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Angela Tilby: Misogyny is not limited to Islamism

02 June 2017


QUITE a few journalists, of various political persuasions, have pointed out recently that Islamist misogyny can be traced back to the Salafist doctrines propounded by Sayyid Qutb, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood.

What appalled him was the dance culture of 1950s America, which he regarded as an expression of the moral degeneracy of the West. The first duty of those who longed for a revival of Islam was to re-subjugate women, and to ensure, in particular, that young girls were brought up to know their place as handmaids and servants to men.

Just before the Manchester bomb­ing, I had watched the television drama based on the Rochdale abuse cases, in which distressed and vul­nerable girls had been passed around as sexual toys by a network of men of Pakistani origin. At the end of the trial, one of those convicted chal­lenged the court to look at them­selves and the way British society treats young girls. While he did not attempt to justify or excuse his crimes, he clearly thought that in some sense we were asking for it.

The misogyny of Islamism is terrifying. I see young women in the street wearing full veils, covered and submissive, sometimes walking sev­eral steps behind their male partner, who often enough is not in pious dress, but in jeans and a T-shirt.

But there are other expressions of misogyny, which are worrying in a different way. In the same street, I see young white teenage girls, over­weight and smoking, in the shortest and tightest pants, their busts prematurely thrust forward and faces scowling in contempt for anyone who might challenge them. And then there are the anorexics, buttoned up even in hot weather, terrified of food. Neither group seems to have much respect for female human nature.

I don’t know what to make of those highly intelligent Muslim women scholars who also wear full veils, insisting that it is their choice to do so, and that it is empowering. Nor do I understand those left-wing “feminists” who refuse to condemn Islamist misogyny “because it is their culture”.

But what I find most extra­ordin­ary is the way in which we fail to question the casual manipulation of children’s tastes through the media and the music business, and the premature sexualisation and gender stereotyping of young girls which go with it. Islamic State permits men to have sex with pre-adolescents. Yet we endorse pop idols whose trade­mark dress is drawn from sado­masochistic fantasy and whose act is based on eroticism.

This does not suggest that we have a healthy understanding of child­­hood with which to counter the outrageous views of the Islamists.

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