No Virgin, No Dynamo

Dr. Sanity quotes Dr. Muhammad Wahdan: “Reality is a mistake, we must rectify it.” Especially the reality of, well, the fertile woman.

Update: Further discussion of cliterectomies on Dean’s World and Neo-neocon.

For the context, if you didn’t follow the link:

Interviewer: Is the girl asked whether she wants to be circumcised or not?

Dr. Muhammad Wahdan: No. We ask the doctor, who makes the decision.

Dr. Malika Zarrar: God help us.

Interviewer: So what about the girl’s opinion?

Dr. Muhammad Wahdan: What do you mean?

Interviewer: What if she says: I don’t want to be circumcised. What happens then?

Dr. Muhammad Wahdan: If a girl says she doesn’t want it, she’s free. No problem.

Interviewer: Is this what happens in reality?

Dr. Muhammad Wahdan: I have no relation to reality. I am talking about how things should be.

Interviewer: You are a religious sheik, from Al-Azahar University. You cannot say you have no relation to reality.

Dr. Muhammad Wahdan: Reality is a mistake, we must rectify it.


In Egypt we have four and a half million spinsters. The definition of a spinster is a woman who has reached 30, without ever receiving a marriage proposal. We have a spinster problem in the Arab world, and the last thing we want is for them to be sexually aroused. Circumcision of the girls who need it makes them chaste, dignified, and pure.

Dr. Sanity continues his thoughtful analysis, concluding:

I have said it before and I will say it again here: the treatment of women under Islam is not only the key to understanding the pathology of the culture, but also the key to developing an antidote to its most poisonous and toxic elements. Unveiling the women of Islam and eliminating their second-class status; empowering them in the oppressive Islamic countries where their individuality and self-expression has been crushed– may cause a ripple effect that could eventually alter a family structure that currently encourages the development of generation after generation of dysfunctional and pathological men and women.

What seems most characteristic about the type of Islam practiced in the Middle East today (and being exported around the world) is that its attitude toward women most certainly has no relationship to reality. Reality is indeed a “mistake” in their eyes, and they fully intend to rectify it–no matter how many deaths and lives are sacrificed to their perverted religious ideology.

The title comes from Ch. 25 of The Education of Henry Adams, where he describes the great symbol of “unity” of the Madonna who reigned in the great cathedrals:

Neither art nor beauty was needed. Every one, even among Puritans, knew that neither Diana of the Ephesians nor any of the Oriental Goddesses was worshipped for her beauty. She was Goddess because of her force; she was the animated dynamo; she was reproduction—the greatest and most mysterious of all energies; all she needed was to be fecund.

This he contrasts with modern, mechanical energy represented in the powerful dynamos at the heart of the 1900 French Exposition. His friend Langley

led his pupil directly to the forces. His chief interest was in new motors to make his airship feasible, and he taught Adams the astonishing complexities of the new Daimler motor, and of the automobile, which, since 1893, had become a night-mare at a hundred kilometres an hour, almost as destructive as the electric tram which was only ten years older; and threatening to become as terrible as the locomotive steam-engine itself, which was almost exactly Adams’s own age.

Then he showed his scholar the great hall of dynamos, and explained how little he knew about electricity or force of any kind, even of his own special sun, which spouted heat in inconceivable volume, but which, as far as he knew, might spout less or more, at any time, for all the certainty he felt in it. To him, the dynamo itself was but an ingenious channel for conveying somewhere the heat latent in a few tons of poor coal hidden in a dirty engine-house carefully kept out of sight; but to Adams the dynamo became a symbol of infinity. As he grew accustomed to the great gallery of machines, he began to feel the forty-foot dynamos as a moral force, much as the early Christians felt the Cross.

Of course, Adams overstates; of course, we can argue with him. Nonetheless, he is clearly setting up the power of the life force, of nature, against the power of man’s machines, modern industrial power. This tension is an important one in the twentieth century. The fear of modernism that all societies have expressed to a greater or lesser degree (and none more than the countries of Islam) comes in part from that tension. But, as Mr. Wahdan speaks, he is affirming neither the power of nature nor the power of man’s inventions. The power he would “invent” is derived is from the pent-up force of the natural stymied by unnatural constraints (& even surgery). This is a society that deforms and turns back upon itself these powerful creative forces of nature. But it also has little interest in exploring the power of the dynamo (explorations that would have been important to their society in earlier centuries). They prefer to use the mechanical energy of our dynamos – as on 9/11 – to destroy both machine & man.

Note: One of the commentors on Dr. Sanity’s site observed that perhaps the translation was not correct; it certainly doesn’t seem idiomatic (reality is a mistake). I love its concise summary of such a world, however. And, the force of the vision seems to imply nature is flawed in areas we tend to see as essential to nature and in which we take pleasure – openness, sexuality, physical beauty. While we may be critical of relying too much on the plastic surgeon’s knife to attain beauty, we do so because we think that beauty should be healthy–a celebration of the natural harmony of the world as God has ordained it. We are appalled at the use of the knife to cause an unnatural relation between a woman and her sexuality, not even to try to mimic but to oppose the natural.

Further discussion of cliterectomies on Dean’s World and Neo-neocon. Dean points out that female circumcision is characteristic of a geographic area rather than associated either solely or broadly with the Muslim religion. Esmay also argues that women rather than men are often the people who most strongly argue for and most often do the circumcision themselves. Indeed, he issues a challenge to female bloggers to tell him where he is wrong. I assume both generalizations are true.

That is not surprising – such a central act that defines sexuality in a culture is generally initiatory and done by the same sex, welcoming the boy to manhood and the girl to womanhood; this emphasizes and makes more sacramental the separate, important roles of the two sexes. Aren’t circumcisions of men generally done by men – as are most scarring rituals?

Nor would I doubt female family members are often initiators of honor killings. Cultures are defined by both men and women, though in some societies the two spheres of influence do not touch as much as in others; in ours the spheres overlap in many ways. This sometimes means we don’t see the power women (or men) exert in cultures quite different from our own. The role of women would be most often defined by women. And since their identity is more bound up in the status of the women in the family this more exacting look at deviance is less surprising. And, in fact, many women would suspect immediately that a mother is harder on her daughter than are her husband or son; certainly a mother is likely to be harder on her daughter-in-law. More importantly, the definitions of what is appropriate and what is not for women is most often defined by women. This comes from a complex of motives but certainly many of them do not have to do with the oppression of women by men. And I’m sure women are aware – perhaps more aware than men – that that the practice might make, at least in some senses, the “four and a half million spinsters” happier. This is not unlike the equally correct feeling that Frederick Douglass’s master had that slaves would become “unhappy” and “restless” if they knew their birthdate and certainly if they learned to read.

Neo-neocon posits a group of ways that such practices may be discouraged. The most interesting (and perhaps most effective) is when a family says they will not let their sons marry women who have had this operation. This understands a mother’s (and father’s and indeed daughter’s) fears of isolation, of a life without the status and the joy of marriage.

2 thoughts on “No Virgin, No Dynamo”

  1. It seems to me Wahdan displays a Manichean attitude toward the flesh. To wit: It is inherently evil and must be obliterated, not redeemed. The Manicheans were dualists. Wahdan would at least claim to be a monotheist. So, I wonder how he would explain, in a way consistent with his monotheism, the origin of the inherently evil world of the flesh.

    Far better is the attitude expressed by John Henry Cardinal Newman in Sermon No. 6 of his PLAIN AND PAROCHIAL SERMONS, VOL. 5:

    Well were it for us, if we had the character of mind instanced in Jacob, and enjoined on his descendants; the temper of dependence upon God’s providence, and thankfulness under it, and careful memory of all He has done for us. It would be well if we were in the habit {83} of looking at all we have as God’s gift, undeservedly given, and day by day continued to us solely by His mercy. He gave; He may take away. He gave us all we have, life, health, strength, reason, enjoyment, the light of conscience; whatever we have good and holy within us; whatever faith we have; whatever of a renewed will; whatever love towards Him; whatever power over ourselves; whatever prospect of heaven. He gave us relatives, friends, education, training, knowledge, the Bible, the Church. All comes from Him. He gave; He may take away. Did He take away, we should be called on to follow Job’s pattern, and be resigned: “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.” [Job i. 21.] While He continues His blessings, we should follow David and Jacob, by living in constant praise and thanksgiving, and in offering up to Him of His own.

    We are not our own, any more than what we possess is our own. We did not make ourselves; we cannot be supreme over ourselves. We cannot be our own masters. We are God’s property by creation, by redemption, by regeneration. He has a triple claim upon us. Is it not our happiness thus to view the matter? Is it any happiness, or any comfort, to consider that we are our own? It may be thought so by the young and prosperous. These may think it a great thing to have everything, as they suppose, their own way,—to depend on no one,—to have to think of nothing out of sight,—to be without the irksomeness of continual acknowledgment, continual prayer, continual {84} reference of what they do to the will of another. But as time goes on, they, as all men, will find that independence was not made for man—that it is an unnatural state—may do for a while, but will not carry us on safely to the end. No, we are creatures; and, as being such, we have two duties, to be resigned and to be thankful.

    Let us then view God’s providences towards us more religiously than we have hitherto done. Let us try to gain a truer view of what we are, and where we are, in His kingdom. Let us humbly and reverently attempt to trace His guiding hand in the years which we have hitherto lived. Let us thankfully commemorate the many mercies He has vouchsafed to us in time past, the many sins He has not remembered, the many dangers He has averted, the many prayers He has answered, the many mistakes He has corrected, the many warnings, the many lessons, the much light, the abounding comfort which He has from time to time given. Let us dwell upon times and seasons, times of trouble, times of joy, times of trial, times of refreshment. How did He cherish us as children! How did He guide us in that dangerous time when the mind began to think for itself, and the heart to open to the world! How did He with his sweet discipline restrain our passions, mortify our hopes, calm our fears, enliven our heavinesses, sweeten our desolateness, and strengthen our infirmities! How did He gently guide us towards the strait gate! how did He allure us along His everlasting way, in spite of its strictness, in spite of its loneliness, in spite of the dim twilight in which it lay! He has been all things to us. He has been, as He was to Abraham, Isaac, and {85} Jacob, our God, our shield, and great reward, promising and performing, day by day. “Hitherto hath He helped us.” “He hath been mindful of us, and He will bless us.” He has not made us for nought; He has brought us thus far, in order to bring us further, in order to bring us on to the end. He will never leave us nor forsake us; so that we may boldly say, “The Lord is my Helper; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.” We may “cast all our care upon Him, who careth for us.” What is it to us how our future path lies, if it be but His path? What is it to us whither it leads us, so that in the end it leads to Him? What is it to us what He puts upon us, so that He enables us to undergo it with a pure conscience, a true heart, not desiring anything of this world in comparison of Him? What is it to us what terror befalls us, if He be but at hand to protect and strengthen us? “Thou, Israel,” He says, “art My servant Jacob, whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham My friend.” “Fear not thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the Lord, and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” “Thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not; for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour.” [Isa. xli. 8, 14; xliii. 1-3.]

  2. Scotus–

    A wonderful passage from Newman. However, in your prologue you mention the dualist Manicheans. I don’t think they thought only female flesh was suspect…all flesh was “lower” and the spirit trumped everything.

    Were they misogynists? Probably. But no more than the Patristic writers. Try Iraneus sometime for sheer distaste re women. Nonetheless, none of these profess the deep hatred or fear (perhaps fear is primary) of women that Islam does. Not even the most severely Orthodox Jew, not even St. Anthony of the Desert feared women like Islam fears women.

    It is fathomless and I don’t see a way around it, any more than I can see a way to reform Islam and bring it into, say, the 18th century.

    I cut and pasted the Newman piece. It will remind me to get another copy of the book I loaned to who-knows-now-it’s-been-so-long.

    As a thank you, I recommend God at the Ritz.

Comments are closed.