Monday, February 24, 2014

Radical Islam and Sex-Selective Abortion

[Today's guest post by Roger McCormack is part of our paid blogging program.]

I wrote recently on this blog regarding the connection between religious chauvinism and sex-selective abortion, using reactionary Hinduism as an example. Sadly, this phenomenon extends to the Muslim world as well. Extremist Islamic subcultures devalue women, and sometimes this devaluation is accomplished under the guise of policies that would ostensibly appear benign to a Western feminist.

This phenomenon is illustrated well in Great Britain, which has both significant immigration and few abortion restrictions. National Review reports:
Though a government investigation in 2013 determined that girls were not being targeted for abortions, the Independent's investigation found that some ethnic communities in Britain did not have the natural balance between males and females, and that the abortion of somewhere between 1,400 and 4,700 female fetuses best accounts for that imbalance. The Independent reviewed the census statistics — particularly statistics of immigrant families, such as those from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan — finding that in two-child families, having a girl as the first child significantly increased the chances of having a male as the second child. When these immigrant couples already have a daughter as their first child, in other words, they sometimes abort girls to ensure the second will be a boy.
This feeds into the chauvinistic and deeply misogynistic views held by adherents of radical Islam, views that create a degrading environment in which women struggle to survive, let alone thrive. Criticism of this is often blunted due to fears of being deemed a racist or Islamaphobe. The latter term, while accurately applied to those who indiscriminately foment hate against peaceful Muslim groups, is unfortunately also used to quell legitimate criticism of undesirable aspects of a religion, even when those aspects produce deplorable outcomes.

In his book "Why I am Not a Muslim" (which is a play on Bertrand Russell's famous "Why I Am Not a Christian"), Pakistani atheist Ibn Warraq says the following:
Indeed a large part of the blame lies with the attitudes inculcated by Islam, which has always seen woman as inferior to man. The birth of a baby girl is the occasion for mourning. Hundreds of baby girls are abandoned every year in the gutters and dust bins and on the pavements. An organization working in Karachi to save these children has calculated that more than five hundred children are abandoned a year in Karachi alone, and that 99 percent of them are girls.
Sex-selection abortions in the West, the Muslim world, and elsewhere of course take place for a multiplicity of reasons. But we discount the enormous clout of patriarchal norms, and their success in generating hatred towards females, at our own peril. These questions should be debated forthrightly, without the obscurantist cliché of pro-lifers being invariably god-fearing. If the previous examples have showed anything, it is that abortion is far more than merely a hedonistic example of supposedly decadent Western culture.


Jameson Graber said...

I'm not sure whether I consider this piece inflammatory or not. Words like "radical" and "extreme" are used to tell the reader, "OK, I'm not talking about the good Muslims!" all the while trying to make a link a between the *religion* and a particular bad behavior. I emphasize the word *religion* here, because I think it's interesting to contrast the phrase "some ethic communities" from the cited news article with the the word "religion." While communities can be identified by lots of different traits, a religion is typically identified by beliefs and rituals. Thus there is a rift between the two concepts: on the one hand, a religion may be the common identification of people of many different cultures and communities, and on the other hand, those who identify with a certain religion may not actually hold all of the beliefs generally associated with that religion.

In particular, I'm pretty sure Islam is generally against abortion, so the idea that Muslims would abort because of radical Islam's patriarchal values is a bit problematic. (On the other hand, some might find the ban on abortion itself patriarchal and mysoginist. But then SPL is in the same boat, no?) So while it's certainly a concern that certain groups may (or may not) be doing sex-selective abortions, linking the practice to a religion, in particular, seems a bit contrary to productive dialog.

The point about fear of being criticized as "Islamophobe," while it may have some vague truth to it sometimes, but there's really no concrete evidence and so it's not a solid claim. And you're opening a huge can of worms by adding a quote from Ibn Warraq. People make the same claims about Western Christianity. Why attack Islam? I'm tempted to ask of SPL what axe you have to grind with Muslims.

Overall, I'm confused by this piece, and I find it rather atypical on the SPL blog.

Kelsey said...

You're correct that Islam is generally against abortion, but much like Christianity, there's a wide range of interpretations. In particular, there is some Islamic scholarship that supports abortion in the early stages of pregnancy. That doesn't mean that all Muslims adhere to that, of course. There are moderate Muslims, Muslims who are consistently pro-life (including SPL members), and there are radical Muslims who condone, or at the very least tolerate and perpetuate, sex-selective abortion. It's hard to make generalizations about a religion that includes hundreds of millions of people of various ethnic backgrounds.

I think the usefulness of talking about *radical* Islam comes from the fact that it is an overarching value system that has found support in numerous communities that are otherwise ethnically and culturally distinct. In other words, we aren't talking about a cultural tradition rooted in a particular time and place. We're talking about an ideology that has spread beyond that.

Jameson Graber said...

Pardon me, but this blog post cites only *one* study (from a biased source) of "some communities" in Britain, a country with liberal abortion laws. This (with a quote thrown in from an atheist writing against Islam) is hardly grounds for talking seriously about an "overarching value system that has found support in numerous communities that are otherwise ethnically and culturally distinct." It is strange to talk about abortion practice in the "Muslim world" without talking about abortion taking place in a Muslim country!

Don't get me wrong. I'm not denying there are serious problems of gender roles in the Muslim world. I just don't think this post actually addresses any of them.

Jay Smith said...

All reactionary men, regardless of their faith, devalue women. It's not like you can give Christianity a pass, even though you did.

The Nun said...

Don't personally feel devalued. In fact I find my Church has a high regard for women. But you have to read the Church documents not the msm's "journalistic" opinion.

Jay Smith said...

You have missed that Bible thing, and 10,000 or so years of human history?

The Nun said...

Ester, Judith, Deborah, Mary... were honoured in the bible.

The are many matriarchal cultures throughout history. From ancient Egypt to different NA Indian tribes.

My Church has honoured hundreds of women by elevating them to sainthood. You can even read the patristics to learn how women were essential to the infant Christian Church 2000 years ago.

The msm tends to ignore this.

However SPL is really not the place for this discussion so I will stop now.

Mirable said...

Then why is there no female pope? Or Bishops? If women are equal?

The Nun said...


Why would I want to be a pope or a bishop when I can be a Mother?

Mirable said...

My question still stands.