THERE WERE TWO MUST-READ STORIES on Page 1 of the April 26 New York Times. One, headlined "Abortion-rights marchers vow to fight another Bush term," reported on the massive pro-choice rally that had flooded the nation's capital one day earlier. The other, "Militants in Europe openly call for jihad and the rule of Islam," described the rise of Muslim supremacists who make no secret of their goal: the conversion of Europe to Islam, by force if necessary.
The abortion rally was called the March for Women's Lives -- a creepy Orwellian inversion if there ever was one. And yet countless marchers really did seem to believe that the foremost threat to women's lives today is George W. Bush and his conviction that killing babies in the womb is wrong. To be sure, killing babies in the womb is legal -- and has been for 30-plus years. Roughly 1.3 million abortions are performed in the United States every year, which suggests that what the pro-choicers euphemistically call "reproductive freedom" is alive and well in modern American life.
But 750,000 people don't descend on Washington to hear that things are OK. The mood on the National Mall was acrid with fear and loathing. Protesters bore signs reading "Stop the war on women." And speaker after speaker warned that no female will be safe until the Republicans are driven from the White House.
"Keep your laws off my body!" yelled actress Ashley Judd. "Can you hear me, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?" Hillary Clinton issued a plea to "stand up for our Constitution" by electing John Kerry in November. "We will not be gagged!" roared Susan Sarandon. "We reject, Mr. Bush, your hypocrisy, your greed, your disrespect for women's bodies, for women everywhere." Gloria Steinem intoned: "This government is the greatest danger on earth."
But there is a vastly greater danger -- especially to women -- than the president of the United States: the global jihad being waged by militant Islamists, like those described in the other New York Times story.
"Young Britons whose parents emigrated from Pakistan . . . have turned against their families' new home," the paper reported. "They say they would like to see Prime Minister Tony Blair dead or deposed and an Islamic flag hanging outside No. 10 Downing Street. They swear allegiance to Osama bin Laden and his goal of toppling Western democracies to establish an Islamic superstate under Shariah law, like Afghanistan under the Taliban."
The abortion marchers haven't forgotten what "Afghanistan under the Taliban" was like, have they? Women could not leave their homes unless accompanied by a male relative. In public they had to be shrouded from head to toe and could be flogged for allowing a glimpse of ankle or wrist. Barred from working outside the home, many Afghan women sank into poverty. They couldn't wear brightly colored clothes, high heels, or makeup. They were forbidden to play sports. They weren't even permitted to laugh out loud.
Today the Taliban dictatorship is gone and Afghanistan's 12 million women are free of its cruel fanaticism. For that they can thank the US military and its commander-in-chief -- the same commander-in-chief so stridently denounced on the Mall last week as an enemy of women.
It is surreal: We are at war with aggressors who would undo every gain women have made in the last 200 years, and the feminist left makes abortion its number one priority? Is the pro-choice movement really so frozen in Sept. 10 thinking? Do the National Organization for Women and Planned Parenthood and Feminist Majority really consider it more important to fight for partial-birth abortion than to fight for the liberal democratic values the Islamofascists aim to destroy? Don't they understand what it means when radical imams -- like the one in Geneva quoted by the Times -- are openly urging their followers to "impose the will of Islam on the godless society of the West"?
Writing in the Australian newspaper The Age last week, journalist Pamela Bone listed a few recent news items from the Pakistani press: A 17-year-old girl strangled by her older brother because she had married a man of her own choosing. Two women dead in "honor killings" committed by their husbands -- one tied to a bed and electrocuted; the other axed to death. A woman beaten so severely by her in-laws for failing to prevent her younger sister from eloping that her legs had to be amputated.
"Thousands of women in Arab countries are legally murdered every year in the name of honor," Bone wrote. "Women are stoned and beaten for reasons that would be unheard of in Western countries. The freedoms of Western women, their open sexuality, are a large part of the hatred Islamist men feel for the West. . . . They would, if they could, have all our daughters in burqas."
Militant Islam is on the march. Not only in Pakistan or the Middle East, but in England and France -- and America. The stakes are enormous. This is no time for any of us to be fighting the wrong enemy.
(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe).
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