As reported in Commentary, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameinei recently delivered a speech on women's rights, in which he cited none other than former President Jimmy Carter via his new book, "A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power."
What was the purpose of Khameinei's invocation of Carter?
After extolling Iran's women for their achievements, and advocating for a broader discussion on gender, Khameinei used Carter's book to attack the West when it comes to women's rights, and argue that Iran should "avoid the Western outlook on the issue of women" altogether.
Calling Carter's book "a very important writing," Khameinei quoted the following statement from the 39th president's "A Call to Action":
"Every year, 100,000 girls are sold as slaves in America where the owner of a brothel can buy girls - who are usually Latin American or African - at only 1000 dollars".
"He also refers to the rapes which occur in colleges where only one case out of 25 cases is reported. He goes on to say that only one percent of rapists are put to trial in the army. One cries when one reads such things. We can see many such writings in newspapers. I see such writings as well, but I never base my opinions on them. However, these are realities.
Jimmy Carter is a well-known personality after all and this is his book. What kind of situation is this? What kind of respect - towards women - is this?"
Following his summation of another book on the sex trade in Latin America, which Khameinei claims dignifies prostitution, Khameinei stated:
"This is the western culture towards women. This is their respect towards women.
If we want our outlook towards the issue of women to be healthy, reasonable and precise, the first condition is that we should completely clear our minds of the statements that westerners make about women - about their employment, management and sexual equality."
AEI's Michael Rubin, author most recently of "Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes," in which he extensively covers Carter's failings during the Iranian hostage crisis, takes Carter to task in the Commentary article for the former president's moral relativism, stating:
Jimmy Carter meets with Saudi King Abdullah in 2009. The former president has praised the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia, even over and above that of women in the United States. (Image Source: Saudiembassy.net)
"he [Carter] has little perspective or sense of balance about relative rights. He exaggerates or uses unreliable or discredited statistics to bash the West, and tends to embrace cultural relevancy and downplay the horrific violence and discrimination women face in the Middle East and broader Islamic world.
For example, he describes Saudi women as “bubbl[ing] over with pleasure as they extolled their enhanced status in Saudi society, with its special protection, plus freedom and privilege.” Indeed, he then observed “women in the Kingdom relish some customs that Westerners consider deprivations.” How unfortunate it is that a man who was once leader of the free world so readily considers individual liberty and freedom to choose how to live one’s life such a burden.
[sharequote align="center"]Bashing Western freedom and whitewashing...the Islamic world does not make an individual enlightened[/sharequote]
Carter also includes some potted history with regard to Iran, but he fails to mention the repressions Iranian women face. The closest he comes is to lament that Tehran—along with Sudan, Somalia, the island nations of Palau and Tonga, and the United States—have not ratified the UN’s The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. He neglects to realize that many Arab countries have ratified but then moved to exempt themselves from the Convention’s provisions, or ignored them altogether, nor mentions the reasons why the United States has not ratified the treaty, which have more to do with sovereignty than misogyny. Bashing Western freedom and whitewashing abuses in the Islamic world does not make an individual enlightened; it makes him or her a bigot, willing to condemn others to tyranny based on the location of their birth."
Rubin concludes his article with the following damning statement:
"The arrogance of power—and life in an echo chamber—can lead to the moral miscalibration that appears to afflict our nation’s 39th president. But, if there was ever a time to stand up and engage in some serious introspection, it is probably when Iran’s supreme leader seems so enthusiastic to endorse your latest book."