ISIS, Kayla Mueller, and the value of a human life
Where ISIS and Western media seem to shockingly agree, the MHRM must dissent
By Liber Namuh
In February it was confirmed that American aid worker Kayla Mueller died sometime during her 18 months of being held by ISIS. The following media quotes tell us a lot, but not about Kayla Mueller, whose life work was extremely honorable, helping others in need, including Doctors without Borders. They don’t tell us anything about the courageous young woman brutally killed, but they do hold up a mirror to our own society and culture, and from this mirror valuable lessons can be gained by those willing to look. They expose how both Islamic and Western cultures look at the value of a human life: male versus female.
One might argue that sadly, most of society is not willing to look, and those who do look (men’s human rights activists) don’t need the reminder. However, mainstream ideology tells us regularly that men have all the advantages and that men and boys have no disadvantages based on their gender – at least none that are important, or can’t be brushed under the rug or tagged as “Patriarchy.” The truth, that males can be and are suffering due to their gender around the world is the elephant in the room. The broad social acceptance of this fact is the sine qua non for deep, truly meaningful, and long-lasting progress for the MHRM. That is why these kind of instructive examples can and should be repeated as often as possible, particularly those coming from recent headlines.
Until ideology gives way to a more accurate and humane view of the world, there can never be too many examples we post and share, because people need to be repeatedly reminded of this, or be given opportunities to awaken to its truth. In a future piece, I will aim to frame this in the context of one of the most important question the MHRM needs to press society to answer. Here, if nothing else, I hope this relatively short media compilation adds to a growing library of such examples, which each of us can share, and politely but without apology use to challenge those outside of the MHRM.
Politicians wouldn’t have to repeat so often that we “won’t put our young men and women” (mostly men) in the armed forces in harms way “unless necessary for defense” if it were actually true. It has not been true in the past nor is it today. War has a huge toll that the media tells us often falls on the shoulders of “women and children.” What the media neglects to add is how much more often, and how much more heavily, it falls on the shoulders of boys and young men.
The focus here, however, is not on examples of harm to men, and even boys, though there are plenty. They are hit from all sides, kidnapped, beaten, tortured, raped and killed by ISIS, or Boko Haram, or killed by U.S. bombs and drones. The issue we are raising today is this: Until male lives are valued as much as female lives, there can be no peace. There can be no end to wars, with brutal barbaric extremists happy to murder and grind up men, and politicians happy to send off male cannon fodder to die in wars sold to the public with lies. Until we raise the value of the male lives this madness will continue.
A look at how the media has covered Kayla Mueller’s death exposes by contrast the prevalence of male expendability as a social attitude.
About ISIS, the media reports ask us: Would the mass murdering, beheading brutal ISIS that burns people alive, “go that far?” How far? What do they mean? The media said it pretty directly: Would ISIS actually be willing to not just kill a woman, but to admit the sin to the world, the same sin that when done to men is not something they worry about “admitting” but something they openly brag about?
Some quotes follow with portions highlighted in bold and comments in brackets:
Washington Post, Was Kayla Mueller’s situation different from other Islamic State hostages?
“The way ISIS justified the immolation of the pilot is the way it justifies many of its brutal acts,” Hassan Hassan, an analyst with the Abu Dhabi research center Delma Institute, explained using an acronym to refer to the Islamic State. “It relies on genuine but isolated incidents in Islamic history.” The group might have tried to do this again, but theological justification for killing a female prisoner is certainly not obvious [Translation: for male prisoners the “justification” is regularly accepted by many as “obvious,” a misandrist reality of our world the Post omits.] Will McCants, Director of the Brookings Institution’s Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, said he can’t think of any instances in the Koran that indicate the prophet Muhammad did anything similar.
Regardless of theological arguments, it’s possible that a greater motivation – a desire to shock and horrify – may have led the Islamic State to take more drastic action. “It is pretty clear that ISIS is working an escalating strategy on its media releases,” J.M. Berger, an analyst who follows jihadist movements online, says, pointing to the Kaseasbeh video. “I think ISIS would not balk at killing a woman hostage on camera as part of that process, but they would [as part of “escalating” to something worse] hold that card [of killing a woman] until they needed it.” Here it is said pretty openly: killing a woman is “escalating” to something worse than killing a man. (See here)
Fawaz Gerges, an expert in international relations at the London School of Economics, told MSNBC that for ISIS, killing a woman could be more problematic [than killing a man] from a religious and public-relations standpoint. Some have speculated that ISIS had already killed the aid worker and only latched onto the airstrikes claim for cover.
“ISIS knows, or some of the leaders in ISIS know, they cannot display a video of Kayla in the same way they do when it comes to a man. Islam not only prohibits the killing of women, and children and the elderly, even though ISIS has violated all of the principles and values of Islamic doctrine,” Gerges said.. (See here)
Here the double standard in both public perception and in the societal moral value system is even more openly stated: male lives count for less, have less value, and their extinguishing is openly declared to be a smaller outrage for the human soul to hear about. This mistandric double standard must be repeatedly exposed and challenged for its inherent value, though it can also be a useful way to ask the establishment, “tell me again how men ‘rule’ this world and suffer no gender-based sexism or oppression directed against them? Let’s look at two last examples:
If confirmed, Mueller’s death would bring to an end months of speculation about what ISIS, whose brutality seems to know no bounds, had planned for its last American captive. ISIS has killed Muslim women, as well as children. And the group has held other female captives, notably Yazidi women for example. But Western women had, so far, not been touched. [Notice the hierarchy: non-Western men, then non-Western women at a higher level, then Western men, and at the top, hostage lives which have not been taken until now: Western women.]
That fact, terrorism analysts had said, may have helped to keep Mueller alive. Even for a group as brutal as ISIS, killing a woman aid worker could potentially be seen as a bridge too far, and risk igniting public opposition to the group, which aims to establish a new caliphate. (See here)
ISIS claims Mueller alone was killed by a second round of airstrikes by Jordanian F-16s.
…Key questions, how would ISIS know it was a Jordanian bomb? Is this a way to avoid the backlash of killing a woman? Why would she be left alone in a building? (See here)
The male disposability question is central to the MHRM. It is society’s moral justification for infringing on men’s human rights. Without addressing it or at least acknowledging it, how can meaningful and permanent progress possibly be made on any men’s issues? This double standard around the lower value of male lives and male suffering must lead conversations, advocacy and pressure by the MHRM.
This will also require some at least partially political conversations. There are absolutely huge obstacles to admitting, let alone addressing, misandry. Few openings exist for ‘gender equalization’ under the present system of corporate political, economic, and military-industrial complex institutions. This system allows only partial “downward” motion for women’s lives, not “upwards harmonization” by increasing the value of men’s lives.
Systemic misandry will make these changes, while necessary, very difficult. Yet these observations open up possibilities for new alliances, new ways to challenge those who are blind to misandry but claim to care so much about women’s lives. The current system, build on male expendability, can only bring ruin to all of humanity if allowed to continue for too many more generations – or even mere years. It is in everyone’s interest to address this.
In a future post, I will explain the importance of pressing people to spell out very specifically and explicitly what “gender based oppression” is, as a precise definition. That could become a powerful tool for getting those who are not completely closed-minded to wake up to the reality of what I’ve called SAME: Sexism at Male Expense.
Latest posts by Liber Namuh (see all)
- Guardian: “men are pretty terrible people” piece is half right - October 30, 2015
- ISIS, Kayla Mueller, and the value of a human life - May 30, 2015