men to rape one of the boy’s sisters, so the council sentenced  Mukhtaran to be gang-raped.

As members of the high-status tribe danced in joy, four men stripped her naked and took turns raping her. Then they forced her to walk home naked in front of 300 villagers. In Pakistan’s conservative Muslim society,  Mukhtaran’s duty was now clear: she was supposed to commit suicide.

Instead of killing herself,  Mukhtaran testified against her attackers and propounded the shocking idea that the shame lies in raping, rather than in being raped. The rapists were sentenced to death and President Pervez Musharraf presented  Mukhtaran with the equivalent of $8,300 and ordered round-the-clock police protection for her. Other amounts of money were contributed to her.

Mukhtaran, who had never gone to school herself, used the money to build one school in the village for girls and another for boys - because, she said, education is the best way to achieve social change. The girls’ school is named for her, and she is now studying in its fourth-grade class. “Why should I have spent the money on myself?” she asked, adding, “This way the money is helping all the girls, all the children.”

Then the death sentence was commuted; and the highest Islamic court in Pakistan acquitted the men since under Sharia law four men must testify that a woman was raped; the only available witnesses were the rapists who chose not to testify against themselves. In March, the Islamic court reinstated the convictions of the six men, but days later the Supreme Court declared that ruling unconstitutional and said it would hear Ms. Mai's appeal itself.

 

The basis of four witnesses is a clear distortion of the Koran. It states that if a ‘chaste’ woman accused of prostitution or sleeping with a man other than her husband it requires four witnesses to attest to the event’ (24:4). This protection against slander of the woman and has nothing to do with rape. Rape itself or nonconsensual sex is not referred to in the Koran. In a hadith of the Prophet when a woman claimed rape she was not punished by Muhammad (CSID, Sixth Annual Conference, April 2005, Julie Norman, Rape Laws in Islamic Societies).

As a result of the publicity the Pakistan government kidnapped Mukhtaran.  Asma Jahangir, a Pakistani lawyer and head of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said she had learned that  Mukhtaran was taken to Islamabad, furiously berated and told that President Pervez Musharraf was very angry with her. She was led sobbing to detention at a secret location. She is barred from contacting anyone, including her lawyer. She's in their custody, in illegal custody," Jahangir said. "They have gone completely crazy."

She has now freed her but forbidden her to travel abroad where she likely would talk about her experiences. As President  Musharraf said he had imposed it because foreign groups wanted her "to bad-mouth Pakistan" over the "terrible" conditions faced by the nation's women. He said that was an unfair perception of the country. I don't want to project a bad image of Pakistan.".

Another less famous case confirms the Pakistani government reaction to raped women. Dr. Shazia Khalid accepted the position of medical director of a petroleum plant in Baluchistan, Pakistan. Two years ago she was raped and beaten for most a night. She managed to get to her own medical clinic “semiconscious ... with a swelling on her forehead and bleeding from nose and ear."

She was told by the company officials to keep quiet, if she complained it would ruin her career. When she refused she was taken to a mental hospital in Karachi. Her husband, an engineer working in Libya returned home to comfort her and to help her report the rape to the police. His grandfather believed she should commit suicide or he should divorce her.

Maruf Khwaja, born and raised in Pakistan believes ‘Pakistan society is tormented by ubiquitous thought-police’ (Open Democracy, Muslims in Britain, August 2).

As Dr. Shershah Syed, a prominent gynecologist in Karachi, told Nicholas Kristof of the N.Y.T. "When I treat rape victims, I tell the girls not to go to the police. "because if she goes to the police, the police will rape her." Under Pakistan's hudood laws, a woman who reports that she has been raped is liable to be arrested for adultery or fornication - since she admits to sex outside of marriage - unless she can provide four male eyewitnesses to the rape. Government officials began to hint that Dr. Shazia was a loose woman, perhaps even a prostitute - presumably as a way to pressure her and her husband to keep quiet. Dr. Shazia, mortified, tried to kill herself. Her husband and their adopted son, Adnan, stopped her.

The couple were held under house arrest for two months. Then not wanting any more blemishes of Pakistan’s reputation officials put her and her husband on a plane to Britain without their son.

Dr. Shazia dreams of someday returning to Pakistan to found a hospital for raped and battered women, but for now she is simply a lonely, fragile and frightened refugee who leaves her bare room only to make trips to a nearby Internet cafe.

"I stay awake at night, thinking, 'Why me?' My career is ruined. My husband's career is ruined. I cannot see my son. ... If I had died then, it would have been better" (NYT, Nicholas Kristof, July 31 and August 2).

NIGERIA:

To Kenny Adebayo, a 30-year-old driver in Lagos, the issue is clear-cut. "If you tell your wife she puts too much salt in the dinner, and every day, every day, every day there is too much salt, one day you will get emotional and hurt her," he said. "We men in Africa hate disrespect."

Nigeria's penal code, in force in the Muslim-dominated north, specifically allows husbands to discipline their wives - just as it allows parents and teachers to discipline children - as long as they do not inflict grievous harm. Assault laws could apply, but the police typically see wife-beating as an exception. Domestic violence bills have been proposed in six of Nigeria's three dozen provinces but adopted in just two.

By Nigerian standards, Ms. Isimeto-Osibuamhe said, her parents were progressive. Her father occasionally beat her mother, but he also encouraged his daughter, the oldest of seven children, to pursue her studies and, later, her careers as a marketing executive, French teacher and host of a French educational television show.

She was only about 16 when she met Emmanuel. Like her, he went on to graduate from a university, specializing in accounting. Slim and handsome, he slapped her only once during their long courtship, she said. She thought it was an aberration.

It wasn't. Now 35, Ms. Isimeto-Osibuamhe says that Emmanuel beat her more than 60 times after she married him in 1997. He beat her, she says, while she was pregnant with their son, now 6. He threw a lantern at her. He held a knife to her head, she said, while a friend pleaded with him not to kill her.

Emmanuel Osibuamhe, 36, now says he was wrong to beat his wife. But in a two-hour interview in his office, which doubles as barber shop, he insisted that she drove him to it by deliberately provoking him. Pacing the floor in freshly pressed pants, polished shoes and yellow shirt, he grew increasingly agitated as he recalled how she challenged his authority.

"You can't imagine yourself beating your wife?" he said. "You can't imagine yourself being pushed to that level? But some people just push you over the edge, and you do things that you are not supposed to do."

"For God's sake," he added. "You are the head of the home as the man. You must have a home that is submissive to you."

To him, that means accepting that he is the head of the household and makes the final decisions. It also means that all property be in his name and that his wife ask his permission before she visits her family, he said.

When Ms. Isimeto-Osibuamhe eventually sought help, others only seemed to support her husband's view. She went to the police. "They told me I am not a small girl," she recalled. "If I don't want to be married, I should get divorced."

She told her father-in-law. He advised her that "beating is normal."

She told her local pastor, who counseled her that "I shouldn't make him so angry," telling her "whatever my husband says, I should submit."

She found support, finally, at Project Alert on Violence Against Women, a nonprofit organization that runs one of Nigeria's two shelters. She lived at the shelter for weeks. She titled her statement detailing the violence "A Cry for Help."

CONCLUSION:

Honour killings of women reflect longstanding patriarchal-tribal traditions. In a "bizarre duality," women are viewed "on the one hand as fragile creatures who need protection and on the other as evil Jezebels from whom society needs protection." Patriarchal tradition "casts the male as the sole protector of the female so he must have total control of her. If his protection is violated, he loses honour because either he failed to protect her or he failed to bring her up correctly." (Karen Armstrong, "Honour's Victims.")

According to a survey by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics of more than 4,000 households in December 2005 and January 2006, 23 percent of the women said they had experienced domestic violence, but just over 1 percent filed a complaint. Two-thirds said they were subjected to psychological abuse at home.

Clearly, the vulnerability of women around the world to violence will only be reduced when these patriarchal mindsets are challenged and effectively confronted.

Is polygamy the beginning of disrespect for women and therefore the basis of honour killing? A statement in the Koran justifies polygamy. “Marry women of your choice; two, three, or four. However, if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly [with them], then only one or [a captive] that your right hand possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice.” (Koran, 4:3)   

However the previous verse and the beginning of the verse quoted above are rarely quoted. “Restore to orphans their property, when they reach their age. Do not substitute worthless things for their valuable ones and devour their substance with your own. This is a great sin (4:2). If you feel that you will not be able to deal justly with the orphans; Marry women of your choice” as continued above (4:3). This is not a justification for polygamy, but an excuse by a perhaps too merciful Allah for a man who cannot deal rightfully with orphans.

Jihadis and whores

By Spengler, Nov. 21, 2006

Wars are won by destroying the enemy's will to fight. A nation is never really beaten until it sells its women.

The French sold their women to the German occupiers in 1940, and the Germans and Japanese sold their women to the Americans after World War II. The women of the former Soviet Union are still selling themselves in huge numbers. Hundreds of thousands of female Ukrainian "tourists" entered Germany after the then-foreign minister Joschka Fischer loosened visa standards

in 1999. That helps explain why Ukraine has the world's fastest rate of population decline. On a smaller scale, trafficking in Iranian women explains Iran's predicament.

To understand Iranian politics, cherchez les femmes: the fate of Iranian women sheds light on the eccentricity of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. By Spengler's Universal Law of Gender Parity, the men and women of every place and every time deserve each other. A corollary to this universal law states that the battered Iranian whore is the alter ego of the swaggering Iranian jihadi.

In the interest of balanced reporting, I cite the history of Jewish prostitution before delving into the Persian example. The Jews have lived long enough to be defeated more often than any other people. After Spain expelled them in 1492, the Jews sold their women so widely that the character of the Jewish prostitute figured prominently in 16th-century literature, notably in one of the earliest novels, La Lozana Andaluza (1528), a story of refugee Spanish-Jewish whores in Rome. After Russian pogroms drove Jews out of the Pale of Settlement in the late 19th century, Jewish women became the raw material of the white-slave traffic, supplying Argentina as well as Western Europe. [1] Jewish prostitutes are almost unknown today, a measure of the revival of the Jewish nation.

These distasteful facts bear directly upon Iran's national decline, and the impulses that push the Iranian leadership toward strategic flight forward. Iran's plunging birth rate, I observed in essays past, will burden the country with an elderly population proportionately as large as Western Europe's within a generation, just at the point at which this impoverished country will have ceased to export oil. By 2030, Iranian society will collapse.

One does not have to destroy an opponent's military forces to defeat him. Russia collapsed without a single shot fired when Mikhail Gorbachev and his generals understood that they could not compete with Ronald Reagan's United States. The Islamic world also has been defeated, by a globalized economy in which the US dominates the top, and China blocks entry at the bottom. As the most urbane people of Western Asia, the Persians grasped the hopelessness of circumstances quicker than their Arab neighbors. That is why they have ceased to bear children. Iran's population today is concentrated at military age; by mid-century, today's soldiers will be pensioners, and there will be no one to replace them.

That is why it is folly to approach Iran as a prospective negotiating partner, and meaningless to offer the clerical government security guarantees, for the threat to its security arises from within. Once a people has determined to extinguish itself, nothing will prevent it from doing so. There is no doubt as to the demographic data, which come from the demographers of the United Nations. But it is one thing to read the statistics, and quite another to consider the millions of intimate decisions that together sum up to national suicide.

What is it that persuades women to employ their bodies as an instrument of commerce, rather than as a way of achieving motherhood? It is not just poverty, for poor women bear children everywhere. In the case of Iran, deracination and cultural despair impel millions of individual women to eschew motherhood. Prostitution is a form of psychic suicide; writ large, it is a manifestation of the national death-wish, the hideous recognition that the world no longer requires Ukrainians or Moldovans.

Iranians already behave like a defeated people. That is why they are so unstable, and so dangerous. The new Persian Empire masquerading as an Islamic Republic is a wounded beast. The rural misery and urban squalor that drive Iranian women into the brothels of Dubai and Brussels contrasts sharply with neighboring Azerbaijan, whose economy will double in size by 2010 as new oilfields come online, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Half of Iranians do not speak Persian, and half of those speak Azeri. Azerbaijan's oil wealth is a giant magnet; it must attract either the largest national minority in Iran, or the military attentions of Iran itself. If a Kurdish state asserts itself out of the ruins of Iraq - a long-delayed justice for that ancient and resilient people - Iran's Kurds will be tempted to throw off the Persian yoke.

The proliferation of Iranian prostitutes in Western Europe as well as the Arab world helps explain the country's population trends. The European Commission's most comprehensive surveys of human trafficking found that Iranian women made up 10-15% of the prostitutes working in Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy. [2] "Fatima" from Persia has become as familiar as "Natasha" from Belarus. Iranian whores long have been a scandal in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, which periodically round up and expel them.

It is hard to obtain reliable data on prostitution inside Iran itself, but anecdotal evidence suggests that it has increased since Ahmadinejad became president last year. Anti-regime sociologists claim that at least 300,000 women are whoring in Tehran alone. The ADNKronos website reported on April 25:

Prostitution is on the rise in Iran ... Sociologist Amanollah Gharaii Moghaddam told ADNKronos International (AKI) that he believes Iran's deteriorating economy and the high unemployment rate among youths to be the main causes of this worrying phenomenon. In Iran, 28% of young people between the ages of 15 and 29 are unemployed ... The age of prostitutes is increasingly younger, and girls as young as 12 are selling their bodies on Iran's streets. Overall, the number of prostitutes is also on the rise and there are an estimated 300,000 of them in Tehran alone ... Nevertheless, Gharaii Moghaddam says "the number isn't so high when compared [with] the 4 million unemployed only in Tehran and the 5 million drug addicts today in Iran".

The clerical regime vacillates between repressing prostitution and sanctioning it through "temporary marriages", an arrangement permitted under Shi'ite jurisprudence. In the latter case the Muslim clergy in effect become pimps, taking a fee for sanctioning several "temporary marriages" per women per day.

These numbers cannot be verified, to be sure, but the spillover of Iranian prostitutes into Western Europe and the Gulf states suggests that the actual numbers must be very large indeed, so large, in fact, as to help explain the frightful rate of Iran's demographic decline. Along with Albanian, Chechen and Bosnian women, Iranian prostitutes are living evidence of the dissolution of the traditional Muslim society that purports to shield women from degradation.

Islamism (or what George W Bush has called "Islamo-fascism") responds to the crisis of faith. As I wrote on November 8, 2005:

The crisis of modernization first of all is a crisis of faith, and the attenuation of religious faith is the root cause of the birth-rate bust in the modern world. Traditional society is everywhere fragile, not only in the Islamic world; by definition it is bounded by values and expectations handed down from the past, to which individuals must submit. Once the bands of tradition are broken and each individual may choose for herself what sort of family to raise, religious faith becomes the decisive motivation for bringing children into the world ...

The collapse of traditional society has brought about a collapse of birth rates across cultures. Cultures that fail to reproduce themselves by definition are failed cultures, for the simple reason that they will cease to exist before many generations have passed.

That is why the Islamists - Muslims who seek a new theocracy - display a sense of extreme urgency. They are not conservative Muslims, for they reject Muslim society as it exists as corrupt and decadent. They are revolutionaries who want to create a new kind of totalitarian theocracy that orders every detail of human life. [3]

Nothing is more threadbare than the claim of Islamists to defend Muslim womanhood. Islamist radicals (like the penny-a-marriage mullahs of Iran) are the world's most prolific pimps. The same networks that move female flesh across borders also provide illegal passage for jihadis, and the proceeds of human trafficking often support Islamist terrorists. From Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur to Sarajevo to Tirana, the criminals who trade in women overlap with jihadist networks. Prostitutes serve the terror network in a number of capacities, including suicide bombing. The going rate for a Muslim woman who can pass for a European to carry a suicide bomb currently is more than US$100,000. The Persian prostitute is the camp follower of the jihadi, joined to him in a pact of national suicide.

Notes

[1] See Edward J Bristow, Prostitution and Prejudice: The Jewish Fight Against White Slavery 1870-1939 (New York: Schocken Books, 1983).

[2] Research Based on Case Studies of Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings in 3 EU Member States, ie Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands (pdf file), European Commission.

[3] Crisis of Faith in the Muslim World, Part 2: The Islamist response. Asia Times Online.