“An American Bride in Kabul” Debuts at 92nd Street Y

By: Fern Sidman

Dr. Phyllis Chesler speaks with audience members at the 92nd Street Y and signs copies of her new book, “An American Bride in Kabul”

“This is the story of a young and naive Jewish American woman who meant to rebel against tradition—but who found herself trapped in the past, stuck in the Middle Ages, without a passport back,” declared the redoubtable Dr. Phyllis Chesler to the mesmerized audience before her at the 92nd Street Y on Tuesday evening, October 1.The occasion was the debut of Dr. Chesler’s 15th book entitled, “An American Bride in Afghanistan” (Palgrave MacMillan).

As part of the vanguard of the second wave feminist movement, Dr. Chesler is an emerita professor of psychology and women’s studies at CUNY, psychotherapist and most notably an internationally renowned author and lecturer. Among her best selling books are “Women and Madness” (1972), “WomAn’s Inhumanity to WomAn” (2001), “The New Anti-Semitism (2003) and “The Death of Feminism (2005).

On this evening, however, Dr. Chesler not only celebrated her 73rd birthday, but she honored the often tortuous trajectory of a dark chapter in her life in her new and enthralling memoir. Over the years she had written intermittently about her horrific experiences as a winsome Jewish woman held in marital captivity in Afghanistan in 1961, but it was only recently that she made the decision to detail these harrowing memories in full length book form.

In a voice reverberating with a profound passion, Dr. Chesler said in a private interview that the reason that her book was published now is because, “The material is so rich, so irresistible. The 9/11 plot was hatched in a country that I once lived in – how surreal, how destined is that! How could I remain silent? Wasn’t I obligated to share what I had seen and now know? ” Momentarily rueful, she added, “The Afghan burqa seems to have followed me to America and into the future. I needed to provide an accounting of what I experienced, witnessed, and the lessons learned.”

Joining Dr. Chesler on stage before a capacity crowd at the Buttenwieser Hall at the storied Y was Mr. Ibn Warraq, celebrated writer and founder of the Institute for the Secularization of Islamic Society and a senior research fellow at the Westminster Institute, focusing on Koranic criticism. Amongst his scholarly exegeses are: “Why I am Not a Muslim”, “Leaving Islam: Apostates Speak Out” and most recently, “Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism.”

Also standing beside Dr. Chesler was Ms. Raquel Evita Saraswati, a religious Muslim feminist human rights activist who has worked prodigiously with Dr. Zuhdi Jasser of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD).

Introducing Dr. Chesler and the other speakers was the organizer of the evening’s event, Rabbi Paulette Posner, Acting Director of the Center of Jewish Diversity. The panel was deftly moderated by Rabbi David Kalb.

Commencing with a reading of an excerpt of “An American Bride in Kabul”, Dr. Chesler held her book, and with a palpable intensity, read the words that she penned with the help of the indelible memories etched in her mind and her copious diary entries:

I once lived in a harem in Afghanistan. I am eighteen and I have just met my prince. He is a dark, handsome, charming, sophisticated, and wealthy foreign student. We are in college in America. True, he is a Muslim and I am a Jew. I am very Jewish. But he is the Agha Khan, and I am Rita Hayworth. He is Yul Brynner, and I am Gertrude Lawrence in The King and I.

When we land in Kabul officials smoothly remove my American passport which I never see again. Suddenly, I am the citizen of no country, and have no rights. I have become the property of a polygamous Afghan family and am expected to live with my mother-in-law and other female relatives, wear hijab, and live in purdah. That means that I cannot go out without a male escort, a male driver, and a female relative as chaperones.

I am also expected to convert to Islam. I am living in a culture where extreme gender apartheid is the norm and where my reactions to it are considered abnormal,

Why am I writing this book?

I believe that my American feminism began in Afghanistan. It is a feminism that many Muslim and ex-Muslim feminists and dissidents, both religious and secular, welcome and support. We are all anti-Islamists: We oppose totalitarianism, terrorism, and gender and religious apartheid and support individual, human, gay, and women’s rights.

This is an accounting of sorts. A young Jewish American woman once came to this wondrous, Asiatic country and fled harem life. She finally uncovered the history of what happened to the Jews of Afghanistan, and she has told their story in order to redeem her soul.

At the conclusion of her reading a hush fell over the room. It was then that Dr. Chesler and her co-panelists began fielding a veritable potpourri of questions from audience members. She explained why she married in the first place. “Ah—I was young and I fell in love. My Afghan bridegroom was a Westernized man I had known for nearly three years at college in America. He cooked for me, he was tender and attentive—he just never mentioned that his father had three wives and twenty-one children or that I would be expected to live under a polite form of posh house arrest–or that I would be expected to convert to Islam.”.

She added that, “I lived as a member of an Afghan family and as such learned about the Afghan people in a way that the great Western travelers could not. Afterward I was often able to see the West with Eastern eyes.”

When queried as to whether Islam can ever be reformed, Ibn Warraq, an expert in Muslim ideology and the intricacies of the Koran, said that it could not due to the present day extreme influences that guide it.

Eloquently and with great erudition, Raquel Evita Saraswati addressed the paramount issues that swirl around various honor cultures and women’s rights therein. Considered the foremost scholar on the endemic scourge of both Islamic and Hindu honor killings of women, Dr. Chesler also spoke about on the same theme, utilizing the plethora of facts she gathered for her articles in The Middle East Quarterly, an academic journal under the aegis of Dr. Daniel Pipes.

Because “An American Bride in Kabul” also provides an in-depth look into the history of Jews in Afghanistan and mentions the present day state of affairs in Israel, an audience member asked Dr. Chesler about the “violations of Palestinians” that purportedly take place there. Her response drew enthusiastic applause as she swiftly and passionately spoke truth to power to what she calls, “The Big Lies”, better known as blatant propaganda aimed at Israel.

Receiving a standing ovation and a rousing round of applause at the evening’s conclusion, Dr. Chesler graciously appeared in the hall’s lobby where she autographed her book for the dozens of people lined up to purchase it.

“I really didn’t know what to expect when I came here tonight,” said audience member Audrey Levinson, 62, of Gramercy Park, as she waited on line to get her copy of the book autographed. “I certainly knew of Phyllis Chesler and had read “Women and Madness” when I was in college, but I must say that my curiosity was piqued when I had read some pre-publication reviews of “An American Bride in Afghanistan.” She added that, “Hearing Dr. Chesler’s words here this evening really sent a lightning jolt throughout my entire being. To say that it was enlightening and exceptionally informative was an understatement. I know what I’ll be reading in bed tonight.”


HICKOK45 — Life Is Good

By: Gerald Loeffers

I am shying away from any heavy subject today, but I want to expose another fine YouTube gun and shooting channel — Hickok45, the grandpa you wished you had, lol. He is based out of Tennessee with a large property to shoot on and with 3 areas to work on. He’s a funny guy that makes fun of himself and doesn’t take himself too seriously. His film crew is his own son, who is the heavy metal half of the family. He was a competitive shooter and has worked within law enforcement in the past, but I do not know the full details. He has a love for old school firearms throughout history and has a love for modern GLOCKS.

His love of history is so apparent with his showing of hatchets, knives, single action guns to lever action rifles and some archery thrown in there. I love learning about this part of American history! He is into teaching about World War II weapons and their history from around the world and has an excellent collection from Colt 1911 A1 pistols, to the K98 Mauser rifles and he loves showing how they shoot and operate. He shows how fun and accurate these guns are. This man has a fondness for double action revolvers from Smith and Wesson, as well as Colt and Ruger, with the K frame Smiths being his favorite.

But at least we won’t forget he has a love for modern firearms like the Glock. It is his favorite (mine as well), but he is not brand myopic and also has shown off the Smith M&P, Springfield Armory XD, XDM, XDS, Ruger SR9 and has a vast collection of modern 1911 pistols of many makes and models. Then his modern rifles are really cool — like the FN S.C.A.R., AK-47, SOCOM 16, M1A, AR-15, REMINGTON 700, RUGER 10/22, MINI 14 and he has also from time to time shown off some borrowed class 3 guns like the M-16 W/SUPPRESSOR or the suppressed Glock 21, one of my favorites.

With the large and vast compound he has, he can shoot almost anywhere. Some videos have him doing a “woods walk,” shooting against anything from zombies to those evil 2 liter sodas. Then he has a long range area to shoot heavy rifles, such as his M1A or bolt action sniper rifles at steel plates at around 300 yards. When he has a close up video, it is a small area with him sitting on a log with mostly a pistol and shooting close range against paint cans or soda bottles. But most of his shooting review videos take place at his standard range area with many levels of plates and other targets at different ranges. I have seen this guy hit his long range gong with a Glock 26, way beyond its intended design! This man’s sense of humor is funny and down home with him doing everything from using a Glock to carve a pumpkin to conducting a Remington shotgun tree trimming. My personal favorite is his Smith .500 water melon close range salad.

This man has many supporters and friends within the YouTube gun community here in the States and overseas in Australia. Some of these friends have dropped by now and then to join in the fun and to pass along their love of firearms and shooting. Mike Lee who is a country singer in Australia, who somehow is a rampant gun collector in that country, has come over to the Hickok house a few times and gone shooting with him. He wrote a song for Hickok and filmed the music video at his place entitled: LIFE IS GOOD. The reason being is that’s Hickok’s signature ending to his videos. Make no mistake… Hickok is a 2nd Amendment supporter and even did an off the cuff speech at a rally at one time similar to the one NUTNFANCY did in Utah at the state capitol.

So, this is the grandpa we wish we all had. I mean come on… who wouldn’t? He has a vast knowledge and experience that he can pass on to others and he does so. He’s fun and his own son still hangs around his dad and helps film his channel. If that’s not family unity, I don’t know what is. He has talent and shows he’s not afraid to be silly or make mistakes like the rest of us do. He shows not only his shooting skills, but that you can have fun doing something serious and learn something from each new experience. Now go out there and bring the family! Go shooting together, because life IS good.