Since the American female elected to hop off her pedestal to seek "equality" with males, Valentine's Day has been seen as a ritualistic throwback to the days when men would routinely strew the ground beneath the pedestal with candy hearts, red roses and assorted chocolates -- at least, metaphorically speaking. That is, ideally, he would do so metaphorically speaking.
But it's the ideal that counts. Valentine's Day, now driven as much by Hallmark as by the shadow of the pedestal, follows from a societal ideal deriving from the chivalric code -- a signal influence on Western civilization -- which celebrated women for nobility and strength of character.
Such origins, however remote in a post-feminist world, put the holiday in the middle of that clash we read about between the West and Islam. Distinctly non-Islamic (St. Valentine was a Christian martyr from pre-Islamic times), it embodies an old-fashioned salute to La Femme that helps distinguish the West from Islam. Where the West dreamed up the pedestal, Islam bought the burqa.
Where the West gave liberty and justice a female face, Islam depicted womanhood as a lowly state of fearful passion. Where in the West sexual equality evolved, in Islam sexual inequality remains.
Such inequality makes it all the more astonishing that many of the most fearlessly outspoken dissidents to have emerged from the Islamic world are, in fact, women. I have five favorites, most of whom now live in the United States. Rather than simply enjoy Western freedom, however, they have each elected to bear witness, at great personal risk, to what they know. And for all their differences of experience, religion, culture and temperament, a common theme emerges: terrorism and the attendant dangers to liberal democracy come out of the founding texts and living traditions of Islam.
First comes Bat Ye'or, the historian of the group, who has spent decades documenting the overlooked histories of non-Muslim peoples, the dhimmi, who lived under repressive Islamic law. Such chronicles have contemporary relevance as Islam's influence expands across Europe and into America. Born in Egypt where Jews were persecuted by the government of Abdel Nasser, Bat Ye'or left the country a "stateless" refugee. British by marriage, she has written many books I wish our leaders would read, including "The Dhimmi," "The Decline of Eastern Christianity," and "Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis."
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