Why Muslim Countries Treat Women Differently

News Abroad

Mr. Pipes is the director of the Middle East Forum. His website address is http://www.danielpipes.org.

The pictures from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq touched such a nerve in the Muslim world that one analyst said that the rape pictures"would equal a nuclear explosion" if seen in Muslim countries. Such extreme reactions raise the delicate topic of sex in Muslim-Western relations.

The West and the Muslim world entertain vastly different assumptions about female sexuality. (I draw here on the ideas of Fatima Mernissi in her 1975 book, Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in a Modern Muslim Society.) In the West, it was until recently assumed that males and females experience eros differently, with men actively undertaking the hunt, seduction, and penetration, and women passively enduring the experience. Only lately did the idea gain currency that women too have sexual desires.

Considering the Muslim reputation for archaic customs, it is ironic to note that Islamic civilization not only portrays women as sexually desirous, but it sees them as more passionate than men. Indeed, this understanding has determined the place of women in traditional Muslim life.

In the Islamic view, men and women both seek intercourse, during which their bodies undergo similar processes, bringing similar pleasures. If Westerners traditionally saw the sexual act as a battleground where the male exerts his supremacy over the female, Muslims saw it as a tender and shared pleasure.

Indeed, Muslims generally believe female desire to be so much greater than the male equivalent that the woman is viewed as the hunter and the man as her passive victim. If believers feel little distress about sex acts as such, they are obsessed with the dangers posed by women. So strong are her needs thought to be, she ends up representing the forces of unreason and disorder. A woman's rampant desires and irresistible attractiveness gives her a power over men that even rivals God's. She must be contained, for her unbridled sexuality poses a direct danger to the social order. (Symbolic of this, the Arabic word fitna means both civil disorder and beautiful woman.)

The entire Muslim social structure can be understood as containing female sexuality. It goes to great lengths to separate the sexes and reduce contact between them. This explains such customs as the covering of women's faces and the separation of women's residential quarters, or the harem. Many other institutions serve to reduce female power over men, such as her need for a male's permission to travel, work, marry, or divorce. Revealingly, a traditional Muslim wedding took place between two men – the groom and the bride's guardian.

Even married couples should not get too attached; to insure that a man does not become so consumed with passion for his wife that he neglects his duties to God, Muslim family life restricts contact between the spouses by dividing their interests and duties, imbalancing their power relationship (she is more his servant than his companion), and encouraging the mother-son bond over the marital connection.

On the whole, Muslims lived up to these Islamic ideals for male-female relations in premodern times. Yet the anxiety persisted that women would break loose of their restrictions and bring perdition to the community.

Those anxieties multiplied in recent centuries as Western influence spread through the Muslim world, for Western ways nearly always collide with Islamic ones. The two are divided by the enhanced power and freedoms women have gained through legal equality, monogamy, romantic love, open sexuality, and a myriad other customs. As a result, each civilization looks upon the other as deeply flawed, if not barbaric.

For many Muslims, the West poses not just an external threat as the infidel invader; it also erodes traditional mechanisms to cope with the internal threat, woman. This leads to widespread worries about adopting Western ways and a preference instead to cling to older customs. Differences in sexuality, in other words, contribute to an overall Muslim reluctance to accept modernity. Fear of Western erotic ways ends up constraining Muslim peoples in the political, economic, and cultural arenas. Sexual apprehensions constitute a key reason for Islam's trauma in the modern era.

And this explains the extreme sensitivity to such varied matters as girls wearing the headscarf in French classrooms,"honor" killings in Jordan, women drivers in Saudi Arabia, and those pictures from Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

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Mark Stephen Thompson - 10/30/2004

Dear Sir,

As you have a PHD in History, it should be assumed you are knowledge about history.

Having seen your Website, it would seem that you are always in favor of allowing the aggressor in any conflict to have the mercy that they would have never given the oppressed.

Do you really think the world would be a better place with Ben Laden, Nazi, Facist, Communist, Socialist or any other group that uses force and fear to gain power running the world.

Please Sir, as a Teacher you have a moral requirement to provide the truch to your students, and let them choose how to use it.

God Bless You

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

Using Mr. Kirstein's example:

Isn't this the juvenile who wrote the infamous memo calling U.S. military personnel baby killers?

Is he still employed by a university?

If so, why?

This man should have been dismissed from his post long ago, not for political reasons, but simply because he is a mannerless, foolish child.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

Mr. Kirstein is the problem we face in trying to make our humanities departments worth attending.

The man is a spoiled brat. He has no political views worth addressing. His views are irrelevant. Years of being rewarding for wise-ass remarks have created this little monster. I used to teach in an English department. The spoiled brat problem is even worse there. I won't pretend that Mr. Kirstein even has an interest in the issues he addresses. He doesn't. His only interest in life is maintaining the stance of the eternal adolescent outraging the adults.

He should have been weeded out in undergraduate school. The fact that he was not suggests just how deep is the crisis in our humanities departments.

The crisis is simply one of adulthood and professional behavior. This man is neither an adult nor a professional. Our humanities departments have a strange knack for advancing such spoiled children.

To address Mr. Kirstein as if he were a serious adult would be a grave mistake. I refuse to do it.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

I left a teaching position in the humanities because of the culture of the spoiled brat that is the humanities. Many people have struggled to envision a way to change this, but none of them have been very successful. Erin O'Connor addresses the issue often, although she does not characterize it as I do.

The fall of Marxism seems only to have exacerbated the problem. This is perplexing, but it is true. The total failure of Marxism, the genocide and impoverishment, have only increased the vehemence of its advocates. As their house has burned down, they have become more passionately attached to this failed and criminal ideology.

Marxism offers the opportunity to blame somebody else for one's problems. This is the most obvious attraction. But, I think that we are dealing here with a deeper psychological problem... letting go of the ideal.

The principle teaching method of the humanities for as long as I can remember is this: We ask the student to state the absolute ideal and then to criticize the world in relation to that ideal. I think that it is time to jettison this method. If the 20th century taught us anything, it is that belief in the ideal is not necessarily a virtue.

I do not believe in the legislative approach favored by David Horowitz. It sounds like a good idea, but I am skeptical of the ability of change being enforced in this way. I believe that we need to change the way we teach and think. Perhaps other readers can offer a better solution.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

You made no comments worth addressing.

The spoiled brat routine is very old. Your attempts to dress it up in some sort of political debate is fatuous.

How many hours a day do you spend sucking your pacifier?

That's about it.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

Mr. Kirstein has an unbelieveable knack for stating another person's opinions for him in absolute confidence.

I didn't leave teaching in a humanities department out of ideological aversion. Once again, you are wrong. It was quite simply the production of spoiled brats that exhausted me. The culture of eternal adolescence is not something I want to be around. I left to teach in corporations, because they pay better (by a lot) and they expect adult behavior from their employees.

How exactly did I become a superpatriot? That's your invention. You are pretty good at that, too.

I didn't really state a political identity. You did that for me, too. Thanks.

Now, try real hard to actually read what I write. This is no small challenge for you, since you are feverishly looking for a fight over a battle that is meaningless to me. In fact, I think that the "right" that you describe is just about non-existent. You are mostly wishing it into existence so that you can continue your adolescent rebellion against it.

I am neither "frustrated or enraged" by you. I'm bored. You are a very boring man, Mr. Kirstein. I've lived for 30 years in San Francisco, New York City and Woodstock, N.Y., and I meet people who won't let go of adolescent rebellion much too often for my liking. Dime a dozen. Every one of them shares this defining characteristic with you: They can't tell the difference between a wise-ass remark and intellectual content. Why they are so convinced that wise-ass remarks reveal great wisdom, I don't know. Perhaps, you can enlighten me in this regard.

I've tried to tell you. I don't consider you a serious player.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

This comment has been removed.

Jed Morocco - 8/21/2004

Sent to Prof? K's boss...and the USAFA

Madame President,

Scorn, contempt, slight regard regarding the quality
of this 'educator' you employ.

See Below. It would seem that Prof K's prior apology
was not that sincere, as he deems it necessary to not
only defend his infamous and ill-informed e-mail
denigrating those who serve, but to re-endorse his
scurrilous assertions. How one regrets 'personalizing
phrases' respecting actions that by implication
require the action of the person is circuitous logical
lunancy. This is the quality of your faculty?

The Professor has every right to voice his intemperate
and, if examined by professionals, I suspect unstable
point of view. I don't think he should be censored.
Let him rant as he will. But, let us not pretend for
one second that he was truly sorry for insulting and
besmirching those who ensure his right to express his
total whackjob world view. At least have the courage
to embrace the fact that this is who you hold out as a
representative of your institution.

It was reported almost two years ago that Prof.
Kirstein was to be supervised and counseled by his


It would appear that either that was pointless or
fraudulent. I really hate to be so base, but the man
is either a fool or an immature child with no
understanding of how the real world operates or the
danger it presents. Thank God, for those of Cadet
Kurpiel's character who will defend to the death Prof.
K's right to be an hateful, idiot. No thanks are


Shame on you for enabling this Professor and exposing
your students not to his views but to his

Jed Morocco

Peter N. Kirstein - 7/13/2004

Dear Mister Thomas,

You are getting better but you still have a tendency to be pejorative and abusive with those whom you disagree with.

I think you are using the child-like metaphor as a substitute for critical thinking. I don't think a professor who is suspended is spoiled. I don't think a professor who has 8 courses a year and over 200 students is spoiled. I don't think a professor that has never seen a teaching assistant is spoiled; I don't think a professor that has faced, whether you agree or not, a mob of protest for almost two years is spoiled; I don't think a professor who was subjected to threats, needed security and yet came to school each day even when under suspension, just to be there is spoiled. I don't think a professor who is willing to fight public opinion and challenge what this violent and racist nation is doing to people in war is childish.

No sir, resistance is serious business and no matter how hard you try, no matter how contemptuous you are of it, YOU KNOW its players are deadly serious in commitment and energy. I can understand your desire to bury it, to hide it, to underestimate its power as merely a "pacifier" suckling. But it is more than that and I aim Mr Thomas to stay with this for many years to come.

Good luck and stay tuned. You will see an article of mine on HNN in September. I hope you find it "serious." I know it will light up the skies.

Peter N. Kirstein

E. Simon - 7/12/2004

You didn't treat him with professionalism the moment you dismissed his wishes as expressed in the post. Having exhausted subsequently expunged threads by "outing" a pseudonym (how brave, by the way), you need to re-read what remains. In those threads you will find that Mr Thomas finds "your attempts to dress it up in some sort of political debate" to be "fatuous." He states that to address you as if you were "a serious adult would be a grave mistake." He has stated that he refuses "to do it."

For those skipping through the threads, here is a link to an example of what Mr. Thomas has described:


There is even less reason to take seriously your false display of concililation. Years after apologizing to Kurpiel, we are apparently treated to a reinvigorated defense of the non-offending portions of your attempt at what you consider to be "academic speech," as if they were ever the issue:


Your personally-directed vitriol and lack of professionalism were the issue.

Yet you go on to ask Mr Thomas to reveal "which position and at what university you resigned in the face of opposition to your beliefs," as if you seriously mean to befriend him as some kind of new ally in the defense of academic freedom. We then see that the kind of academic freedom that interests you most involves seeing the Holocaust in a new and better light:


What you want to do is more readily "expose" him.

Mr Kirstein,

I am not afraid of you. I see right through your tactics. Your "ideology" is hardly the issue. Your sloppy thinking surely contributes to the bizarre conclusions you draw, but the slash and burn-style hypocrisy you employ is what makes you contemptible. You excoriate others personally for merely taking positions you don't agree with, and then ask that they accept your "invitations" to debate you in a civilized manner.

Civilized people hold positions that are consistent with their own behavior.

Some things just can't be dressed up.

Peter N. Kirstein - 7/12/2004

Mr Thomas wrote:

"We ask the student to state the absolute ideal and then to criticize the world in relation to that ideal. I think that it is time to jettison this method. If the 20th century taught us anything, it is that belief in the ideal is not necessarily a virtue."

Well I think the right teaches students that the US is the ideal and rarely questions whether--sorry--the ideal IS the ideal.

The left may demand the ideal but that does not mean that an imperfect society--particularly one that claims to be the ideal, the leader of the "civilised world" or worse "free" world--should be exempt from critical analysis particularly if its claims are fraudulent. Also implicit in your comments is that the left strives for the ideal. I know of no ideology that avoids that.

Peter N. Kirstein

Peter N. Kirstein - 7/12/2004

Mr Thomas,

Maybe the culture of Humanities Departments can be changed. I don't teach in one. I teach in a History and Political Science dept. which is a hybrid of a social science and a humanity. You might indicate from which position and at what university you resigned in the face of opposition to your beliefs. If you know my case, I stuck it out and refused to resign despite widespread opposition to my beliefs. One would think you would embrace the principle of ideological tolerance even if not always present for those academics you sharply disagree with. Yet I am spurred and energized by ideological tussles with the right, or I certainly would not endure the vitriol on this thread. Particularly from posters who won't challenge me directly but through e-mail sniper fake names.

Yet I comprehend your meaning to suggest that academicians like myself are a threat to students, a threat to the United States and should be purged or somehow removed from academe.

Now what I find disheartening is that superpatriots who claim those of us on the far left are inimical to American democracy and its mores, are the ones that want to apply selectively academic freedom or the 1st Amendemtn. Ergo: to those whom they deem to be safe and supportive of American policies.

I do not consider myself a Marxist or a Communist but I am not afraid to state that significant elements of their "theory" I agree and earnestly support. The left cannot be reduced to a parroting of one ideology. The left also should not be dismissed as antiAmerican or dangerous to America. They provide the most telling and significant critique of the ruthless and immoral policies of our government.

I know you are frustrated and enraged by who I am and what I represent. Fair enough. Yet I am willing to explore with you some of these points at least for a day or two. Then I will leave HNN for a spell. However, I will not respond to any more insults or ad hominems from you. I have treated you with professionalism; how about trying with me.



Sandor Lopescu - 7/12/2004

Was anyone else struck by Peter Kirstein's completely helpless use of the English language? I almost think I should show it to my historiography students as an example of how cliches and grammatical errors can obscure even the simplest point.

Sandor Lopescu - 7/12/2004

It has the virtue of brevity, anyway.

Sandor Lopescu - 7/12/2004

He IS still employed--and, searching for new ways to discredit himself, will soon give a paper at David Irving's Holocaust denial conference.
You can't make this stuff up.

Sandor Lopescu - 7/12/2004

Yes, the Kirstein's are a problem, but I think they are more and more a dying breed. Greater competition for jobs has thinned their numbers--the new generation of graduate students seem more connected to the real world, so to speak.
The strengths and weaknesses of humanities departments are that people like Mr. Kirstein can be protected--continue to teach marxisant rubbish, and advance, despite a spotty publishing record and what are undoubtedly negative assesments by his students. But let's not get carried away--he's advancing at Saint Xavier University (whatever that is) and his cohort is, it seems, Holocaust deniers and other fascists.

Sandor Lopescu - 7/12/2004

You are correct--it is the Kisteins that are the problem, not the Kirstein's. Serves me right!
By the way, what's with the scare quotes around historiography? Do you doubt its existence? Do you think that,like the Holocaust, it's just Zionist propaganda?

Sandor Lopescu - 7/12/2004

"This is the kind of knowledge that most Americans are simply ignorant of."

Ungrammatical AND condesecending. That Sontag award was well-earned.

Sandor Lopescu - 7/12/2004

Should I assume that you believe cliterodectomies, practiced in every Islamic country and legal in most, are also liberating procedures?

Sandor Lopescu - 7/12/2004

". . . is only practiced, as I understand it, in sub-Saharan Africa, and is unknown in the nations with the largest Islamic populations."

Forgive my informality. This information is entirely incorrect--the horrible procedure is also practiced regularly in Jordan, Algeria, Yemen, eastern Turkey, and Egypt. Especially Egypt, where, unlike Algeria, the government does nothing to stop it. While it is much less popular elsewhere, it exists to some degree in every Muslim country I can think of--especially thoste where localt Islamic councils have legal authority.
It's also recently been gaining popularity in some places where it was not traditionally practiced, such as Gaza and Pakistan.

Sandor Lopescu - 7/12/2004

I am an untenured history professor at York University, in Ontario, where I, unfortunately, am subject to powerful Kirstein types and therefore must use a pseudonym. For that I apologize.
"Marxisant," is, as one would think Kirstein knew, a French expression, in wide use in intellectual circles. It designates marxist-influenced thought that is too simplistic or vulgar to warrant the term marxist.

Jonathan Dresner - 7/12/2004

I'm sorry you can't seem to grasp it, but there is a difference between clothing and maiming. Perhaps they are on a continuum, but we in the West are not as far from that continuum as you seem to think (remember what attitudes towards rape victims were thirty years ago?), so be careful when you decide not to draw distinctions.

E. Simon - 7/11/2004

Why stop correcting your own errors when you're on such a roll? Looks like you used a zero instead of an "O" in this post. Regardless, your childish deviations from the matter at hand only reinforce your idiocy and inability to contribute. No one takes you seriously and what "drives" you is your own fallacious conclusion that anyone even cares.

E. Simon - 7/11/2004

Actually I spelled it "Attaturk" three times but apparently they forgot to teach you how to count before they forgot to teach you the basics of modern world history. Further, Ataturk is not a word in such common daily usage as a basic staple, like the potato.

I also notice you neglected to address any of the substance of my post, just as you've accused others here of doing with regards to Pipes' article. But as long as I'm still addressing substance, (seeing as how you won't or can't), I'd highlight your use the word "vary" in the first post in the thread, as if being Arab was a variation of being Muslim. I wonder how culturally enlightening you think it is to display that kind of ignorance.

Peter N. Kirstein - 7/11/2004

Finally and I am done with this.

I spelled Quayle as Qualye in the subject above but it was obviously a typo since I spelled it correctly in the original post.

Peter N. Kirstein - 7/11/2004

Oops, and I live in Chicago where this famed double-play combination played for the Cubbies.

It was: Tinker to Evers to Chance.

Peter N. Kirstein - 7/11/2004

Vice President Dan Quayle spelled "P-0-T-A-T-O" during a lesson to a 6th grade class in Trenton: P-O-T-A-T-O-E.

Mister Ephraim J. Simon twice spelled Mustafa Kemal "A-T-A-T-U-R-K." A-T-T-A-T-U-R-K.


Peter N. Kirstein

E. Simon - 7/11/2004

How very thoughtful of the brave resistance fighter, Mr. Kirstein, to appropriate the example of Turkey. For some reason I don't sense any revulsion on his part against the culture-killing tactics of that great Western imerialist in disguise, Kemal Attaturk. Perhaps James Thornton could help clarify for him the great number of Arab/Bedouin cultural holdovers that had been swallowed up and accepted throughout non-Arab segments of the Muslim world, even into Attaturk's time. One wonders whether Kirstein would find Attaturk ignorant, arrogant or perhaps even belligerent in jettisoning Arab script or Islamic jurisprudence, for instance, and embracing Western political and legal (and cultural) norms.

Interesting phrasing, too - referring to Turkey as a "Muslim state" that varies to the "secular." No need to avoid contradiction when one relies so much on conflating between a "cultural" trait - which to Kirstein is necessarily positive and enlightening - particularly if foreign, and a political or legal characteristic.

Jonathan Dresner - 7/10/2004

Prof. Lopescu,

Pseudonyms are not permitted on the HNN boards. Please follow the "What rules govern discussion boards?" link on the "Post a Comment" form.

While I sympathize with your position (being untenured myself), I remember the discussion boards when pseudonyms were permitted, and I have no desire to return to those days.

It is highly likely that the editor of this site will, in fact, delete your pseudonymonous posts, unless you contact him (editor@historynewsnetwork.org) and arrange for your previous posts to be put under your real name.

E. Simon - 7/10/2004

In this instance Kirstein's taunting is a bit like watching ringside as he exclaims his superiority over an opponent for refusing to mud-wrestle him in the nude.

His false "religious war" analogies are especially curious. Apparently this pious nation of ours has a long history of commiting inter-religious warfare against other Christian nations, such as Britain, Spain, Italy and various Latin American states. One can't forget the Nazi leadership of Christian Germany either.

Peter N. Kirstein - 7/10/2004

However, to return to the main event which presumably is to analyze and ruminate upon Mr Pipes's article:

While related to an earlier point I made, some embellishment is helpful. One of the basic strategies of militarists and national-security elites is to construct striking and unbridgeable differences with the "other." If successful, this will exacerbate ethnocentrism and xenophobia and facilitate the use of criminal force and state terrorism against the "other."

While Mr Pipes is a Middle Eastern specialist, he is not immune from politicizing his scholarship--the same "evil" he so viciously accused others of doing in his Campus Watch enemies list. In attempting to portray Islam as antimodern in its sexual ethos, and uniformly depraved in its treatment of women--as if the US does not have a history of patriarchy--Mr Pipes hopes to desensitize his audience when an imperial America slaughters and burns thousands of innocent Muslims. Mr Pipes should be depicted for what he is. A supporter of preemptive war and unjustifiable carnage against Iraq and other Muslim states.

Peter N. Kirstein

Peter N. Kirstein - 7/10/2004

Hmmm. An individual who hides behind a fake name. Well, I won this little battle did not I?

Peter N. Kirstein - 7/10/2004

To Mimic CSI: Mr Lopescu: "Who Are You? Who Who, Who Who? Who are You..."

Re Mr Lopescu:

This “historian” claims to be a university professor. He wrote in a thread:

“I almost think I should show it to my historiography students as an example of how cliches and grammatical errors can obscure even the simplest point.” (#37695)

He also wrote "especially thoste where localt Islamic councils have legal authority." He also accused me of using “marxisant” pedagogy.

Yet I recognize that writing posts may not reflect the same editing attention that Mr Lopescu demands from others.

When I Googled “Sandor Lopescu”, only two entries appeared:

History News Network
... Return to 12 Questions for President Bush. One Question for Chalmers
Johnson (#36155) by Sandor A. Lopescu on June 7, 2004 at 11:04 AM. ...
hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=36155 - 9k - Cached - Similar pages

12 Questions for President Bush
... One Question for Chalmers Johnson by Sandor A. Lopescu (June 7, 2004
at 11:04 AM): Re: One Question for Chalmers Johnson by Arnold ...
hnn.us/articles/5476.html - 21k - Cached - Similar pages

I am curious where this “professor” holds an appointment and whether he addresses his fellow colleagues, with whom he may disagree with, with the same degree of stridency that he has displayed here.

Also in an earlier thread Mr Lopescu referred to my publications as “spotty” and crudely insulted the institution where I am a tenured full professor. (#37742)
I attempted to identify some publications that bore his authorship. I was unable to locate any through Google, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. As a colleague and fellow historian, could you kindly direct me to some of your published work? I would be interested in reading them?

Thank you,

Peter N. Kirstein
Andrew Sullivan’s Blog: Sontag Award Winner Runner Up.


E. Simon - 7/10/2004

Your second paragraph poses an interesting question. I am not convinced that Kirstein wouldn't give a give a talk on free speech before the KKK. In his previous post he somehow conflates George W. Bush's right to speak at Bob Jones University with the quality of not being a racist or demagogue. Apparently in his mind, being blamed for something makes you innocent of it. It doesn't seem to have crossed his feeble mind that there is no legal basis in this country upon which to deny free speech to racists or practically any other group in this country by virtue of their beliefs alone.

How sad and pathetic, his yearning to "bring 'em on!" His need to feel driven by suppression is not nearly as significant as the fact that nobody cares much for what he has to say, or finds it very interesting.

E. Simon - 7/10/2004

Not much in my view. They are two sides of the same coin. One prospectively punishes women for enjoying sex and the other prospectively punishes them for being attractive enough to invite it. The message is clear: even in sex, and in every aspect thereof, female subservience is to be reinforced. They are to be prohibitted from enjoying sex or inviting it.

Men, on the other hand, get to kill rape victims. How enlightening it is that women are even blamed for being the object of male brutality. Apparently we in the West have a long way to go, and much to learn - especially in the arena of violating and controlling others.

Jonathan Dresner - 7/10/2004

If you're right, it is a significant and troubling development. I'll have to look into this some more. If you have source suggestions, I'd appreciate it.

Jonathan Dresner - 7/9/2004

Mr. Lopescu,

No, you should not: you should not assume anything about me, actually, unless it's based in my writings or actions. I find that people who try to assume things about me are wrong the vast majority of the time. It's a very unpleasant way to carry on a discussion, too. And I don't respond well to nicknames from people who don't know me.

That procedure, which ranks among the most abusive cultural practices in human history, is only practiced, as I understand it, in sub-Saharan Africa, and is unknown in the nations with the largest Islamic populations. Most of Islam takes a more behavioral, rather than medical, approach to controlling social sexuality.

Jonathan Dresner - 7/9/2004

Mr. Lopescu:

First, the "don't end a sentence with a preposition" stricture is viewed by modern grammarians as a passing phase, as the language has long allowed such constructions and the 20th century attempt to ban them never did much good.

Second, it is indeed true that within Islamic societies the veil is justified as protective, even liberating from sexualized gaze, and many Islamic women have publicly written and spoken about this, but few of them have gotten a substantial hearing in the US. I tend to view this argument as supplementing, rather than contradicting the subjugation argument (in other words, it's not all bad). So Prof. Kirstein's statement is a one of fact which speaks more to the nature of the media and education than to the character of "most Americans."

Oh, and you misspelled "condescending."

E. Simon - 7/8/2004

What impresses me more is the restatement of his psychopathologically vindicating rant against the cadet, after an apology was made for the despicably and innappropriately personal manner in which it was made. While it may be reasonable to apologize for issuing a vile and unwarranted personal attack when one's job is on the line, the really courageous thing is to practically recant the gesture when in the clear. Here is a man who is obviously capable of standing up for his beliefs. How courageous... or is it bravado? It's hard to tell when a delusionally paranoid sense of persecution is what motivates "speaking out."

E. Simon - 7/8/2004

What impresses me more is the restatement of his psychopathologically vindicating rant against the cadet, after an apology was made for the despicably and innappropriately personal manner in which it was made. While it may be reasonable to apologize for issuing a vile and unwarranted personal attack when one's job is on the line, the really courageous thing is to practically recant the gesture when in the clear. Here is a man who is obviously capable of standing up for his beliefs. How courageous... or is it bravado? It's hard to tell when a delusionally paranoid sense of persecution is what motivates "speaking out."

Peter N. Kirstein - 7/8/2004

its purpose I meant :)

Peter N. Kirstein - 7/8/2004

I thought your comment on veiling was of interest. Many construe it merely as a form of subjugation, and you have suggested it's purpose is more benign. This is the kind of knowledge that most Americans are simply ignorant of.

One of the hazards of going to war with a different and unique culture is that the forces of nationalism and militarism--some fervently expressed in this thread-- frequently distort that culture to serve the needs of the national security elites. You provided an interesting corrective.

James E. Thornton - 7/8/2004

I disagree with Pipe's thesis. Islam is obsessed with sex, but their approach to gender relations should be viewed as a Bedouin cultural trait passed to the faith rather than a direct result of the faith itself. Mohammed sought to improve the status of women in ancient Arabia, and in the Koran as well as the hadiths men are depicted as lustful and women as temptuous.

Bedouin, and consequently Arab, culture is a collectivist, patriarchal, and tribal society. Since they are also patrilineal they are concerned about lineage, which establishes tribal and clan identity as well as inheirtance. Furthermore, the concept of face is deeply interwined into these cultures. Women are the custodians of honor in Arab and Islamic society. Veiling is for protection rather than submission.

Finally, examine the hadith on the nature of Paradise. Only two houris (virgins) are explicity promised, but the bottom line is that Heaven is a place where you can engage in unadulterated recreational sex, while Earth is for procreation.

Grant W Jones - 7/8/2004

Peter Kirstein is such a exercise in self-parody it would not be possible to use him as a fictional character.

Would Kirstein give a talk on free speech before an assembly of the KKK? He is too thick to realize that his presence on the boat ride (like those special guests) is designed to give Irving a facade of respectability. If Kirstein is the best he can do, no worries on that score.

Peter N. Kirstein - 7/8/2004

Professor Craig's review was of Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich which was suppressed in the US. I mentioned Apocalypse as an afterthought.

Peter N. Kirstein - 7/8/2004

Mr Lopescu,

You used that as the name of your class where I was going to be the archetype of historical illiteracy.

I have never done any research on the holocaust, do not know German and have never published in the area. There were camps, millions killed, millions dispossessed, a horror to be sure. Yet there are valuable questions on the subject that I am afraid have been suppressed. I will NOT be speaking on that issue but as you saw on my website, it will be on the specific topic of the rights of historians to engage in revisionist history: be it left or right revisionism.

Gordon A. Craig, J.E. Wallace Sterling Professor Emeritus of Humanities at Stanford, did a very significant review on Irving’s rights to publish and acknowledged his profound impact on the historiography of World War II. His review of Irving’s book appeared in the New York Review, VOLUME 43, NUMBER 14 • SEPTEMBER 19, 1996. Read his Apocalypse 1945 on Dresden, a truly brilliant study on the evils of war and in particular strategic bombing.

I have also spoken to veterans groups and that does not mean I support what veterans did in war. I am an absolute pacifist. I will speak to any audience that invites me as long as I am free to say and articulate what I want. I did not like it when candidate George Bush was criticized for speaking at Bob Jones University. They called him demagogic and racist. No, he had every right to speak there. Oh, I would jump at the opportunity to speak there. I probably would be booed off the stage as I was in Wilmette addressing the Korean War Veterans.

Got to run and read some Marx!


Peter N. Kirstein - 7/8/2004

Could someone address the comments I made on Mr Pipes, or merely present their own? While I am flattered with all the attention I am receiving, I was trying to trigger a dialogue on Pipes's article. Perhaps someone versed in the history of sexuality or hails from cultural anthropology could offer a brief critique.

Come on guys (and hopefully womyn), let's now debate the issues I raised or some new ones that pertain to Mr Pipes.

Peter N. Kirstein

Peter N. Kirstein - 7/8/2004

Mr Lopescu,

I believe "the Kirstein's" in your first sentence was erroneously punctuated. It should have been "Kirsteins" since you were I believe using a plural form.

I will demonstrate that to my class on "historiography" as an error in basic writing.

I appreciate your rage and hostility. That's what energizes me and propels my career.

Peter N. Kirstein

Peter N. Kirstein - 7/8/2004

I will speak before any audience whether on the right or the left. I will defend the rights of any historian to publish and be heard. Throwing around terms of opprobrium may be good for the angst, but they don't add much in the way of public discourse.

The baby killing charge is borne out by the manner in which we fight wars--particularly unjust ones. I know one thing. I think my e-mail that Mr Thomas is referring to--except for the personalized phrases--has been more than validated by the current crime in Iraq.

Let me quote more liberally from the email that continues to upset Mr Thomas who believe professors should be fired who write acerbic email that oppose war.

I denounced in my e-mail the “aggressive baby killing tactics of collateral damage.” I refused to admire “top guns [who] rain death and destruction upon nonwhite peoples throughout the world.” I excoriated “cowards who bomb countries without AAA, without possibility of retaliation;” I denounced “imperialists who are turning the whole damn world against us.” I believe history has already vindicated my accusation that “September 11 can be blamed in part for what you and your cohorts have done to the Palestinians, the VC, the Serbs, a retreating army at Basra.” Seems pretty resonable to me.

Folks, how about Mr Pipes's article? Would any of you care to address his comments?

It's been many months since I have contributed to HNN here. I am glad people still have strong views even if rather personal and ad hominem. Yet as your President Bush says, "Bring 'em on!"

Peter N. Kirstein

Peter N. Kirstein - 7/8/2004

Mr Simon,

Actually, I was attempting to do the opposite of “lumping.” By citing the three Muslim states that vary from Arab, to secular, to post-colonial, I wanted to demonstrate the disparate nature of the Muslim world. Mr Pipes pursues a reductionist approach as he advances his xenophobic, Huntingtonesque world of a “clash of civilizations.”

I think he should also be condemned for his insensitivity to the torture and even apparent murder of POW at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad. He refers to Arab revulsion against these Gestapo-type tactics as “extreme sensitivity.” His own president, who appointed him to the United States Institute of Peace, described it as a “shame.” While Arab sensibilities may have indeed been aroused by witnessing photos of women sexually dominating and torturing men, the widespread reaction to these horrors was transnational and universal. For the polemicist, Mr Pipes, to allege that any culture, even the Arab one that he so obviously despises, reflected an “extreme sensitivity” to its reaction to Abu Ghraib, is disgraceful.

My letter to the New York Times on Abu Ghraib was illustrative of a "Western modernist" response to these despicable violations of the Geneva Convention. Perhaps Mr Lopescu will also share this with his students as well.


Peter N. Kirstein

E. Simon - 7/7/2004

When you lump together Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Indonesia in an analysis of what's acceptable in a society you make it clear that you are no political specialist, either. You speak as if a nation's laws governing individual freedoms had no bearing on the behavior of its people. Did you want to blame Pipes, too, for not bringing this up?

Peter N. Kirstein - 7/7/2004

As is typical of Mr Pipes, an individual we should recall who tried to destroy the reputations of Middle Eastern scholars with whom he disagreed with, he makes sweeping generalizations about Muslims views on sexuality. Muslims, I presume like westerners, vary in their mores and ethos. I presume there must be disparate notions of sexuality in Turkey, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia for example. I am not a Middle Eastern specialist but can still opine on this man's analysis.

While Mr Pipes rather sarcastically reduces Muslim antipathy to "the infidel invader" as a fear of unleashing the independence of women, I would say Mr Pipes would do well to consider the moral, ethical and political implications of violent militaristic neoconservatives who invaded a nation that was neither a threat to the US nor its enemies. I think the notion of modernity--or its lack thereof could be more appropriately applied to the US: A nation stuck in its regimented, nonprogressive view of empire with its attendant glorification of power and racist disregard of Muslim and Arab peoples.

History will judge Mr Pipes as a threat to modernity as he is lives in the world of McCarthyism and lacks the capacity to appreciate or acknowledge responsible, reasonable discourse that posits disparate views from his own.

One of the reasons the US is in its most perilous state, perhaps since its formation, was the belief of Pipesian neoconservatives that they could rule the world from their lofty empire in Washington. They lost but as usual it will be the masses and the dead soldiers who pay the price.

Peter N. Kirstein