Protest Augusta? Why not Sudan

Posted: Dec 10, 2002 12:00 AM
Having resisted the Augusta National Golf Club story this long, I never expected to be sucked in. Sure, I'm reflexively pulling for club president William Johnson, rather exotically known as "Hootie," to hold the line. I wish Hootie continued strength of stomach to withstand the feminist attack on himself and his beleaguered band of brogue-wearing brothers. The sanctity of the all-male club is not only of great import to the poor dears, it's a point of high principle to those who prize liberties great and small. Even so, the right of 300 high and mighty men to enjoy their putting in privacy (sans women) tends to get lost when the whole world is smoldering, bursting and imploding in jihad. Then came the truly outrageous girl talk. As one National Organization for Women spokesperson put it, Hootie must "act in a civilized manner and not exclude 51 percent of the population" from the club. Fifty-one percent of the population may sound like rather a lot of new members, but that's not the outrageous bit. Should Hootie Williams fail to admit a single female personage to his club, protests are coming to Augusta. And not just protests, but Protest Burqas. According to the Associated Press, some number of American women may actually take to Augusta's velvety greens during next spring's Masters' tournament wearing "Afghan-style burqas colored green to mock Masters champions' fabled green jackets." With this faintly nauseating visual in mind, we enter the realm of the grotesque: extravagantly privileged American women equating their "plight" -- not golfing with Hootie -- (the "plight," incidentally, of practically every American man) with that of the systematically degraded burqa-wearing women of the Islamic world. Thanks to obsessive coverage by The New York Times, which has pumped up the Augusta story to Macy's parade-float proportions, Augusta-inspired righteousness now fills the air: high-toned talk of rights denied, "moral reprehensibility" of the oppressor (Hootie?), and ringing calls about "the right thing to do." (This last, the newspaper intoned, should include nothing less than a boycott of the Masters by reigning champ Tiger Woods.) Perhaps improbably, the gassy theatrics of Augusta's feminist claque comes to mind when a real-life story of women's rights denied and moral reprehensibility (and worse) emerges. I refer to the October abduction of a young Coptic Christian woman named Dimiana Murad Nashid by a Muslim man from the university she attended in Omdurman, Sudan. According to a November article in Khartoum's Al-Watan newspaper, reports from Nashid's father to the Center for Religious Freedom at Freedom House in Washington, D.C., and accounts by American officials in Khartoum, Dimiana has been forcibly converted to Islam, forcibly married to a Muslim stranger, and barred from seeing her family again -- all with the apparent complicity of the Sudanese government. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., is strongly interested in Nashid's fate. In a letter to the Sudanese ambassador, Mr. Brownback recounted, among other things, the shocking reasons given for the family rupture: "The imams ... advised that Dimiana's family has no right to ever see her again because they are Christian and she is now legally a Muslim. Her father was previously advised that his chances of seeing his daughter again would be better if he converted to Islam." The senator continued: "Your Government's cooperation in the abduction, forced conversion, and forced marriage of Dimiana Nashid is clearly consistent with remarks delivered by (Sudanese) President Omer Hassan El Beshir" that promise "to maintain sharia law and jihad (holy war) as the main pillars of Sudanese government policy." Such a policy, the senator wrote, "demonstrates contempt for international norms of human rights." It also demonstrates a ghoulish indifference to the chamber of horrors Nashid and her family now inhabit, one that defies Western imagination. But does it defy Western relief? Abductions and forced conversions of non-Muslim women, barely noticed in the West, are not uncommon in sharia-ruled regions. You would think such crimes against women would particularly resonate with those who style their agenda as "feminist," inspiring a genuinely needed outcry. But no. (You would also think such crimes against Christians would resonate with denominations across the board, but that's another story.) At the very least, the state-sanctioned abnegation of Dimiana Nashid's rights -- and her family's -- should make anyone who considers the clubhouse rules at Augusta an equality issue rend her Masters-green burqa in shame. It's true Nashid's case originates in a place about as culturally removed from Augusta's clipped greens as the four moons of Jupiter -- namely, a sharia-ruled regime of slavery, ethnic cleansing, gang rape and, according to the Sudan Peace Act signed by President Bush in October, genocide. Still, there are reasons to relate the American "struggle" for golfing rights to the Sudanese struggle for human rights if only to ponder the wildly successful publicity campaign of the one, the black news hole of the other, and the terrible frivolousness of Western feminism toward both.