The "girl from Qatif" won a reprieve last week. On Dec. 17, Saudi Arabia's King
Abdullah pardoned the young woman, who was sentenced to 200 lashes and six
months in prison after she pressed charges against seven men who had raped her
and a male acquaintance in 2006. Two weeks earlier, Sudan's president extended
a similar reprieve to Gillian Gibbons, the British teacher convicted of
insulting Islam because her 7-year-old students named a teddy bear Muhammad.
Gibbons had been sentenced to prison, but government-organized street
demonstrators were loudly demanding her execution.
In January, Nazanin Fatehi was released from an Iranian jail after a death
sentence against her was revoked. She had originally been convicted of murder
for fatally stabbing a man when he and two others attempted to rape her and her
niece in a park. (Had she yielded to the rapists, she could have been flogged
or stoned for engaging in nonmarital sex.)
The sparing of these women was very welcome news, of course, and it was not
coincidental that each case had triggered an international furor. But for every
"girl from Qatif" or Nazanin who is saved, there are far too many other Muslim
girls and women for whom deliverance never comes.
No international furor saved Aqsa Parvez, a Toronto teenager, whose father was
charged on Dec. 11 with strangling her to death because she refused to wear a
hijab. "She just wanted to look like everyone else," one of Aqsa's friends told
the National Post, "and I guess her dad had a problem with that."
No reprieve came for Banaz Mahmod, either. She was 20, a Kurdish immigrant to
Britain, whose father and uncle had her killed last year after she left an
abusive arranged marriage and fell in love with a man not from the family's
village in Kurdistan. Banaz was choked to death with a bootlace, stuffed into a
suitcase, and buried in a garden 70 miles away. More than 25 such "honor
killings" have been confirmed in Britain's Muslim community in recent years.
Many more are suspected.
There has been no storm of outrage about the intimidation and murder in Basra,
Iraq, of women who wear Western-style clothing. Iraqi police say that more than
40 women have been killed so far this year by Islamists; the bodies are often
left in garbage dumps with notes accusing the victims of "un-Islamic behavior."
By Western standards, the subjugation of women by Muslim fanatics, and the
sometimes pathological Islamist obsession with female sexuality, are
unthinkable. Time and again they lead to shocking acts of violence and
In Pakistan, a tribal council ordered a woman to be gang-raped as punishment for her
brother's supposed liaison with a woman from another tribe.
In San Francisco, a young Muslim woman was shot dead after she uncovered her hair
and put on makeup in order to be a maid of honor at a friend's wedding.
In Tehran, a father beheaded his 7-year-old daughter because he suspected that she
had been raped; he said he acted "to defend my honor, fame, and dignity."
In Saudi Arabia, the Islamic police prevented schoolgirls from leaving a burning
building because they were not wearing headscarves and abayas; 15 of the girls died
in the inferno.
The president of Cairo's Al-Azhar University, a renowned center of Islamic learning,
described the proper method of wife-beating in a television interview: "It's not
really beating," Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tayyeb explained on Egyptian television. "It's more
When the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan in 1996, the repression of women
was among their first priorities. They issued a decree forbidding women to
leave their homes, with the result that work and schooling for women came to a
halt, destroying the country's healthcare system, civil service, and elementary
"Forty percent of the doctors, half of the government workers, and seven out of
10 teachers were women," Lawrence Wright observed in *The Looming Tower,* his
Pulitzer Prize-winning history of Al Qaeda. "Under the Taliban, many of them
would become beggars."
Women are not the only victims of this rampant misogyny. Mohammed Halim, a
46-year-old Afghan schoolteacher, was dragged from his family and horribly
murdered last year disemboweled and then dismembered for defying orders
to stop educating girls.
All these are only examples the tip of a dreadful iceberg that will never be
demolished until Muslims by the millions rise up against it. As for the rest of
us, we too have an obligation to raise our voices. It took a worldwide outcry
to spare the "girl from Qatif" and Nazanin. But there are countless others like
them, and our silence may seal their fate.