Yesterday we met Deepa Kumar, a Rutgers professor who, four years after 9/11, two years after the massive terrorist attack on the Atocha train station in Madrid, and just months after the July 2005 bombings in London, published a long, ardent essay in Monthly Review because she was irate. Not at the terrorists, mind you, but at the people in the West who were – among other unspeakable things – drawing cartoons of Muhammed.
For academics like Kumar, pretty much everything that happens in the world is simple to understand because it all fits into a single overarching paradigm: on the one hand there are Western imperialists and oppressors, and on the other hand there are their victims. Even the most violent acts of Islamic terrorism are by definition always a response – and perhaps even a defensible one – to Western imperialism and oppression; even acts by Westerners that might seem relatively innocuous acts, such as drawing a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammed, are absolutely reprehensible because what’s going on is that a member of the oppressor class is spitting on the oppressed – celebrating his own privilege and cruelly reminding the oppressed of their subservience.
In a later piece responding to critics of her first article, Kumar largely repeated her argument, but she did add something new. A few of her critics had dared to suggest that a key difference between the West and the Islamic world is that the former has undergone an Enlightenment and the latter has not. But Kumar, as it turned out, was not so hot on the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment, she claimed, had “laid the basis for racism”; among its “legacies” were “slavery, colonialism, and racism.” While the premises for the English, French, and American revolutions “were no doubt progressive,” she added, the capitalist systems they ushered in were not “based on equality, justice, or liberty.” So much, then, for the Enlightenment, in the view of Deepa Kumar.
Kumar then turned to the subject of women – while, curiously enough, avoiding any explicit mention of the fact that women, in most of the Islamic world, are (at best) second-class citizens, are treated as the property of men, and can be raped, subjected to clitoridectomies, forced into marriages, and even killed with total impunity. Kumar dropped all that, then, down the memory hole. By way of demonstrating, however, that women have it bad in the West, she noted that the state legislature of South Dakota had recently banned abortion. (True – although the law, as it happens, was overturned a few months later.)
Her point: “the idea that the Enlightenment magically emancipated women in the West is nonsense.” But of course nobody says that the Enlightenment instantly freed Western women from servitude; the point is that it introduced ideas about freedom, justice, and equality that eventually, and inevitably, eventuated in women’s liberation. But Kumar had an addition claim in regard to this topic: she insisted that America’s “rulers…have never cared about the rights of women right here in the U.S.; they are not going to suddenly start caring about women’s rights elsewhere.” In other words, anyone in a position of authority in the Western world who actually professes to be disturbed by the treatment of women under Islam is just pretending. This is a standard assertion among academic leftists – because it’s pretty much the only position they can take in response to arguments that they don’t care about the brutal abuses of Islam.
Is there more? Of course there is. Tune in tomorrow.