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What everyone's missing about 'The Handmaid's Tale'

051617 Bauer oped-pic
The book, written by Margaret Atwood, was published in 1985 in part as a reaction to Ronald Reagan's election. It was recently made into a TV series, debuting on Hulu late last month. (Image courtesy screenshot)

The Handmaid's Tale, a dystopian drama in which Christian fundamentalists launch a revolution and take over the government, is receiving a lot of attention at the moment, and not just for the quality of its acting or the strength of its storyline.

The book, written by Margaret Atwood, was published in 1985 in part as a reaction to Ronald Reagan's election. It was recently made into a TV series, debuting on Hulu late last month.

If you're not familiar with the book or TV show, here's the gist of the story: In the theocratic Republic of Gilead, a future America where the "religious right" takes power, women are unable to own property or work outside the home. In fact, because most women are infertile, those who are still able to become pregnant are forced into a life of sexual slavery and forced childbearing. These women are known as "handmaids."

Pundits say the tale is newly relevant in the Trump era. The New York Times reports that the TV show "arrives with an unexpected resonance in Trump's America."

Atwood has said the series' cast woke up the morning after the election and thought, "We're no longer making fiction — we're making a documentary." Samira Wiley, who plays one of the show's main characters, said that after the election, the show "suddenly ... was dangerously close to the climate that we were starting to live in."

Even Hillary Clinton has made the comparison, recently telling a room full of Planned Parenthood supporters, "To paraphrase Margaret Atwood, 'We can never let them grind us down.'"

But in their rush to demonize Christians and conservatives, liberals have missed the obvious comparison. What The Handmaid's Tale describes is certainly not Donald Trump's America or the condition of women in any predominantly Christian nation. It does, however, describe the conditions faced by many women today in the Islamic world.

In the book and TV series, women are forbidden from receiving an education or controlling their own money. Lesbians are executed, and the government surveils homes to discern who's been obedient to the repressive regime. People who oppose the government are hung in the town square or sent to concentration camps.

This fiction is hauntingly similar to the reality faced by many women living under the thumb of the most radical Islamic regimes, especially those in Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria and Yemen.

Consider that, according to a 2013 survey released by the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

In Saudi Arabia, rape within marriage is not recognized and rape victims are often charged with adultery. Women there aren't allowed to drive and need a male guardian's permission to travel, go to school, marry or make a hospital visit.

In Bahrain, a woman's testimony is worth half that of a man's in an Islamic court. In, Morocco, it is against the law to harbor a woman who has left her husband.

And in the Palestinian territories, just 17 percent of women are employed even though the literacy rate is 93 percent. Thirteen-year-old girls have been stoned to death for adultery and close to 100 percent of women and girls undergo female genital mutilation.

American liberals are in the habit of thinking the worst of Christians in the United States and the best of Muslims all over the world. That habit explains why most Democrats feel American Muslims are treated worse than Middle East Christians, as a recent poll found. This even though some Christians in the Middle East have become the victims of genocide, and most others live in their ancient homelands as second-class citizens. For the second year in a row in 2016, an Italian study found, Christians were the most persecuted religious group in the world.

Orwell once said, "To see what's in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle." When it comes to seeing the true nature of Christianity in the U.S. and Islam in some parts of the world, that's a struggle many on the left are unwilling to engage in.

Gary L. Bauer is president of American Values and chairmain of Campaign for Working Families.

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