Early this afternoon, Politico’s Ben Smith posted a report that the Obama campaign had decided to hire a Muslim liaison and that the person likely to be tapped for the position was Hiam Nawas, a Jordanian-American who held that position in the Wesley Clark campaign four years ago. Smith proceeded to quote from (and link to) an article Nawas wrote in 1985, saying that he had advocated that the Bush administration take “a more nuanced approach to public diplomacy directed at Muslim women.” And he quoted the following:
“We need to recognise that the social structure in the Muslim world is very different from America’s,” she [sic] wrote. “American women need to understand that what is best for them is not necessarily what is best for Muslim women. Advocacy of women’s rights in the Muslim world must show sensitivity to local political realities.”
Whereupon has ensued a small flood of comments, most of them filled with anti-Muslim and anti-Obama vituperation, many acidly suggesting that, right, we Americans should understand that Muslim women want to be subjugated etc. etc. In fact, as a quick click on the link shows, Nawas is anything but an apologist for the subjugation of women in Muslim countries. Yes, he makes the point that the condition of women varies a great deal among these countries, and that it would be good if the administration took account of the variations. But contra Smith’s commenters, he is precisely an advocate for women’s rights, American style. His article concludes as follows:
Moreover, while Muslim Americans do not always agree with US foreign policy, they are virtually unanimous in their high regard for American values. It would therefore behoove American women’s organisations to involve more Muslim American women in their efforts.
Finally, the message must be clear that there can be no real democracy in the Muslim world without the full participation of women in society.
Like sharks amid chum, the commenters had all they needed to know in the quote Smith chose to reproduce. Almost as dispiriting, none of the handful of counter-commenters (at least so far) has bothered to look at the article either and correct them. Jeez.