A locally published op-ed attacking Hillary Clinton is nothing new, as ignoring the truth is a worldwide condition. But on the cusp of this historic election, a greater importance must be placed upon getting our facts straight.
Let me be clear right off the bat: I love Hillary Clinton. I’m not blind to her shortcomings, but I think she’s immensely qualified and, beyond that, inspiring. She’s an extraordinary politician who has spent her adult life under intense scrutiny and she has demonstrated tremendous poise, insight, courage and grace under pressure. I think she would be a great President, if given the chance to lead freely, scrutinised only for her politics and not for her gender.
I can understand someone being politically opposed to Hillary Clinton but I cannot understand both the vitriol that she ignites in some people and the apathy she brings out in others, especially young female voters put off by her “establishment” credentials. To me, this is part of what makes her so inspiring. She wasn’t born “establishment”: she was the daughter of a homemaker and a textiles worker who was encouraged to get the same education as her brothers and fought hard to graduate law school before making her name in politics. Yes, the circles she now moves in are far different from those in which she was born, but does that not in itself prove her desire to fight against the cards she was dealt? Those who don’t think Hillary has done enough for her sex – or even worse, think she’s set women’s rights back decades – are, at best, clearly unable to conduct a basic Google search. At worst, they’re utterly deluded.
Enter Jennifer Oriel who published an op-ed damning Hillary Clinton’s feminist credentials in The Australian on Monday. “Op-ed” really doesn’t paint the picture correctly. This article I’m writing now is an op-ed; Oriel’s piece was a scathing, vicious attack on Clinton, a vile litany of hate and Islamophobia claiming she is not only “riding the gender card” (that old, non-existent chestnut) but also branding her “unfit to lead the free world” as she’s “a misogynist in feminist clothing” who all but encourages Islamist regimes to continue barbaric acts, like genital mutilation, against women.
If you haven’t read it yet then please, go do that. I’ll wait. There is just so much to unpack in this piece it’s important we’re all on the same page.
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Okay. Firstly, let’s address the claim that she is “no friend to women” and that her record on women’s rights is “abysmal”.
Those who claim she is not for women’s rights usually bring up her pro-choice stance on abortion, like in Veronica Lyter’s article from The Federalist which argues that Hillary’s support of services like planned parenthood means that, “Millions of unborn women didn’t get to celebrate her nomination. Millions of unborn women never had a chance at life, much less a chance at equality.” By that equation – if we’re bringing zygotes into the mix – millions of unborn men didn’t get a chance to grow up railing against her. Also, millions of actual women got to go to college and get an education and make a better life for themselves instead of having a child when they were ill-equipped or unprepared. Hillary has spent her entire political life prioritising bills in favour of equal pay, paid family leave and reproductive choice.
Her website includes detailed plans for women’s rights and women’s advancement including increased funding for planned parenthood, combatting violence against women and fighting for women’s rights around the globe. In fact, when it comes to women’s advancement, the best thing she can do is become President, with studies suggesting that women are most inspired and empowered when they see other women in leadership positions.
Her record as a feminist is unmatched not only by other candidates in this election, it’s unmatched by other candidates throughout history.
This hasn’t stopped Internet pundits, from Right and Left, attacking her. You don’t have to search hard to find hatred of Hillary online. There’s the hatred over her missing emails, hatred for her standing by Bill’s side following his infidelities, hatred over her Wall Street connections and just general hatred because she’s a strong, powerful woman who refuses to give up when so many before her would have crumbled. Some of this is fair, some of it is not, but it won’t go away. To bastardise Edison Lighthouse: Hatred grows where Hillary goes, and it’ll follow her right to DC.
But hatred of her and criticism of her feminism masked in a dangerous veil of Islamophobia, as was the case in The Australian? That’s a new one.
This was a vicious attack on Clinton, a vile litany of hate and Islamophobia claiming she is not only “riding the gender card” but also branding her “unfit to lead the free world … a misogynist in feminist clothing”.
Oriel’s main claim about Hillary’s “unfitness” to lead was based on a recent report from the Islamist Money in Politics list that alleged “in the 2015-16 financial year, Clinton topped the list for donations from Islamist individuals and organisations” including affiliates of the Council of American-Islamic Relations or CAIR. Oriel claims that these organisations have shocking records when it comes to both human rights and women’s rights, asserting that “If Clinton really believed that ‘women’s rights are human rights’, she wouldn’t take campaign money from groups that empower Islamist misogyny against women and girls by punishing its survivors.”
When you read this, I admit, it looks bad. But, like Donald Trump, Oriel may be betting that most people won’t bother to fact-check her work, they’ll just jump on the bandwagon. Here are the facts: The Islamist Money in Politics list is not an official list and it’s not from an official organisation. It is a list published from a paranoid anti-Islam website which fails – among other things – to understand the difference between people who follow Islam and people who identify as “Islamists”, i.e., followers of extreme, radical Islam. On their own website they take even admit to taking issue with those “lawful” followers of Islam who advance their cause through “lobbying politicians” and “advancing legislation”. In other words, by doing exactly what they’re allowed to do as Muslims and as citizens in the US under the guidelines of freedom of expression and freedom of religion. This is not an organisation you can quote with any credibility, it’s a gung-ho citizen militia made up of racists, bigots and people who are terrified of a change to the status quo.
For that reason, their definition of an “Islamist” organisation is unreliable. Oriel makes a point of saying that CAIR – one of Hillary’s major donors – “sits on the wrong side of history in respect of human rights” and was labelled a “terrorist organisation by the United Arab Emirates”. This last fact is true, however, its listing as such has been rejected by the US Government who is at pains to point out the grassroots efforts of CAIR to better inform Americans of true – not radical – Islam through community projects like handing out free Qurans for anyone who is keen to read for themselves what Islam actually preaches, as well as providing a number of free legal services to Muslims who have been discriminated against. In fact, most of CAIR’s work involves advocating on behalf of Muslim women who have been fired or threatened with termination for choosing to wear a headscarf at work.
You can criticise her politics; that’s absolutely fine, valid and necessary. But to suggest that she hasn’t done enough for women and even worse, to suggest that her efforts have been detrimental, is baseless slander.
CAIR is a huge organisation with offices across many US states. Is there a possibility that there are some members who follow a more hard-line version of Islam than others? Of course. As can be said of any organisation and affiliation. For every, more moderate, Christopher Pyne in the Liberal Party there is a hardliner like George Christensen. For every independent like Nick Xenophon, there is a Pauline Hanson. Every element of a large organisation is going to have its extremists and ratbags – that’s just a fact of life – but to suggest a group like CAIR is a terrorist organisation committing human rights abuses against women is blatantly incorrect. The fact that Hillary has accepted money from CAIR is not a criticism, it only goes further towards proving that she is a candidate who has the best interests of the nation – and every religion in the nation – at heart, and that she is committed to making life better for American Muslims.
Unfortunately, this is not how Oriel sees it, instead branding Clinton’s support of minorities an example of her “open border fanaticism”, a commitment which is “contrary to the welfare of women”, whilst further claiming that by upping the number of refugees she is willing to take (from 10,000 to 65,000), she is putting the welfare of potential jihadists before her “primary duty of care to the American people”.
Again, there’s just so much to dispute here it’s hard to know where to start…but how about with the fact that with almost 5 million Syrian refugees in border camps with another 6 million internally displaced in Syria, agreeing to take 65,000 is pittance, relatively. What is ignored – as usual in the Islamic fear-mongering about the US being swamped by jihadists – is that for the 3,000 odd people who have been killed by Islamic terror in the US over the last 15 years (including September 11), over 400,000 have been killed by firearms. Radical Islam is scary but it’s not the mass threat it is made out to be. It’s unpredictable, but no more unpredictable than a white Christian loner with his dad’s AK-47.
It is so easy to slip into Donald Trump style fear-mongering and hate speech when it comes to criticising Hillary Clinton. As a woman who doesn’t suffer fools, who doesn’t apologise for her brains or her ambition or pretend she has any interest in her appearance she can at times come across as prickly, cold and harsh. I think this is a misunderstanding of the woman she is and I think that rather than playing “the woman’s card”, the women’s card gets placed on her, and thus the filter that she is seen through is skewed against her purely because we still struggle – even in 2016 — with seeing a woman so thoroughly determined to stand her ground and not be told what to do by anyone.
You can criticise her politics; that’s absolutely fine, valid and necessary. And as I said previously, even agreeing with her politics doesn’t mean you have to agree with her 100%. But to suggest that she hasn’t done enough for women – in her own country and around the world – and, even worse, to suggest that her efforts have been detrimental, have increased their suffering, is not only unfair, it is cruel, baseless slander.
The next president of the United States deserves better than that.