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Tuesday, September 24, 2013


My life of hell in an Afghan harem

Why would a nice Jewish girl marry a Muslim Afghan? 

It is 1959. I am only 18 when my prince — a dark, older, handsome, westernized foreigner who had traveled abroad from his native home in Afghanistan — bedazzles me.

We meet at Bard College, where he is studying economics and politics and I am studying literature on scholarship.

Abdul-Kareem is the son of one of the founders of the modern banking system in Afghanistan. He wears designers sunglasses and bespoke suits and when he visits New York City, he stays at the Plaza.

He is also Muslim.

I am Jewish, raised in an Orthodox home in Borough Park, Brooklyn, the daughter of Polish immigrants. My dad worked door-to-door selling soda and seltzer.

But none of this matters. We don’t talk about religion. Instead, we stay up all night discussing film, opera and theater. We are bohemians.

We date for two years. Then, when I express my desire to travel, he asks me to marry him.

I don't think we're getting the whole story here, but it doesn't matter. She arrives in Kabul and finds what it's like to live in a compound with a mother-in-law who's ready to kill her if she doesn't obey.  And a husband who's transformed from a well dressed, "Westernized" bohemian to a Muslim in a Muslim society.  Let's just say that it's not what she expected. 

She finally escapes, sick and pregnant. And she not only survives but learns something about the romantic image that Liberalism weaves with its fantasy of multiculturalism.

I’ve never told this story in detail before, but felt that I must now. Because I hear some westerners preach the tortured cultural relativism that excuses the mistreatment of women in the name of Islam. Because I see the burqa on the streets of Paris and New York and feel that Afghanistan has followed me back to America.

I call myself a feminist — but not just any feminist. My kind of feminism was forged in the fires of Afghanistan. There I received an education — an expensive, almost deadly one — but a valuable one, too.

I understand firsthand how deep-seated the hatred of women is in that culture. I see how endemic indigenous barbarism and cruelty is and unlike many other intellectuals and feminists, I don’t try to romanticize or rationalize it.

I got out, and I will never return.
She also manages to translate the experiences she had at the hands of her first lover to her all men.  She was primed for it as a young girl and never really learned to outgrow it as a woman.  It should have been a teachable moment; instead she incorporated her treatment in Afghanistan into her skewed worldview.  Rather sad.

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