Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Whimmitude and Resistence

Why do Western women allow Islamic exceptionalism to dominate the discourse of universal Womens' Rights? What makes a Muslim woman less valuable a person than a non-Muslim? Why is it ok for a Muslim father to punch his 15 year old daughter in the face in a crowded movie theatre but wrong to pound that arsehole into the ground? Or to complain, for that matter?

We call that female subjugation of females "whimmitude."

Why do Europeans protest against capital punishment in America but remain silent when Muslim women are murdered with impunity in Europe itself?

Below we have excerpted an essay by Ayaan Hirsi Ali followed by an article on women/girls married in Islamic rites, and finally an apologetic by a THE BBC2 who sets us kafirs straight.

Unfree Under Islam

Shariah endangers women's rights, from Iraq to Canada.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT

In every society where family affairs are regulated according to instructions derived from the Shariah or Islamic law, women are disadvantaged. The injustices these women are exposed to in the name of Islam vary from extreme cruelty (forced marriages; imprisonment or death after rape) to grossly unfair treatment in matters of marriage, divorce and inheritance.

It seems strange to associate the context of Canada with that of Iraq, but a closer look at the arguments used to reassure the demonstrating women in both countries [Iraq] reveals the similar ordeals that Muslim women in both countries must go through to secure their rights. It shows how their legitimate and serious worries are trivialized, and how vulnerable and alone they are. It shows how the Free World led by the U.S. went to war in Iraq, allegedly to bring liberty to Iraqis, and is compromising the basic rights of women in order to meet a random date. It shows how the theory of multiculturalism in Western liberal democracies is working against women in ethnic and religious minorities with misogynist practices. It shows the tenacity of many imams, mullahs and self-made Muslim radicals to subjugate women in the name of God. Most of all, it shows how many of those who consider themselves liberal or left-wing see their energy levels rise when it comes to Bush-bashing, but lose their voice when women's rights are threatened by religious obscurantism.

Hamam Hamoudi, the head of Iraq's constitution committee, refuses to discuss the article that worries the Muslim women. He also refused to put in the draft constitution that men and women have equal rights, creating a bizarre situation whereby the women had more rights under Saddam Hussein's regime than in post-Saddam Iraq. Mr. Hamoudi insists that women will have full economic and political rights, but the overwhelming evidence shows that when Shariah--which gives a husband complete control over his wife--is in place, women have little chance to exercise any political rights. Does Mr. Hamoudi realize that it took the removal of Saddam and the establishment of a multiparty democracy for men to vote, while if his draft constitution is ratified, women will need the permission of their husbands to step out of the house in order to mark their ballot? I thought that President Bush and all the allies who supported the Iraq war aspired to bring democracy and liberty to all Iraqis. Aren't Iraqi girls and women human enough to share in that dream?

Under Shariah, a girl becomes eligible for marriage from the moment she starts to menstruate. In countries where Islamic law is practiced, child-brides are common. Do the drafters of the constitution grasp what this will mean for the school curriculum of girls or the risks of miscarriages, maternal fatalities and infant deaths? These and other hazards that affect subjugated women are common phenomena in the 22 Arab-Islamic countries investigated in the Arab Human Development Report. An early marriage also means many children in an area of the world that is already overpopulated and poor.

The draft Iraqi bill of rights favors men in other respects, such as the right to marry up to four wives, and the right to an easy divorce, without the interference of a court, simply by repeating "I divorce you" in the presence of two male witnesses. A wife divorced in such a fashion will receive an allowance for a period of three months to one year, and after that period nothing. On the other hand, if a wife wants a divorce, she must go to court and prove that her husband does not meet her material needs, that he is infertile and that he is impotent. Once a divorce is finalized, if there are children, the custody of the children will automatically go to the father (for boys at age 7 and for girls from the start of menstruation). Inheritance based on the Shariah means that wives will get only a small portion of the property of their husbands and a sister will get half what her brother gets.

Canadian women are told that the Arbitration Act of 1992 was passed in order to provide citizens with the opportunity to resolve minor conflicts through mediation and thereby save valuable court time. They are reassured that Muslim women in Canada have nothing to fear because parties must enter into arbitration out of their free choice, and that there are enough limits to safeguard the rights of women. The Muslim women's arguments that "free choice" is relative when you are psychologically, financially and socially dependent on your family, clan or religious group seem to fall on deaf ears. The populations of battered Muslim women in "tolerant" Canada's women's shelters seem to be ignored. In Canada, battered Muslim women say that their husbands told them that it is a God-given right to hit them. If the current Iraqi constitution goes through, Iraqi wife-abusers will be able to add "It is my constitutional right to beat you."

Ms. Hirsi Ali, a member of the Dutch parliament for the Liberal Party, was born in Somalia. She took refuge in the Netherlands in 1992 to escape an arranged marriage, and has had armed bodyguards after receiving death threats from Muslim extremists. She writes at http://www.ayaanhirsiali.web-log.nl/.



HYDERABAD: Plunging the bride bazaar of Old City to newer depths, marriage brokers last month paraded 13 young girls before four Arabs, all aged over 50.

One of the grooms, a 55-year-old sheikh from UAE, chose a 16-year-old girl, married her on July 15, spent two weeks with her and then left the country after pronouncing talaq thrice in a huff.

The marriage was facilitated by Mumtaz Begum of Falaknuma with help from four brokers — Mansoor, Toufiq, Yousuf and Abdullah.

Police officer Sandeep Sandilya said, "The brides were paraded before the Arabs in Toufiq's house at Kalapathar and the nikah was solemnised by a qazi at his residence in Shalibanda.''

With her hopes of going abroad shattered, Shameem (name changed) approached the Kalapathar police on Saturday seeking help.

The police acted swiftly and nabbed Mumtaz Begum but the brokers and qazi are still at large. The police recovered three affidavits which claimed Shameem's age as 22 and stated her consent to marry the aged Arab.

Shameem told police that the brokers pressured her to accept nikah with Mohammad Bakram as he promised to take her to the UAE after marriage.

She said, "Once I said manzoor hai, the qazi pronounced the nikah over. The sheikh took me to a lodge in Chandrayangutta and did not let me out for 10 days. When I complained of chest pain, he gave me tablets and sleeping pills. As the pain became unbearable, my mother came to the lodge to take me home where a doctor gave me glucose. The sheikh came to our house the same evening, but I refused to go with him.''

That, however, didn't spell an end to her troubles. "He came again the next day and forced me to go with him. After four days, I developed similar complications and went back to my house. Within hours, he was at my doorstep threatening to divorce me if did not go with him. When I refused bluntly, he uttered talaq thrice and walked away,'' she added.

Sandilya said the Arab had paid Rs 20,000 to brokers for the marriage, out of which the girl's parents were given Rs 10,000.

He added that police were trying to find out the sheikh's address and would seek his arrest through Interpol. "The qazi was supposed to maintain a record of both bride and groom,'' the police officer said.

A World Where Womanhood Reigns Supreme
(The Seeds of My Own Re-evaluations)

When I joined the team of "Living Islam" two years ago, my perception of Islam was dominated by prejudice and ignorance, and I found its treatment of women abhorrent. To me the veil symbolised the oppression of women, making them invisible, anonymous and voiceless, and the cause of this oppression lay in the will to perpetuate the family and maintain a patriarchal framework - the very basis of an Islamic Society. I thought women were entirely submerged by divine justification of their role as wife and mother.

"Living Islam" was filmed over two years in 19 different countries and on location I was a lone female in an otherwise male team. I was aware that I especially should behave appropriately. In my mind, women were to be neither seen nor heard. My first trip took me to Mali - to an untypical Muslim community in the bush. Making sure to cover every bit of naked flesh while the men wandered around in short sleeves, I wondered what rooms I was permitted to enter and who I was permitted to talk to. But I also wondered whether my new-found meekness was not in part a reaction to the overpowering atmosphere of the patriarchal society I found my self in. Was this how Muslim women felt - resignation in the face of impossible odds?

The first Muslim woman I met in Mali was far removed from my preconception about the Muslim female. She was the wife of a Shaikh dedicated to converting pagan villagers to Islam. A sophisticated, well-educated woman, previously married to a diplomat, she had renounced a Western lifestyle for a life in purdah. In my eyesshe had sentenced herself to life imprisonment. But here was no prisoner, no poor downtrodden slave. A sharp intelligent and influential woman stood before me, clearly the one "who wore trousers" round here. Here seclusion gave her a status of honour and allowed her to exercise control from behind closed doors without confrontation. She was the bargainer, the head of the household, and the manager of her husbands affairs and schedule.

The emancipated woman in the West faces the conflict between confirmation of her femininity and the privileges that she associates with it, and repudiation of the confines of her female role and all the limitations that men want her to assume. From where I stood, this woman had transformed those limitations into priviliges.

On my next trip to northern Nigeria I met twoi more women who would alter my views even further. These were two women from the household of Shaikh Zakzaky, a fervent preacher of Jihad who urges his supporters to follow the example of Iran and replace the imerialistic western regime with an Islamic state. Zeenah Ibraheem, Zakzaky's wife and Fatima Yunus, her friend, had agreed to be interviewed about the role of women in Islam. They were in purdah and would only speak to another woman. The producer asked me to interview them. I was nervous apart from the fact that I had never interviewed anyone before. I was worred that my feminist sympathies would antagonise the women. But it was precisely these sympathies that Zeenah and Fatima themselves were questioning. Once again, the women were educated and articulate. And once again they had rejected the Western lifestyle which I considered so superior to Islam in its treatment of women.

As I took my seat on a carpet in the courtyard, the invisible boundary between men and women was a welcome partition, and within this boundary womanhood reigned supreme. This was a sharp contrast with the feelings from the previous days in locations where my presence had been acceptable only as an "honarary man". We had been filming the medieval theatrics of the 'Salla' celebrations that marked the end of Ramadan. Men, men, men everywhere: 500,000 men gathered for prayer on the morning of the Salla, men pouring into the inner courtyard of the Emirof Kano's inner courtyard to pay homage - I was grateful to be allowed to witness these events but at what price? The complete annihilation of my female identity?

But now I was taking the reins because of my sex. No more the feeling of inferiority and exclusion, as a novice in things Islamic surrounded by a team of experts, as a woman in a patriarchal society. Now the men were excluded. Apart from the cameraman and sound recordist, they were encouraged to stand well back. The cameraman covered his head and the camera with a black cloth - his very own veil. I was now in a world where the men had no voice.

The women talked and in their answers I saw the seeds of my own re-evalutions. They argued that the veil signified their rejection of an unacceptable system of values which debased women while Islam elevated women to a position of honour and respect. "It is not liberation where you say women should go naked. It is just oppression, because men want to see them naked." Just as to us the veil represents Muslim oppression, to them miniskirts and plunging necklines represent oppression. They said that men are cheating women in the West. They let us believe we're liberated but enslave us to the male gaze. However much I insist on the right to choose what I wear, I cannot deny that the choice is often dictated by what will make my body more attractive to men. Women cannot separate their identity from their appearance and so we remain trapped in the traditional feminine world, where the rules are written by men.

By choosing to wear the veil, these women were making a conscious decision to define their role in society and their relationship with men. That relationship appeard to be based more on exchange and mutual respect (a respect that was often lacking in the personal relationships I saw in the West), than the master/servant scenario I had anticipated. The Veil to them signified visual confirmation of their religious commitment, in which men and women were united, and for Zeenah and Fatima an even stronger commitment to a political ideal.

So were my notions of oppression in the form of the veil disqualified? If my definition of equality was free will then I could no longer define that oppression as a symptom of Islam. The women had all excercised their right to choose. To some extent, they were freer than me - I had less control over my destiny. I could no longer point at them and say they were oppressed and I was not. my life was influenced by male approval as theirs - but the element of choice had been taken out of mine. their situations and their arguments had, after all, served to highlight shortcomings in my view of my own liberty.


Mary Walker was Production Coordinator on the BBC2 series "Living Islam". Article courtesy of Impact Magazine

1 comment:

callieischatty said...

this is so incredible. why do people put up with it.