Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) was seen as a liberal hero after GOP senator interrupted her during the testimony of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. It was seen as yet another example of sexist Republicans; the favorite red meat of the progressive left. Yet, when Asra Nomani and Ayaan Hirsi Ali testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on the Islamism this month, not a single female Democratic senator addressed them. Both women, who are scholars and activists within the Muslim community, wrote about how they were brushed off in an op-ed in The New York Times. No, that’s not quite accurate. They torched these Democrats in their opinion piece.
The Democrats on the panel, including Senator Harris and three other Democratic female senators — North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan and Missouri’s Claire McCaskill — did not ask either of us a single question.
This wasn’t a case of benign neglect. At one point, Senator McCaskill said that she took issue with the theme of the hearing itself. “Anyone who twists or distorts religion to a place of evil is an exception to the rule,” she said. “We should not focus on religion,” she said, adding that she was “worried” that the hearing, organized by Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, would “underline that.” In the end, the only questions asked of us about Islamist ideologies came from Senator Johnson and his Republican colleague, Senator Steve Daines from Montana.
Just as we are invisible to the mullahs at the mosque, we were invisible to the Democratic women in the Senate.
…what happened that day was emblematic of a deeply troubling trend among progressives when it comes to confronting the brutal reality of Islamist extremism and what it means for women in many Muslim communities here at home and around the world. When it comes to the pay gap, abortion access and workplace discrimination, progressives have much to say. But we’re still waiting for a march against honor killings, child marriages, polygamy, sex slavery or female genital mutilation.
Sitting before the senators that day were two women of color: Ayaan is from Somalia; Asra is from India. Both of us were born into deeply conservative Muslim families. Ayaan is a survivor of female genital mutilation and forced marriage. Asra defied Shariah by having a baby while unmarried. And we have both been threatened with death by jihadists for things we have said and done. Ayaan cannot appear in public without armed guards.
In other words, when we speak about Islamist oppression, we bring personal experience to the table in addition to our scholarly expertise. Yet the feminist mantra so popular when it comes to victims of sexual assault — believe women first — isn’t extended to us. Neither is the notion that the personal is political. Our political conclusions are dismissed as personal; our personal experiences dismissed as political.
Nomani spoke at Georgetown University in March, where she also voiced frustration in how the fight for liberal values seems to stop at the water’s edge. Last Thursday, Nomani appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show, where she said none of the female senators would look them in the eye. She added how this is a failure among the progressive left when it comes to tackling the issue of Islamic extremism. Nomani said that American feminists are reluctant to help combat this real war on women because of a propaganda network that tells them any criticism against Islam is bigoted or Islamophobic. She closed by saying that there are a multitude of ways in which women are subjected to second class citizenship, but it can be defeated if we can have a frank discussion about the issues, while also being able to name the problem without getting lost in the wilderness of political correctness. She noted how we were able to destroy the ideologies of fascism and communism.
“We can destroy this ideology,” she said.
Another reason Democratic senators probably didn’t look at Nomani is because she voted for Trump in 2016. I'm sure a staffer found this out, as she admitted this in The Washington Post. One of the reasons that pushed her, a liberal, into the Trump camp was the Obama administration and the Democratic Party’s inability to discuss Islamic extremism:
I support the Democratic Party’s position on abortion, same-sex marriage and climate change.
But I am a single mother who can’t afford health insurance under Obamacare. The president’s mortgage-loan modification program, “HOPE NOW,” didn’t help me. Tuesday, I drove into Virginia from my hometown of Morgantown, W.Va., where I see rural America and ordinary Americans, like me, still struggling to make ends meet, after eight years of the Obama administration.
Finally, as a liberal Muslim who has experienced, first-hand, Islamic extremism in this world, I have been opposed to the decision by President Obama and the Democratic Party to tap dance around the “Islam” in Islamic State.
Regardless, touting the feminist line, while not asking a single question of female victims of Islamic extremism to the point where they straight up ignored them is hypocrisy in the extreme. We like feminism; just not that kind of feminism is outrageous. And not supporting liberal values grounded in the freedom of speech, expression, and association in the Muslim world because it might give President Trump political cover is craven as well.