Here in North Dakota junior Senator Heidi Heitkamp has made a really big deal about the issue of human trafficking. See this interview as evidence of her passion for the issue.
Heitkamp’s concern is justified. Human trafficking is an awful thing worthy of scrutiny and action by policymakers.
So it’s interesting, then, that during a committee hearing recently during which two women testified about the treatment of women in Islamic regimes Senator Heitkamp seemed largely checked out.
The women – Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Asra Q. Nomani – wrote about the experienced of being brushed off in the New York Times noting that the Democrats on the committee seemed disinterested in the brutal treatment of women in some Islamic societies.
“Just as we are invisible to the mullahs at the mosque, we were invisible to the Democratic women in the Senate,” they write:
The Democrats on the panel, including Senator Harris and three other Democratic female senators — North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan and Missouri’s Claire McCaskill — did not ask either of us a single question …Just as we are invisible to the mullahs at the mosque, we were invisible to the Democratic women in the Senate.
How to explain this experience? Perhaps Senators Heitkamp, Harris, Hassan and McCaskill are simply uninterested in sexism and misogyny. But obviously, given their outspoken support of critical women’s issues, such as the kidnapping of girls in Nigeria and campus sexual assault, that’s far from the case…
There is a real discomfort among progressives on the left with calling out Islamic extremism. Partly they fear offending members of a “minority” religion and being labeled racist, bigoted or Islamophobic. There is also the idea, which has tremendous strength on the left, that non-Western women don’t need “saving” — and that the suggestion that they do is patronizing at best. After all, the thinking goes, if women in America still earn less than men for equivalent work, who are we to criticize other cultures?
I think Senator Heitkamp is very interested in the issues of sexism and misogyny when those issues are politically advantageous. Issues like the gender wage gap and, yes, human trafficking are low hanging fruit politically speaking.
But talking about the brutal misogyny embraced by extremist Islam? That’s far more risky, especially for politicians on the left.
As Ali and Nomani write, our friends on the left are far too reticent when it comes to speaking out against Islamic extremism.