GENEVA (AP) – European governments are allowing Islamic fundamentalists to trample on the rights of Muslim women under the guise of respecting different cultures, campaigners said Monday, citing instances of forced marriage, domestic violence and genital mutilation.
The activists, including outspoken Dutch parliamentarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali, called on European countries to do more to combat human-rights abuses in Muslim immigrant communities, particularly those directed against women.
Muslim women in European countries “are beaten, they are forced to marry, they are genitally mutilated, they are taken by their parents to their country of origin and kept there against their wills,” Hirsi Ali said. “Sometimes they are even killed.”
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Hirsi Ali, a Somali immigrant who has become a prominent women’s advocate in the Dutch parliament, said European countries have to accept that women are more threatened within Muslim communities than in their wider secular societies. Governments must take measures to protect these vulnerable women, even if such action is deemed culturally insensitive to the Islamic community or leads to accusations of anti-Muslim bias, she said.
“If you look at the women’s shelters in the Netherlands, the majority of the victims are women from non-Western countries and the majority of them are Muslim women,” she said.
“Liberal democratic governments are not interfering because they argue that that’s their culture,” she added.
Respecting cultural diversity is really a form of “upside-down racism,” preventing immigrant women from enjoying the same freedom and protection as native European women, said Iranian activist Azam Kamguian.
While Europe pays lip service to universal human rights, it is in reality “bribing Islamic countries and Islamists to give up terrorism and then saying the rest is OK,” Kamguian said.
A champion for Muslim immigrant women’s rights in Europe, Hirsi Ali escaped a forced marriage in Somalia and fled to the Netherlands, where she became an interpreter for asylum seekers and then went into politics.
Last November, Hirsi Ali went into hiding for 10 days after she was threatened by Islamic extremists allegedly behind the slaying of filmmaker Theo van Gogh.
Hirsi Ali wrote the script for Van Gogh’s movie Submission, which criticized the treatment of women under Islam and enraged some Muslims.
The campaigners were in Geneva to lobby the UN Human Rights Commission, which is set to run until the end of the week.