The Caged Virgin (Reviewed): The Sins Of Islam

{Media review: Carlin Romano’s article about Hirsi Ali’s new book, The Caged Virgin, is doing the rounds in the syndicated American press.} By Carlin Romano (Philadelphia Inquirer) “I do not despise Islam,” writes Somali-Dutch activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali at the outset of her first book, “The Caged Virgin,” a best seller in Europe that consolidated her reputation as that continent’s sternest critic of Islam. “I am thoroughly conscious of the noble values that the religion promotes, such as charity, hospitality and compassion for the weak and poor.” Sounds reasonable and moderate. Why, then, must Hirsi Ali live under 24/7 guard from Dutch security after years of death threats? Why did a Moroccan-Dutch jihadist murder the filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who helped Hirsi Ali make a TV documentary about Muslim abuse of women, then vow that Hirsi Ali would be next? The answer, “The Caged Virgin” makes clear, is that Hirsi Ali refuses to accept what she considers immoral aspects of the religion in which she was raised just because many Muslims are good people. Within Islam, this thinking is often deemed heresy, and in the view of some, Hirsi Ali is very heretical indeed. In her view, the chief sin of Islam is how it treats women. “In the name of Islam,” she writes, “women are subjected to cruel and horrible practices, including female genital mutilation and disownment.” A Koranic verse “gives men the right to beat their wives.” Muslim tradition allows fathers to marry off a daughter by fiat, a practice Hirsi Ali describes as “an arranged rape approved of by her whole family.” Muslim women are virtually excluded from public life, and legislation “puts women at a severe disadvantage.” The cause is what Hirsi Ali calls “tribal morality,” Islam’s obsession with a woman’s virginity. She writes, “a woman who withdraws from the virgins’ cage is branded a whore” and the “essence of a woman is reduced to her hymen.” Yet Hirsi Ali brings more to bear against these beliefs and practices than mere anger. She draws on Western champions of critical reason with stinging force: “I’d like to invite all people like me who had an Islamic upbringing” to “contrast J.S. Mill’s essay, ‘On the Subjection of Women’ (1869) with what the Prophet Muhammad has to say.” This is not pretty to watch. Muhammad, she notes, “fell in love with Aisha, his best friend’s 9-year-old daughter. Her father said, ‘Please wait until she has reached adulthood.’ But Muhammad did not want to wait.” Muhammad married Aisha when she was 9. “By our Western standards,” Hirsi Ali writes, Muhammad is “perverse” and “a despicable individual.” To Muslims who reject Western mores in judging Muhammad, she retorts, “the fact that the Wright brothers were not Islamic has not stopped Muslims from traveling by air. By adopting the technical inventions of the West without its courage to think independently, we perpetuate the mental stagnation in Islamic culture.” “The Caged Virgin” interweaves this critique with reporting on the plight of Muslim women and the author’s own history as a woman subjected to genital mutilation, beaten in her youth by a Koranic teacher who fractured her skull and bequeathed in marriage by her father to a man she’d never met — the final straw that led her to seek asylum in the West. At certain moments in cultural history, a particular book or pamphlet catches fire by taking a spark already burning in people’s hearts and minds and setting it ablaze on the printed page. “The Caged Virgin” is such a book. We live in such a moment.

Legal sanctions come into force against female genital mutilation performed outside Spanish borders.

Some cases of individuals performing the operation while abroad on trips have been noted, and the Spanish government moved to make these prosecutable, as with other crimes such as genocide, terrorism, piracy, prostitution, and the corruption of minors with drugs. {(continued below in Spanish)} El Pleno del Congreso de los Diputados dio luz verde el pasado 23 de junio a esta norma que permite la persecuci_n extraterritorial de este delito cuando se realiza en el extranjero, ‘como sucede en la mayor parte de los casos, aprovechando viajes o estancias en los pa_ses de origen’ de los inmigrantes. Esta pr_ctica, que va desde la extirpaci_n del cl_toris hasta el cosido de los labios vaginales ya est_ tipificada en el C_digo Penal, con una pena de entre 6 y 12 a_os de c_rcel. Sin embargo, ahora se modifica la Ley Org_nica 6/1985 del Poder Judicial para que pueda ser perseguida fuera de Espa_a. A partir da ahora, la jurisdicci_n espa_ola ser_ competente para perseguir estos hechos, tal y como sucede con delitos como el genocidio, el terrorismo, la pirater_a, la prostituci_n, la corrupci_n de menores o el tr_fico de drogas. Pa_ses Subsaharianos Y Asi_ticos En Espa_a se tuvo constancia de estas pr_cticas a ra_z de varios casos en los que ni_as inmigrantes pidieron auxilio a sus profesores en el colegio, ante el temor de que sus familiares les mutilaran durante un periodo de vacaciones en su pa_s de origen. El Defensor del Pueblo tambi_n se ha hecho eco de casos en los que inmigrantes acudieron a centros sanitarios para que procedieran a la mutilaci_n genital de sus hijos. Este tipo de pr_cticas se realizan en cerca de 25 pa_ses de la franja subsahariana y en algunos de Asia por parte de distintas culturas y confesiones religiosas (el Islam, animistas y cristianas), como un rito de iniciaci_n a la pubertad, tal y como explic_ la diputada de CiU Merc_ Pigem, responsable de la ponencia por parte de su grupo. Los expertos calculan que un total de 135 millones de ni_as han sufrido mutilaci_n del cl_toris y que cada a_o se producen 2 millones de casos nuevos; esto es 6.000 al d_a y 5 cada minuto.