Ayaan Hirsi Ali always says that women’s liberation is the key to reversing Islamic extremism. Intuitively that makes sense, but this is the second MEMRI clip in a week touching on “women’s issues” where the most progressive voice in the room has been a male one. Let’s hope that’s only because most Arab women are wary of speaking out against their oppressors, not because they’ve bought the line that this is for their own good. Because if it’s the latter, the long war is going to be even longer than we thought.

LA Times reporter Megan Stack has a story out today about her years in the Kingdom as a reporter suffering under its hyper-victorian morals. She doesn’t sound optimistic either:

One afternoon, a candidate invited me to meet his daughter. She spoke fluent English and was not much younger than me. I cannot remember whether she was wearing hijab, the Islamic head scarf, inside her home, but I have a memory of pink. I asked her about the elections.

“Very good,” she said.

So you really think so, I said gently, even though you can’t vote?

“Of course,” she said. “Why do I need to vote?”

Her father chimed in. He urged her, speaking English for my benefit, to speak candidly. But she insisted: What good was voting? She looked at me as if she felt sorry for me, a woman cast adrift on the rough seas of the world, no male protector in sight.

“Maybe you don’t want to vote,” I said. “But wouldn’t you like to make that choice yourself?”

“I don’t need to,” she said calmly, blinking slowly and deliberately. “If I have a father or a husband, why do I need to vote? Why should I need to work? They will take care of everything.”

Says Stack of the physiological effects of the abaya, “The kingdom made me slouch.”

Here’s the clip. The names, costumes, and language have changed, but the basic themes would probably be familiar to late 19th or early 20th century America. Click the image to watch.

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