Last week, Sen. Kamala Harris became the left’s designated victim of the month because she was interrupted by Republican Senators during a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Harris kept interrupting the witness, Attorney General Jeff Session, so it’s debatable whether she had a genuine grievance. Nonetheless, the Democrats and their media allies were quick to level hackneyed allegations that, once again, sexist patriarchs have tried to silence a woman “speaking truth to power.”
The next day, two women with genuine grievances of sexism testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, of which Harris, regrettably, is a member. The women were our friend Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Asra Q. Noman.
Both were born into deeply religious Muslim families. Ayaan is a survivor of female genital mutilation and forced marriage. Asra defied Shariah by having a baby while unmarried.
Both have been threatened with death by jihadists for things they have said and done. Ayaan cannot appear in public without armed guards.
You might have thought that Sen. Harris would show considerable interest in what these victims of sexism had to say. If so, you don’t grasp that Harris’ slavish adherence to the left’s taboo against calling out Islamists trumps any real commitment she may have to women’s rights.
Here, as told by Ayaan and Asra in the New York Times, is what happened:
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.
This wasn’t a case of benign neglect. At one point, Senator McCaskill said that she took issue with the theme of the hearing itself. “Anyone who twists or distorts religion to a place of evil is an exception to the rule,” she said. “We should not focus on religion,” she said, adding that she was “worried” that the hearing, organized by Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, would “underline that.” In the end, the only questions asked of us about Islamist ideologies came from Senator Johnson and his Republican colleague, Senator Steve Daines from Montana.
Ayaan and Asra nail the meaning of what went down:
[W]hat happened that day was emblematic of a deeply troubling trend among progressives when it comes to confronting the brutal reality of Islamist extremism and what it means for women in many Muslim communities here at home and around the world.
When it comes to the pay gap, abortion access and workplace discrimination, progressives have much to say. But we’re still waiting for a march against honor killings, child marriages, polygamy, sex slavery or female genital mutilation.
They will be waiting for a long time.
Ayaan and Asra continue:
[W]hen we speak about Islamist oppression, we bring personal experience to the table in addition to our scholarly expertise. Yet the feminist mantra so popular when it comes to victims of sexual assault — believe women first — isn’t extended to us. Neither is the notion that the personal is political. Our political conclusions are dismissed as personal; our personal experiences dismissed as political.
That’s because in the rubric of identity politics, our status as women of color is canceled out by our ideas, which are labeled “conservative” — as if opposition to violent jihad, sex slavery, genital mutilation or child marriage were a matter of left or right. This not only silences us, it also puts beyond the pale of liberalism a basic concern for human rights and the individual rights of women abused in the name of Islam.
Why aren’t leftists willing to call out Islamic extremism? Ayaan and Asra offer this explanation:
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?
This is extreme moral relativism disguised as cultural sensitivity. And it leads good people to make excuses for the inexcusable.
The silence of the Democratic senators is a reflection of contemporary cultural pressures. Call it identity politics, moral relativism or political correctness — it is shortsighted, dangerous and, ultimately, a betrayal of liberal values.
Ayaan and Asra have said it all. Almost. Another point needs to be made.
Sen. Harris and her fellow female committee members are cowards. If they believe Ayaan and Asra are presenting a misleading picture of Islam, based on their “exceptional” experiences, then take them on. Make the point by asking probing questions, the way Harris’ cheerleaders think she did with Jeff Sessions.
Harris wouldn’t do it. She probably recognized that Ayaan would have carved her up to the point that even her cheerleaders couldn’t have declared her the victor. So the supposedly fearless ace ex-prosecutor took the coward’s way out and tried to minimize the extent to which Ayaan and Asra were heard.
Ayaan and Asra conclude:
We believe feminism is for everyone. Our goals — not least the equality of the sexes — are deeply liberal. We know these are values that the Democratic senators at our hearing share. Will they find their voices and join us in opposing Islamist extremism and its war on women?
This is the only off-key note in their article. The goals and values of Ayaan and Asra are not the goals and values of Harris and most of her fellow Democrats.
As for the voices of Harris and her colleagues, what you hear, or in this case didn’t hear, is what you get.