Monday, May 14, 2012

Susan Abulhawa takes on Jeff Halper

Solidarity and Realpolitik: My Response to Jeff Halper
By Susan Abulhawa

Some years ago, I was on a panel with three men, Jeff Halper among them, at a Sabeel conference in Pennsylvania. Each panelist was asked to give their vision for a solution to the 'Palestine/Israel conflict'.  Because I was sitting at the end of the table, I was the last to speak.  I listened to each one of my fellow participants lay out different versions of a two-state solution, each more depressing than the other, each with irrelevant nuances (all previously articulated by Israel, by the way) on how to make the refugee problem just go away.  They spoke the tired talk of land swaps, compromise, several surreal highways that bypass humanity for miles on end, and more creative solutions designed to circumvent the application of human rights where Palestinians are concerned.

When my turn came, I spoke of Palestinians being accorded the same basic rights that apply to the rest of humanity, including the right to return to one’s home after fleeing a conflict.  I spoke of equality under the law regardless of religion.  I spoke of a construct that would prevent one group from systematically oppressing another.  I spoke of human dignity and the universal right to it.  I spoke of equal access to resources, including water, regardless of religion.

I will never forget Jeff Halper’s response, which he was eager to voice even before I had finished speaking.  He began with a smile, the way an adult might smile at the naive remarks of a small child.  He needed to give me a lesson in reality, and proceed to tell me, in the patronizing way of someone who knows best, that my vision lacked “how shall I say it…Realpolitik”.

I did not waiver then, nor have I since, on my position that Palestinians are not a lesser species who should be required to aspire to compromised human dignity in order to accommodate someone else’s racist notions of divine entitlement.

That said, I do not consider Jeff Halper racist and I acknowledge the mostly positive impact he has had in bringing attention to one of Israel’s enduring cruelties, namely the systematic demolition of Palestinian homes as a tool to effectuate ethnic cleansing of the native non-Jewish population.  But in my view, that does not entitle him to speak of what Palestinians should or shouldn’t do.  I also don’t think it qualifies him as an anti-zionist when he clearly accepts the privilege accorded to Jews only.  After all, Jeff Halper is an American from Minnesota who made aliyah (Israel’s entitlement program that allows Jews from all over the world to take up residence in my homeland, ultimately in place of the expelled natives). Perhaps is it my lack of Realpolitik, but I cannot reconcile embracing the very foundation of zionism on one hand, and calling oneself an anti-zionist on the other.

In a recent interview on Al Jazeera’s website with Frank Barat, he did just that.  He also laid out a dismal scenario for the future of Palestinians, based on what Israel is very likely plotting, namely the annexation of Area C and the pacifying of the Palestinian Authority (also likely) with economic incentives and mini Bantustans they can call a state.  But he missed the mark, repeatedly, when it came to Palestinians themselves, as if he sized us all up with a glance and decided he was not impressed. Despite the burgeoning nonviolent resistance taking place all over Palestine, in various forms ranging from demonstrations, significant solidarity campaigns, hunger strikes, and more, he says that “[Palestinian] resistance is impossible” now.  At best, he trivializes the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which is the first coordinated nonviolent movement of Palestinians inside and outside of Palestine that has also managed to inspire and capture imaginations of individuals and organizations all over the world to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom.  Again, my lack of Realpolitik here, but to me, creating a situation where it is possible to force the implementation of human rights and restore dignity to Palestinian society is in itself an end.  Jeff Halper seems unable to consider anything other than a negotiated agreement to be an end.

He enumerates all that is wrong with internal Palestinian issues.  Of course there are problems. We know our leadership is doing little more than pick up the trash and keep people in line while Israel steals more and more of our land.  We are not happy about it either.  But he seems to suggest that he, along with other Israelis I presume, have been carrying the burden of resolving this conflict.  

In one instance he says:
“We’ve (I assume Israeli leftists?) brought this to governments, we've raised public awareness, we've had campaigns, we've done this for decades, we've made this collectively, one of two or three really global issues. But without Palestinians we can only take it so far.”

Then he adds:
“I am trying to challenge a little bit my Palestinian counterparts.  Where are you guys?”
If I read this correctly (and I will grant the benefit of the doubt that it was not meant as it reads), then he clearly sees himself at the forefront of the Palestinian struggle where his Palestinians counterparts are disorganized, haphazard, or not present.  He even suggests that at this crucial time, “Palestinians have to take over,” further supporting the suggestion that Palestinians are not at the helm of the resistance.

He also asserts that importing Jews from all over the world to live in colonies built on land confiscated from private Palestinian owners is “not settler colonialism”.  What is it then?

But back to his strange assertion that Palestinians “should take over” (from whom?), he describes an instance where he refused to participate in the global march to Jerusalem because the Palestinian organizers (who took over?) did not want to include the world “Israel,” the name of the country that denies our very existence and seeks in every way to eradicate us.  Is it that Jeff Halper wants “Palestinians to take over” as long as Palestinians do so in a way that does not offend the sensitivities of the very people deriving privilege at their expense?  That is not how solidarity works.

I don’t presume to tell Israelis what they should or should not do but I would like to see Israelis concentrate on their own failures rather than ours.  I would sure like to hear those who have made aliyah acknowledge that it was not their right to do so; that making aliyah is a crime against the native people who have been and continue to be forcibly expelled to make way for those making aliyah. I would like to hear an apology. The trauma that Palestinians feel is very much part of the Realpolitik and it is not unlike the trauma in the Jewish psyche.  It comes from the same humiliation and anguish of not being considered fully human. Of being treated like vermin by those with the guns.

If Halper truly understood that, perhaps dropping the word “Israel” – a word that hovers over the rubble of our destroyed homes and suffuses the pain at our collective core – would have been a no brainer expression of solidarity.

Note: This article appeared on May 4 in 
Palestine Chronicle

 Susan Abulhawa is the author of Mornings in Jenin (Bloomsbury 2010) and the founder of Playgrounds for Palestine ( 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Beyond Mona

Fully understanding the abuses women suffer

By: Gulamhusein A. Abba

Note: Mona Eltahawy’s rage against the injustices and indignities suffered by women at the hands of men is palpable and comes through loud and clear in her article ‘Why Do They Hate Us” published in Foreign Policy magazine. The cruelties that women suffer, as described by her so graphically, are painful to read about. They need to be talked about, understood and addressed.

However, the subject is complex and an in-depth look is needed. Towards providing such a look I have selected ten pieces for reproduction here, starting with the six published by Foreign Policy magazine itself. These are followed by four essays carefully selected by me from dozens that have been published. I have rounded up this post by adding two revealing videos of Mona.

All material appearing here is copyright and is being published here purely to spread awareness and understanding.

For original please see:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

The six contributions requested for and published by Foreign Policy magazine:

Sondos Asem: Misogyny exists, but blaming it for women's suffering is simplistic
Sondos Asem is senior editor of and a member of the Freedom and Justice Party's foreign relations committee. Follow her on Twitter @SondosAsem or @Ikhwanweb.

When I marched to Tahrir Square on Jan. 25, 2011, I was driven by the indignities and suffering endured by all Egyptians, men and women, from decades of corrupt and oppressive rule. Despite the oppression, I believed in my power to effect change. I believed then and I believe now that to bring about that change, we need lots of determination and hard work.

Although I share many of her concerns, I respectfully disagree with Mona Eltahawy's simplistic assertion that the plight of women in the Arab world is the result of being hated by the rest of society -- more specifically, by men, and even more so by newly elected Islamists. In taking issue with Islamists' view of women, Eltahawy uses a combination of hyperbole and perhaps benign neglect to highlight offensive stances and bury more women-centered ones. Far from constituting a solution, this type of one-dimensional reductionism and stereotyping is one of the problems facing Arab women. Let's be clear: There is misogyny in the Arab world. But if we want progress for Arab women, we must hack at the roots of evil, not at its branches.

Shadi Hamid: Arab women have more agency than you might think
Shadi Hamid is director of research at the Brookings Doha Center and fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. You can follow him on Twitter at@shadihamid.

Unquestionably, the plight of Arab women is cause for considerable alarm. And it only seems to have gotten worse since the Arab uprisings began. For this reason, Mona Eltahawy's recent Foreign Policy essay makes for vital reading. But how and why did it get this bad? The answers to this question are perhaps just as troubling, and require far greater consideration than Eltahawy allows. In Egypt, women were at the frontlines of revolt. But when it came time to cast their votes, the majority of Egyptian women voted for parties that do not believe in "gender equality" as most Westerners would understand the term. Presumably, men did not force them to do so. The fact of the matter is that Arab women, throughout the region, are exercising their moral and political agency, but not necessarily in the ways we might expect.

In Kuwait, Islamists vocally opposed giving women the right to vote. But when women were eventually granted suffrage, Islamist parties did just as well, if not better, in subsequent elections. In other words, women, in large numbers, were exercising their right to vote for candidates who did not believe they had the right to vote in the first place. Meanwhile, in an April 2011 poll, only 18 percent of Egyptian respondents said they would "support a woman president." Breaking it down by gender, female respondents were more open to the idea than men were. But the vast majority -- 73 percent -- still said they would not support a female presidential candidate.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf: The Prophet Mohammad was a revolutionary feminist
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is chairman of the Cordoba Initiative and author of Moving The Mountain, which goes on sale May 8.

As Islam has spread throughout the world, it has combined religion with native cultural practices. Many centuries later, separating the religion from the underlying culture has become difficult. That's why Islam as practiced in Egypt differs from, say, Islam as practiced in Malaysia.
Mona Eltahawy describes cultural practices in Egypt and the Middle East that predate Islam yet have been embraced by many people now as part of Islam. The practice of genital mutilation of women, for example, is found only in Africa. If it were part of Islam, it would be practiced by Muslims all over the world.

For his time, the Prophet Mohammed was a revolutionary feminist. Before him, Arab women had no rights; they were men's property. Before Islam, men could have as many wives as they wanted. While it might sound outrageous to Americans today, the Quran insisted that men could have no more than four wives and that the wives must be treated equally -- a radical idea at the time. In another major breakthrough, the Quran decreed that female children must be given a share of their parents' inheritance. In fact, with the explosion of wealth in some of the Gulf states, women are now accumulating economic power through inheritance.

Hanin Ghaddar: We need more badass ladies
Hanin Ghaddar is the managing editor of NOW Lebanon and a journalist based in Beirut.

I was 16 when I first recognized that my father was terrified of me. We were at a grocery shop in my town in southern Lebanon when my classmate, a boy, came in. All I did was say "hi" and smile, but that was horrifying enough for my father to spend the night screaming and banging his head against the walls because he did not want to hit me. His little girl had turned into a woman with a natural sex drive that he could not put off.

I was a woman, one who could cause him shame and dishonor by talking to men in a public space. His reaction triggered a tornado of mixed thoughts and feelings in my mind. But in the midst of the confusion and deep fear, I sensed a strange quiver of power.

In the years that followed, I used this power against him and everything patriarchal in my community. I gradually raised his expectations and, with them, his fears. His alarm about me and my body made him more repressive, but it was his fear that exposed his weakness and made me realize that I could break him.
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Naheed Mustafa: "Nekkid Burqa Woman" is lazy and insulting
Naheed Mustafa is a freelance writer and broadcaster based in Toronto, Canada

Let me just state right off the top: I have nothing against naked women. But as with all things, there's a time and place. When they appear out of context, naked women quickly become nekkid chicks. Now, granted, I'm hard pressed to point out exactly when -- outside of three or four very specific scenarios -- it's appropriate to plunk down a picture of a naked woman. But I'm certain it's not smack in the middle of a serious essay about gender-based violence in the Arab world.

Here's a quick reenactment of me reading Mona Eltahawy's cover essay as my eyes involuntarily (I swear!) flit over to Nekkid Burqa Woman. "So, yes, women all over the world have problems -- BOOBS! -- yes, the United States has yet to elect a female president -- BOOOBS! -- and yes, women continue to be objectified in many "Western" countries -- BOOOOOBS!" And so on
When I was asked to contribute this critique, I had to ask myself what exactly my problem was. I've narrowed it down to two things: The image of Nekkid Burqa Woman is lazy and insulting.
Let's talk lazy first. And by lazy I mean editorially. Illustrations for print stories are meant to illuminate the text, to present a further dimension to the written word. They are not incidental to the item. The image of a naked woman with a painted-on burqa does nothing to illuminate the essay it accompanies. It's trite and boring -- been there, done that.
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Leila Ahmed: Eltahawy misreads Alifa Rifaat
Leila Ahmed is Victor S. Thomas Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School. She is the author of A Quiet Revolution: the Veil's Resurgence, from the Middle East to America, an adapted excerpt of which ran in Foreign Policy.

Alifa Rifaat, whose writing frames Mona Eltahawy's essay, was a wonderful and deeply subtle writer -- one of Egypt's finest writers of the last century.  Her stories are typically brief, powerful meditations on themes of human desires and failures, and people's anguished loneliness in the midst, supposedly, of intimacy -- between husband and wife, mother and daughter, even mistress and maid. Publishing her work mainly in the 1970s and 1980s, Rifaat was probably the first Egyptian woman author to write fairly directly about women's sexuality. She penned, among other things, a story in which a woman whose husband figures only marginally in the story experiences ecstatic sexual fulfillment with a jinn who comes to her in the form of a woman.

Rifaat was herself forbidden to write by her husband, a policeman, for a good many years. She was thus intimately familiar with male chauvinism, as her stories, written mostly from the perspective of a female character, make clear. But she was also capable of writing very empathetically of men's travails, loneliness, and failed hopes.

Disconcertingly, Eltahawy strangely misreads (in my view) the Rifaat story with which she begins her essay. After enduring "unmoved," as Eltahawy correctly says, her husband's sexual exertions, the story's central character then eagerly rises to wash herself and perform ritual prayers. Eltahawy reads these actions as indicating Rifaat's "brilliant" portrayal of "sublimation through religion."

Rifaat, when I met her in Cairo in the early 1990s, wore the hijab, the Muslim head scarf. And she explicitly spoke to me --in the course of a long, rambling conversation in which she also talked of the tremendous importance to her of sexuality -- of how much joy she found in prayer, and of how she (like the character in her story) almost lived for those moments of prayer.
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This ends the asked for contributions that have been published in Foreign Ploicy magazine. What follows are four selections by the editor.

Samia Errazzouki: Dear Mona Eltahawy, You Do Not Represent “Us”
Samia Errazzouki is a Moroccan-American writer based in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. Her research focus is Morocco's political economy and reforms. She blogs at
(Courtesy of Almonitor)

When I first came across Foreign Policy’s recent “Sex issue” cover, I thought it was an attempt at blackface, but upon zooming in and reading the title of the article by Mona Eltahawy, my eyes were not fooling me. It really was a nude woman covered in a black body-painted niqab.
They tell you do not judge a book by its cover. But as an Arab-American Muslim woman, I could not get that image out of my head long enough to even begin reading Eltahawy’s article. I kept thinking about how the image degraded and insulted every woman I know that wears or has ever worn the Niqab. This was the image Foreign Policy chose to set up an article about the treatment of women in the Middle East and North Africa.

The face veil is rooted in pre-Islamic history, and Leila Ahmed’s Women and Gender in Islam goes into a comprehensive explanation of its roots in the region. Today, those who are fixated on the Niqab believe that focusing on what a Muslim woman wears is what defines her thought, her intellect, her capabilities, her sexuality, her gender and her very existence. It is a narrative that’s been framed by the West and fed by the likes of Qasim Amin and even Hoda Sha’rawi. Foreign Policy’s decision to choose this photograph of a naked woman with a body-painted niqab embodies this problematic narrative in more ways than one:
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Ayesha Kazmi is an American Muslim.
(Courtesy of American Paki)

Since yesterday it appears Mona Eltahawy has had her hands full fending off the massive outrage her  Foreign Policy article entitled “Why do they hate us? The real war on women is in the Middle East East” provoked. Even much to the dismay of disappointed feminists, her tweets suggest those disagreeing with her have not bothered to provide intelligible debate. However, it was pretty clear, even yesterday, this was certainly not the case.

I realise Mona has likely been quite swamped with responses. But her tweeting patterns suggest that she is responding mainly to two types of people: those that are lauding her work, and those that have been shamelessly slandering her. The problem is that there is a whole host of people in between who want to engage with her intellectually and respectfully while explaining to her precisely why they disagreed so deeply with her piece. After my own numerous attempts to try and engage with her, it appeared pretty clear she wasn’t particularly interested in this type of engagement.

So, here I am, irritated and disappointed, attempting to add to the host of blog responses to Mona Eltahawy – unsure of whether or not she will even bother to read the many sensible rebuttals, or whether she will continue to push the idea that no one is providing coherent retorts. I have made peace with this likelihood before I even sat down to write this.
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Roqayah Chamseddine: Us and Them: On Helpless Women and Orientalist Imagery
Roqayah Chamseddine is a US based Lebanese-American journalist, commentator and international human rights activist; she was a member of the first Gaza Freedom March which took place in December of 2009 in Cairo, Egypt.
(Courtesy of The Frustrated Arab)

The web is abuzz with talk of Mona Eltahawy’s latest entry, which made its way onto the front cover of Foreign Policy, ‘Why Do They Hate Us‘, the “war on the women in the Middle East”; reactions vary from unwavering support to venom-laced condemnation, and a multitude of other postures in between. 

In the latest Foreign Policy feature, a part of their “sex edition”, Eltahawy laments that “they hate us”, an unashamed amalgamation directed towards men.

She writes:
“Yet it’s the men who can’t control themselves on the streets, where from Morocco to Yemen, sexual harassment is endemic and it’s for the men’s sake that so many women are encouraged to cover up.” “…women are silenced by a deadly combination of men who hate them while also claiming to have God firmly on their side.”

“I’ll never forget hearing that if a baby boy urinated on you, you could go ahead and pray in the same clothes, yet if a baby girl peed on you, you had to change. What on Earth in the girl’s urine made you impure? I wondered. Hatred of women.”

And as per usual, Eltahawy ends with what has become her catchphrase:
“We are more than our headscarves and our hymens.” 

The laundry list of crimes committed against women, including “virginity tests” and genital mutilation, are serious charges which should not be ignored nor should they be denied. Eltahawy, in her attempt to highlight indefensible crimes against women, reaffirms the banal archetype of the poor, helpless woman of the Middle East-North Africa.

    To continue reading this post, click

Dr. Lamya Almas: A Yemeniya’s Response to Mona Eltahawy
Dr. Lamya Almas has a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Minnesota, M.A. in English Language and Literature from Iowa State University, B.A. in English Language and Literature with a minor in Education from Aden University/ Faculty of Arts, Science and Education in her home city Aden/Republic of Yemen. She is the recipient of Fulbright Scholarship in 1997 and Myron Allen Fellowship from the University of Minnesota in 1999.
(Courtesy A Yemenia’s Corner)

*For the record, although not a niqabi myself I am tremendously proud of the amazing women of Yemen—all of them, niqabis included. I am thus compelled to respond.
As the international media is captivated by images of thousands of veiled women protesters in the cities of Yemen, their ‘visibility’ and ‘participation’ is increasingly obvious. Indeed, they were too visible that politically bankrupt Saleh was compelled to resort to religious sensitivities by criticizing the mingling of sexes at Change Square. In defiance media coverage intensified as thousands of Yemeni women poured out of their homes, most clad in black Islamic dress and full face veils declaring their roles in the protests as religiously sound. They added their voices to raise the volume to a ‘roar’ demanding the ouster of Saleh. Saleh’s fatwa was followed by the kidnapping of four female physicians whose valor in the face of their kidnappers, and insistence on continuing the quest to ouster the regime made headlines. 

Meanwhile, Egyptian-born writer and lecturer on Arab Muslim issues Mona Eltahawy and the Muslim feminists she speaks for, claims they are “absolutely horrified by the Niqab.” In an appearance onNewsnight to discuss the Niqab ban in France Eltahawy says,
If you speak to all the Muslim feminists I know, they will say that they are absolutely horrified by the Niqab. The Niqab is not empowering. The Niqab is dehumanizing. . . In 1923 in Egypt, the Egyptian feminist Huda Sha’rawi removed the face veil and said this is a thing of the past. [Newsnight]

Who is Huda Sha’rawi? And seriously, when 1923? Mona Eltahawy’s is referring to an event in May of 1923, when Huda Sha’rawi and her protégée Saiza Nabarawi who were delegates from the Egyptian Feminist Union [EFU] to the International Women’s Alliance in Rome, removed their veils as they stepped off the train in Cairo. It was a symbolic act of ‘emancipation’ that was influenced by Sha’rawi’s readings of her friend and mentor, the Frenchwomen Eugenie Le Brun. Le Brun conveyed to her the belief that “the veil stood in the way of their [i.e. Egyptian women’s] advancement.”[1] 

Henceforth, Sha’rawi acted as the liaison between Western feminists and “Arab” feminists of the upper and upper-middle class. She imported western feminist ideas valorizing the western, in this case the European, as more advanced and “civilized” over the native who had to abandon its religion, customs, and dress; and if unwilling then at least reform its religion and habits according to the recommended imported guidelines. This was justified by a genuine concern to civilize Arab societies, and save women from a horrendous culture and religion they had been born into. Huda Sha’rawi’s version of Arab feminism isolated indigenous women who believed they possessed both the mental faculties and background that endowed them with a sense of their right to autonomy, and the right to follow their own sense of what was morally correct.
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To round up and get a look at Mona Eltahawy, two videos:

The in your face Mona:
Mona Eltahawy & Bill Maher

Mona at the receiving end:
CNN: French Niqab Ban Debate between Hebah Ahmed and Mona Eltahawy


By: Gulamhusein A. Abba

Note: Ever since Mona Eltahawy’s article was published in Foreign Policy magazine there has been a constant buzz on the internet about Mona and her article. Because I put her article on my blog I have received several e-mails wanting to know why I did it. I felt I owed my readers an explanation

By Gulamhusein A. Abba

Strictly as a writer, I was struck by how well written her article was, with such powerful language, graphic word pictures and an attention grabbing opening. And the content was most disturbing. The list of abuses being suffered by women was long and painful to read. As an activist for human rights and as someone who strives to give a voice to those who need to be heard, I felt I had to do something. So, as a first step, I put Mona's article on my blog, and as a second step, put a post about it on my Face Book page.

However, the way Mona presented it, especially her dragging in religion into the discussion, made me a little suspicious. It felt she had some sort of a personal agenda in addition to protesting against the abuses she described.

I had not heard of Mona till I read her article under discussion. My curiosity aroused, I looked deeper into the issue and read dozens of articles (and comments on each of them – more than 1.500 in the original article in Foreign Policy magazine alone!), news-reports, blogs and opinion pieces on the subject.

 Simultaneously I sent the article to a few selected and trusted female friends, hoping to get some feedback from them about Mona and also about what and how they felt, as women, about what Mona had written.

True that Mona dragging Islam into the discussion has no basis. The abuses she refers to are not ordained or favored or even permitted by Islam.  The “…clerical declarations that opponents of state-sanctioned pedophilia are apostates….” are just that – clerical declarations. There is nothing in the Quran that favors, much less require child marriages.

True that Mona can hardly be regarded as the spokesperson or even representative of all the women in the Middle East countries, or even in just Egypt.

But, leaving aside all these extraneous considerations, the fact remains that women, not only in the Mideast but the world over, are being subjected to cruelties and abuses of all sorts, not confined to the acts specifically mentioned by Mona. Even in societies that are considered to be very “civilized”, women are given a raw deal. The glass ceiling for women and the inequality in pay scales between males and females in the US, for example, are well known. As are cases of sexual harassment in the workforce and a constant stream of rape stories.
The abuses against women need to be spoken about. They need to be addressed. Mona has done a great service to women in general by getting wide publicity about them and raising public awareness about them.

I was disturbed by Mona singling out the Mideast countries for her condemnation. It seemed as though her focus was on condemning Muslim society. Until I read in her article that “Not a single Arab country ranks in the top 100 in the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report, putting the region as a whole solidly at the planet's rock bottom’” and “Saudi women far outnumber their male counterparts on university campuses but are reduced to watching men far less qualified control every aspect of their lives.”

Another aspect that disturbed me was the sub-heading to her article: The real war on women is in the Middle East. That is sheer nonsense. The “war” on women is not just in the Middle East. It is global. In Africa, in Pakistan, in Afghanistan. The problems faced by women in these and other countries are, in many cases, even worse than those that Mona describes. Acid is thrown in women’s faces in petty quarrels and no action is taken against the perpetrator. In India, in-laws (and even husbands) burn their daughter-in-laws (and wives) when her family cannot or will not meet their non-stop demands for money or other material things. And the deaths are routinely written off as accidental deaths caused by the deceased woman’s clothing accidentally catching fire by coming into contact with flames from the kerosene burning stoves!

By claiming that the real war on women is in the Mid East, Mona has disrespected and marginalized the women all over the world who are suffering the same or worse abuses and denial of rights. In effect, she has fractured the women’s rights movement.

Mona may have an agenda of her own, including perhaps personal advancement; her approach may be wrong; she may have, indeed she DID err in unnecessarily dragging in religion, which has nothing to do with the abuses she has described. But she has done her homework and marshaled facts, which cannot be denied, chronicling the abuses the women suffer in that region
I am afraid that, though I am outraged by her trying to drag, without any justification, Islam into the discussion, and though I am very disappointed in her leaving women in other parts of the world out of the equation, I endorse her 100% when she says, Until the rage shifts from the oppressors in our presidential palaces to the oppressors on our streets and in our homes, our revolution has not even begun. And when she says “Our political revolutions will not succeed unless they are accompanied by revolutions of thought -- social, sexual, and cultural revolutions that topple the Mubaraks in our minds as well as our bedrooms” ( though I would have said “will not be complete” instead os “will not succeed”)

Lastly, I fully agree with her. Women are neither just their headscarves or hijabs, nor are they just their bikinis, or for that matter, their hymens. They are, first and foremost, human beings and entitled to just as much respect, dignity and rights as are men.

We must listen to those of them that are speaking out and amplify their voices, and be the voice of those that are suffering in silence.

In conclusion:

Foreign Policy magazine has done great disservice to the subject dealt with and to Mona by trivializing the essay. Pictures of nude women, with painted on hijabs, did nothing to enhance what Mona was talking about. In fairness to FP they did publish more that 1500 comments on the article and later followed it up with thoughtful contributions by known writers.

Reading all the essays, articles, opinion pieces, comments and blogs that have been published on the subject, it is clear that the subject matter is complex, with nuances not commonly known, It deserves an in-depth look. I urge serious  readers of this to read, on this blog. Beyond Mona: Fully understanding the abuses women suffer