Maggie Gallagher
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On Monday in Tehran, thousands of university students risked death to defy tyranny: "You can cut off our tongues, you can take us to jail as you have jailed many other students and scholars, but you can't capture our hearts, you can't prevent freedom of expression and thoughts," student leader Saeed Razavi said, as thousands of students protested the mullahs' death sentence for history professor Hashem Aghajari.

Prof. Aghajari's crime? Daring to say that Islam and clerics' statements about Islam are not the same thing, that each generation has a right to read and interpret the Koran without fear. For that, Aghajari has been condemned in Iran as an apostate, and the penalty for apostasy in Islam is death.

Meanwhile, at about the same time, New York Times reporter Maureen Dowd was touring Saudi Arabia, mesmerized by what she saw as the internal contradictions of Islamic repression: "Frederick's of Hollywood-style lingerie shops abound, even though female sexuality is considered so threatening that the mere sight of a woman's ankle will cause civilization to crumble," she ponders.

The sight is a challenge to the deepest presumptions of elite American women of a certain age, who raised themselves to believe that an orgasm was a revolutionary act of liberation, and who as adolescents engaged in portentous battles with their parents for the right to wear miniskirts. Saudi Arabia, Dowd decides, is a society "torn between secret police and secret undergarments." Fellow New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof was even worse, apparently spending his precious visa in Saudi Arabia going up to veiled Saudi women and asking them why they did not show him a little leg.

This in a country where women are not allowed to drive, have no rights to their children, can be divorced at will, are denied the right to travel or get an education by a father, a brother or a husband, and like most men in Islamic societies, lack the basic rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

What is it with these stereotypical puerile Americans -- ignorant, provincial, obsessed with sexual license as the marker of human liberty?

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Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.