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Fathering Daughters The Old-Fashioned Way

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

If there’s one thing liberals and conservatives generally have agreed upon with respect to President Obama, it’s that by all indications, he’s a good father to his daughters Malia, 13, and Sasha, 10.

The president appears to have a close and affectionate relationship with his girls. They go biking, out for ice cream and to bookstores whenever they’re on vacation together. He even notably has coached Sasha’s basketball team on Saturday mornings, when the affairs of state permit.

By all accounts, he “takes time to be a dad,” as the federal government’s National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse encourages.

He and his wife, Michelle, also seem to work hard to protect their daughters’ privacy and security, as in last week’s unusual move to take down Internet stories about Malia’s spring break trip to Mexico.

It’s easy to see why the Obamas would be reticent to have their young teen daughter’s activities chronicled, especially when she’s vacationing with friends (and a team of Secret Service agents) in a foreign country that the president’s own State Department has urged American tourists to avoid.

Double standard? Certainly, but that’s a topic for another day.

Some balk at the president’s increasingly frequent use of his daughters for political purposes, such as his recent comment that he hopes his daughters someday are able to be “good citizens” and speak out on controversial issues without being maligned as was Sandra Fluke by Rush Limbaugh over the issue of free contraception.

He also mentions them when doing so makes his political points more personal, or even poignant. Some would call this opportunistic, especially when the girls are “off-limits” to everyone else.

So it’s hard to tell if it was genuine fatherly bonding or political expediency that prompted his most recent comment about his daughters.

After a March 25 meeting with Turkey’s controversial Islamic Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Mr. Obama talked publicly about his common ground with Mr. Erdogan on parenting daughters.

Speaking of their especially close friendship, Mr. Obama said, “The bottom line is that we find ourselves in frequent agreement upon a wide range of issues … [and] because he has two daughters that are a little older than mine - they’ve turned out very well, so I’m always interested in his perspective on raising girls.”

Mr. Erdogan’s family has been the focus of media attention, in particular his daughter, Sumeyye, who became a symbol for Islamic orthodoxy when she chose to be educated in the U.S. and U.K. rather than remain in Turkey where headscarves are banned in schools. She may pursue a political career if (more likely, when) the ban on headscarves in Turkey’s parliament is lifted.

It may be politically “bro” to buddy up with your “close friend” around your commonalities in parenting daughters. But keep in mind that when it comes to girls, no religion is more hampering of the rights of females or more restrictive of their basic liberties then is Islam. Just visit any one of the 34 million sites that appears in a Google search for “raising Islamic daughters” for specifics on why girls should not, for example, groom their eyebrows, wear high-heeled shoes or pray while menstruating. Never mind the rules on navigating the world.

Even if Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Obama share some fatherly opinions about protecting and promoting their daughters, it’s impolitic, at best, to publicly praise a radical Islamist’s point of view on raising girls.

Because unfortunately, while Mr. Erdogan seems to allow his extremely bright and privileged daughters to take advantage of the opportunities available to them, most Muslim daughters are forced to accept their status as second-class citizens.

I guess today’s topic was double standards, after all.

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