Watching the recent footage of Islamic State gang members haggling over the price of captured Christian women in a makeshift slave market — one of them wants a 15-year-old with green eyes, another wants to exchange a girl for a gun — I was reminded that Islamists are at least consistent in their hateful worldview and in a way uniquely honest. Even a terror gang as vile as the IRA tried to keep a lid on the rapes and paedophilia going on within its rancid ranks. But when Amnesty International first claimed in September that Isis were enslaving and abusing ‘hundreds, if not thousands’ of Yazidi women and children, it only took the group a few weeks to admit to the practice in their English language magazine, Dabiq, and breezily post videos of themselves doing just that.
Yet there are still a considerable number of people on the left making excuses for them — mostly at the Guardian, the house magazine of ‘the silly led by the sinister’, as the sainted Christopher Hitchens called the Not In My Name marchers. And with Isis so frank about its own foulness, I’ve come to the conclusion that certain strange types are so sympathetic to Islamism not despite the way it treats women — but, at least partly, because of it.
There are other reasons, of course. The western left has been a busted flush for so long, caught up in its own eternal infighting, that it must feel good to be on a side apparently winning with old-fashioned brute force. Then there’s our old mate paint-chart politics: choose the side with the darkest skin on principle, no matter how their belief systems actually treat people; thus democratic Israel, which gives full civil rights to women and gays, is worse than the countries which surround it, which don’t but are darker. In Darfur, of course, the left were thrown a curveball when it turned out that the Arab Muslims were terrorising the black Christians. Um, Islam good, Christianity bad but hang on, Christians darker here! DOES NOT COMPUTE!
But, to get all Freudian, I think a lot of the reason that some left-wing men seem to have so much time for Islamism is to do not with race but sex — specifically, with suppressed feelings of resentment towards the march of feminism, which they could never in a million years admit to. After years of being yelled at by female comrades whenever they inquired about the likelihood of a hot beverage being imminent, imagine how excited they must get watching big bad men in balaclavas selling ‘slave girls’ in a sweltering marketplace. It’s like T.E Lawrence getting his dish-dosh in a twist over all those Arab boys you could buy for the price of a melon, and boys called Barnaby fetishising the most woman-hating type of rap music in the pop press, and middle-class man-boys who’ve never been in a fight telling rape jokes — only far, far worse.
Ever since the Black Panther Stokely Carmichael said in 1966 that ‘the only position for women in the struggle is prone’, it would have to be a very silly leftie lass indeed who has not cottoned on that sexism can beat in the most apparently comradely brother’s breast. The first sign that the metropolitan left (which had spent the previous 30 years telling white working-class people how stupid and backward they were for being sexist, homophobic and insular) could have a chronic crush on a belief which specialised in being sexist, homophobic and insular came when Ken Livingstone cosied up to the odious Yusuf al-Qaradawi in 2004. Livingstone is a man not averse to the idea of a man having several wives, one feels, having had five children by three women. Then there’s Gorgeous George Galloway, whose revolutionary spirit seems quite able to contain the contradictions of both sucking up to an ultra-conservative religion and saying, in 2012, of the Julian Assange affair, ‘Not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion.’ And they said romance was dead.
As Assange and Russell Brand (weirdly linked by the Muslim convert Jemima Goldsmith Khan, who was the bailswoman of one and the lover of the other) prove, many men believe that once you’ve ticked the Brotherhood of Man box on your spiritual census, this gives you the right to be as big a bastard as you like towards women. Yes, some of their collective cultural cringe is stupid guilt about being white and western — the sort of poltroon who, if they happened across their dear grey-haired old mother being ‘roasted’ by al-Qa’eda at one end and Isis at the other, would ask ‘What did she do to make these innocent young lads act in such an uncharacteristic fashion?’ — but a lot of it, I believe, is sheer sexual wish fulfilment.
‘But there are women involved, who choose to become Islamists? How do you explain that?’ I can hear Laurie Penny (like Khan, another privileged half-Jewish girl who briefly got a thrill from donning a hijab but is also now happily ensconced back in her world of freedom and privilege — unlike the millions of poor women condemned to life in a shroud) squeal indignantly. Well, let’s face it, all those copies of Fifty Shades of Grey didn’t buy themselves. Serial rapists and killers on Death Row are never short of female attention, regrettably. Whatever, this mixture of sadists, masochists, gangsters, dupes, fruit-loops and pimps is turning out to be one big happy Manson family.
Good luck apologising for them, all you gutless western lefties — but you can put your fingers in your ears and sell out other sections of humanity all you like, and squeeze your eyes shut like a child in a storm, determined to see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil — and still that evil storm may come at you with hands like knives one day. Look what they did to an Islamic convert on a humanitarian mission to help Muslims. You think they wouldn’t do it to you?
Julie Burchill’s latest book is Unchosen: Memoirs of a Philo-Semite.