Criticizing Islam or Islamic society is often risky business. Say an unkind word about it and one is liable to be vilified as an intolerant, ignorant bigot.
Documentary producer Raphael Shore knows this firsthand. His films “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West” (2005) and “The Third Jihad: Radical Islam’s Vision for America” (2008), were branded Islamaphobic and attacked by liberal watchdog groups.
Undaunted, Shore recently produced yet another controversial documentary, “Honor Diaries,” which highlights the pervasiveness of underage marriage, honor violence, and female circumcision in Muslim societies. Although intended to help women, the film has been harshly criticized by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which successfully lobbied to have screenings of the film at the University of Illinois and University of Michigan canceled.
The Jewish Press recently spoke to Raheel Raza, president of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, and one of nine activists prominently featured in “Honor Diaries.”
The Jewish Press: This film bills itself as “more than a movie, it is a movement to save women and girls from human rights abuses – around the world and here in America.” And yet it seems like conservatives are the ones championing this film while liberals, who claim to fight for human rights, are generally standing on the sidelines. Why is that?
Raza: It’s always been this way. I’ve been an activist for over 25 years, and I have always found that there is a deep silence when it comes to issues relating to women – especially Muslim women. Western feminist groups and liberals don’t want to touch the topic; they drop it like a hot coal….
One reason is political correctness. A second one is fear. They’re coerced into silence by Islamist organizations telling them they’ll be called racist or that there’s no need for them to speak about someone else’s culture. But we [believe] that cultural relativism should not trump human rights. It’s not about religion or culture or a specific group of people. It’s about human rights. And those who are trying to shut the dialogue or who are not supporting this cause obviously don’t care about human rights.
But some people believe it’s wrong to interfere in someone else’s culture.
Why is it wrong to interfere? As a human being, if you see someone else being hurt, are you just going to look the other way and allow them to be hurt because it happens to be another culture or because it happens to be justified by part of their faith? Why? Why this exception only in terms of Islam or Muslim societies? They would speak out for anyone else.
There are people who champion animal rights. Are women not as important as animals? Are they not our sisters? Are they not our daughters? So to me it seems to be a double standard. It’s looking the other way and it’s absolutely appalling and unacceptable because unless we create awareness we’re not going to be able to solve the problem.
And these practices are not just happening in other countries. They’re happening in the U.S. and in Canada, and they’re on the rise.
How do you respond to the claim that what you’re fighting is, in effect, Islam since Islam condones some of the practices that “Honor Diaries” finds deplorable? Take the issue of child brides, for example. Some Muslims argue that they are simply following the example of Muhammad, who married a child of six when he was 50 years old.
Well, that is their ignorance speaking. Those people who think this is accurate have not read their history properly. Again, this is not about religion. It is about a human rights violation.