Islam’s Greatest Fear

  I was sitting beside my girlfriend inside a beautifully made and aptly named Joan Kroc Theater for Peace and Justice on the campus of University of San Diego. We had just finished watching the movie Honor Diaries about the effect of the word “honor” on women in South Asia and how it has been used to perpetuate violence and control over them. The movie was essentially a discussion between Hindu, Muslim and Christian women activists from Middle East living in the West about their experience fighting for women’s rights. Religion was brought up but it was made clear that this was a cultural phenomenon. I was sitting in front of a panel made up of a Jewish writer and producer of the movie, a female Associate Professor of religious studies at USD, an Imam from Algeria, a Pakistani Graduate student and a Professor of USD from Turkey.

   After the writer gave his introduction,  the other panelists one by one dove off topic and began to criticize movies’ imaginary criticism of Islam deflecting the issue of women’s rights. There was no more talk of women’s rights, no talk of what to do about the plight of underage marriages, acid attacks, female circumcision or the fact that this happens in United States and the west in shocking numbers and that Westerners are afraid of stopping it because they are often deemed as attackers of religion and culture. At no point did the moderator try to take the conversation back to the issue of women’s rights and abuse of women in United States. Instead, one after another talked about how the film attacks Islam, how those cases are minority, how they are done by the uneducated and as the Associate Professor herself said, “Last time you tried to help women in middle east you bombed them, let them deal with it on their own.” equating a war with women’s rights and saying that information will do nothing, that women who have no voice or information to even know that what is happening to them is wrong, should not have access to that information, to opportunity to live the lives they live. Instead of addressing the issue of the movie and the plight of women in South Asia, the panelists redirected to the plight of women under occupations, sex trade and other issues which are valid but were not brought up there. 

It was sad… it was pathetic and it shows that the greatest challenge to women is not from outside but from within. It was a full show of how much “honor” of their religion to the panelists mattered more than the rights, lives and well being of their own women. How will it be possible to address human rights if those closest to the issue refuse to look at it, refuse to fix it and become offended when others try to bring it to their attention? I say human rights because men are trapped here too. What man wants to be confined to a woman he does not love, what man wants to be confined by a society that puts enormous pressure on him with their judgement of him based on how his wife, daughter, wife, mother looks or acts? What man wants the pressure of providing for a family and controlling everything about the family and what man wants to harm his daughter or mother or wife? This violence is perpetrated on men as much as it is on women.

  So what is Islam’s greatest fear? Truth of course, as it is for Ultra-Orthodox Jews and Far-right Christians. The truth that their way of life is not correct. They fear loss of control over information and over people who they keep confined with their version of the world. Thus they have to isolate themselves and those around them from the world and when anyone disobeys by showing any sign of openness to the world, be it short sleeves, driving or even watching a movie… the response is quick and violent. Because only violence and threat of violence can have the effect of subjugation through fear. It is the only way to take choice away from a human being; give them a choice between freedom and death and let those who witness the atrocities choose fear and submission.. 

   But humans cannot live in lies, it is unnatural so while these acts of violence go on and while denials and defensive posturing and anger mask the fear that these ideologies carry, while all this still exists, the question is: for how long? At some point, all lies unravel before truth.

For more, go to

6 thoughts on “Islam’s Greatest Fear

  1. Very well put. I was there, too, and I was shocked by the twisting you describe. I expected as much from the Imam since what the film really addresses is not so much Islam itself as the abuse committed in their overwhelming majority by Muslim men around the world, i.e. Muslim patriarchy, but the comment by the female professor was shocking in its brutal and simplistic reduction: the last time the west tried to help oppressed women (in Afghanistan and Iraq, presumably), we bombed them? And they should be left alone to figure out how to shake free from Middle-Ages male oppression? That was obscene. Well, at least this evening gave us a taste of the type of ludicrous arguments that we are going to hear every time this powerful film is screened. We'll be better prepared to rebut them.


  2. Thanks jjs110, it was sad and shocking to hear that comment from an academic and even more sad that other panelists voiced zero disagreement with her. The crimes comited against women in the movie are brutal and sadly and logically responses to efforts to stop those practices will probably be just as brutal.


  3. Hi Senya, my husband and I came out with open hearts in support of these women and little girls who are the victims of this senseless violence, where horrific violence is seen as protecting one's “honor”. Where is the honor in raping 9 year olds and causing 12 year olds to die in childbirth ? We don't care about what religion they are, we care that a human being's rights have been violated ! Yet their own religious leader, an Imam sees our concern for his own kind as an attack on his religion, rather than realizing that with all of our help, he could go about the necessary process of education from within that would teach these parents who kill their own daughters with excruciating acid burns, that this is not within the teachings of Islam and that no Allah I know would command this for His people !

    While the educated moderate muslims fail to realize that no-one is attacking their religion, but rather the misinterpretation thereof, nothing will be done to stop these barbaric practices amongst the ignorant.


  4. excellent article. How does anyone get thru to these people?! I guess we should just create a mantra to repeat over and over in their presence…this is about…..human rights, human rights, human rights. human rights, human rights


  5. The movie shows that there are clearly people who are Muslim and who are fighting and as long as they know that people who agree with them are not lazy and support them, they will prevail.


  6. We have a long way to go as a culture as evident by a story written by a friend, but the difference is that secular society is ok with its faults because it finds that fixing them is ok and necessary where as religious find change scary because they are afraid that it undermines their faith and their God which leads to loss of believers and control.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.