Brit novelist Fay Weldon, a prominent feminist, recently ended a piece on how Western feminists have failed “the Muslim sisters” with an astonishing comparison of the freedom of Islamic and English women in the U.K.:

“The situation of a Muslim woman in Britain today is not so different from that of an English woman in the 1950s, in the era of ‘no wife of mine works,'” Weldon wrote in the Sunday Times, “when virginity was at a premium, when to be a ‘spinster’ over the age of 25 was a humiliation, to be barren was a ‘tragedy,’ when contraception was largely unavailable; when a woman was defined as a person who had babies and to whom many professions were closed.”

Takes your breath away, doesn’t it?

“It is difficult to say what is worse in this passage,” writes Theodore Dalrymple, “the self-pity (‘I too was a victim, and know what it is like to be oppressed’) or the complete lack of imagination as to what it is like to be locked in a house all day for years on end and not permitted to leave except under the closest supervision, or to be taken to Pakistan at the age of 15 to be forcibly married to a first cousin you have never seen before and who is deeply repellent to you, knowing that a refusal might well lead to beatings and even to death.”

Of course, as Dalrymple notes, this complete lack of imagination seems to be endemic to western intellectuals:

“The inability of western intellectuals to distinguish between the major suffering of others and their own minor irritations and frustrations goes back a long way: Virginia Woolf is a prime example, as are the many who could not see the difference between the House Un-American Activities Committee and the NKVD. It is as if the suffering of a prominent western intellectual counts many times as much as the suffering of anonymous exotics who will never so much as write a newspaper column.

“Quite apart from the sheer egotism of this inability to distinguish between different scales of suffering, it is dangerous, for it implies–and will be understood by our enemies to mean–that we have nothing much in our tradition to defend. If there is no real difference between the oppressive practices of Muslims, including forced marriage on pain of death, and the treatment of women in the west only 50 years ago–and if any difference between the lot of western and Muslim women of today is ascribable solely to the recent efforts of a handful of feminists–then there cannot be much to choose between western and Islamic culture.”

These pseudo-feminists like Weldon are still failing our Muslim sisters–they would do better to try to help them gain the freedoms most women in the west already enjoy.

But that would take admitting that the west, far from being an oppressive patriarchy, has blazed the trail of freedom and equality for women.