And Not Once Did the New York Times Mention the Word Islam!

by Warner Todd Huston | March 5, 2010 11:50 am

Nicholas Kristof rightly celebrates a new book[1] highlighting the evils of the forced marriages of pre-teen girls to older men. Kristof is also right to reveal the sordid truths about the practice of marrying off pre-teen girls and the abuse they invariably seem to suffer in the arrangement. But one word was conspicuously missing from Kristof’s NYT article, that was the word Islam.

Amazingly, Kristof spent over 800 words telling the world of this monstrous practice, even saying, “Societies that repress women tend to be prone to violence.” But in all those words, in all that castigation of such “societies” Kristof somehow forgot to mention that these practices are endemic in Islamic cultures. Not one time did the word Islam or Muslim show up among these 800 some words.

The book, “I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced[2],” tells the tale of a 10-year-old Yemeni girl that was in her Islamic homeland forced into a marriage with an abusive deliveryman in his 30s. Once in third grade, this poor child was yanked from school — a married woman, they told her, should not go to school — and forced into to bed of this stranger who as much as purchased her like meat from her parents.

The story has a happy ending, however. The plucky Nujood had enough good sense about herself to understand that Yemeni law might grant her a divorce for the abuse she suffered at the hands of her “husband.” So she went to a local court and demanded to be heard. She was heard in court and was granted a needed divorce.

That isn’t all. Nujood also helped write the book about her experiences that Kristof reviewed, a book that has helped other young Muslim girls out of the predicament they face, a book that also sheds light on this barbaric practice from which so many young children suffer.

Unfortunately, Nujood is poorly served by Nicholas Kristof and The New York Times. Her case is presented as if it is some strange anomaly untethered to any time or culture, unconnected to any particular society, or religion. The reader is left with only a partial story and is forced to read between the lines to answer the key questions of how, why, and where this happens.

Kristof does leave clues. He tells us that Nujood is from Yemen, he mentions that another young girl that has made news for a similar plight is from Saudi Arabia, and also quotes Nujood as being excited to see her book translated into Arabic, “her own native language.” He also says that her book may help in the fight against terrorism.

But what culture produces this terrorism, what culture has endemic abuse and suppression of its women, what culture routinely marries off children to old men? Reading between the lines evokes the mysteriously absent word “Islam” which answers to those questions.

If Nicholas Kristof had the courage to speak clearly instead of hiding behind rhetorical tricks, the reader would have come away with a more direct understanding of the evils that young Nujood faced. Kristof could have used his piece also to help westerners better understand the culture that has cast itself as the west’s enemy. Kristof could have served to better explain why western society is superior to these debased, oppressive Muslim practices. But he didn’t. He left it all unsaid. Islam is the elephant in the room that too many in the west don’t have the backbone to face head on.

And more’s the shame for it because this weak-willed inability to stand up for our own culture in the face of such barbarities will only give power to the barbarians at our gates.

  1. celebrates a new book:
  2. I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced:

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