Last Saturday night Taliban militiamen burned down seven girls’ schools in Pakistan, bringing the total they have torched in the last two months to 70.

Just to be sure you got that: 70 girls’ schools have been burned down by Islamist extremists in Pakistan over the last two months. I leave to you the task of totting up the other ways in which piety makes war on women in different parts and traditions of Islam, and not even very extreme Islam at that, ranging from honour killings to female circumcision and vaginal infibulation.

Indeed I leave to you the not very congenial task of totting up the ways in which more enthusiastic forms of religion in general, not just Islam but Roman Catholicism, puritanical forms of Protestantism, and orthodox Judaism, have treated women: all the way from closeting them, covering the up, and silencing them, to sewing up their vaginas: it is a ghastly litany of repression, all the less excusable because discrimination against women which began in these ways persists in our society in modified forms: the fact that a woman earns about 70% of what an equally qualified and experienced man does is a residue in our own society of the attitude which in today’s sharia law states that a woman is worth half a man.


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