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Kola Odetola: Islam, Sex And The Western Left

Islam, Sex And The Western Left

by Kola Odetola
16th August 05

While differing in their responses to the west’s war on terror, read non compliant Muslim nations, right wingers, liberals and a lot of silent leftists share in varying degrees a unity in support of one its most vociferously avowed aims – the liberation of the Islamic world’s women.

Of course the notion that a society which sells everything from yoghurt to high powered precision tools by the invitation to lust after naked female flesh, is an epitome of the rights of women is perverse, however the remarkable advances, political, social and economic made by western women over the last century or so are still a benchmark in the age old struggle for sexual equality. Shorn of all high vaulting rhetoric this translates into western women no longer having to trade themselves in one form or another to guarantee the survival of their off spring and themselves. The currency of sexual interaction is no longer measured solely on the scales of male lust

Hence sexual permissiveness and its symbols, free choice of partners, the mini skirt and casual sex are largely although not solely based on the unforced consent of women, free from the taint of calculation, corruption and compulsion. The basis for this of course is the material prosperity of western societies, the extensive division of labour and advanced commodity economy requiring skills that can no longer be sensibly attributed only to the dominant sex.

But why is such liberty being increasingly rejected by not just the poor and downtrodden of the Islamic world, but also by most of its working class women, the same class who fought most eagerly for these rights in the west. For it is now clear that most ordinary women in the Islamic world are increasingly turning towards the more extreme variants of Islam and against their would-be western liberators. In Iraq’s much touted elections early this year, thousands of women in chador lined up to vote for the list most likely to keep it on them. In the Iranian election most women voted for the fundamentalist candidate shunning the pro west reformers. In Lebanon and Palestine, Hizbollah and Hamas clearly enjoy the support of most ordinary women in working class communities.

Of course this fact is not one willingly conceded by the western media and liberal commentators; For these gentlemen and ladies, horny handed hard working peasant and working class females, the overwhelming majority in these countries, are not women but statistics, in these lands the appellation “women” belong to the tiny rootless urban elite, who wear sunglasses, lipstick and look like they jumped out of the front page of Glamour.

Curiously missing from the western left’s narrative in the issue of women’s rights in the poor world has been the calamity wreaked upon it by neo liberalism over the last 20 years. While there's a lot of talk of the poverty created by the colonisation of the third world by the IMF and World Bank, it’s rarely linked to the rise of Islamic consciousness in these parts of the world.

The fact is the economic genocide perpetrated by the west on the poor world over the last two decades has generated industrial prostitution there on a scale probably unprecedented in the etire history of the human race. Faced with ruin, deafened with spurious western talk of women’s rights - from Africa to Asia, from Latin America, to “recently liberated” Eastern Europe, most women from poor families can now only survive by selling their bodies to men, mostly wealthy most pro west males, in prostitution of one form or another of varying degrees of degradation. In the third world and parts of Eastern Europe, women are now the major bread winners, feeding their families, keeping a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, by trading their bodies for the means of survival. Imperialism and its local acolytes have turned two thirds of the planet, the home of the overwhelming majority of the world’s females to one giant brothel, underneath the blazing neon lit legend, forever flashing – “Women’s rights”.

In country’s where endemic hunger, hopeless unemployment levels, mass homelessness and limitless poverty constitute the social landscape, women are not really in a position to relax and enjoy their “rights” talk less of defend them.

Often the sole wage earner, and with previous social welfare provisions abolished by the (women rights loving world bank) they can’t really refuse the boss’s advances with 10,000 others on the job queue for their post, if the rent can’t be paid, with no public housing or housing benefit (scrapped by the IMF diktat) its not really an option to reject the landlord’s kind offer to accept payment in kind. If the kid is dying in hospital (commercialised on the advice of western experts) with unpayable fees, how many women would refuse the kind doctor’s help to forget the fee, if….. or the corrupt magistrates offer not to send a brother, a father, a child to prison on trumped up charges if the sister, wife, mother, did the necessary. This is the reality of most women in the third, Islamic and non Islamic world. It is also the reason why the daily humiliation and degradation of ordinary working class women in these countries generates especially amongst the majority poor and ruined middle classes a deep resentment against a permissiveness which the west celebrates as refreshing freedom but they can only associate with endless humiliation.

In the west a father sighting his teenage daughter going for a night out on the town, dressed in mini skirt and skimpy blouse, is generally relaxed, safe in the knowledge that any sex would most probably be a consensual conclusion to a night of fun, in the poor world, most fathers seeing their daughters similarly attired fight back tears of bitter or helpless anguish, realising she’s out to earn the family’s supper. It is this bitter despair, a reaction to the debauchery, corruption and depravity of a monstrously unjust system that hawks the children of the poor for the pleasure of the idle and criminal rich that has provoked most ordinary women and men in Islamic countries to the ascetic Puritanism of the Fundamentalists. Bullied, taunted, goaded, threatened and compelled into sex by predatory men at every turn, most of the women take refuge in a version of a religion that at least bends their knee before one, not every man. Even in the west, mini skirted girls don’t like being leered at by every man in the street; but at least they can walk away, most of their sisters in poorer places cant. Surrounded by crushing humiliation on every side, it’s not surprising they black it out by the chador.

The beneficiaries of female humiliation in these countries are the few with the resources to enslave poor women to their lust - the rich and upper middle class whose own daughters cry for “freedom” because they don’t have to pay for it with their bodies. Since the fundamentalists also target, however indirectly, the upper classes in these societies their slogans find a ready ear in the slums who supply the beds of the rich with their daughters, wives and mothers. If Cromwell’s Puritanism in debauched aristocratic England attracted the support of the oppressed poor why are we surprised that the roundheads in turbans hold the same sway in the slums of the Islamic world.

The Islamists provide welfare services while the secular corrupt rulers and their liberal “opponents” provide empty slogans. In the slums, food provided by the fundamentalists might mean the difference between prostitution and a level of dignity that all the self righteous women friendly western NGO’s do not even come close to supplying. Forcing men to at least take care of their offspring as radical Islam generally does appeals to ordinary women much more than secular divorce rights which in the third world force women and their children into the street and a life of nightmarish poverty.

Permissiveness in the west is protected by advanced but affordable medicine that has prevented the swamping of society with deadly sexual diseases. The secular third world hasn’t got these guarantees. When the women of the Islamic world look at the secular third world they see the results of freedom unsupported by the requisite development, ballooning sex transmitted diseases killing millions.

Is it not a fact that Islamist, unfree, and backward Muslim Arabia has the lowest AIDS rates in the whole world – a third of swashbuckling free South Africa is afflicted with the killer illness.

Is this a call for the Burkha, for the compulsory Hijab? No its not. To explain is not to endorse. It is simply to outline why the west’s corruption of the idea of female rights holds little appeal to those crushed under its economic heel and self serving concern.

For again let’s be blunt, if “women’s rights” are enshrined in say, Iraq today, who will be the immediate beneficiaries? Clearly the 150,000 western soldiers who would be deluged with a surplus of hungry jobless local females forced to sell their flesh to those capable of paying for its misuse - the wealthy invaders of their country.

Without a doubt ten years of such freedom would place the AIDS rate in Iraq right up there with western friendly women loving Botswana – 50%.

In the past a radical left would have mobilised these women under easily grasped, powerfully relevant slogans demanding and struggling for jobs, houses, living wages, and socialism - slogans that embarrass a lot of today’s left who prefer the anodyne, inoffensive and abstract ones of women’s rights, the environment, democracy and “freedom”.

They like talking about the ozone layer, the poor world’s women like it a bit closer to earth.


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