Many, if not most, of today’s high-profile political campaigns – conducted under the white-hot lights of the 24-hour news cycle – arrive, eventually, at a clarifying moment, a point at which the candidates inadvertently reveal more about themselves than they would like. On August 27, Hillary Clinton had her own revealing campaign moment when she compared her Republican counterparts to terrorists. To wit:
“Now, extreme views about women,” the Democratic hopeful intoned, “we expect that from some of the terrorist groups, we expect that from people who don’t want to live in the modern world — but it’s a little hard to take from Republicans who want to be the president of the United States.”
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough called it “gutter politics.” And it is. But more to the point, it’s also illuminating. Here she is, the titular leader of the Pro-Choice movement, and she apparently believes that the desire to restrict abortion is tantamount to rape and slavery. Either that, or she has no idea whatsoever what “the terrorist groups” “extreme views about women” actually entail. Assuming the latter, I thought I would take the opportunity to reprise an article that appeared just under a month ago in the New York Times, describing the re-emergence of slavery, sexual bondage, and child rape in the Middle East.
In the moments before he raped the 12-year-old girl, the Islamic State fighter took the time to explain that what he was about to do was not a sin. Because the preteen girl practiced a religion other than Islam, the Quran not only gave him the right to rape her — it condoned and encouraged it, he insisted.
He bound her hands and gagged her. Then he knelt beside the bed and prostrated himself in prayer before getting on top of her.
When it was over, he knelt to pray again, bookending the rape with acts of religious devotion. “I kept telling him it hurts — please stop,” said the girl, whose body is so small an adult could circle her waist with two hands. “He told me that according to Islam he is allowed to rape an unbeliever. He said that by raping me, he is drawing closer to God,” she said in an interview alongside her family in a refugee camp here, to which she escaped after 11 months of captivity.
The systematic rape of women and girls from the Yazidi religious minority has become deeply enmeshed in the organization and the radical theology of the Islamic State in the year since the group announced it was reviving slavery as an institution. Interviews with 21 women and girls who recently escaped the Islamic State, as well as an examination of the group’s official communications, illuminate how the practice has been enshrined in the group’s core tenets….
One 34-year-old Yazidi woman, who was bought and repeatedly raped by a Saudi fighter in the Syrian city of Shadadi, described how she fared better than the second slave in the household — a 12-year-old girl who was raped for days on end despite heavy bleeding.
“He destroyed her body. She was badly infected. The fighter kept coming and asking me, ‘Why does she smell so bad?’ And I said, she has an infection on the inside, you need to take care of her,” the woman said.
Unmoved, he ignored the girl’s agony, continuing the ritual of praying before and after raping the child.
“I said to him, ‘She’s just a little girl,’ ” the older woman recalled. “And he answered: ‘No. She’s not a little girl. She’s a slave. And she knows exactly how to have sex.’ ’’
“And having sex with her pleases God,” he said.
The fact that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee would liken those who wish to stop abortion to “the terrorist groups,” – to the monsters who consider raping pre-pubescent girls to be a religious “duty” – is a tragedy for women everywhere. And it is particularly tragic for the women – and girls! – of the Middle East, who might benefit from a dose of moral outrage on the world stage by a former American Secretary of State and a leading presidential candidate.
Of course, the problem with all of this is that by making this comparison, Mrs. Clinton did far worse than simply crawl into the gutter to play abortion politics. The problem, in fact, is that the frontrunner for the presidency of the United States diminished herself, diminished her role as a “protector” of women, and, worse still, trivialized true evil. The male members of the Islamic State buy, sell, trade and rape women and girls. And they do so with both the sanction and the encouragement of their religious leaders. This is evil in its rawest form. And to compare its practitioners to people who believe merely that human lives before birth matter as much as human lives after birth is, at the very least, to toe a very fine line between ignoring and abetting that raw evil.
The presumption among our chattering class is that the moral course of civilization goes only one way. Or as President Obama is fond of saying, paraphrasing Martin Luther King, Jr. and the abolitionist Theodore Parker: “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” This is, sadly, untrue. And what is happening in the Middle East today is certainly bending the arc the wrong way. Or as David Brooks put it in his recent New York Times column on the Islamic State and the horrors for which it is responsible:
This is happening in the moral sphere. State-sponsored slavery seemed like a thing of the past, but now ISIS is an unapologetic slave state. Yazidi women are carefully cataloged, warehoused and bid upon. . . .
This wasn’t supposed to happen in the 21st century. . . .
It’s time to stop underestimating this force as some group of self-discrediting madmen. ISIS is a moral and political threat to the fragile and ugly stability that exists in what’s left in the Middle East. ISIS will thrive and spread its ideas for as long as it has its land.
In the roughly two years since the Islamic State has been a perceptible force in the Middle East, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has repeatedly begged the relevant global actors – including, obviously, the United States – to do something about the plight of Christians and Yazidis suffering at the hands of Islamists in the Middle East – to bend that moral arc back the right way. Little more than a week ago, for example, the Holy Father used the occasion of the beatification of Syriac Bishop Flavien-Michel Malke to beg the world to acknowledge and address the persecution of non-Muslims in the Muslim world. “Do something to put a stop to the violence and oppression,” Pope Francis pleaded. “Today as well, in the Middle East and other parts of the world, Christians are persecuted…. There are more martyrs (today) than there were in the first centuries.”
Hillary Clinton may not like the Republicans running for president or agree with them on abortion. And that, naturally, is her prerogative. I can’t help but wonder, though, what the Yazidi and Christian women of the Middle East would think of her comparison between those Republicans and the men who comprise the core of the Islamic State. With that comparison, Mrs. Clinton trivialized pure evil. And by trivializing it, she dismisses it, ensuring that it will be overlooked and soon forgotten by anyone who might actually have power to do something about it. As a result, then, this evil will fester and spread. Much to our eternal shame.