Orientalist garbage. I’ve seen several reports before that interrogators at Guantanamo are using women interrogators in various ways to gain psychological dominance over the detainees. For instance a common claim seems to be that Muslim men don’t know how to deal with women in positions of authority. My comment on this:
BTW, that comment about women interrogators is the stupidest thing I’ve ever read. These guys were never bossed around by their mothers? There are no henpecked husbands in the Muslim world? There are no MOTHERS-IN-LAW? If anybody seriously believes based on a sweeping generalization about Muslims that that is an effective technique, they must be deluded.
Here’s the latest:
Female interrogators tried to break Muslim detainees at the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay by sexual touching, wearing a miniskirt and thong underwear and in one case smearing a Saudi man’s face with fake menstrual blood, according to an insider’s written account.
A draft manuscript obtained by The Associated Press is classified as secret pending a Pentagon review for a planned book that details ways the U.S. military used women as part of tougher physical and psychological interrogation tactics to get terror suspects to talk.
British journalist Brian Whitaker analyzed a book called “The Arab Mind” that according to investigative reporter Seymour Hersh is being used by the U.S. military:
The book in question is called The Arab Mind, and is by Raphael Patai, a cultural anthropologist who taught at several US universities, including Columbia and Princeton.
I must admit that, despite having spent some years studying Arabic language and culture, I had not heard of this alleged masterpiece until last week, when the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh mentioned it in an article for New Yorker magazine.
Hersh was discussing the chain of command that led US troops to torture Iraqi prisoners. Referring specifically to the sexual nature of some of this abuse, he wrote: “The notion that Arabs are particularly vulnerable to sexual humiliation became a talking point among pro-war Washington conservatives in the months before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.
“One book that was frequently cited was The Arab Mind … the book includes a 25-page chapter on Arabs and sex, depicting sex as a taboo vested with shame and repression.”
Hersh continued: “The Patai book, an academic told me, was ‘the bible of the neocons on Arab behaviour’. In their discussions, he said, two themes emerged — ‘one, that Arabs only understand force, and two, that the biggest weakness of Arabs is shame and humiliation’.”
Last week, my own further enquiries about the book revealed something even more alarming. Not only is it the bible of neocon headbangers, but it is also the bible on Arab behaviour for the US military.
According to one professor at a US military college, The Arab Mind is “probably the single most popular and widely read book on the Arabs in the US military”. It is even used as a textbook for officers at the JFK special warfare school in Fort Bragg.
Reader Whitaker’s entire article about this piece of racist garbage whose best use is as a doorstop.
The section of the news story about menstrual blood really jumped out at me because it’s so glaringly wrong:
The interrogator left the room to ask a Muslim linguist how she could break the prisoner’s reliance on God. The linguist told her to tell the detainee that she was menstruating, touch him, then make sure to turn off the water in his cell so he couldn’t wash.
Strict interpretation of Islamic law forbids physical contact with women other than a man’s wife or family, and with any menstruating women, who are considered unclean.
“The concept was to make the detainee feel that after talking to her he was unclean and was unable to go before his God in prayer and gain strength,” says the draft, stamped “Secret.”
The interrogator used ink from a red pen to fool the detainee, Saar writes.
The statement Strict interpretation of Islamic law forbids physical contact … with any menstruating women, who are considered unclean is simply false.
Here’s a page by conservative Saudi scholar Shaykh Muhammad al-Munajjid that discusses in quite some detail what the rules are for a man and his wife when she’s menstruating: Intimacy with one’s wife when she is menstruating. Short answer: everything short of actual intercourse is allowed between a married couple. Rules regarding physical contact between men and women have to do with the degree of relationship with them, and do not change depending on whether the woman is menstruating or not, except that married couples should refrain from intercourse. Just to make this clear, Munajjid has another article called A menstruating woman is not impure.
Any kind of blood (not just menstrual blood) is considered ritually impure for prayer in that you have to wipe it off before beginning the prayer; here is what Munajjid says about ritually impure substances:
Touching blood or urine does not invalidate wudoo’, … But touching blood, urine or other impure substances does not invalidate wudoo’, rather he has to wash them off.
(“wudoo”, also spelled “wudu”, is the ritual purification that a Muslim undertakes before prayer).
The article mentions that they also took the water away so that the detainee couldn’t wash off the “blood”. Islamic law features a very well-known exemption allowing people to do tayammum or dry ablution when they can’t find water. This reference also says that if they can’t even do tayammum, they can pray as they are:
Whoever cannot get water or soil may pray in whatever state he is in, and he will not have to repeat his prayer later.
Assuming that the interrogators blocked the detainee even from doing tayammum, he could still pray in whatever state he was in.
In other words, the basis of this entire exercise is garbage and doesn’t accurately reflect Islamic rules at all.
However, I suspect that most anybody, and especially men, would freak out if they thought a woman was touching herself to put menstrual blood on her hands then touching them with it. It’s not limited to Muslims, I’m pretty darn sure about that.
Added: An Australian detainee reports that as part of his treatment, he was strapped to the ground while a woman he believed was a prostitute (see other article above) menstruated on him. Is this the image of our country we want to broadcast to the world? Is this the kind of thing that makes you say, “I’m proud to be an American”? [Al-Muhajabah’s Islamic Blogs]
I think Al-Muhajabah is right–I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I would certainly be horrified by the kind of treatment these men are subjected to, and I’m not a Muslim. In fact, I suspect pretty much any civilized person would react the same way to this kind of thing, regardless of their religion or lack thereof.