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.

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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.

October 9, 2009

Oh, the Ironies

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:05 am by Superintendent

So in light of what we have discussed the past two classes, I thought it would be interesting to do a little more research on the background of contraceptives/abortion in Islam. I was honestly extremely surprised at the what I would describe as a rather liberal position on reproductive rights. While Islamic positions may not be discussed in terms of women’s rights, a lot of the discourse seems to focus on the question of the woman’s health. The irony of considering the woman’s life but enforcing ridiculously strict fatwas and regulations on their other rights baffles me. However, American public opinion tends to be highly critical of Islam, yet our positions and laws on reproductive rights are not only medievally brutal, but the concentration rarely centers on the actual health of the woman. How odd that for a country that prides itself on having the moral high ground, we seem to be in need of taking direction from the Islam we refuse to accept.

An article that gives an overview of contraceptives and Islam, “Family Planning and Islamic Jurisprudence”, gives a generally positive view of contraception in the Muslim world. The two main interpretations seem to fall along the either very liberal or extremely conservative line, with no real room for middle-ground or interpretation. According to the more liberal reading of the Qur’an by Al-Ghazali, contraception has been a part of Islam since the time of Muhammad; he cites that Muhammad was aware that friends and followers practiced basic methods of birth control, but did not speak out against it. Also along with Al-Ghazali’s logic is that Allah would create a baby regardless of contraceptive usage if he really intended for there to be one. In fact, contraceptives and abortions are supported and became the acceptable alternative to widespread infanticide.

The article also states that while the Qur’an promotes the notion of family and procreation, Islam also is supposed to work for the general good, the public interest, and to prevent harms. In this sense, applied to real-life situations, Islam can be seen as promoting or in the very least supporting contraception to help families avoid poverty. Al-Ghazali’s description of this sentiment quite perfectly encompasses the issue; he states that the goal is not to end potential life, but to preserve the quality of life for those who are already born. Along parallel lines, wide-spread contraceptive use in America emerged after industrialization in the 1800s and was used primarily to help families (not among the elite, but the Everyman) gain wealth and ground socially… thus emerged a middle class.

What struck me as odd about Al-Ghazali’s argument was that the Qur’an and Islam support birth control only with the consent of the woman/wife, as Islam encourages the wife’s right to sexual enjoyment and procreation. I understand the mindset behind the right to procreation, but from our recent discussions, either the tenet of Islam that encourages sexual enjoyment by women has been mistranslated or hopelessly lost. Again, I find it ironic that a culture that can claim the Qur’an requires women to be fully covered can also have followers that claim women have a right to sexual enjoyment. I understand there are two sides to the spectrum, and the same can be said about liberals/conservatives in Christianity, yet these more liberal ideas seem to have lost their footing and their place in modern discussion.

The conservative views of Ibn Hazm from the article seemed more familiar to me. His ultra-conservative interpretations and ideas rest on the notion that not only is abortion wrong, but that contraceptives are actually infanticide. More along the lines of the Islam-West clash is the rise of conservative scholars (“scholars”) who fear the use of contraceptives as the implementation of Western propaganda in an effort to limit and “destroy” the Muslim population.

I guess the biggest irony of all affects Muslim-American women. For women raised in a culture where reproductive rights and issues were not sodden with religious discourse and used as political tools to wreak havoc on lives, where using contraceptives (as a married woman) was socially acceptable, and then to be in a country where you may be refused your pill prescription by the pharmacist in South Carolina, the hypocrisy of BOTH cultures would be astounding and certainly frustrating. Here, you are free to wear the skimpiest of clothing, but there are limits on what you can do to control your fertility. There, ideally you are able to plan when you want a family with no hint of shame, but you must be fully hidden from view in the sweltering heat and, in some places, must be accompanied by a glorified chaperone like your husband. You know, from our class today I have to say, Australia sounds great. They have kangaroos, they have beaches, and they have amazing accents. Maybe those of us looking for some sanity should all go there.

Perhaps one of the most ironic ideas to me is the notion of control. Even in the Qur’an, there are more detailed descriptions of what a woman can/cannot do than a man. There’s just a larger focus on restriction on the female sex, plain and simple. In Middle Eastern countries, women go through extensive and painful lengths, even cosmetic surgery, to maintain their virginity so they are able to be married.  Their bodies are dangerous t be uncovered, their feet, their hands, their faces. There is so much attention paid to controlling the sexuality of women, yet reproduction seems to be rather neglected from these intense rules. I’m sure that issues such as abortion are considered with the husband, or that the husband is aware that his wife is using contraception, but for the most part, the area of reproduction seems to have remained a secular and safe area for Muslim women. (Unlike the ridiculously politicized notion of a woman’s body in America… along this thought path, both cultures are equally horrible in using a woman’s body as a symbol for oppression).

I guess what I’m asking is… am I missing something? Back alley abortions? Are there Planned Parenthood-like institutions for married couples? Where is the downside to all of this, or do Muslim women truly have a degree of control over this part of their lives?

October 8, 2009

In Light of New Fatwa…

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:49 pm by Superintendent

In light of the new fatwa that has been issued banning the wearing of veils… I just thought this cartoon was appropriate… still though, I think a larger question that looms for me is when will women be able to make these decisions for themselves? When is it their turn? Help