Dear Muslims: Please Respect Women So That We Can Respect You
September 28, 2001 10:03 AM   Subscribe

Dear Muslims: Please Respect Women So That We Can Respect You Islam is a noble religion but it does have a massive problem with women. Who, at the last count, actually represent over 50% of human beings. Yes, they are that -perhaps even more than men; but, at least, just as much. Psyche and rev up your agenda with a great(and unusually short!)article by great historian David Landes and another not-less-worthy member of the Landes tribe. P.S. It's good to be back. Thank you warmly!
posted by MiguelCardoso (50 comments total)
Hey Miguel! Good to see you haven't left for good. OKOK I'll go read the article now.
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:18 AM on September 28, 2001

More from Richard Landes on Apocalyptic Islam and Bin Laden.
posted by ahughey at 10:31 AM on September 28, 2001

Landes makes an interesting argument, one consistent with another one I've seen (a while ago in the Economist) suggesting that, in order to bring its economy up to speed with that of America's, Japan should encourage more of its women to work.

But, there simply isn't a great deal of economic opportunity in the Middle East. Even Saudi Arabia has seen a rise in unemployment levels -- not counting the women, who aren't in the work force to begin with. Given the region's economic troubles, isn't it possible that women's lib would make for even more frustrated young folk with nothing to do with themselves?

Certainly it seems the region must create economic opportunity for itself (probably with Western aid) before things can get better -- esp. given Landes' own conclusion:

The real work--and, sadly, it will take far longer than even the war against terrorism--must take place within Islam itself. Self-criticism rather than blaming others ... -- these are some of the difficult steps Islam needs to take if it wants to regain the glory for which it so desperately longs.

I think they need to have greater hope for their future for that sort of reassessment to succeed....
posted by mattpfeff at 10:37 AM on September 28, 2001

This article doesn't address the issue of women with any depth or insight. The real thrust of the article is yet another attempt by the New Republic to distance the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from attacks on New York and Washington.
posted by cell divide at 10:52 AM on September 28, 2001

Isn't it a problem, though, for straight-thinking people, that half of humanity is condemned to be masked, ignored, condemned and prevented from such basic rights as working?
Isn't this a real problem, an evil connundrum, which stops us Atheists, Christians, Buddhists, Jews and Hindus - to mention but a few - from being able to communicate with the beautiful and socially beneficial aspects of Islam?

I'm sure there is a less restrictive and dogmatic interpretation of the Koran. But where is it? The Prophet Mohammad was such a wise and good man. But he was also, quite certainly, a soldier and a mysogyist.

Why does this not ring true?
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:00 AM on September 28, 2001

As far as I see it, the American media/government has pinpointed bin Laden as suspect number 1. If memory serves me correctly, his initial peeve at the US was stationing troops in Saudi Arabia and then attacking another muslim country with them, as well as the onset of things like MacDonald's in Makkah - the Israeli support thing just exacerbated his peeve every time he saw a Palestinian get killed by US made weaponary (of course the Israelis killed would be chalked off as 'deserving it', but thats what you get for getting stuck in a mindset..).

Islam as a noble religion, as a way of life for entire countries, would probably have gone around about the 15th century - now most so called 'muslim' states are either muslim-secular states with a dollop of countries traditions stuck on, or states like Saudi Arabia, which somehow has a 'Monarchy' helped by the US - despite the fact that (as far as I can see), that type of thing is not condoned in Islam, man putting himself above other man..

I think in the actual religion women have always got a fairer deal than in Western culture/society.

Here are a whole raft of articles from the other viewpoint from my (female) relatives website..
posted by Mossy at 11:05 AM on September 28, 2001

I consider myself a feminist, and naturally I think it's horrendous the way women are treated in the Muslim world (and much of the western world too, for that matter). Still, isn't the natural response to MiguelCardoso's plea: "Dear Western World: Please do away with television, cell phones and your Judeo-Christian god so that we can respect you"?

Of course I think the Muslims are wrong in the arena of gender relations, damn wrong. But how is "you guys need to change how you think, and conform better to Our morality" a worthwhile response?
posted by jpoulos at 11:11 AM on September 28, 2001

We inheritors of the Christian tradition, whether atheist or not, had trouble allowing women to vote until various points in the 20th century. Often then it was only after they'd been drafted into war industries that many European countries did it. The nature and extent of the discrimination is different, but the cultures that are free of such discrimination, if they exist at all, are the exception rather than the rule.
posted by vbfg at 11:11 AM on September 28, 2001

i agree that the New Republic article doesn't address the women and Islam issue adequately, but the attacks on New York and Washington were not *about* the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Bin Laden considers the Palestinian question symptomatic of "Western evil" but the Palestine-Israel conflict is only a slice of what's happening in that region and much lower on his list of priorities than it is on the agenda of most Americans. (I can certainly understand why you would reduce it to that. It is the most widely covered Middle Eastern conflict in American media and most Americans, when asked about Middle Eastern affairs before Sept 11th, would have responded with commentary on the Palenstinian question. The fact that it's on our agenda, however, does not make it the top priority for the rest of the world, Bin Laden included.)
posted by lizs at 11:17 AM on September 28, 2001

in fact, some people still don't want women voting in america. (if you read the article, you'll find it quite ironic.)
posted by moz at 11:17 AM on September 28, 2001

I agree with Cell divide. The article is essentially saying that our foreign policy with respect to israel has nothing to do with why they hate us, but it's really due to the fact that they don't like how much freedom our women have. Despite the fact that we've never had a woman president and he listed 3 or 4 muslim countries that have had women leaders. He does nothing to support his tenuous conclusions, it's just an extended excercise in reading his own presuppositions into historical events.
He's also being somewhat disingenuous when he makes the claim that Arab hatred toward the West was around long before the creation of the state of Israel. There was anti-colonial (i.e. european) sentiment before the creation of Israel, but there was considerable pro-US sentiment because we 'opposed' colonialism. Anti-US sentiment is actually only significant after the formation of the state of Israel.
Miguel, the question is not really whether or not it rings true, but whether or not this is the cause of their hatred for us. And having lived in Egypt for 4 months I can tell you definitively that "half of humanity is condemned to be masked, ignored, condemned and prevented from such basic rights as working" is not the case except in the most extreme cases such as Afghanistan. Many women wear the hijab (head covering) voluntarily but it is not enforced, and very very few cover their faces. And yes, women work, women drive, etc. I'm not saying that it's always equal, but your statements are a gross overexaggeration. And yes, it is often considered "improper" for a woman to wear shorts / tank tops, but most of these people also consider it "improper" for a man to wear shorts / tank tops. Even in 105 degrees, almost every man you meet in cairo (except tourists) will be wearing pants and a long-sleeved button shirt or a galibeya (robe).
posted by jnthnjng at 11:19 AM on September 28, 2001

a friend of mine who converted to islam from methodist christianity assured me that 'women get a better deal in islam'. He contended that the quran 'gave women more rights than the bible'. this is all heresay, as i cannot remember the details of his argument, and have not studied the matter, but he had.

just like christianity, the religion adapts to it's environment, or is adapted. victorian english christians would be with the taliban on the subject of exposure of female flesh, i imagine.

of the moderate muslims i know, there is much support for baha'i faith. many have converted to this religion. it does seem to have some very positive ideas.

In all of the Faith's spiritual practices, there are essentially no rituals. The only time Bahá'ís are obligated to pray in a congregational manner, for example, is in praying for the dead. Nor is there a priesthood or a clergy. The individual is, accordingly, responsible for his or her own spiritual growth. All forms of superstition are eschewed, and people are not reliant on rituals or clergy for their spiritual progress.
posted by asok at 11:21 AM on September 28, 2001

I'm sure there is a less restrictive and dogmatic interpretation of the Koran. But where is it?

Well, for starters you could try Turkey. And as far as I know, in most "Islamic" countries, more women work and work in top positions than in the Netherlands (where I live).

posted by ginz at 11:22 AM on September 28, 2001

Arg. There's almost no way I can say this without sounding like a basic Star Trek geek, but trying to hold other cultures to our moral/cultural imperatives is part of why the world looks at the Good Ol' USA as meddling bullies. We may not agree with the stance fundimentalist Islam has taken towards womenfolk, or lots of things, for that matter, but we're in absolutely no position to judge it.

Landes does his very best to explain how the poor ol' Muslims have "fallen behind" the West. He never actually asks the primary question: do those countries care to emulate the Western ideal? We all know the answer to that one already.

I knew a kid in grade school who was pretty unpopular, because, frankly, he was a goof. He once told me in confidence, however, that he knew why other kids didn't like him - it was because his mother was a Democrat on the local Board of Freeholders. Ah. It's jealousy and fear on everyone else's part of the schoolyard that makes others despise him - not his complete lack of social skills and ettiquite...

There's something horribly vain and condescending about Landes' presumption: it's like reverse penis envy. If I had to guess, Muslim countries aren't pissed because they're not like us - they're pissed because we think like Landes.
posted by Perigee at 11:25 AM on September 28, 2001

I'm sorry, but I'd say anyone who's a misogynist is fundamentally neither good nor wise. I'd say the Prophet was a misogynist. Therefore it follows he was neither good nor wise.

But he's not alone. St. Paul comes to mind on the Christian side, for instance...

And even Buddha abandoned his wife to go off chasing enlightenment, so I don't know if he's such a great role model, either.

Rebuttal, anyone?
posted by dissent at 11:26 AM on September 28, 2001

While we're speaking of turkey, I believe it is actually illegal for women who work for the state to wear the hijab to work. And many women are protesting to get the law overturned. While i was there, i saw a line of protestors along the highway that was at least a mile or so long. Turkey is 99% Muslim by the way, so that shows you the disagreements that occur within Islam on this subject.
posted by jnthnjng at 11:28 AM on September 28, 2001

This sounds really trite - but, as always, jpoulos is right. The greatness of Islam, in my opinion, is the straightforward way it accepted and, in some distinct ways, improved on, and modernized, Judaism and Christianity.
So jpoulos's suggestion - dialogue -although it seems hippy-like and obvious -is actually the best way to break this terrible impasse.
I speak as a Jew and a former Christian - if Muslim womem were allowed to express themselves and hold real power I'm sure the way would be found to real peace and(excuse the neologism)inter-respect.
The WTC, Pentagon and Pennsylvania tragedies would never have happened.

I truly do think it's all about women. Men take things too seriously; meaning: not seriously enough.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:30 AM on September 28, 2001

Another hole in his theory -- Islamic civilisation had 'fallen behind' the West before women's sufferage began.
posted by dydecker at 11:32 AM on September 28, 2001

I truly do think it's all about women. Men take things too seriously; meaning: not seriously enough.

The problem is there is absolutely no 'evidence' to support this. All you can say is "I believe that this is their reason", even though people like osama bin laden have already enumerated reasons such as American Military presence in Saudi Arabia, unjust policies toward palestine, etc. etc.
It's fine if you think that, as long as you realize that the people you are trying to understand (through your own, western-tinted lenses) are saying something completely different. I'm not arguing that the role and treatment of women doesn't enter into the equation, but designating it as the sole cause seems very simplistic.
posted by jnthnjng at 11:41 AM on September 28, 2001

I thought you couldn't 'officially' be a Jew unless your mother was a Jew? At least thats what my Jewish classmates said.. How did you convert?

Women can be extremist as well as men you know: An example from today. Women are not necessarily better than men.. Hey, in fact, we're about equal and complimentary overall..

In any case, as asserted above, if this was suspect #1, Mr bin Laden (not him imho, but hey, thats my op), then he did because he saw America as attacking muslim countries and destroying them, corrupting the holy land of Saudi Arabia, then adding to the problem by helping Israel etc.. How would women being allowed to express themselves and hold real power have affected that?

Why is it that there are more male executives in big companies than females btw?

Oh, and finally rebuttal for dissent: prove to me that women are not to be hated - hey, Eve encouraged Adam to eat that apple.. Oh, wait, that was the bible...

j/k Ok, being serious, show me how the Prophet was a misogynist and I will rebutt that, I cannot rebutt a general statement with no specific background or details.
posted by Mossy at 11:43 AM on September 28, 2001


You are, of course, right. Turkey is an example. But why is it so unfashionable to defend it? Ataturk - and his heirs - truly understood the secular/religious divide and Turkish women are just as free as American or European women.
My two best female friends are Turkish -have been so for twenty-odd years - but still I find a lot of preconceptions, and even prejudices, when I mention them.
I guess my question to you, Ginz, is: why are Turks either ignored or hated, for no specific reason?
Why is this? Turkey has been, arguably, the U.S.'s and NATO's most loyal ally and it is clearly the most desirable future member of the European Union. It has also been commendably realistic and honest in its relationship with Israel.
So why is it so stupid and cruelly banished by all concerned?(Specially so by the E.U.)

Are there any other Young Turks out there? We'd like to know. We love you guys!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:50 AM on September 28, 2001

I've not noticed nearly as much anti-turkish sentiment as anti-arab sentiment. as far as why the EU is reluctant about turkey, it's partly because of their human rights record (see: Kurds, armenians)
posted by jnthnjng at 11:55 AM on September 28, 2001

'Tis true. Islamic civilisation started to stagnate in the 14th century CE - long before women enjoyed greater rights in the Christian world. In the 17th Century there was one single clock (a gift) and only a handful of printing presses in the whole of the Ottoman Empire. A more likely reason may be the attitude of Islam to innovation, the Koran regards innovation as error, error leading to hellfire - not an encouraging environment for the inventive.
The success of Western innovation is a huge problem for Islam since it describes the complete and correct formula for society. If Islamic society is overtaken then either Islam is false or it is not being correctly applied - hence Wahhabism and other radical reforming approaches.
posted by grahamwell at 12:02 PM on September 28, 2001

Didn't anybody read the Salon article on women's roles in Islamic countries? A lot of the Taliban's restrictions come from outside the Qur'an, from supposed sayings of Muhammed that serious Islamic religious scholars reject.

"...this is just one of the Islamic suggestions that have morphed into the repressive rules of the Taliban. Other sexist laws -- such as those forbidding women to get an education or hold a job -- that the Taliban claims are "pure" Islamic teachings are actually antithetical to the Quran, which mandates that all Muslims -- male or female -- should get an education. Muhammed's first wife, in fact, was an international businesswoman and his employer; his daughter was a politician. This did not seem relevant to the Taliban when it banned women from the workplace."

If you want to understand why different Islamic cultures interpret the Qur'an differently, read what the article has to say about hadith.
posted by harmful at 12:03 PM on September 28, 2001

The Qu'ran regards innovation as being innovation in the religion, not generaly "innovation" as in new ideas. Innovation in the religion sense is a no-no, ie adding bits to it, chopping other bits out. Reform I suppose =)

Inventiveness and exploration are actively encouarged, as is the pursuit of science and other knowledge - during the time immediately following Muhammad (pbuh) upto 14th century, there was a great deal of inventiveness... This is the problem when you translate from one language to another, the nuances don't get through =)

As far as I can see, the sexist bits come from the so-called zina hadiths, the unreliable ones with a different style/unconfirmed lineage, as opposed to the more reliable bukhari and muslim hadith. The science of hadith covers 500,000 people, so its pretty extensive..
posted by Mossy at 12:17 PM on September 28, 2001

'Tis true. Islamic civilisation started to stagnate in the 14th century CE - long before women enjoyed greater rights in the Christian world.

Exactly -- and it was our economic prosperity that made women's rights a reality. The biggest boost to the women's movement in the U.S. was all the work done by women during WWII, when our work force desperately needed their labor, and the economy really started to grow at a signficant rate for the first time since the Depression.

That is, there was both economic opportunity and need for a larger work force. There is neither in most of the Arab world, except, gasp, in Israel. So Landes seems to have it backward -- it's not the lack of women's lib that hurts Muslim prosperity, but lack of prosperity in the Middle East that hurts women's lib.

Also, given that it was economic forces that led to the Western acceptance of women's lib, and not cultural forces, there doesn't seem to be much argument (yet) as to how Islam is substantially different in its treatment of women, as far as I can see, especially given the argument of mossy and harmful, above.
posted by mattpfeff at 1:25 PM on September 28, 2001

A close friend of mine was on an Indonesian ferry that sank in relatively calm seas. Among the many egalitarian things done by the drowning muslim men were:
-- taking the life jackets off women so they could save themselves.
-- pushing women off the life-raft so that another man could get on.
-- attempting to stop my friend from handing out life vests to women.

This is, of course, strictly anecdotal and therefore worthless as a general observation. Nevertheless, it has made me view the whole subject differently...

(The men on the life raft all drowned, btw, when they overloaded it. Apparently few Indonesians can swim. My friend, on the other hand, is a good swimmer -- but not good enough to rescue anybody though she tried.)
posted by aramaic at 1:53 PM on September 28, 2001

In Muslim countries, the rates of rape, murder, and sexual slavery of women are far lower than in the West. The exploitation of women for their bodies and sexual power in order to sell consumer products is also far lower, as is teenage pregnancy, childbirth outside of marraige, and sexually transmitted diseases.

Of course, when you look at extreme cases such as the Taliban (the only country that does not allow women basic rights), all of that is moot. Furthermore, I would not begin to suggest that paternalism is a substitute for Western-style rights.

In the majority of Muslim countries, women are educated, work, and can vote or otherwise participate in politics. That's the good side of the story. They do not have, in general, as many rights as Western women, but to impugn the entire religion based on half-truths, anecdotes, what you saw on TV, and what you've heard about the Taliban doesn't really advance the discussion as to how most Muslim countries can improve the lot of women.

Islam can easily be interpreted as a pro-woman religion, and it can also go the other way. Just as they did in the West, cultures will need to change, not the religion itself. What can make cultures change? Damned if I know!
posted by cell divide at 4:01 PM on September 28, 2001

given that it was economic forces that led to the Western acceptance of women's lib, and not cultural forces...

and, as mattpfeff suggests, the exigencies of two world wars in that tore into a generation of young men, first in Europe and the Dominions, then the US. Would women have received the vote in the UK in 1918 otherwise?

It's significant, I think, that Iran has consistently empowered and educated its women to a high standard, even under Khomenei; given that much of that time was spent fighting a war with Iraq that was as devastating for the two countries, I suspect that the same pressures were in place as during the Great War in Europe. But there's also an intriguing benefit to segregation, according to this discussion of Iranian women's movements:

Segregation of sexes legitimized the entry of millions of lower class girls from traditional families and rural areas into the public life and the education system. The segregation required training of women to serve the female only policies.

It reminds me of the work done by the women-only colleges at Oxford and Cambridge in the late 1800s, and provides a fascinating insight into the development of a "Muslim feminism".
posted by holgate at 4:41 PM on September 28, 2001

We may not agree with the stance fundimentalist Islam has taken towards womenfolk, or lots of things, for that matter, but we're in absolutely no position to judge it.

Balderdash. A human being is a judging thing. The choice "not to judge" is itself a judgement, as is the conclusion that "it is not right to judge, so I will not."

How much of a cultural relativist are you? Would you support a society with an integral system of ritual murder? Cannibalism? Incest? Raiding of neighboring tribes/nations? Sexual mutilation? Terrorist acts against others perceived as enemies? Is there nothing that you would feel comfortable in condemning??
posted by rushmc at 5:31 PM on September 28, 2001

I truly do think it's all about women. Men take things too seriously; meaning: not seriously enough.

As a conflicted misogynist myself, I would have to take exception to this claim, MEC. If you perceive a difference (i.e., superiority) in women, it is almost certainly nurture-derived, not nature-derived. While they may not live constantly awash in a sea of testosterone, it seems to me that they all have a Lady Macbeth inside to draw upon, given sufficient provocation/incentive.

I do agree, however, that balance is important, and that all people should be represented equitably, without regard to such incidentals as gender.
posted by rushmc at 5:36 PM on September 28, 2001

My two best female friends are Turkish -have been so for twenty-odd years

Did they convert too? What were they before?
posted by rodii at 5:37 PM on September 28, 2001

Right on rushmc! There comes a point where one must draw a line and say "that is wrong." What some some Muslim countries do to their women is more than just an affront to western liberal ideas, but a crime against the humanity of the victims. At that point it is right to say "that is wrong."
posted by Bag Man at 5:58 PM on September 28, 2001

I think it would be interesting to see a list of said crimes against humanity and what countries they occur in.

I don't doubt they exist, but if anyone feels strongly about it, I would like to see exactly what we're talking about here.
posted by chaz at 7:55 PM on September 28, 2001

Since when do Muslim men do everything their religion taught them to do?

There are a lot of things they do that aren't in the Quran. If they followed the Quran properly in Afganistan: Women would be allowed to work and study and go about any where they please.

But you don't see that happening, and when the Talibans justify it by saying its our religion. You believe them because you dont know much about Islam anyway except whatever article you read in whatever magazine.
posted by incubus at 8:25 PM on September 28, 2001

I get the feeling that most people talking about "muslims" or "islamic countries" have never been in the latter nor in the presence of the former. Not a very interesting discussion, whithout any facts. And no, Rambo movies do not count as relevant experience. Anybody read any good books lately?
posted by signal at 8:29 PM on September 28, 2001

Mossy, as someone who was once on the short list of the Lubavich to be converted into Judaism, I can say that you can convert to Judaism. You do not need to be born of a Jewish mother.

Miguel, for someone who claims to be the second best selling author of Portugal, you have consistantly displayed a lack of knowledge about Islamic history beyond the cursory concepts gained by graduating from NYC public schools and getting all your information about Islam and Middle East from the American TV. Or this is maybe within your trolling agenda. Who knows! I won't make any assumptions about the reading preferences of the Portuguese based on your writing here at Mefi; it is very possible that American best sellers like Tom Clancy just takes their research work seriously. Maybe it's just a Trans-Atlantic cultural difference. Or maybe the Portuguese ex-pats that I know went to better schools.

Six Muslim women, five as Prime Ministers: Bhutto in Pakistan, Zia and Wajed in Bangladesh, Çiller in Turkey and Boye in Senegal; and one as President: Sukarnoptri in Indonesia, have led their governments having won democratic elections. Many more Muslim women have held elected offices in JordanianSenate, Palestine, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia. These are not 'once upon a time,' but here, now and in the past 50 years. While USA has never had a woman lead this country, maybe Portugal can pass by with the one year term of Lurdes Pintassilgo as one of many countries that had a woman leader.
posted by tamim at 8:45 PM on September 28, 2001


"American best sellers like Tom Clancy just takes their research work seriously"

...and people say that irony is dead!
Thanks for the chuckle.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 10:31 PM on September 28, 2001

I'm happy to see so many reasonable responses to this obviously tainted article. A woman's role in Islam has always been very difficult to explain to the western mind.

I've studied with Muslims, Naqshbandi Sufi's, and though I am not a convert I found the core of Islam to be as fair, egalitarian and just as the core beliefs of Christianity and Judaism alike. In fact, the women I met through this masjid were some of the happiest people I have ever met. They are the foundation of the family, and therefore one of the very foundations of the community and Islam itself.

Though I'm not a fan, I believe Bush said (and I must paraphrase) "terrorists hijacked Islam", so it is with the reckless egos of those in some of the Arab countries who have hijacked women in the name of Allah.
It's too bad "we" Americans nearly always focus on the worst examples of other cultures to form our opinions of them. Maybe we can think about the perils of nationalism and understand how others could hate us.
posted by a_green_man at 10:33 PM on September 28, 2001

Hmm, looks like it was probably just the Jews in my class teasing that other Jew then, I stand corrected. Its easier to become a muslim though, but then again, everyone is a muslim at birth ;)

Having women leaders is not the best thing in some cases, as a Bangladeshi, I can say that our current prime minister kinda sucks, and khaleda zia in opposition isn't much better.. I think in the end its the good old 'actions of the few being stereotyped as the actions of the whole', as in 'islamic' terrorists represent Islam, idiot americans who kill sikhs thinking they're muslims = america as a whole, taleban and taleban like people = most muslim countries.

Boost of articles about women's position in the Islamic religion
posted by Mossy at 11:18 PM on September 28, 2001

It's too bad "we" Americans nearly always focus on the worst examples of other cultures to form our opinions of them.

I don't think it's so much a case of using unenlightened (gee, there's a word almost as loaded as "crusade"!) beliefs and behaviors to "form our opinions," but rather that we do not leap to become apologists for ANY society, all of which show a lot of room for improvement.
posted by rushmc at 8:36 AM on September 29, 2001

Some parting shots...
I have been in the presence of many Muslims (mostly in the context of my undergraduate days) and I can assert that they do hold the same extreme views as Muslims who I refer to as denying women their basic human rights. I do believe all Muslims treat women that way that regimes, such as the one in Afghanistan, treat its women. This would indicate that those doing bad stuff to women are not only an affront to "western" beliefs, but also Muslim beliefs. Therefore, as I stated, before, what they do is a violation of the women's basic humanity; and not just ethnocentrism (as many responding to this thread have asserted).

Also, yes "western" countries do tons of bad stuff, and have also historically denied women most of the rights that men enjoy. However, that does not excuse certain Muslim counties from treating women the way that they do. What is wrong is wrong, it does not matter whet hemisphere one is from.
posted by Bag Man at 12:10 PM on September 29, 2001

Hmm, my parting shots - I'll bet I know more muslims from more countries than you, male and female, and those I know do not hold the same views as the Taleban and hold them in disgust. What is wrong is wrong, misinterpretation is bad, I like Sinfest, its a rocking comic:

posted by Mossy at 12:33 PM on September 29, 2001

You have to make a distinction between countries and regimes that enforce some form of Islamic law (Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iran, Taliban, Chechnya) versus countries that use secular law where a majority of the people happen to be Muslims (Turkey, Indonesia). You can't point to the President of Indonesia being a woman and say that's a point in favor of Islam--in fact, she's governing under the 1945 constitution which was specifically written to exclude any special status for Islam. In the 1999 presidential race, the Islamic political parties in Indonesia said flat out that they would not support her simply because she's a woman.
posted by gimonca at 3:11 PM on September 29, 2001

I've always found the concept of changing religions quite funny. The very basis of religion is, in most cases, a set of beliefs that are set down for people to run their lives by for eternity. Any alteration of that set of beliefs is inherently denying the accuracy of them in the first place, which generally means a denial of the saintliness/holiness/wiseness of the person/deity who likely set down those beliefs in the first place.

Yet there's never any shortage of people arguing with their own religion's primary organizations, pushing gay rights, women's rights, and any number of similarly "progressive" ideals (I put the word in quotes to demonstrate my distaste for the word -- it implies that disagreeing with those beliefs are "regressive"), usually in their own self-interest. And it's always because of some progressive belief that didn't even exist a handful of years previously, a tiny amount of time when compared to the life of the religion.

(Easy for me to say. I attend Friends Meetings. :)
posted by waldo at 4:39 PM on September 29, 2001

Yet there's never any shortage of people arguing with their own religion's primary organizations,

This is a separate issue from "changing religions," which strikes me as quite a reasonable thing to do, as opposed to blindly marching down whichever path your parents may have chosen to set you upon in your defenseless infancy.

But it does amuse me. So many seem to feel that "God almost got it right...just let me correct him here, here...and oh, maybe here." Silly people.
posted by rushmc at 5:31 PM on September 29, 2001

The happy - or sad - thing, rushmc, is that whichever path your parents may have chosen to set you upon in your defenseless infancy. children who are educated to believe in G-d do tend to believe in G-d and simply switch between monotheisms.
In a perfect world one parent would be an atheist and a free thinker, to make us truly think our way through to faith, while retaining the necessary strictures.
Silly people indeed. But if only there was the same agreement between monotheists(to disagree and get together under a common cause)as there is between atheists and rationalists in general...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:49 AM on September 30, 2001

It isn't just Islam as Polly Toynbee points out:-

"Primitive Middle Eastern religions (and most others) are much the same - Islam, Christianity and Judaism all define themselves through disgust for women's bodies....all this perverted abhorrence of half the human race lies at the maggotty heart of religion, the defining creed in all the holy of holies."

Strong stuff but as always she has a point.
posted by grahamwell at 5:36 AM on October 3, 2001

The author, and some of the posters are painting the these faiths with a rather broad, unsophisticated, cheap brush. There are concepts such as "degree"; "recognition," "reinterpretation", "degree of coerciveness, and even "perspective." I do agree, however, with MC's implication that heavy, a heavy dose of religion at an early age is scary and wrong.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:30 AM on October 3, 2001

sorry for the typo.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:32 AM on October 3, 2001

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