The Dutch novelist Margriet de Moor, writing in a German newspaper, wants to know whether anyone is at work on a novel titled "2084." Well might she ask. The world seems not to have changed much since George Orwell wrote "1984," his dark and gloomy look at a Marxist Utopia, where freedom of thought was brainwashed out of humanity by Big Brother, who watched everything a man or woman said, did or thought.
When "1984" was published in 1949, the threat to the world was international communism, with its aim of total dominion over the minds of men. Orwell, once attracted to communism, had seen the light shining through the darkness imposed on Eastern Europe by the Soviet Union and the ruthless oppression imposed by Joseph Stalin.
The threat today is not a dictatorship of politics, but one of religious theocracy, not of surveillance cameras or deathly state interrogations but of the imposition through intimidation of a perversion of religion. A novel called "2084" would confront this perversion of Islam, the rigid Sharia law where the distinction between church and state is not obliterated but sadistically internalized. Those most brutally victimized are women.
Ms. de Moor describes a visit to a Dutch shelter for battered women, where typically 80 percent of the women are Muslims. On the day she visited, the women had just watched a showing of the documentary movie "Submission," depicting the abuse of Muslim women in the name of Allah. The screenwriter, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, wanted to demonstrate to the battered women the way "the machismo of Islam" is grounded in their religion. But women who had been brutally beaten by their husbands were merely outraged by the honesty of the filmmakers.
When the film showed Koran texts projected onto the naked bodies of women, calling attention to how and why they were disrespected, dishonored and abused, the battered women of the shelter demanded that the projector be stopped. They were offended by the "blasphemy" on the screen, not by their bruises and wounds. They would not look at how their treatment was rooted in the Islamist interpretation of the Koran. They were the helpless prey of a dictatorship of the spirit.
Theo van Gogh, who produced the film "Submission," was killed by an Islamist terrorist. Ayaan Hirsi Ali cannot go anywhere without a bodyguard. When she urged the Dutch parliament to determine how many "honor killings" take place in Holland each year, she was accused of overstating the problem, of making a Temple Mount out of a molehill. Only when it emerged later that 11 Muslim girls were killed by their families in eight months and in only two regions of the Netherlands, the Dutch government finally recognized a big problem in the heart of their free society.
"As I myself know too well, it takes a long time to dissolve the bars of a mental cage," Hirsi Ali writes in "Infidel," a memoir. "In Islam, unlike in Christianity and Judaism, the relationship of the individual to God is one of total submission, slave to master. To Muslims, worship of God means total obedience to Allah's rules and total abstinence from the thoughts and deeds that he has declared forbidden in the Koran."
Margriet de Moor examines the mental cage from another cultural angle, to see what leads Muslim men to find sexual titillation everywhere. "How sex-obsessed is a culture that teaches a woman that she is basically a walking, sitting or reclining set of genitals?" she asks bluntly. "How over-aroused is a society in which men are expected to have no qualms about throwing themselves on any woman who happens to walk by unless a powerful signal in the form of a divinely ordained dress code forbids them to do so?"
Islamists condemn what they see as sexual decadence in the West, but seem to think the only way to avoid succumbing to debauchery is to force women to hide their flesh, and to beat up the women who don't. In George Orwell's "1984," prostitution was the outlet for male instincts that couldn't be repressed, and sexual release was permitted only if it was furtive, joyless and consummated with women "of a submerged and despised class." The Party knew it couldn't kill the sex instinct, so it set out to distort and dirty it. The Islamist terrorists, expecting an abundance of compliant virgins as their reward in heaven, play a variation on the theme.
Today increasing numbers of moderate Muslim men and women are beginning to speak out against the ruthless subjugation of Muslim women, and they deserve our support. But it's not clear whether they can eliminate it even by 2084.