From Daniel Pipes comes this interesting insight into the Muslim world-view:
Considering the Muslim reputation for archaic customs, it is ironic to note that Islamic civilization not only portrays women as sexually desirous, but it sees them as more passionate than men. Indeed, this understanding has determined the place of women in traditional Muslim life.
…Indeed, Muslims generally believe female desire to be so much greater than the male equivalent that the woman is viewed as the hunter and the man as her passive victim. If believers feel little distress about sex acts as such, they are obsessed with the dangers posed by women. So strong are her needs thought to be, she ends up representing the forces of unreason and disorder. A woman’s rampant desires and irresistible attractiveness gives her a power over men that even rivals God’s. She must be contained, for her unbridled sexuality poses a direct danger to the social order. (Symbolic of this, the Arabic word fitna means both civil disorder and beautiful woman.)
The entire Muslim social structure can be understood as containing female sexuality. It goes to great lengths to separate the sexes and reduce contact between them. This explains such customs as the covering of women’s faces and the separation of women’s residential quarters, or the harem. Many other institutions serve to reduce female power over men, such as her need for a male’s permission to travel, work, marry, or divorce. Revealingly, a traditional Muslim wedding took place between two men – the groom and the bride’s guardian.
…Muslim family life restricts contact between the spouses by dividing their interests and duties, imbalancing their power relationship (she is more his servant than his companion), andencouraging the mother-son bond over the marital connection.
…the anxiety persisted that women would break loose of their restrictions and bring perdition to the community.
Those anxieties multiplied in recent centuries as Western influence spread through the Muslim world, for Western ways nearly always collide with Islamic ones.
…s a result, each civilization looks upon the other as deeply flawed, if not barbaric.
For many Muslims, the West poses not just an external threat as the infidel invader; it also erodes traditional mechanisms to cope with the internal threat, woman. This leads to widespread worries about adopting Western ways and a preference instead to cling to older customs. Differences in sexuality, in other words, contribute to an overall Muslim reluctance to accept modernity. Fear of Western erotic ways ends up constraining Muslim peoples in the political, economic, and cultural arenas. Sexual apprehensions constitute a key reason for Islam’s trauma in the modern era.[emphasis mine -C]
That explains a lot. Now shine that light on this story:
But in Iraq, where rumors alone can destroy a woman’s reputation, the consequences of US detention are much more severe for women than for men. In a way, it scarcely matters if Azzawi’s mother was raped or not: If she denies being raped, nobody will believe her, because Iraqi women rarely admit to being raped, a charge that can ruin a woman’s life. [or get her beaten to death by her male relatives -- for "honor's"sake... -C]
Now that there are real pictures of US troops sexually humiliating Iraqi women, reality and rumors have tangled inseparably. “With the pictures and the CDs, it becomes almost irrelevant if they’re raped or not,” says Manal Omar, the Iraq coordinator of Women for Women, which helps women in former war zones. “Even before the torture, the rumor was out that they were raping women in the prison. With or without the pictures from the porn site, the real pictures made people believe that. It made that rumor fact.”