Radical Islam's War on Women and Girls
Around the world, radical Islam has declared war against freedom-loving people who support human dignity for all. Many would prefer to ignore this, but recent headlines reveal the inconvenient truth: "Islamists in Mali recruit, pay for child soldiers," "Nigerians caught in the crossfire," "The Taliban's terror," and "Egypt's liberals, Islamists clash, 110 reported injured" are just examples.
In addition to the actual fighting involved in this long struggle, the battle for hearts and minds will be decisive in the end. I strongly believe that the struggle for freedom and human dignity will be won by the girls and women of the majority Muslim world. But they need support. They should have a steadfast ally in America, for Americans understand that all people are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Like Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks, who stood up for human dignity in our country, this past week a 14-year-old Pakistani girl stood up for freedom and human dignity and she was savagely shot. Malala Yousufzai had already, for several years of her very young life, bravely spoken out for educational opportunity for girls. She was shot while riding a school bus—the ultimate act of defiance in the eyes of the Taliban and other radical Islamists, in the second largest Muslim country in the world. Hopefully her courage and sacrifice will be the tipping point for the many millions of silent Pakistanis who desire that their daughters should be free to fulfill their God-given potential. Former First Lady Laura Bush carried her passion for reading and learning to advocate for the girls and women of neighboring Afghanistan, where the Taliban continues to attack and attempt to close schools that educate girls.
Malala reportedly was an admirer of President Obama. One way the President can honor her bravery is by stopping the denial and misrepresentation of the nature of our struggle with radical Islam and by challenging other Muslims like Malala to battle for the heart and soul of their faith. And by that I mean to challenge Islam to affirm freedom of conscience and not revert to the Middle Ages. An American president must speak with clarity and conviction on our opposition to the oppression of women, to restrictions on freedom of conscience and religion, and to the use of violent jihadism for political gain.
Drones alone will not succeed. Blaming the death of a brave U.S. Ambassador to Libya on an Internet movie clip rather than on radical Islam—even after intelligence clearly indicated a coordinated attack by Islamist radicals on the anniversary of September 11—is simply dishonest.
Freedom is not easily divisible. There's a reason our Founders grouped essential freedoms together, led by freedom of religion and conscience, followed and supported by freedom of speech. As the Obama Administration reaches out to the Taliban to negotiate with them over Afghanistan, one of our "bright lines" is reportedly the fair treatment of women when the Taliban takes over again in 2014. Not surprisingly, the Taliban views their "negotiating position" as much stronger in 2014 than it is now with American troops still there, just as Iranian radicals waited on the departure of U.S. troops in Iraq to fully assert their influence there. What evidence is there that the Taliban will treat girls and women with the dignity they deserve and ensure their freedom and educational opportunities? There is no such evidence. To believe otherwise is not "hope and change" but hype and wishful thinking.
In addition to the Middle East and parts of Asia, many parts of Africa are in the middle of this struggle against radical Islam. In Nigeria, the radical Islamist organization Boko Haram has been targeting Christians and tolerant Muslims since 2009. More than 1,500 people have died. Boko Haram's name can be loosely translated as "western education is sinful." What that really means is that educating girls, teaching freedom of conscience and religion, and opposing violence and affirming human dignity are sinful.
Being the father of three beautiful daughters is one of the greatest privileges of my life. Another privilege was to lead the charge in Congress to help women in the developing world who had been infected with HIV and to support the great work of countless non-government organizations that serve them in practical ways. I have actively supported those who fight human sex trafficking and those who oppose young child brides. Now is the time for America to stand together, unequivocally, against the evils of radical Islam and for freedom and human dignity. That will be something our daughters can celebrate.
Rick Santorum, a Republican, is a former Congressman and Senator from Pennsylvania. He is the co-founder of Patriot Voices.