Dr. Hamid Tawfik, who became follower of al-Qaeda while at university, but has now left the movement, was asked in a recent video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2wvqDfitLY) whom the Islamists see as their real, ultimate, enemy. He answers, unhesitatingly, “Women's Rights.” They hate the West, yes, but because they see it as the promoter of “Women's Rights.” Israel? Who cares?
Dr. Tawfik is probably a good source. He was mentored by Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri himself, the number two man in al Qaeda.
This would explain why Islamism, and a “clash of civilizations” between the Muslim world and the West, has become such a problem at this particular moment in history, when for decades or even centuries there seemed to be relative peace and quiet. As recently as the Eighties, polls showed most Palestinian Arabs were content with the existence of Israel, and any terrorism in the Middle East was Marxist, not Muslim.
Why feminism? This sounds quite likely to me. Because, as I recall, it is feminism, not Islam, which first opened fire, and feminism which made the first contemporary universalist claims. Feminism was making a cause celebre of the Middle Eastern (albeit not specifically Muslim) custom of “female circumcision” at least as early as the 1980s, when Islamism did not yet exist on the international horizon. Feminists were circulating petitions demanding the US invade Afghanistan long before 9/11, on the premise that the traditions enforced by the Taliban were violating women's rights. Feminists were objecting to Arab women wearing the hijab long before 9/11. Feminism has been loudly objecting for decades to all non-Western cultures; bad as they consider the West, they hold all other cultures to be yet more oppressive to women, and have long been demanding that something be done about them.
Accordingly, feminism insisted that “Women's rights” must take precedence over Islam, like Confucianism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, and everyone else, before Islam responded by demanding that Islam should take precedence over “women's rights.” Islamism is, in this sense, very much a defensive, not an aggressive, movement.
Feminism is, in essence, a totalitarian movement. Like all totalitarian movements, it cannot abide religion. Religion stands in the way of ultimate power.
Way back when, it shocked me, as a Christian, when feminism so casually demanded that the established traditions and teachings of Christianity must be altered to fit their preferences. It seemed obvious that religion, and two thousand years of thought and experience, ought not to be upset for a new and untried political ideology. I was similarly shocked when feminism steamrolled over established Native American/First Nations traditions and treaties—I expected some cultural sensitivity.
Islam is not the first established faith to stand up and say “no—the rules of ethics do not change, and the eternal truths do not change at a whim.” Catholicism deserves some credit for refusing some of feminism's more radical demands, and so do some “Fundamentalist” Protestant groups.
Islamism might, perhaps, be faulted for being the first to resort to violence. But where did principled but peaceful resistance get the Catholics and the Biblically loyalist Protestants? Sidelined by the culture. Their few victories so far have been mostly symbolic, while the culture as a whole, including most of their own nominal followers, have moved over to the feminist experiment.
Peaceful resistance and seeking accommodation is not always terribly effective when dealing with a totalitarian movement; it did not work well for the Czechs at Munich. Possibly, then, Islamism is right, in believing that a resort to arms is necessary. It gives the rest of us, at a minimum, cause to stop and consider carefully how far we are prepared to insist on this new feminist dogma. Feminism has met precious little serious opposition up to this point; most Westerners have long not even dared to question it.
For Islam, the stakes are high. Thanks to feminism, and European women’s abandonment of their traditional role and interests, the population of Europe is about to tip into absolute decline. Islam seems poised to take over that continent, demographically, without a shot, so long as they can resist the infection themselves. Can the world be far behind? But if they succumb, as everyone else has, they too will go into decline, in numbers and in authority. The future will belong to the feminist pseudo-religion.
Take this perspective, and it is hard to fault them for putting up a fight.