The timing is ironic. Just this past week, Donald Trump was “fact checked” by the Associated Press for his claim during last Thursday’s GOP debate that “Islam treats women horribly.”
Trump in fact never uttered those words per se, and the presumption that he meant that “Islam treats all women horribly” was made by the AP’s Calvin Woodward.
Here is Trump’s statement in its entirety. Notice his emphasis on “large portions,” which is hard to miss since he repeats it.
There is tremendous hate. There is tremendous hate. Where large portions of a group of people, Islam, large portions want to use very, very harsh means. Let me go a step further. Women are treated horribly. You know that. You do know that. Women are treated horribly, and other things are happening that are very, very bad.
There is nevertheless some validity to Woodward’s assertion that “no such generalization is supported by the diverse circumstances for women in the Muslim world.” His arguments aimed at minimizing human rights abuses of women in the Muslim world, however, are pretty flawed.
These begin with the fanciful view that somehow women in Muslim societies are freer than they are here in the U.S.:
The United States has yet to see a woman as president, many years after Muslim women achieved national leadership in other countries, most prominently Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto back in the late 1980s and in the 1990s.
He conveniently omits the fact that Bhutto was assassinated in 2007 and that her rise was enabled by the fact that she was part of an extremely powerful political dynasty.
Woodward does acknowledge that “some Muslim societies are indeed repressive by Western standards,” though again the addition of the highlighted qualifier seems to excuse these practices where they exist (i.e., in much of the Arab world) because they are the societal norm.
As our colleague Blake Neff notes, while no single description applies to all 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, there is much about life for women under Islam that lends credence to Trump’s statement:
For instance, a 2012 report by the World Economic Forum ranked 135 countries based on their level of gender equality — measured by women’s level of education, political empowerment, health and economic opportunity. Of the 135 countries on the list, the most highly-ranked one with a Muslim majority was Kyrgyzstan at 35th. Fifteen of the bottom 20 countries are Muslim, while three more have large Muslim minorities.
Several of the world’s most severe violations of women’s rights are most common in Islamic countries. For example, the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) is seen most often in the Islamic world, as the practice occurs frequently in central Africa, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen and Indonesia. Most Muslim countries allow men, but not women, to practice polygamy. Child marriage is a major issue in several Muslim countries because Islam generally allows women to be married off at a very young age. In Pakistan, an effort to ban child marriage was blocked after clerics declared it un-Islamic.
There are many ways in which women are treated as inferior to men under Islamic law (Sharia). In many Muslim countries, a woman’s testimony is treated as one-half of a man’s testimony in certain trials. Women may initiate divorce in Islam, but are at a disadvantage relative to men. When women are murdered or are otherwise the victims of crime, Islamic jurisprudence holds that less blood money be paid out than in the case of a man. Women may collect inheritances, but in most cases their share is half that of men’s.
Finally, there is this video released today by the Swedish newspaper Expressen, It was shot undercover in the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa in Syria.