Linda Downing

Set the girls free

For some, it is not enough to state opinions and link themselves to the like-minded. They value aggression more than persuasion. They cannot rest with practicing their position. They also seek to strong-arm dissidents into agreement.

A current example is the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram’s kidnapping of close to 300 schoolgirls. Seized from their school on April 15, some of the girls appeared in a May 12 video dressed in full veils, reciting the first chapter of the Quran. Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram’s leader, appears and says, “These girls have become Muslims.”

Shekau’s avowed purpose is to show that Western education is a sin threatening to change the place of women in his society. That goal, however, fell secondary to his offer to exchange the girls for the release of militant prisoners. It would seem that his convictions take a back seat to more practical considerations.

Columnist Leonard Pitts taunted: “Extremist Islam is scared of little girls.” Fear defines terrorism and its ugly kin: shunning, bullying, and demoting. Fear — that what one believes might not be true; that truth might change one’s lifestyle — puffs up the small-minded.

Islam is blatantly anti-women in the guise of serving Allah and upholding the Quran. The radical elements wear terrorism as a badge of honor. Moderates may try to avoid terrorism, but their position regarding women is the same. A March news summary bore the oxymoronic title:

“Women’s rights in the Arab world.” On the positive side were such things as being “allowed” to travel without male escort, to vote, to hold public office. On the negative side, even so-called, West-friendly countries, like Jordan, fail to curb domestic violence and “honor killings.”

History shows that almost all religions, including Christianity, and all nations, including the United States, have been guilty at one time or another of committing atrocious acts to force conversions or punish infidels (those with different beliefs). It is the sad but uniting truth that terrorism and bigotry have one common scapegoat—girls and women.

It is 2014. The Internet expands daily. Science proclaims an infinite number of planets and claims it sees that which preceded the “Big Bang.” Yet, in April the world lauded the pope for washing the feet of “women and non-Catholics,” to be followed in May by learning 848 male priests have been defrocked for sex abuse and 2,572 others slapped with lesser penalties.

It is 2014. In the United States we are still not enforcing equal pay for women. We are still fearful over women serving in all capacities in the military, despite recent observations by Lt. Col. Christopher Valeriano. Seeing women moved into artillery jobs, he said that they “are running circles around the men.”

It is 2014. Women in much of the church world are barred from holding all offices in the church on a par with men. The aggressors use biblical passages taken out of context. Apostle Paul, the persuader, said to “let the woman learn” (1 Timothy 2:11), his main point, a first century mandate as radical as the Nigerian girls’ abduction for the same reason—to keep them from learning. Knowledge is power; aggressors know that. Set the girls free.

Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If we seek simple truth, we can find it together—side-by-side.

Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at