Chesler, a psychologist by training and a self-identified feminist, sets out to explain how and why the movement she once associated with has gone awry. Those most commonly identified as feminists today have, she argues, become "marginalized" and "irrelevant" due to their obsession with multiculturalism and isolationism. Chesler at once condemns women's studies in the academy and leftist protestations against U.S. democratization efforts in the Muslim world. At times, Chesler's passionate defense of both the United States and Israel—a defense of democracy and denunciation of Islamism—overwhelms her core arguments about feminism. But she clearly establishes the relationship between U.S. foreign policy and the feminism with which she identifies. Her ultimate goal, she says, is to create a feminist foreign policy.
The first chapters document the crises that feminism faces today: the liberal feminist hijacking of the academy, the lack of independent thinking among women, and the stifling of dissident feminist views. Using a mix of personal anecdotes, statistics, and excerpts from other sources, Chesler documents the closed-mindedness among feminists—and their hypocrisy: "the chilling of free speech has been unilaterally imposed by those who claim to act on its behalf," she argues. She also provides psychological explanations for this situation.
Chesler identifies the turning point of feminism, when it finally became "suicidally intolerant," as "the reaction and non-reaction of Western academics and intellectuals to the 2000 intifada against Israel—and to 9/11." Indeed, Chesler's main complaint against today's feminism is its reflexive anti-Zionism and anti-Americanism. She shares personal anecdotes about conversations on feminist Internet listservs she is a part of, where irrelevant rants condemning the "Zionist occupation" and "America's support for it" become commonplace. She, also, discusses consequences she has faced as a result of feminist's single-mindedness in politics, such as the time prominent feminist Muriel Fox, cofounder of NOW, warned her not to vote for President Bush in 2004. Chesler argues that a "suicidal" result of these tendencies is its failure to speak out against the crimes committed against women around the world in the name of Islam. Chesler's final chapters focus largely on Islamism and why it should be the foremost concern for feminists today.
The middle of the book forms a separate section, which documents the experiences of women with Islamic culture. In chapter four—the book's most memorable—Chesler tells the story of her own "Afghan captivity," when she, a young Jewish woman, went to live as a young bride in Afghanistan in 1961 with her husband's traditional Islamic Afghan family. She indeed was held captive—at one point nearly starving to death. It is clear from her harrowing story why she has taken up with such fervor the cause of women's rights in the Muslim world and why she remains so hostile towards those who refuse to fight for the women who experience for their whole lives what she experienced for some months.
Chesler also provides portraits of Muslim women in one chapter and in another documents "Islamic gender apartheid" in the West, where she voices her concern about the Islamization of Europe. She asks the all-important question: "When Muslim immigrants move to Europe or North America, should they be allowed to live under Islamic religious (or Shari'a law) or under secular law?" Chesler herself strongly favors assimilation.
Chesler concludes by calling for a "new feminism" that reaches out and appeals to Muslims—particularly Muslim women—living under oppression. She hopes her book will begin a conversation on how "crucial the role of women will be in the evolution of freedom and democracy in the Middle East and in Muslim countries" But feminists will not likely heed Chesler's call. In fact, her anger directed towards the feminist Left might alienate her further. But the book is important, for the plight of women in the Muslim world should never be a tired subject.
 And excerpted in this journal as Phyllis Chesler, "How Afghan Captivity Shaped My Feminism," Winter 2006, pp. 3-10.