Bravo Birmingham

A public protest – now in its second day – outside a mosque with an FGM-friendly leader.

This is the only way you’ll end it – a combination of public protest, and punishment in the courts.

An Update to Mom-in-a-Burqa

She’s come tearing through her daughter’s new school, threatening lawsuits because the school won’t let her run free and fully veiled on its property. (Background here.)

It’s been a pleasure for UD to watch how attitudes toward the burqa/niqab have changed all over Europe. The Guardian, a left-leaning paper, publishes two letters in response to the lawsuit threat, neither the slightest bit sympathetic:

As a Muslim woman, the case of Rachida Serroukh (Mother sues daughter’s school over face veil ban, 21 July) fills me with dismay. It has been widely documented that there is no religious obligation, in the Qur’an, for a woman to wear a face veil, burqa or niqab, but simply to dress modestly.

I wonder if she thought the staff at the school (or the children) would look at her suggestively. I very much doubt they would. The face veil can be intimidating and frightening for children. Ironically, the countries that encourage women to wear a burqa or niqab are those where women’s education is thought to be unnecessary and dangerous.

We all need to respect the culture in which we live; although Rachida Serroukh wants her children to have a good education in a top school in Holland Park, she seems to neither like nor respect the culture in which she lives…

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The school should not have to deal with this issue – this is a provocative action and the local authority should be supporting the school. Rachida Serroukh is importing a 12th-century custom which discriminates against women into 21st-century Britain. This country has to adhere to its commitment of equality, as France does, and the law should not be used to undermine our way of life.

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The face veil can be intimidating and frightening for children.

Hadn’t thought of that. It’s a simple and persuasive point: An adult entirely covered in black (this includes, for most wearers, not just the face, but, for instance, the fingers), speaking through black mesh, would be for most children pretty grotesque. Traditional nuns might have been somewhat scary, but at least they let you see their face.

Many of us find something deeply unsettling in the self-annihilation of the burqa, and the fact that it is fully and exclusively associated with women tells us all we need to know. It’s even ickier to contemplate the messages little children (especially girls) get, seeing women done up like that.

The Restoration Era

A small group of Kenyan girls will soon go to Google’s California headquarters, where “they hope to win $15,000 for I-cut, an app to end Female Genital Mutilation. The five teenagers, aged 15 to 17, are the only Africans selected to take part in this year’s international Technovation competition.”

[They] call themselves the ‘Restorers’ because they want to “restore hope to hopeless girls”, said Synthia Otieno, one of the team.

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I-cut connects girls at risk of FGM with rescue centres and gives legal and medical help to those who have been cut.

Its simple interface has five buttons – help, rescue, report, information on FGM, donate and feedback – offering users different services.

UD will be rooting for them.

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A similar app for England, where at least 20,000 girls are at risk.

A strong woman stands up to a propagandist. Brava.

The practice of female genital mutilation is part of the story. Onyesonwu undergoes FGM and her powers are severely impaired. Steven Barnes, an African-American science fiction writer, criticized this element in the book. In a review for American Book Review, he said Okorafor made traditional African culture look bad and should have used her book to celebrate the good aspects of the culture. Okorafor responded:

“Culture is alive and it is fluid. It is not made of stone nor is it absolute. Just because I believe that aspects of my culture are problematic does not mean I am ‘betraying’ my people by pointing out those problems.”

“[I]t is up to individual schools to decide about whether staff and pupils can wear face veils…”

But guidance from England’s Department for Education doesn’t include language about parents and visitors.

A face-veiled parent was asked to remove her veil during a visit to her daughter’s school, and she has now sued on grounds of discrimination and you know what? UD doesn’t think her prospects are very good.

Her action will certainly prompt additional language in the rules, covering not just students and staff, but also parents and visitors. So of course in that sense what’s she doing is liable to be decidedly self-defeating.

Clearly the intent of the language is to cover people who enter the school grounds, so this looks like a quibble on her part. Then too, judging by recent European Court of Human Rights decisions, and recent polls showing close to sixty percent support for a burqa/niqab ban in England, few are in a face-veil-positive mood, especially, as Maajid Nawaz notes, in connection with ‘identity-sensitive’ environments. All of this may play a role in a judge’s thinking.

However this case works out, UD feels for this woman’s daughter. She has just been admitted to the school, and the first thing that happens is that her mother sues the school in a case that attracts national publicity. Nice going, Mum.

Some are called to the priesthood; some are called to the clitoral hood.

“For 12 years, the defendant … cut the genitals of countless 7-year-old girls.”

And, as the Assistant US Attorney might have added, cutting the genitals of countless 7-year-old girls is for the defendant a religious commitment, so she’ll start right up again if you release her from custody. God calls her to do it. God wills it. She would be sinning not to do it. She’s a saint for doing it. She’s the Sainted Clit Slayer.

Good on Jumana Nagarwala’s judge for denying this fanatic’s request to be released from custody. Let Nagarwala – who took a place at what is arguably America’s best medical school in order to learn how to forcibly slash, infect, humiliate, and neuter little girls – let Nagarwala remain in her prison bed, visions of a clitless universe dancing in her head. Her victims face a life in prison. Now so does she, lucky girl. She gets to be a martyr for her holy cause.

“We have no assurance that Muslim women put on the burqa or don the veil as a matter of their own choice. A huge amount of evidence goes the other way. Mothers, wives, and daughters have been threatened with acid in the face, or honor-killing, or vicious beating, if they do not adopt the humiliating outer clothing that is mandated by their menfolk.”

It is important to remember these words of Christopher Hitchens’ as we encounter what little resistance to full-body veil bans is left in Europe.

As when a Human Rights Watch writer stages the burqa/niqab as a “choice,” and, quite perversely, an expression of female “autonomy.”

Look at the image that accompanies her article. This woman is not wearing a full face veil; she is wearing a full body veil. The writer asks us to respect the rights of women who will under the ban never be able to leave their house. They are now “forc[ed] …to remain housebound.”

Forced.

By whom? By what twisted understanding of religious texts? They are never to feel the sunlight again; never to take a walk. Because unless they look like the woman pictured in the article, unless totally wrapped to the point where they have no peripheral vision, their mouths pulled shut by tight material, they simply cannot leave their prison.

It was inevitable that democratic societies would eventually read the burqa/niqab, and the self-imprisoning (or husband/father/brother-imprisoning) of some of its wearers (most of its wearers, of course, will quietly accommodate themselves to the law, as they have in France), as a toxic refusal to engage in even the most basic forms of civic life. It is positively Orwellian for people like the HRW writer to champion the burqa as an icon of autonomy.

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Or think of it this way:

This goes to the foundational issue of whether anyone can want the wrong things… Some concatenation of causes has trimmed down [some womens’] world view in such a way that doors to human flourishing are closed to them. So for instance literacy for women: I think that it is an intrinsic good, and it really doesn’t matter how many women you can get to tell you from behind their burqa that they don’t want to read…

Being born a woman in Afghanistan any time in last thirty years was to be unlucky… These lives have been imposed on them. When you listen to the expressions of relief and humility and clarity that you get around this notion of wearing the veil… you are hearing that as a response to the thuggish misogyny of the men in those cultures. Women are treated like whores and considered to be whores if they are not appropriately veiled. They are groped and … beaten for not being appropriately veiled… No doubt many women feel relieved to be appropriately veiled in those cultures.

‘If the [European Court of Human Right’s] latest decision is any indication, other countries seeking to impose their own bans may have greater discretion to do so under convention rules.’

The path looks open for more countries to repudiate the humiliating, annihilating burqa/niqab.

It’s a good day for women and for democracy when a writer on the subject titles her article Does the Burqa Have a Future in Europe?

“I’ve done about 50 asylum exams for women … and every single one of them knows a friend, a sister, a cousin who died as a result of the practice.”

A New York City doctor talks about FGM in an excellent article about it.

The Myth/Fact list at the end of the piece is especially useful, as Alan Dershowitz and his fellow right-to-cut-seven-year-old-girls enthusiasts prepare a criminal defense based on every single one of the myths.

“Despicable.”

Good word. UD thinks that word is exactly right.

Of the many anti-FGM bills in the Michigan package, UD finds most intriguing and encouraging the one that “allows for victims to file civil lawsuits.” There are a lot of victims, and it’s time for them to get compensation.

And after all, the world can call FGM despicable until the end of time, but until you not only start locking people up, but also making them pay out large sums of money, you’re not going to get very far.

Burqa/Niqab Bans Sweeping Europe

With the latest European Court of Human Rights ruling, bans on this “symbol of female enslavement” are now everywhere, with challenges to them going nowhere.

This was no half-hearted endorsement.

The unanimous decision held that the ban — which, in the court’s words, specifically barred “the wearing in public of clothing that partly or totally covers the face” — aimed to “guarantee the conditions of ‘living together’ and the ‘protection of the rights and freedoms of others.’ ”

The court also determined that the ban was “necessary in a democratic society.

UD might be wrong, but she thinks that voices in opposition to the ban are rather quiet lately. UD has become accustomed over the years to people telling her that only a reactionary would fail to support a woman’s freedom to annihilate herself as a public being. Where are those people now?

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UPDATE: I found one, and her tired language tells you all you need to know about the vitality of her position:

More countries are following Belgium’s ban across Europe, reflecting the lack of tolerance there is in society today.

If I found the lack of tolerance there is in society today in a student paper, I’d run a thick red line through it and write empty next to it. I always tell my students to avoid the word “society” unless it seems really necessary, since in actual use it’s often a vague and lazy generalization, and therefore a hint that as a polemical writer you’re not really giving it your all.

But since this writer wants to talk Islamophobia, here’s the reality in France, which has for quite some time, with little blowback, banned burqas and niqabs:

Most of the population – including most Muslims – agree with the government when it describes the face-covering veil as an affront to society’s values.

There’s that lazy use of society again. Yet it is easy to find muscular accounts of what is meant here.

Beyond accusing everyone around her in Europe (including every one of the European Court of Human Rights justices) of being Islamophobic, the author also puts the banning-veils trend down to sexism:

We are entering into dangerous territory when we allow parliaments – mostly male dominated – to start legislating for what women can wear.

There’s no indication that women support the ban in smaller numbers than men do.

Women, after all, have far more at stake than men in all of this, since their gender alone is the gender of people who graphically reject the public realm.

Finally, there’s this familiar argument:

Critics will say the veils are forced upon women by oppressive men. If that is the case then those poor women will not be able to go outside again because their husbands will not allow it.

Husbands and fathers, she should have said. Because children are also put inside the burqa, or kept imprisoned in their fathers’ houses.

So. As democracies, what are we to do about this practice? Well, first of all we are to note that it is illegal to hold someone prisoner, to never allow them to walk outside in the sunlight or be in the world of other human beings. What is going on in a house where people are “not able to go outside” is something in which the legal institutions of a free country must take an immediate interest. Other institutions – the mosque where the husband worships, for instance – must also become involved.

This writer is telling countries that they must collude with vicious practices because if they fail to collude with them the perpetrators of the practices threaten to engage in even more vicious practices. That calculus makes the state the same terrified victim of these men that their wives and daughters are.

Countries don’t make deals with sadists. They use their laws to punish men who imprison their wives and daughters.

Social service agencies exist to discover domestic abuse. Since we know that this form of abuse will emerge to some extent once a ban is enacted, European countries must use these agencies with determination.

The Good Old …

days.

In this corner, we have Child Advocate of the Year and Unsung Hero awards-winner Karen Gullberg Cook…

… a Michigan attorney fiercely devoted to the welfare of abused children. She has been “appointed to represent the daughter of Dr. Fakhruddin and Dr. Farida Attar, the Farmington Hills couple accused of conspiring to mutilate the genitals of prepubescent girls.”

In a filing arguing for the removal of parental rights from the girl’s father and mother, Gullberg Cook reasonably enough alluded to Josef Mengele. Mengele was a doctor who instead of healing mutilated significant numbers of people; the Attars’ co-conspirator, Jumana Nagarwala, is a doctor who instead of healing has allegedly mutilated significant numbers of people.

“Whether perpetrated by a Nazi or a member of a Muslim sect, a religious practice that condones the serious physical abuse of a child by mutilating her genitals is unacceptable in the United States of America (or) in any country.”

Nagarwala is not an iconic embodiment of evil, of course, and Gullberg Cook doesn’t say she is. But it is certainly true that both Nagarwala (allegedly) and Mengele are examples of doctors who betrayed their profession and basic human ethics by mutilating bodies.

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And in this corner, we have an attorney fiercely devoted to the defense of Claus von Bulow, OJ Simpson, Jeffrey Epstein, Mike Tyson, Michael Milken, etc. etc. etc. Alan Dershowitz has now leapt to the defense of alleged mutilators of children’s genitals.

Dershowitz has drawn himself up to his highest moral height and raged against the Mengele/genital mutilator analogy. Outrageous, demeaning, how dare she, lalalalala…

He has even condemned Gullberg Cook as a holocaust denier. Because talking about what Josef Mengele did in the holocaust is denying the holocaust.

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Anyway. Looks like we’ve got a bit of a fight on our hands, because Gullberg Cook has responded to the anguish and outrage and incredulity of Dershowitz.

“Mr. Dershowitz needs to butt out. I really don’t give a darn what he thinks,” she said. “If [his legal team is] feeling guilty that they’re representing people that maim little girls for life, that’s their issue, not mine. Religion does not give you a license to abuse or maim children.

“I am not a Holocaust denier,” Gullberg Cook added. “I have grandchildren who are part Jewish. (Dershowitz) can go to hell.”

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Update: After Dershowitz has had his cry, he can get himself all worked up again at the word “genocide” in this opinion piece.

Somalia’s Fascinating Female Initiation Ritual

… [Last year,] 15 year-old Istar [was] married off to a 70 year-old man in Eastern Somalia… Istar had been subjected to infibulation. [Her “labia [were] stitched together following excision of the clitoris. This makes urinating and menstruating almost impossible as a girl is forced to do so through a hole the size of a matchstick.”]

As happens with many girls who have undergone this type of FGM, her new husband was unable to penetrate her during sex. He used a traditional dagger to cut her open. But he did it with so much force that the dagger went deep, affecting the vagina walls and cutting into her cervix.

Istar started bleeding profusely, forcing her family to seek medical help and counseling. Although she is now out of immediate danger, Istar is deeply traumatised and, unsurprisingly, she does not want to go back to her husband.

‘Off the record, New York City officials admit that Williamsburg’s Hasidim “work the system,” and experts who don’t have to be reelected come out and just admit there’s widespread fraud… [T]he Haredi birthrate, to be sustainable, requires large and consistent infusions of cash from outside. In Williamsburg, welfare really is a lifestyle.’

Five years ago, Raphael Magarik said what many people who care about distributive justice in America know – systemic welfare abuse rages among the country’s growing ultraorthodox sects. This is money that should go to the actually needy. It’s being stolen.

Strangely, as Magarik notes, the practice is as flagrant as it is widespread. Larger and larger communities of people not entitled to welfare benefits work the system and take them anyway and suffer no consequences. How is this possible?

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You see how it happens when (very) occasional law enforcement action comes down, as it has in the last week in Lakewood, New Jersey. The first person arrested for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars that should have gone to, for instance, struggling public schools was the community’s rabbi. Its spiritual leader.

Not only have the authorities known for ages about these criminal conspiracies; they actually met with the community a couple of years ago and suggested they knock it off.

Why did Prosecutor Warn Lakewood about Avoiding Welfare Fraud?

asks a recent local headline. The article quotes local citizens wondering why an entire community got a helpful suggestion from the police rather than the sweeping arrests it’s getting now. All the money lost over those years might not have been lost had police “just admitted there’s widespread fraud” and arrested people for it.

How Did Massive NJ Welfare Fraud Scheme Work?

Another headline.

Answer? Just by doing it.

The paper trail shows the relative ease the families had in allegedly defrauding the government. In one case, authorities say a woman was able to withdraw $1.5 million from a company and deposit the money into her personal bank account while still collecting public assistance.

You just do it. The authorities know what you’re doing and they do nothing. They call a town meeting. Years later they arrest a bunch of people and the sect agrees to try not to do it anymore.

Hundreds of people have called local officials, inquiring if there would be amnesty for those who admit lying about their incomes, and the APP reported that Ocean County authorities have been swamped with calls from public assistance beneficiaries seeking to stop receiving benefits.

Then, since it’s “a lifestyle,” they do it again.

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So nu. Israel is increasingly a religious state and it can’t do much about its own humongous haredi mess: Close to a million unemployed or underemployed people, many of whom deny the legitimacy of the state and make sure their children continue the unemployability tradition by refusing to follow the mandated national curriculum.

America is another matter. UD is baffled as to why our own fiscal and legal institutions, fully aware of the situation, do little or nothing.

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