Since 9/11 one thing we have heard Bush and others say is that we had to go to war in places like Iraq and Afghanistan (or more accurately had to stay there) was to “liberate Muslim women”. It’s right up there in stupidity with trying to create a democracy in the Muslim world as a reason why we have to stay in Iraq and Afghanistan. While I supported getting rid of the Taliban and Saddam (and still do), the fact of the matter is that the US shouldn’t be in the business of democracy building in the Muslim world (at least not without some form of de-Islamification) or trying to liberate Muslim women.
The Shah of Iran came the closest to creating a modern state in a Muslim country. (Whether it would end up democratic by any standard is a debate that is irrelevant for the purposes of this blog entry.) Since Iran retains a great deal of its pre-Islamic Persian heritage (something that is not Islamic), the Shah had a better shot than anyone, anywhere in the Muslim world of doing this, yet he failed spectalularly. One of the reasons why he failed was opposition by women.
Most analysis of the Shah and what he tried to do says that he was on the side of women’s rights. The Shah claimed so himself similar to how Bush and other Neocons claim to be fighting to liberate Islamic women. While what the Shah was doing did technically increase women’s political freedom, this doesn’t tell the whole story. The Shah vs. Khomeni with respect to women is framed as women’s rights vs. patriarchy. This is not correct because Islam is not patriarchal in the sense that we in the West think of patriarchy (i.e. monogamy, etc.) Islam is institutionalized hypergamy through limited polygamy. In Islam a man can have up to four wives. (In some places Muslim men can have even more wives.) This means that it is possible that up to 75% of men could never get a wife under Islam (assuming a male to female ratio of close to 1:1). Whiskey points out that 12% of Muslim marriages are polygamous while in Saudi Arabia its as high as 30%. This allows women to share an “alpha” male and explains why so many Iranian women were opposed to the Shah’s banning of the chador. Intentionally or unintentionally the Shah’s plans to make a modern state were on the path of taking on the institutionalized hypergamy through limited polygamy of Islam one way or another. This would mean that women would lose the ability to share “alpha” men that Islam granted them. (This is in addition to the fact that the chador like the burka denigrates men.)
Even knowing this why were Iranian women so against the Shah because wasn’t he granting them increased political freedom? The Shah was doing that, but outside of a handful of women, women aren’t interested in political freedom. I was reading another MRA blog recently and someone pointed out how once the government/elites were done taking all freedom away from men, they would start taking away the freedom of women. Someone else correctly pointed out that women aren’t going to notice or care that the government/elites are taking away their freedom. Whether its in Iran or the West, outside of a handful of women, women aren’t interested in freedom.
This gets us to why wars to “liberate Muslim women” and create democratic states in the Muslim world are pointless. Muslim women like other women aren’t going to care that you are fighting a war for their political freedom since they aren’t interested. Take these women plus the men who aren’t interested in freedom due to Islam and there is no way a free and democratic state could ever be created in the Muslim world (without de-Islamifying the country to create enough men who are interested in political freedom).