December 15, 2009

A Simple Request.

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:03 am by Superintendent

Dear Faculty, Administrators, and Genuinely Interested People of Marist College,

Well, hello there. I hope you’re as excited for Winter Break as I am. While taking a time out during capping, I figured I should take this opportunity to express to you exactly how much fun I had academically this semester. Academics? Fun? Yes, yes, I’m one of “those” kids. But that’s besides the point. I’ve attended Marist for the past three and a half years, have involved myself thoroughly in my studies and in Student Government, and have truly attempted to reap as many benefits as I can out of my audit. I can genuinely say that my experiences in my classes have led me to choose a new career path, one which I hope to venture on starting next fall (should out to the History Department right here). More importantly, I realize though I may leave Marist, I only want the best for the institution and for the students who will attend here years after I am gone. And anyone who has had a mere five minute discussion with me can verify that I frequently have a strong opinion and rarely keep it to myself. Why would I? Why not use my experiences as an enthusiastic student from the past four years to propose suggestions that can improve the college as a whole? And propose I shall.

I never intended on becoming a history major, and I most certainly did not see myself applying to graduate schools to pursue history. But here I am, and here I seek to convey what I believe are severe detriments in our curriculum. I understand the college is undergoing the process of reexamining the core curriculum for the students; apparently the core is older than I am! Anyways, change might be fought against at times (I myself am no huge fan of change), but change is necessary, is vital for survival, and ultimately will help Marist grow. This semester I had the pleasure of taking Islam, Politics, and Human Rights for my political science major. What is it Dr. Shaffer always says, the few, the brave, the proud? Our class epitomized this saying. There were 6, and then there were 5. And the five of us and Professor Jerusa Ali had one exciting semester. I can honestly say this course has been one of my favorites, one that truly sought to expand the minds of students, and Professor Ali always encouraged us to speak, to question, to examine and then reexamine. However, personally speaking for myself as well as my observations from my class, out of the five of us, we had limited knowledge of Islam, of the Middle East, of any background. Often in the beginning weeks, our discussions were hindered by repetitive questions that went back to the introductory material we needed to know in order to understand our readings in context. Not that Professor Ali did not invite questions; indeed, she enthusiastically and very, very patiently answered every question we had and encouraged students to ask anything on their minds. And I appreciate that immensely. However, what could have benefited our class, as well as other political science and history students, is the expansion of Middle Eastern studies and the studies of Islam. I can think of three courses only that deal with Middle Eastern studies, four if you count the special topics history course on Palestine next semester. And yet, picking up any newspaper, watching CNN for one minute, thinking of where men and women our age are fighting, Middle Eastern studies are as vital to our generation as Soviet/Russian studies were in the 1960s-80s. The Berlin Wall has fallen, let us now move on to the next phase of study.

With regards to diversity on this campus, Marist is slowly but surely making improvements, or at least attempting to, but diversity is more than the color of a face. Diversity should not just be the makeup of the student population, but the diversity of thought that is encouraged and taught on campus. I was disheartened quite honestly to find there was a required third philosophy course or religious studies course, and even more so when I saw my choices were relatively limited. If one does not want to take a course in Christianity, there is one selection for Judaism, and one on “global religions”. Besides the fact that I do not see the monopolization of the religious studies department by Christianity as true “religious studies”, I do feel also that, in conjunction with Marist’s wonderfully successful abroad program, diversity in religious courses are dire. Introduction to Islam, Introduction to Buddhism, Introduction to… you name it.  An expansion of the mind, an attempt to make the core curriculum more well-rounded, and potentially opening a new door of interest to a student who had never fathomed such a thought before. I must say, the amount I learned about Islam, both in the past and present, was outstanding. However much I gained from this semester’s course, I cannot but help think how deeper our class could have gone in discussion had we all a working knowledge of the basics of Islam; simple concepts such as the difference between haram and halal or the different sects of Islam and how they differ from each other are vital to a course such as this. Understanding Muhammad was not seen as divine, but was a mortal prophet who came after Jesus also helped in comparing and understanding tension between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. I have never been offered an opportunity to learn such concepts in an introductory class, and this is one of my few regrets of my academic career at Marist.

My younger brother enrolled at Rowan University in New Jersey this fall, and in order to help him in picking classes (truth be told, he was doing it on his own, I just wanted to see their course offerings) the amount of classes that discussion Middle Eastern topics and other religious was astounding. I told him he was lucky. And ask anyone, there’s few things I will ever say against Marist. This place has become my home and brought me to a new place in life I am grateful for. But this moment in time, when the college is already considering changes to the core, seems prime for requesting an inclusion of more diverse classes. A current events class perhaps, speaking on issues of Afghanistan and Iraq, their political and social histories? I also took a course Afghanistan and Its Wars in sophomore year. First of all, never have I had so much reading in my life (J) but I also learned the background to a country I knew very little about. I understood finally its political makeup, geographic boundaries, history of “colonialism” and Western influences, its position as a border state to protect India from Russia in the Great Game. These two classes have expanded my mind, have encouraged me to search elsewhere for more knowledge. But why not make it available here at Marist? Why not, in addition to the Latin American, African, and Asian studies also include Middle Eastern courses? There is one regularly taught in history, and it is a level 300, making it relatively illogical and inaccessible for non-History majors to take. And the course I took was a special topic and therefore an elective for most students.

As one student to her faulty and administration, I am beseeching (yes, beseeching) you to look into expanding the academic world of Marist and welcome in new courses and approaches, new parts of history and political science we are currently neglecting. I personally know a number of students who are interested in Middle Eastern studies, some even in pursuing a Middle Eastern minor, but none are available here at Marist. Never once have I encountered a faculty member or administrator uninterested in helping a student pursue their dreams and goals. In fact, a majority is excited, enthusiastic, and truly wishes to make the Marist experience the best it can be. I find this quality unique to Marist, and so I ask you to make Marist even more unique by embracing a new direction of study, by including a diversity in religious studies courses, and by enhancing the possibility of an interdisciplinary approach to a topic that touches each of our lives every day. Please find a way to incorporate Middle Eastern studies more thoroughly into our curriculum and into our core. We will grow together as a college, and new opportunities will be offered to students who wish to pursue them. There is a distinct hole in our college course catalog, one that can easily be fixed and filled. Please consider my proposal, please imagine a more wholesome academic offering, and please envision more students having eye-opening experiences thanks to the efforts of their academic opportunities at Marist College.

Thank you for your time,

Katie Procter


December 14, 2009

That Is What I Have Tried to Do in These Pages

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:20 pm by Superintendent

Bhutto’s autobiography, Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West, opens with Bhutto’s return to Pakistan after eight years. The above video shows the destruction that ended a joyous celebration by thousands of Pakistanis. Bhutto herself would not necessarily agreed with AlJazeera’s commentary on her security. She states despite a number of requests for her safety, Mushareff refused her requests, such as for cell-phone jammers to prevent bombers from detonating bombs from a distance. Bhutto discusses the group of young men in white tee-shirts that formed a human chain around her caravan to give her extra safety. Many of them paid for their lives after the bombs. Bhutto knew the consequences, the risks, and yet she faced it all to come lead the PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) and run for election in January, 2008. Unfortunately, she cannot tell you her feelings about that election day because she was murdered (martyred) December 27, 2007.

Bhutto returned to Pakistan to challenge Mushareff and runto become Prime Minister for the third time. I have read a number of books arguing Islam and democracy are compatible, Islam must refind itself, Muslims must speak out against dictatorial leaders that have bastardized the name of Islam. I must say, Bhutto’s work was the most uplifting I have read, the most self-assured. Her theories and arguments were backed by previous policies of hers. For example, many argue for gender equality within Muslim-majority countries that women are currently deprived of,  yet Bhutto cited her creation of the Women’s Development Banks to help women access avnues to economic independence. She also uses the Quran in nearly every argument she states. She outlines the verses that specifically highlight gender equality, that discuss women’s rights to work and keep their own wages. Her arguments, though some repetitive and some I’ve heard from other sources, have a unique perspective, insight that others fail. Maybe the difference between her and, say, An-Na’im is that she’s a woman? I know, I know, flouting gender differences isn’t very productive or correct, but what I’m arguing is her experiences as a woman put her on a different intellectual level than An-Na’im. Bhutto cites Quranic verses that specifically say “men believers and female believers,” and states that Mohommad/God specifically used this language so there would be no potential attempt to manipulate relatively vague language. Hey, that’s pretty interesting. But what about those who are in power and just don’t care about language?

A majority of Bhuttos book seeks to provide ample evidence and support that Islam and democracy are not only compatible, they are seemingly mutually supportive of each other. And she does. She provides a wide analysis over Europe and the Middle East, discussing the Cold War in reference to the Western ideologies fundamentalists insist have been thrust upon Muslims. Her work is concrete, her arguments secure, and her aims achieved, yet what comes next? What happens after we have recited the history? What happens when we readers acknowledge the Quran supports gender equality, works in conjunction with democracy, embraces Christians and Jews as believers in God? Yes, Bhutto outlines the paradox between Christian and Muslim growth during the Dark Ages and how Muslim rule and the Ottoman Empire later on prohibited the flourishment of knowledge  when Europe had finally caught on? How printing presses were forbidden from most of the Middle East?

Bhutto’s aim is to creat awareness, to illustrate the Quran urges Muslims to think for themselves, to interpret and reinterpret and reinterpret the Quran again and again in their modern context. She appropriately points out that Muslims are the only religion solely shackled to their “barbaric past”. For example, Christians are not discussed in regards to the Crusades and Inquisition she says, but have moved past those times in regards to image and acceptance in the world. Why hasn’t Islam?

Bhutto, yes, seeks to reconcile Islam with the remainder of the world, but another one of her themes/messages is the interconnection of all religions. One of the most interesting, and what I feel many would consider provocative, quotes of her book explained a historical perception of Islam and its followers.

“Therefore, when the British Empire was at its zenith and the sun never set on it, the British decided to call Muslims ‘Mohammedans,’ followers of the Prophet Mohommad. This was done to differentiate ‘Mohommedans’ from the followers of Christ and Moses, who also by virtue of worshiping on god could have been described as ‘Muslim.'”

So in essence, all three religions are familial? So why all the intensity, all the divergence, all the hostility?

Though the internet, youtube, cnn, and other sources are flooded with praise and remembrance of the assassinated leader, some articles still surface decrying Bhutto’s political achievements. Tariq Ali, a known critic of Bhutto’s, cited less than 24 hours after her death that Bhutto lacked the political courage to stand up to Washington and the West and seemingly portrayed the image of the democratic, Western-approving, moderate Muslim that the West wanted to embrace. In his political eulogy of Bhutto, Ali states he first met her when she was a teenager and was not much of a politician.

Her father’s death transformed her. She had become a new person, determined to take on the military dictator of that time. She had moved to a tiny flat in London, where we would endlessly discuss the future of the country. She would agree that land reforms, mass education programmes, a health service and an independent foreign policy were positive constructive aims and crucial if the country was to be saved from the vultures in and out of uniform. Her constituency was the poor, and she was proud of the fact. –

Ali coldly inserted his own, final criticism of Bhutto and her politics in that article, stating:

Benazir’s horrific death should give her colleagues pause for reflection. To be dependent on a person or a family may be necessary at certain times, but it is a structural weakness, not a strength for a political organisation. The People’s party needs to be refounded as a modern and democratic organisation, open to honest debate and discussion, defending social and human rights, uniting the many disparate groups and individuals in Pakistan desperate for any halfway decent alternative, and coming forward with concrete proposals to stabilise occupied and war-torn Afghanistan. This can and should be done. The Bhutto family should not be asked for any more sacrifices.

He felt Bhutto was betraying the people to a degree by “selling out” to Washington, by transforming the PPP into the “Bhutto party”, and by having the people rely on her rather than on the party as a whole. He felt that Bhutto was going to reinstate a degree of monarchy almost, especially since she came from a politically-centered family. Think the Kennedys of Pakistan.

A few months before her death, Ali commented on Bhutto’s true interests, her ability to read the people.

He alludes she and her husband went into exile not because of her fear of Musharref, but because of widespread corruption charges. Oh dear.

But it should be acknowledged that Benazir Bhutto’s approach is not the result of a sudden illumination. There is a twisted continuity here. When the general seized power in 1999 and toppled the Sharif brothers (then Benazir’s detested rivals), she welcomed the coup and nurtured hopes of a ministerial post. When no invitations were forthcoming, she would turn up at the desk of a junior in the South Asian section of the State Department, pleading for a job. Instead the military charged her and her husband with graft and corruption. The evidence was overwhelming. She decided to stay in exile.

Alright. I’ve most obviously never met Bhutto, nor will I ever. And I’ve only read one of her books. And yes, yes the fact she’s the first woman prime minister really appeals to me, as I’m sure you can guess. So I’m going to stick on her side. First of all, charges were never proven, nor were they when she returned eight years later. Secondly, Ali is clearly usign the manner in which he writes/his sentence structure to allude to Bhutto’s “disgraceful” conduct as reason for fleeing Pakistan. How about fear for her life, which did not dissolve over the next eight years but intensified? How about fear of becoming a political liability or contender, and thus being someone who might be eliminated?

Peter Blood also was relatively critical of Bhutto in his book Pakistan: A Country Study in 1994. Of her first term as prime minister, Blood states

Although she was successful in advancing the democratization process in Pakistani politics and was able to achieve warmer relations with the United States and, for a short while, with India as well, Benazir’s first term in office is usually looked back upon, by both foreign and domestic observers, as ineffectual–a period of governmental instability. Within months she had lost much of her political support.

Perhaps somewhat due to her more moderate appeal to the West, Blood also states:

The public’s sense of disillusionment deepened as the government failed to deliver its promised employment and economic development programs. Inflation and unemployment were high, and the country’s burgeoning population put increased pressure on already overburdened education and health systems. The government also failed to deal with the country’s growing drug abuse problem, and there was opposition from religious conservatives who distrusted the degree of Benazir’s commitment to the state’s Islamic principles.

Just a quick question here. Blood highlights the political balance Bhutto had to play and the opposition she had to fend off. She also had to maintain a path that would keep the army neutral and therefore relatively in support of her. In America, when we have a divided government, do we place all of the blame on the President for being unable to pass legislation? No. We say, he (because up to this point America refuses to elect a woman) should have been a little more bipartisan, but it’s the so-and-sos (I’d like to input Republicans in here, but it can sometimes be Democrats) in Congress who are holding up progress and preventing the government from doing anything. So why are the failures Bhutto inherited all her fault? Are we blaming Obama for the wars in Iraq and Afghansitan? Not yet… Are we blaming him for the state of the economy, or at least were we way back when? Nope. So why does Bhutto, the face of change (god, that’s a catchy saying) come under such complete condemnation?

Me being me, I would like to venture it’s because she’s a woman. I’m just gonna go out on a limb and say that her gender played somewhat of a role. People feared she was not being loyal enough to Islam? Was this as a result of her wearing makeup? Of her speaking out? Of her becoming a political heavyweight in a man’s world? Okay, so I have this admiration for Anne Boleyn and somehow I kept thinking of her when I was reading Bhutto’s  book and the opposition she faced. I have to say, part of the reason both women were murdered was because of their uniqueness, their “audacity” in climbing so high and reaching so far in a world that typically viewed their gender as possessions. Women in Pakistan are still murdered in “honor killings”. The Taliban is increasingly targeting Pakistan and suicide bombings are near daily events. It shouldn’t be surprising (though still disheartening) that schools for women are being destroyed, women are indiscriminately attacked. Reuters in October posted a semi-blog article discussing women in Pakistan. They’re trying to instill fear in women. Bhutto showed no fear, even when she knew the chances of her death were great. Who then killed Bhutto? Was it Musharref and his men? Was in the Taliban or a terrorist organization? If Bhutto were a man, would she have been such a threat?

Unlike other books, I feel as though Bhutto had specific policies and plans outlined in order to make progress and make a change. Most authors suggest a new discourse, a new round table, and aiding democracy, but fail to include more specific methods of implementing such change. A majority of Bhutto’s suggestions emphasize the disparity between women’s and men’s rights in Muslim-majority countries, including but not limited to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Afghanistan. Of first priority is education. Bhutto specifically states there will be no chance at democracy without the rise of a middle class. Education is the avenue to enhance not only the economic means of the people, but also the inspiration and ability to see different possibilities. Bhutto states Pakistan, and other countries, need to instill a compulsory educational system, specifically stating “for all citizens, all classes, and both sexes.” (Bhutto 285) Bhutto also discusses the dangers in madrassas that have led to extremists; poor families send their sons to be educated in madrassas  because that is the only avenue they have. But, like she specifically discusses in her analysis of the Quran, Bhutto specifically states both sexes need to be included in this mandatory education.

In regards to establishing democracy, Bhutto continued to highlight the necessity of helping women in order to help countries. She points to Bangladesh and the use of microfinance as an acceptable and potential avenue. While I agree with a majority of Bhutto’s points and suggestions, one hit me a little bit awkwardly. Bhutto discussed the widespread illiteracy of populations and stated “it is known that literate mothers raise literate children. One of the most efficient ways to dent illiteracy in society is to educate mothers.” (Bhutto 289) Okay… let’s step back for a minute. Yes, literacy is important. And yes, I am for increased literacy of women. But Bhutto’s statement 1) nullifies parts of her argument for widespread, mandatory education and 2) does much to undermine her arguments for women entering the workforce and establishing economic independence.  We’re working towards gender equality, aren’t we? So why are we emphasizing that literate mothers will lead to literate children? Where are the literate fathers in this situation? Out making the money? What about the teachers, will they be men or women? If women and men are both able to have economic independence, why should we expect more women to stay home and educate their children? Oh, wait that’s how it is. But isn’t this another version, a “democratized” version of gender oppression, glorified by the notion women will have a choice? This statement threw me for a loop, through a loop, something something loop. Whatever the saying is. But doesn’t this smack of the image of the pure, Victorian mother who was responsible for the morality and guidance of her family? Yes, mothers are important. Yes, family is important and yes family time is great. But how is this statement, this declaration, progressive? And why are my housemates burning popcorn?

More importantly, what does a statement like this say to the women followers of Bhutto? The women that looked, and still look, to this women as a role model, a very rare female role model in the Muslim world? That even when they are “liberated” they are still charged with the responsibility of the “motherly” role. What about the role of the wife then? Does that disappear? How are we to promote change when we are still relying on centuries-old gender roles? And when are these literate mothers supossed to help the literacy of their kids? During the day when they’re stay at home moms? Or after work at night when they come home to the second shift? Just this one statement, yes only one, was very disheartening and just unravelled a degree of my confidence in this book and in Bhutto’s suggestions.

The voices in the background are yelling “Jeay Bhutto!” which means “Long Live Bhutto!” The young men on the back of her car are just as she describes in the opening pages of her book, those young brave men who formed a human shield for her. She was the hope and the future for the people, and the people answered her call.

Keep your eye on Bhutto, she is wearing purple with a white hijab/scarf.

And so, December 27, 2007 witnessed the end of the potential for a new Pakistan, for Bhutto to come again to power in Pakistan. All that I can think of are “what ifs”. What if she had lived? What if she had won? What if she had lost? What if, what if, what if.

There’s no great way to end this post, so I will let Bhutto speak for herself:

I make these recommendations because the times require something more than business as usual. Much of what is recommended is somewhat out of the box. But staying within the box has brought poverty, ignorance, hopelessness, violence, and dictatorship to far too many Muslims around the world. Staying within the box has set Islam and the West on a dangerous and unnecessary collision course. It is time for new ideas. It is time for creativity. It is time for bold commitment. And it is time for honesty, both among people and between people. That is what I have tried to do in these pages. There has been enough pain. It is time for reconciliation. (Bhutto 317-318)

December 7, 2009

Mother, Scratch That, Father Nature?

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:38 am by Superintendent

So in browsing through some articles, one title really caught my eye… “Globalization, Gender and Religion: The Politics of Women’s Rights in Catholic and Muslim Contexts”. I think it’s quite plain my view on organized religion and oppression of women by now (as well as certain wonderful characteristics at Marist), but it just struck me that throughout this whole semester, or even in fact ever, I had never compared the view of women in both religions. Manji pointed out that Islam is derived from parts of Christianity and Judaism, that there is nothing wrong with acknowledging these inherent similarities and a shared past. But what’s more interesting to contemplate the similarities they share both past and present in regards to women.

Who is in control, on top of the hierarchies in both religions? I know Islam does not have as well-established or thorough hierarchy as does Christianity (specificaly, I’m referring to Catholicism, my favorite of them all) but the religious leaders and authorities are all men. There are no available positions for women among the religious elite in Islam. Same for Catholism. When do you think we’ll get a female pope? I’m going to venture to say never. Will Iran ever acknowledge a female Ayatollah? Nope. Both religions assume there is something inherently wrong with women and that women cannot be in a position of power.

As a friend of mine smugly said recently, “well, women can be nuns.” Yea… and? Why not priests? Why not pope? “Brothers” are the equivalent of nuns, so there goes that argument. Even in the Medieval Ages, women were not allowed to pray or enter religious monastaries with men. Complete segregation of the sexes, just like Islam. Wasn’t it in the 1950s that women still were not allowed to approach past a certain barrier in the Church? I don’t know, they might have gotten their woman fluids on the altaer or something. Ew.

Let’s consider the historical and religious image both religions portray of women. Both have an idealized version of “the holy woman”, a woman who portrays all feminine characteristics deemed acceptable by the religion. In Catholicism, we have the vision of Mary. Chaste (supossedly), subordinate, obedient, humble, faithful and loyal, untouched by man. Please, if we were all to follow Mary’s version, the human race would run out, lest there were many more “immaculate conceptions”. Sorry, I’m feeling particularly brazen tonight. The Vikings are losing, need something to entertain me. And Islam?

Let me take a break and just share a fun website I found when looking for the correct spelling of Khadija. Bible Probe. A very open-minded site, wouldn’t you agree?

Okay, back on point. Khadija. (I use this site for more background info on her) We have discussed in class that Khadija was treated well by Muhammad and was respected. She taught and helped theh poor and was a good companion. However, what about the idea of Khadija being veiled? Why was this necesary? Was Muhmmad jealous of other men’s looks? Was he not completely trusting of Khadija? I would say that perhaps he did not want her image taken down either, as his, but then wouldn’t he have to wear a veil as well? This site talks about Khadija’s nicknames, one being “the Pure One”. She was humble at times and demure, virtuous, etc. Sounds slightly like another familiar religious woman… hmmm…  she’s also of “good lineage”… is this that important? Would a woman of “lesser lineage” be unable to be a proper wife for Muhammad?

Khadija and Mary’s “womanly” traits have severe political repercussions on women, and not only women of their respective faiths. Islam has been bastardized in certain societies and coutries to subject women to wearing not just a veil or hijab,  but a burqa or niqab. Against their will. Because why? Because Khadija did? Psht, aren’t we supossed to shun peer pressure? But in all seriousness, I’m not quite certain that  the fact Muhammad’s wives wore veils means all women have to. Actually, there’s a good portion of the world that doesn’t believe this extreme intepretation is correct.

It’s just…. frustrating. Think of the extreme repercussions on women that are expected to be inherently subordinate, virginal, humble. Women in both faiths are not encouraged, in deed are penalized at times, for speaking their own minds and opinions. For being “unfeminine”. For having sex before marriage. (ps… where did this insane notion come from? It’s in both religious doctrines and women have been murdered over it and ostracized for centuries. Love how it doesn’t say much about men. Love that men don’t need to buy replacement hymens. How is it reasonable to make such blanket commands of the entire female population of a religion? How is it fair or even logical that a woman’s chastity is tied to a family’s honor, but not a man’s? And no, I’m not just discussing honor killings. Think of how many pregnant teens have been sent away to “visit Aunt Susie in Switzerland” for 9 months from Catholics families (other religions too) rahter than publically acknowledge their actions and decisions? Well, I guess young Catholic girls don’t really get any decision, if you know what I mean).

Women are supossed to be humble and obedient? God chose Mary to have his baby, did Mary really have a choice? I would hope that whoever wrote down the respective Bibles and hadiths was not aware of the painful repercussions they were inflicting on more than half their population.

What about Khadija? She proposed marriage to Muhammad, he was her envoy at first, she had her own wealth and status. Sorry to refer to Destiney’s Child, but she was seemingly an “independent woman”. Do the hadiths subliminally state that she was not “whole” until she had chosen another husband (albeit, it was her decision) And then she becomes Mrs. Muhammad, for lack of a better term, rather than maintaining her autonomy? The website states she automatically accepted Islam because she knew her husband could not be spreading lies. Did she critically analyze the situation? I’m not completely stomping over her decision, aslong as it was her decision.

The article overview makes an interesting point, that the increase of “modernization” subsequently leads to an increase in “fundamentalism” of both religions (yes, I think we can agree to that). The more modern the world gets, the more conservative the religions get (or at least the movement grows) and the more rights women are deprived of.

Who says men are superior? No offense guys, but besides a certain extra appendage, you don’t have much that makes you stand out. What about former religions and cultures that embraced the female sex? What about celebrating the reproductive potential of women Why do both religions condemn women to a secondary status? What’s so wrong with us? I’m gonna go out on a limb and say nothing. But history seems to be against me.

Found a very interesting site… Islam Women. Check out the video section, especially by Shiekh Yusef Estes. He’s quite a character. Makes good jokes. But says some very interesting things. I contemplated sending him an Edible Arrangement. Sorry, a little hyper tonight. Here’s their background article on Khadija.

Also, check out a video on the secondary status of women in Catholicism.

I would just keep hoping, boys, that god’s not a woman. Otherwise when you get to those pearly gates…. payback time.

November 21, 2009

In the Criminal Justice System…

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:49 pm by Superintendent

And I thought it was horrendous that abortions were neglected from a “new” health care system, that women’s issues were still not considered “mainstream” and viable enough in this sexist society. Then again, women (“women” including girls who should be playing hopscotch) around the world have a lot more to consider than if their government supports them; take for example women in Turkey, or in other countries where the practice of “honor killing” is still found. Breaking the rules, or social norms, does not simply result in a mere whipping (whipping, mere? psht) but sometimes in death.

Imagine you start to like a boy. Imagine he’s not acceptable/it’s not acceptable for you to be acting as your own agent. Now imagine that simply following your own intuition leads to your death, and not by the police or such, but by your father, uncle, or brother. They kill you to preserve the family’s “honor”. The fact there now is a murderer living freely with them does not dishonor their name, but the fact you dared to have a crush, wear a skirt, etc. was so shameful that the only remedy was  your death.

The one thing I cannot wrap my mind around at all is how does the notion of an “honor killing” exist within Islam? How are such murders justified by the Qur’an? How does one kill one’s own sister, someone you have grown up with and are supossed to love? Do these male murderers ever feel guilt or remorse? How is the “honor” of the family more important than the lives of the individuals that make up that family? And where do men feel they have the right to critique women’s “dishonorable” actions, whereas their actions are never met with death at the hands of another family member? What happens if the brother of a family defies the norm? Is he murdered to preserve the honor?

Perhaps most shocking and abhorrant part of the “honor killings” is how family members are circumventing legal restrictions on such murders to achieve the same goal. “Honor killings” being outlawed, “honor suicides” are now being pushed onto young girls; it is a system of peer pressure suicide that is leading young girls to attempt to take their own lives (sometimes succeeding, sometimes not) to restore the family honor. Even rape victims are pressured to kill themselves for this reason; they are not seen as victims of a misogynistic crime, but perpetrators of betrayal of their families. Absolutely absurd. Are women really so devalued in such countries as Turkey that any display of personal autonomy, or worse crimes committed against them, ruin the entire honor of the family? Are “disgraceful” women really viewed as parasitic viruses? Merely bodies to be used for reproduction?

“Families of disgraced girls are choosing between sacrificing a son to a life in prison by designating him to kill his sister or forcing their daughters to kill themselves,” said Yilmaz Akinci, who works for a rural development group. “Rather than losing two children, most opt for the latter option.”

There is an episode of Law and Order: SVU (another addiction of mine) that deals with the issue of honor killings… yadda yadda yadda daughter of diplomat from so-and-so falls in love with Jewish man, yadda yadda is burned alive by the brother who is protected under diplomatic immunity, yadda yadda yadda Stabler and Benson to the rescue. But the story does follow the obstinance of the father and brother that she brought this upon herself and somewhat deserved her death. Her mother however cries out at one point that this was her daughter, how could they do this?

Where are the mothers in these cases? Are they duped by the males in the family to believe these are necessary deaths? Are they unable to voice their opinions even if they oppose these? Can they even show emotion when their daughters die?

Women’s groups here [in Turkey] say the evidence suggests that a growing number of girls considered to be dishonored are being locked in a room for days with rat poison, a pistol or a rope, and told by their families that the only thing resting between their disgrace and redemption is death.

What’s interesting is that in Turkey, where “honor killings” are practiced (and feared by women), the government is gearing up for entrance and acceptance into the European Union. Such as we discussed in class, Turkey has a long way to go until they potentially might be accepted, but more important is the question of how much do we care? If “honor killings” are almost completely replaced by “honor suicides”, is this assurance enough? Is this legal loophole good enough for the EU to look the other way? Technically, it can be argued suicides are not the fault of the family and are of the girl’s own choice. But take the following into consideration:

For Derya, a waiflike girl of 17, the order to kill herself came from an uncle and was delivered in a text message to her cellphone. “You have blackened our name,” it read. “Kill yourself and clean our shame or we will kill you first.”

Derya said her crime was to fall for a boy she had met at school last spring. She knew the risks: her aunt had been killed by her grandfather for seeing a boy. But after being cloistered and veiled for most of her life, she said, she felt free for the first time and wanted to express her independence.

When news of the love affair spread to her family, she said, her mother warned her that her father would kill her. But she refused to listen. Then came the threatening text messages, sent by her brothers and uncles, sometimes 15 a day. Derya said they were the equivalent of a death sentence.

Consumed by shame and fearing for her life, she said, she decided to carry out her family’s wishes. First, she said, she jumped into the Tigris River, but she survived. Next she tried hanging herself, but an uncle cut her down. Then she slashed her wrists with a kitchen knife.


How can anyone look the other way while young girls, some too young to legally drink in America, are pressured by authority figures in their own families, their fathers and brothers who are supossed to look out for them and take care of them, to end their own lives? Is anything really worth that? Where does Muhammad say that this is what Allah requires? – Islamist Watch takes on this question, attempting to find an answer to the question of whether honor killings are the result of Islam alone. The article suggests that this is not necessarily so, as some Islamic communities have no occurances of honor killings. It also cites that there have been examples of honor killings, or the equivalent of, in other centuries and other religions, stating:

these killings are often done in the name of Allah and compared them to honor killings in the last century in Italy, which were carried out by Catholics. She notes that these killings are often done with the name of “Allah dripping from their lips.”…       By bringing in Catholic honor killings a century ago, Manji throws in the “you too” defense — the “you” being the West — and implies that such murders will fall out of favor as societies modernize and become more secular.

But is that enough? Is it enough to sit back and wait (and hope)? Isn’t that the equivalent of turning a blind eye to child labor in other countries because the United States did not formulate child labor laws until the 1930s? We can’t sit by and wait, we need to act out and stop this practice. But the question comes back to how much women are valued in our world? Will our country make it a priority to stop this in other communities? Or are we more concerned over oil and money than human rights? Only time will tell…

Check out: (A Muslim’s POV on honor killings)

and also this post:

November 19, 2009


Posted in Uncategorized at 2:44 am by Superintendent


November 6, 2009

When You Wish Upon a Star

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:21 am by Superintendent

Focus specifically on Obama’s answer, around 1:24 is where it gets good… like we’ve been discussing in class, there are universal principles, yet like An-Na-im and the President suggest (I wonder if he’s read this book) it’s important to be respectful and mindful of cultural differences. Note his actual answer: that the freedom and integrity of women are two ideas that should be upheld across the world. Alright, I’ll give you it’s a political answer of course, but President Obama fails to even engage in the question, let alone properly answer it.

Here’s a hint… the correct answer would be “We must oppose any laws that subject women to inhumane treatment and permit the violation of their rights and bodies. President Karzai is wrong to uphold this bill, and it must be abolished if we are ever going to see a degree of democracy and equality in Afghanistan. And I am not afraid to stand up for what I believe in.”

Of course, a politician can’t say that. But it’d be nice if they had a spine at times, especially when such things are going on. Women’s freedom and integrity? Well, in a cultural context one can say the women of Afghanistan are free. And if their integrity is tied to Islam and family honor (if they’re even see as humans rather than objects), then being obedient to their husbands upholds that integrity. Look, that didn’t even require a fatwa to justify. Isn’t it nauseating how easy that is?

President Obama, what about these “women”:

If Karzai ensures you these “women” have freedom and integrity, this is alright then, right? Oh, okay. I mean, not like America has the best track record. Marital rape wasn’t outlawed until 1976… but if a law such as Afghanistan’s were even suggested today, there would be not only an enormous outcry, but quite possibly the largest display of bipartisanship in order to conquer it. So why is alright that this is happening across the ocean? Since when did “culture” excuse torture? Because think about it, if you’re raped by your husband every day and night or risk legal as well as physical repercussions, that’s torture. Let’s not play around.

Before this year’s elections in Afghanistan, a new law was passed, one that had been revised and discussed from earlier in the year.

Afghanistan has quietly passed a law permitting Shia men to deny their wives food and sustenance if they refuse to obey their husbands’ sexual demands, despite international outrage over an earlier version of the legislation which President Hamid Karzai had promised to review.

Earlier drafts of the law included:

The final document has not been published, but the law is believed to contain articles that rule women cannot leave the house without their husbands’ permission, that they can only seek work, education or visit the doctor with their husbands’ permission, and that they cannot refuse their husband sex.

Accordingly, this law also in effect legalizes rape. Within the law is stated:

“It also effectively allows a rapist to avoid prosecution by paying ‘blood money’ to a girl who was injured when he raped her,” the US charity Human Rights Watch said.

Blood money can be paid for other crimes in Afghanistan and once this is done, it is as if the slate is wiped clean. Wiped clean. Except for the woman that is. The raped woman who has to deal with the mental, psychological, and physical consequences of being raped. But who really cares, right? Maybe she’ll wind up having a rapist’s child. Maybe she’ll be beaten by her husband. Maybe she’ll even be prosecuted as an adulteress. Human Rights Watch reports that innumerable Afghani judges and clerics equate rape with adultery, and thus women are not viewed as victims at all.

The Penal Code prescribes 7-15 years jail for adulterers and rapists depending on their marital status, age and other circumstances.

Does this mean a woman can go to jail for years because she was raped? How is this justice? But it’s alright, I guess, because President Obama knows that we are all different and need to respect our cultural divides. Psht. I wonder if Hillary were president if she would be so calm about this issue. Oh wait, she’s been swallowed up by the political institution too.

We’re for freedom and democracy everywhere, no? Am I mistaken? Am I not in America? Oops, did I wind up in Latvia overnight? How can we be so hypocritical as to preach that it is our moral duty to protect those in need, yet turn a blind eye to the subjugation and brutalization of women in Afghanistan? Did the fad pass? Are the books adorned with the blue burqas no longer an automatic best-seller? Though the Afghan government has passed this law, aren’t we as much to blame for standing by and allowing it to stand? It’s not even a worry about isolating conservatives in America; I doubt you can find many (sane) if any American men or women who would stand by this law and call it just.

I watch this and feel hopeless… this poor man with barely enough to constitute above poverty level living has done more for his daughter, for the victim of a rape, for her honor and for justice than the entire American government has. Four of his daughter’s rapists in jail in a government and environment that almost welcomes rape. That is some achievement. True, he has no sheep, cows, or land anymore. But this man has honor and is using everything possible to give his daughter back honor. Which is more than can be said for the President or Secretary of State.

One would hope that since Karzai is now the undisputed President of Afghanistan, this law can be repealed, as many claim it was more of a political maneuver to win conservative votes (think McCain picking Palin as his V.P. candidate… only worse). But, realistically, I do not see this law going anywhere. Women are political pawns, are objects to be used and manipulated. They are not given the status of human beings in Afghanistan, and so the country has no motivation to view this law as a violation of human rights. And since the rest of the world has been standing by shaking their heads and frowning, who is going to stop them?

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also weighed in.

“We very much hope that the draft piece of legislation is to be withdrawn,” Merkel has said.

And I’m hoping for President Obama to grow a pair. Well, as they say, when you wish upon a star…

(Doubt any Afghan women have the time to wish on stars. I wonder if they even pray for help anymore. At this rate, they’ve probably given up hope.)

November 5, 2009

They’re Beating the Women, Nancy.

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:34 pm by Superintendent

Just some West Wing clips/relevant clips related to our ongoing discussion of women’s rights in Middle Eastern countries/Islam. Just substitute your favorite country *coughSaudiArabiaorAfghanistancough* for Qumar.

Around minute 2:30 is the more relevant part to my next post.

Please forgive my West Wing analogies.

October 23, 2009

The Sagacious West Wing

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:10 pm by Superintendent

It’s probably dangerous/sad that I attribute a majority of my political knowledge and interest to this show… And this clip may not quiteeee capture exactly the truth, but I figured it’d be fun to post it anyways. At the end Josh goes on to explain that there are Muslims everywhere who are not fundamentalists and who serve in American government, as fire fighters, police, etc. It’s probably also important to include this was the first episode to air after 9/11 in 2001 and is its own individual episode, not part of a season. Or maybe I just know too much about the show… who knows.

ER’s Rolling Over In Her Grave a Few Miles Down the Road.

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:19 am by Superintendent

True, this is not France. And there is not an official ban on the hijab/headscarf in England. But just imagine how much worse harassment must be for a woman who openly defies social custom in France, even defies the law. Now imagine that girl is perhaps only 14 years old and does not truly understand why she is being bullied, that it is people’s discomfort with Islam and with difference, but silently deals with the harassment and associates it with herself and her religion. Does this seem fair? Humane? Justifiable?

The official ban on the hijab in France is not one that is seeking to maintain the secular identity of the country and its institutions; if it were so, ban the yamaka and cross/crucifix from schools like you have the hijab, Mr. Sarkozy. Though I do not like the notion of forcing a woman to wear a covering, I equally dislike a law preventing women from wearing the outfits they want. There is nothing lewd or revealing that can be claimed about the hijab; these women are not running around exposing body parts to tourists. Though I do not like the association of the hijab with a Muslim woman’s “honor” and “duty/obligation”, I do recognize that some women specifically choose to wear it, and in some situations the hijab has more of a cultural than religious meaning. The law is as persecutional as the Nazis enforcement of the yellow star for the Jewish. What’s worse, is the ban on the hijab symbolizes the Islamophobia in France, but is taken out solely on women and young girls; once again, women are the victims in the situation and are robbed of their own agency or chance at making their own decisions. Way to pass a sexist law, Mr. Sarkozy.

This year marks the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Let’s see if France is in violation of any of the tenets.

Preamble: (whoa, first line, what do you know?) Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Are Muslim women in France given the same opportunity as other women in the dignity of living their lives as they see fit? Of making simple clothing choices? Do they have the same inalienable rights as Christian and Jewish men and women to their culture and their religion?

Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

See above movie. Lots of brotherly love going on.

Article 5: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Such as being expelled from school for being Muslim? Or having to sneak prayers at lunchtime?

Article 18: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Freedom of conscience, freedom of religion. To be practiced in public or private with no debilitating laws against the manner in which religion is practiced or observed?

Article 26: (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

Promoting understanding… tolerance? Really? Everyone has the right to education? My (male) friend once broke the dress code to prove a point. He got asked to go home, change, and stop trying to make a scene. Muslim girls that don’t adhere to a dress code in France… expulsion. That’s “respect for human rights”.

Article 29: (1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible. (2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

Would achieving the full development of personality by chance be hindered by being unable to practice a personal faith or make clothing choices? (Only for women, of course.)  Talk about wardrobe malfunctions.

Article 30: Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

You mean, somewhat like France has done?

Don’t worry, Mr. Sarkozy. Our President will not call you out on your country’s violations of this charter. Especially not on the year where it will be celebrated for lasting 60 years. We will attack those “other” countries that dare to violate the ideals of the United Nations, but France being a democratic, modern, and advanced country, no one dare imply you have trampled on human rights.

I’d watch my back though. Eleanor might be coming for you.

(credit to FDRL)

October 22, 2009

At Some Point, There Will Be Equality (haha, good one.)

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:10 pm by Superintendent

In the early 1900s, American women used their political rights guaranteed to them as citizens of the country to protest their subordination under the law. Earlier in the country’s history, women had more rights and influence in the public sector; the growth of industrialization and increased division between public and private aided the renewed suppression of women. Men were certainly not going to advocate for women, and so it was up to the women to take measures into their own hands and create scandal in order to produce a desired end.

How Long, Sir?

Drawing parallels to the situation of Muslim women today, specifically in more Western areas such as Canada, a renewed degree of conservatism has swept Islamic communities and has reduced these women to mere objects in their own mosques. It would be appropriate for these women to ask: Mr. President, Allah, how long must women wait for liberty? When will women be guaranteed the peace and equality discussed in the Qur’an?

The sheer audacity of male clerics and members of Islamic communities to assume the secondary status of women and neglect them not only from being a part of decision-making, but also from engaging in ritual prayer and religious exercises that all Muslims should be guaranteed as a fundamental part of their faith is astounding. Why are women so frightening? So threatening? Let’s put up a wall so they cannot be seen (perhaps the actual motivation is more so they cannot see). Let’s reduce them to infantile status in our own religion so we may continue to exert power and influence over them. It’s truly repulsive.

What perhaps is most astounding is that the notion of barriers in mosques is a renewed idea and was not always enforced or practiced. The women in Me and the Mosque discussed that barriers were relatively new in their mosques. And for a majority of leaders and imams to support the idea that half of their congregation is inferior… taking lessons from how Muhammad treated his wives and how they engaged in public action and interaction with men, how can this be justified? Only a deliberate manipulation of text can result in their proof.

Women are too tempting, too distracting. Tough. Deal with it. Learn some self-discipline. These ideas are used all too often to create more laws and restrictions against women.  From refusing them equality in mosques to enforcing unequal degrees of dress codes in high schools. Maybe men should be held to a higher standard than they are. Maybe they should learn to concentrate a little bit harder and we should not grant them the assumed handicap that “they can’t help it, they’re men”. This is most likely me getting on my soapbox again (shout out to my dad for that one) but if I were one of these women, I would march into the mosque, I would not allow myself to be restricted upstairs behind a cement wall (hyperbole, forgive me) or relegated to the back corner (notice, no comfy carpet there) as if I were some dirty and unacceptable being. I would stand right beside the men, I would hold my concentration, pray, and ignore the looks, comments, and the anxiety. If they are not comfortable touching a women (due to proximity), they can make themselves more comfortable in the back.

And if I were a man and felt this was too tempting, well then, I would use my prayer time to pray to Allah and ask for more strength.

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