Having opined recently about the strong statistical likelihood that increased Muslim immigration into the US will bring a higher level of terrorism, it seems appropriate for me to comment on the only sensible antidote possible over time to bring down this threat here and elsewhere: Empowering women—particularly in Muslim countries.
Let me begin with some background. There are numerous reports, books and speeches that have been made for years on the favorable effect of empowering women.
The latest, a new United Nations Population Fund [UNFPA] Report "says women hold the key to solving climate change." [State of World Population 2009] Well, that is a new one, but certainly the arguments made in the report are plausible. From UNFPA`s press release:
"The report shows that climate change relates differently to women, men, boys and girls, and differently among countries around the world, and even within nations.
"In London, UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid noted that environmental damage `is one of the most inequitable risks of our time.` The carbon footprint of the poorest billion people on Earth is 3 percent of the world`s total, yet it is the poor, especially poor women, who will bear the disproportionate brunt of climate change, she said.
"`For many people, especially poor women in poor countries, climate change is here and now,` she said. `Women work hard to keep their households together. They fetch the water, find the food and the fuel to cook it, and clean up afterwards. They watch their children`s health and care for their illnesses. In recent years, both food and fuel have been harder to find. The available water carries parasites. Malaria is creeping into areas that used to be mosquito-free. And floods, rising seas and drought present growing challenges.`
The report recommends that countries invest in green technology and reduce emissions, but says they should also empower women to make their own decisions and be involved in public decisions that affect their lives. Nations should invest in women by ensuring alternatives to wood and imported fuel; secure clean water supplies; better roads; access to education for girls; and access to health care, including reproductive health services, especially for women, the report said."[New UNFPA Report Says Women Hold the Key to Solving Climate Change]
Ok, let`s further posit that other long-advocated elements, such as more family planning and better education opportunities for women, are also key to lower birth rates which could eventually stabilize world population at levels which our increasingly vulnerable planet can tolerate–it won`t comfortably tolerate the 10 plus billion population now predicted by later in this century.
This burgeoning population growth will surely continue unless women are provided the means to determine their own fertility. Today, Third World cultures—such as in the Middle East—are totally male-dominated . In too many places, women, half of the world`s population, cannot achieve their wishes in every department of life from child bearing to education and career goals. Their terrible mistreatment has been repeatedly exposed, none perhaps more eloquently or poignantly than in the Kristoff/WuDunn book, Half The Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide.
As I argued in my article on the Gates Foundation`s misguided priorities, the massive creation of excess people in places where birth rates have run rampant, inevitably extrude people—which, of course, means emigration to less populated, richer, safer, more democratic countries in Europe and the USA.
But let me put forth a further, more urgent argument, one which has been forecast earlier in a seminal, but almost ignored book entitled Sex and War: How Biology Explains Warfare and Terrorism and Offers a Path to a Safer World, by Malcolm Potts and Thomas Hayden.
You may not be surprised to be told that it is primarily male humans who bring us war. But perhaps you are unaware or unmindful of the driving force behind male tendencies to make war since the dawn of human history—the male sex drive.
As Malcolm Potts and Thomas Hayden remind us in Sex and War, for much of human history the most successful and dominant males went to war, took the spoils and—exhibiting classic Darwinian behavior—raped and impregnated women, thereby benefitting future generations with their genes. You know, Genghis Khan, etc.
Potts explains how crowding and the loss of food supplies leads to wars that are often entered into with enthusiasm by young males who, motivated by patriotism or seeking escape from unemployment or boredom, bond with their mates in tight groups and find excitement or even joy in battle.
The power of group loyalty and, yes, the reported joy of killing put male behavior into sharp focus vs. that of females.
A benign manifestation of aggressive male behavior or team aggression can be observed at NFL games, both on the field and in the stands. A more dangerous manifestation can be observed among terrorists, who are clearly imbued—and motivated—by stories of heroic group male behavior.
So let`s talk about the key to peace. Plainly, obviously, and without doubt, the longer-term solution much come via the full realization of empowering women. Yes, women`s empowerment. The now not-so-secret weapon which could do the job that endless wars and male-dominated conflict cannot.
Look at our own country, and anywhere where women have achieved positions of freedom, basic human rights and political power. Such positive actions have been occurring for years. For example, a Senegalese based group, Tostan, by stressing basic human rights for women has enabled the abandonment of the ancient practice of female genital cutting in thousands of villages. On my visits to several of these emancipated villages in 2007, I found males and females living in a co-operative atmosphere. Greatly improved overall education and general environmental conditions were evident.
The November 11th peace award to an Afghan woman, Suraya Pakzad, from Peace X Peace, provides encouraging evidence that women internationally are joining in efforts to change their inferior status by banding together.
As described in a November 13, 2009 Washington Post article, Peace awards spotlight Afghan women`s efforts Post writer, Mary Jordan says
"Suraya Pakzad was 12 when she saw a gunman kill the headmistress of her Afghan school because the woman taught girls and refused to wear a head scarf. A few weeks later, a rocket smashed into the school and killed a student sitting near her, another warning for girls not to learn.
"Now 39 and a celebrity known for her courageous work to further women`s rights in Afghanistan, Pakzad sat in a grand Washington hall Wednesday night where she was being honored with a new local prize for female peacemakers, tears welling in her intense brown eyes when asked about her own safety at home.
"`During the night, sometimes I am scared,` said the mother of six who runs secret shelters for abused women and runaway child brides. `Sometimes I think if they come to get me in my house, it will be hard for my children to see it. `"
The honoree, of course, argues against an American pullout now, saying it would stop Afghan women`s progress.
The article underlines a key peace strategy with which I so greatly agree.
"Pakzad, called one of the 100 most influential people in the world this year by Time Magazine, was honored in Washington at the Carnegie Institution by the Peace X Peace group.
"Formed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the District-based nonprofit seeks to connect women around the world via the Internet. The founder, McLean photographer and writer Patricia Smith Melton, said she called a group of international women to her home shortly after 9/11 to try to answer the question, `What is peace and how can women build it?` She wanted to focus on women, she said, after looking `at the state of the world and who it was dominated by.`
"That discussion in Northern Virginia led to Peace X Peace (pronounced `Peace by Peace`), which now has `circles of women` in more than 100 countries. The Internet discussion topics include how to prevent violence and strengthen women`s rights. Melton`s husband is an Internet entrepreneur who founded a company responsible for the credit authorization terminals on retail counters around the world.
"This year, the group awarded its first Women, Power and Peace Awards to Pakzad; Fatima Gailani, president of the Afghan Red Crescent Society, part of the International Red Cross movement; Abigail Disney, an American filmmaker whose acclaimed documentary `Pray the Devil Back to Hell` tells the story of the peace efforts of women in Liberia; and Mario Morino, co-founder of Venture Philanthropy Partners, which funds Washington area nonprofits, including some focused on women.
"In an interview, Gailani said she, too, was worried about Americans growing weary of the war in her homeland. `Tomorrow, I don`t want to wake up and open my eyes and you are not there. It`s really scary.`
"She said she hopes Americans see the Afghanistan war as a fight not just for the people in her country, but also for the security of those in the United States who want to ride their subways and use their airports without fear of al-Qaeda."
Of course the price of such uppity advocacy has included assassinations by extremists who don`t want women`s progress, which includes working outside the home!
As the events of Ft. Hood underline, the worst qualities of Islam will continue to bubble up all over the world, increasingly in the USA and Europe. The empowerment of Muslim women will likely prove the only longer-term path to molding Islam into a faith which does not teach and practice Jihadism.
More unwanted births from un-empowered women equals more violence—and more immigration.
Donald A. Collins [email him], is a freelance writer living in Washington DC and a former long time member of the board of FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. His views are his own.