March 15, 2008

Asifa Quraishi: “Western feminists have lost opportunities to work with - rather than against - Islam and Muslim women."

At the Wisconsin Law School feminism conference, I'm listening to Wisconsin lawprof Asifa Quraishi. You can click on the link to the abstract of her paper here. Excerpt:
[Muslim women] are are a topic of feminist attention because Islam itself is considered to be a primary problem standing in the way of feminist work. More and more, Muslim women in my world feel the irony that dominant western feminism simultaneously ignores us and is obsessed with us. It is an attitude that echoes the colonialist mind.
Asifa finds and stresses the parts of the Islamic tradition that serve the interests of women and that make a stronger basis for arguments to people in Muslim countries than Western-style feminism and criticisms of Islam.

She asks: Why is the veil so important to Westerners? Aren't you subordinating Muslim women when you impose your interpretation that it symbolizes subordination? She says there could be an interpretation that veiling is empowering. Moreover, there is an Islamic tradition that can be understood to give women personal choice about covering her head.

Asifa is wearing a headscarf as she says this, and she talks about how she is perceived by Muslims and western feminists when she's wearing it. Then she removes the scarf and asks us if we now hear what she is saying differently. Something is gained and something is lost either wearing the scarf or not wearing the scarf — and she's seen this and struggled with it since she was a girl.

66 comments:

rhhardin said...

Ashley Dupree is a lot sexier in her bikini pic than her topless pics.

rhhardin said...

Favorite colonial mind moment:

J.L.Austin, in an essay on deliberately, on purpose and intentionally, writes

So far we have shown that a thing done intentionally need not be done deliberately or on purpose, but what about conversely? Can we think of a case in which somehting is done deliberately but not intentionally? Certainly this seems more difficult. However, there are cases.

I am summoned to quell a riot in India...


``Three Ways of Spilling Ink" _Philosophical Papers_ 3rd edition p.278

rhhardin said...

A guy would abstract from women's difficulty in dealing with Western ideas entirely.

Hey, the idea is the idea. What's the problem?

Freeman Hunt said...

Empowering? I guess you could make a case that anything is empowering.

The fact remains that in countries where Islamic law is the law, men are forcing women to cover up. That is not empowering to women.

Beth said...

Marjane Satrapi writes about her dual feelings about the veil, which she does not wear unless forced to by law, when visiting Iran. Her memoir takes on the veil as the first outward sign oppression as she grows up post-revolution in Iran, but as an adult living in Paris, she's also disturbed by French attempts to outlaw wearing the veil. I don't like the veil, I have a hard time seeing it as anything positive, but I also recognize that my opposition to it has to yield to my support of the free exercise of religion--so long as it is freely exercised.

Does she address the issue of choice? When is wearing the veil a choice, and when isn't it? Clearly, in Iran, it isn't a choice, and there's always a level of protest over that fact. As a westerner, I can't apologize for putting the principles of free association and choice first and being opposed to the kinds of accommodations to sharia law the Archbishop of Canterbury has proposed. Is she arguing that western feminists direct our worries and suspicions onto the most visible symbol of Islam, the veil, and are thus sidetracked from more important collaborations with Islamic feminists?

rhhardin said...

The veil of course is theater. Who would take away theatrics from women?

Ballet gives but little : it is an imaginative genre. When some sign of scattered general beauty - some flower, wave, cloud, jewel, etc. - is isolated for the eye, if, for us, the exclusive means of being sure of it consists in juxtaposing its appearance with our own spiritual nudity so that we can feel whether it fits and whether we can adapt it in some exquisite confusion of our nudity with that analogous form in flight - if only through the rite, there, the affirmation of the Idea, doesn't it seem as if the ballerina appears, part the element in question, part humanity eager to be one with it, in the floating of a reverie?''

(Mallarme)

Muslim women wearing veils are to be seen as ballet.

The Drill SGT said...

When I read about women covering their heads, "Choice", that feminist icon is the last thing I think of.

As Freeman said, I think of the religion blended with politics creating a legal and cultural framework that mandates covering, either by the use of religious police, male honor crimes or female peer pressure to conform


hehe, but what do I know :)

The Drill SGT said...

since we are talking about "It is an attitude that echoes the colonialist mind", I think I'll refrain that first great anti-multiculturalist: Charles Napier:

A story for which Napier is famous involves a delegation of Hindu locals approaching him and complaining about prohibition of Sati, often referred to at the time as suttee, by British authorities. This was the custom of burning widows alive on the funeral pyres of their husbands. The exact wording of his response varies somewhat in different reports, but the following version captures its essence:

"You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."

Ann Althouse said...

Freeman Hunt said..."Empowering? I guess you could make a case that anything is empowering. The fact remains that in countries where Islamic law is the law, men are forcing women to cover up. That is not empowering to women."

Freeman, the point you're missing — and it's Asifa's main point — is that the Islamic legal tradition is complex and there are many different ideas that can be extracted and used, and there is material that can be used for the advantage of women. These arguments are much more effective to Muslims, she argues, than criticizing the whole tradition with Western ideas. If you think she's wrong about that, you'll need to explain why. Take a country where men are currently forcing women to wear the veil. One strategy for changing that is to show how Islamic texts and interpretive traditions are in fact against this forcing and that choice is the proper answer. Isn't that a good strategy?

Omaha1 said...

The veil or burqa is only a symbol of the subjugation of women in Islamic culture. The non-symbolic subjugation is much more significant - lack of access to education and employment opportunity, travel restrictions, etc.

I can see where she would object to a focus on the veil when other issues are more fundamental. However I also understand the American feminist viewpoint, that assumes the elimination of the symbolic veil would represent a granting of other freedoms and strides towards equality.

AllenS said...

Let us remember, countries that have women wearing the veil, also have a custom of men taking more than one wife. "Islamic legal tradition is complex", I guess it is.

Paul said...

Who are you trying to kid? "Feminism" is just another face of Marxist-leftist politics with all of the double standards and cognitive dissonance present in all strains of toxic post-modernist beliefs. This was made abundantly clear to any reasonable person when the "feminists" all rallied around the misogynist serial sexual predator Bill Clinton. Making excuses for the vile treatment of women within Islam by these leftist cretins shouldn't surprise anybody.

Gahrie said...

Perhaps it might be instructive to examine the two instances in our culture where wearing a veil is customary: a bride at her wedding, and a widow at a funeral.

What do they have in common? A traditional need to show chastity on the part of the woman. (virgin bride, and grief stricken widow)

Trooper York said...

A Hassidic actor guy was photographed walking with Natalie Portman in a movie they were filming in Brooklyn this week. His whole community was outraged and forced him to quit the movie as they thought it was a scandal. His rabbi came to tell him he had to quit and could not be part of a movie. Both the actor Abe Karpen, 25, and Natalie Portman were wearing hats at the time.

Omaha1 said...

Gahrie you are being silly. No American woman who did not veil her face at a funeral or wedding would be publicly condemned as a lawbreaker or apostate. Nor would she be driven back into a burning school for having the temerity to expose her face.

Trooper York said...

I have also just purchased my Easter Bonnet with all the ribbons on it and I am ready for the Easter
Parade.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

One strategy for changing that is to show how Islamic texts and interpretive traditions are in fact against this forcing and that choice is the proper answer. Isn't that a good strategy?

It would be if it would actually work in changing the punitive laws and mandatory veiling of women. Until the people in charge (men) are willing to allow the expression of free will, nothing is going to change despite all the discussing.

There are two areas that I can see are of issue in women's position/subjugation and not just in Islam, in society in general.

The first and worst is the purposeful and punitive subjugation by the laws to keep one segment of society in a inferior position. Very much like the Jim Crow laws in our own country's past.

The second is women themselves enforcing the subjugation of other women by cultural rules and disapproval.

It's useful to compare wearing the veil to women covering their heads in the Catholic Church when I was a young girl. The cultural effect is very similar. Granted, I wasn't going to be beaten, put into jail or killed if I didn't wear a hat (mantilla in my case ), dress and white gloves to church. But if I didn't adhere to the norm, the rest of the women in the Parrish would certainly have let me know that I was not showing respect or dressing appropriately. You are shamed into cooperating. Until there are enough people willing to break from the norm women will continue to be veiled/wear hats in church.

Gahrie said...

Omaha1:

You're either missing my point.

I never wrote nor implied that there was any coercion involved in our culture in wearing a veil. I merely described the two instances in our culture in which women traditionally wear veils, and why they do so.

rhhardin said...

Guys have figured the social pressure out long ago.

``You're not going out like that, are you?''

``Damn straignt.''

End of problem, until later that evening.

Trooper York said...

We can dance if we want to, we can leave your friends behind
Cause your friends dont dance and if they dont dance
Well theyre are no friends of mine
I say, we can go where we want to a place where they will never find
And we can act like we come from out of this world
Leave the real one far behind
And we can dance.

Francois!

Ah we can go when we want to the night is young and so am i
And we can dress real neat from our hats to our feet
And surprise em with the victory cry
(Safety Dance, Men Without Hats)

Can they dance even if they wear the veil?

Simon said...

I think Phyllis Chesler and Nils Bejerot have covered most of what I think about the issue of choice, Islamic culture, and the veil.

Omaha1 said...

Gahrie, what you wrote was: "Perhaps it might be instructive to examine the two instances in our culture where wearing a veil is customary: a bride at her wedding, and a widow at a funeral.

What do they have in common? A traditional need to show chastity on the part of the woman. (virgin bride, and grief stricken widow)".

Maybe you did not intend to imply some kind of cultural equivalency, but if not, why bring it up at all in this context? I still think it was silly for you to mention. A veiled bride in the United States has nothing to do with a non-veiled girl being driven back into a burning building in Saudi Arabia.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

"You can leave your hat on"

Joe Cocker

ricpic said...

It was a shanda for that guy to be walking and talking with Natalie Portman. But she's so attractive. Cut the guy a little slack, Rebbe.

Paul Zrimsek said...

If they were to wear the veil while doing housework, the synergy would probably be so hyper-empowering that they could smash the patriarchy with nothing more than a dirty look.

Trooper York said...

Well we have to be sensitive to people’s religious concerns. It would be same thing if someone in Barack Obama's church is caught talking to a white person. You could understand how the congregation would shun them. We have to be respectful of other people’s cultures and religious practices.

rhhardin said...

The scales-of-justice lady wears a veil.

rhhardin said...

the Islamic legal tradition is complex and there are many different ideas that can be extracted and used,

A tradition is both a choice and an imposition.

If it's not both, it's not a tradition.

Trooper York said...

Olivia: That's my veil, I just left it on the rack because there was no room in the dressing room.
Shonda: Well if you don't have it in your room it's mine now.
Olivia: GIVE THAT TO ME YOU BITCH!
Shonda: WHO YOU CALLIN' A BITCH, BITCH!
(Say Yes to the Dress, TLC 2008)

rhhardin said...

Althouse is being nice to these speakers. Where are the misgivings?

Where are the right-on's?

Dangerous to criticize, is my impression. I imagine low stakes are involved.

Simon said...

rhhardin said...
"The scales-of-justice lady wears a veil."

She wears a blindfold. That's very different. Justice's blindfold symbolizes our equality before her; the veil symbolizes women's inequality before society.

Simon said...

That is, before islamic society, not before our society.

rhhardin said...

She wears a blindfold

The eyes are the sexiest part.

Smilin' Jack said...

Take a country where men are currently forcing women to wear the veil. One strategy for changing that is to show how Islamic texts and interpretive traditions are in fact against this forcing and that choice is the proper answer. Isn't that a good strategy?

That's result-driven Koran interpretation. You get sent to hell for that.

I'm listing to Wisconsin lawprof Asifa Quraishi.

I'll bet you are. I don't know how anyone could stay awake through this boring, useless drivel. i mean, really: Something is gained and something is lost either wearing the scarf or not wearing the scarf — and she's seen this and struggled with it since she was a girl. Get a real problem, lady.

Cedarford said...

It shouldn't come as a surprise that Muslim Women are offended by a pack of neurotic strident feminist activists self-righteously lecturing Muslim women on how fucked up every aspect of their lives as Muslims are.

Feminists have the same effect on infidel men and normal western women.

Part of the great Feminist problem is overreach acompanied with smug arrogance. It is not enough to focus on a few concrete goals, the entire life of their opponents must be condemned and all sorted out into hapless stupid victims in need of feminist leadership, or evil oppressor types that must be fought by any means necessary.

Thus men that treat women fairly and decently at home and work are nevertheless evil oppressors when they might be receptive to a critique that they should do more work in the house. But blanket condemnation throws the valid critiques out with the bathwater as the whole critique is so venomous that men reject the message in toto.
Young women who like guys don't appreciate the feminist message that their Dad, brothers, boyfriends are all bad and seek to keep them subjugated. Hence the standard line; "I'm not a feminist...but...on this issue..."

And housewives, for some suicidal feminist reason, considered stupid women who do no real work and oblivious to their wasted lives and oppression by all men - don't like the "patronizing" talk at all.

And Muslim women - feminists are asking them not ony to condemn the veil, but their whole culture and husbands and sons as their victimizers. That is far too much to rationally expect, but no one ever accused the most strident of feminists as being rational. They just push a sort of unthinking, dickless Stalinism.

Richard Fagin said...

I stand fully rebuked and corrected for my comment about the conference the other day. Apparently there was something sensible to come out of the conference: a professor is in complete agreement with me about the idiocy of western feminists in the face of Muslim misogyny.

Hooray for Prof. Quraishi!!

Michael_H said...

Was Ayaan Hirsi Ali asked to give an alternate viewpoint?

Nah. Conventional orthodoxy is intolerant of other opinions.

Michael_H said...

Ann Althouse said: "...the Islamic legal tradition is complex and there are many different ideas that can be extracted and used, and there is material that can be used for the advantage of women."

Many different ideas....that can be used for the advantage of women? Really? Like whether to flog or stone a women to death for the crime of having been raped? Like killing lesbians because they are lesbians?

It is astonishing that women who believe themselves to be feminists can rationalize this kind of belief.

Delete the word Islamic and insert the word Catholic in the quote above, and the screams of protestation would be deafening.

Why are feminists so eager to give Islam's horrible behavior toward women a free pass? Probably because it doesn't effect white middle and upper class educated American women; the only group feminism really cares about.

MarkW said...

"Something is gained and something is lost either wearing the scarf or not wearing the scarf — and she's seen this and struggled with it since she was a girl."

Yeah, and I'm perceived differently if I wear a suit and tie instead of jeans and a sweatshirt. Something is lost either wearing the suit or not wearing the suit. So what -- welcome to the world. Feminist navel-gazing is no more interesting when it's Islamic feminist navel-gazing.

"Empowering? I guess you could make a case that anything is empowering."

Again, the Onion is the source of wisdom on this topic:

"Women Now Empowered By Everything A Woman Does"
http://www.theonion.com/content/news/women_now_empowered_by_everything

Middle Class Guy said...

I wonder what the Asifa Quraishi feels about the various interpretations of Islamic law vis a vis honor killings.

George said...

300 "honor" killings in Iraq in recent months, according to NPR this evening.

Middle Class Guy said...

George said...
300 "honor" killings in Iraq in recent months, according to NPR this evening.


I was also referring to the ones here and in Canada.

Freeman Hunt said...

Take a country where men are currently forcing women to wear the veil. One strategy for changing that is to show how Islamic texts and interpretive traditions are in fact against this forcing and that choice is the proper answer. Isn't that a good strategy?

Only if there really are such credible interpretive traditions and that they are not, as another commenter put it, "results driven." If they are the latter, I think the strategy is bound to fail in the long run and, aside from that, are insulting to Muslims, much like the efforts of many to reinterpret Christianity to mean that one need not believe much of anything at all (i.e. the Jesus Seminar) are insulting to Christians.

Freeman Hunt said...

Sorry it took me so long to reply. I have company in town.

somefeller said...

I wonder what the Asifa Quraishi feels about the various interpretations of Islamic law vis a vis honor killings.

I suspect she'd be against such violence against women. Is there any reason to assume she wouldn't be?

And, lo and behold, through the magic of Google and a complicated search string of Asifa Quraishi honor killings, one can find (in all of 20 seconds) what Ms. Quraishi thinks about violence against women in Islamic societies here and here.

Gahrie said...

Maybe you did not intend to imply some kind of cultural equivalency

I was. Both cultures have a tradition of wearing a veil as a sign of chastity. There is nothing wrong with a tradition of wearing a veil.

That in no way condones the seperate issue of women being forced to wear a veil.

I guess the larger point I was trying to make is:

The issue is not women wearing veils, the issue is men forcing women to submit to their dictates.

George said...

"For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry."

Hamas leader boasts of using women and children as human shields. Memri video

"We desire death like you desire life."

Probably easier to face death if you're already draped in a black shroud.

--

It's not clear whether the professor is a Saudi, but the Quraish are one of that nation's largest tribes. She should be ashamed. Women have no rights in Saudi Arabia, at least not rights as Westerners understand them. For example, just imagine living in fear that your husband will bring home a new wife, a new favorite. Complain? Get a beating. You'll be living with his family. You can't drive away. You don't know how. You can't leave the country. It's forbidden, unless you have a male relative's permission.

Here's a Saudi religious leader on government owned and operated Saudi TV telling viewers the Islamic justification for wife beating. The occasion? A holiday show! His studio audience? Young men.

"The third option?....Beat them."

"I wouldn't beat her face."

Why? Because you wouldn't beat a donkey in the face.

"Beat her lightly with your hand."

"The beatings must be light and must not make her face ugly."

Freeman Hunt said...

...insulting to Muslims, much like the efforts of many to reinterpret Christianity to mean that one need not believe much of anything at all (i.e. the Jesus Seminar) are insulting to Christians...

"insulting" was not the right word; "intellectually dishonest for" was more what I meant.

titusgrandjete said...

Are there any hot male muzzies with terrorist leanings there?

That would be hot.

Eli Blake said...

One thing I would say in regard to violence against women,

it is more of a middle eastern thing than a muslim thing:

1. the by now well-publicized stoning of an Iraqi teenager occurred among members of the Yazidi sect, a non-muslim sect in Kurdistan.

2. bride burnings happen just as often in Hindu India as they happen in Muslim Pakistan or Afghanistan.

That said, I have been disappointed that more muslim leaders in the middle east haven't condemned these kinds of practices, instead choosing to interpret them as consistent with Sharia law (despite the acknowledged fact that their origin predates Islam.)

I also have one other observation. Just because many societies have Holy Scriptures, that doesn't mean that they feel the need to not progress in their thinking past the literal interpretation of the scripture. If our own society, where most people believed in the Bible, held up the same standard, we'd stone to death (among others) rebellious teenagers, drunkards, homosexuals, sexually active teenagers and adulterers.

Thankfully, I'm glad that we don't do those kinds of things anymore. And lest anyone defend societies which do, I wonder if they will ask a woman who is about to be stoned to death for accepting a ride home from a male friend whether she feels it is a just sentence.

Middle Class Guy said...

Eli Blake said...
One thing I would say in regard to violence against women,

it is more of a middle eastern thing than a muslim thing:



Then how come the Jews do not still practice these antediluvian Middle Eastern Rites?

Beth said...

Why are feminists so eager to give Islam's horrible behavior toward women a free pass?

What feminists are you referring to, specifically?

somefeller said...

Then how come the Jews do not still practice these antediluvian Middle Eastern Rites?

Israeli Jewish culture is primarily European in its roots, not Middle Eastern. Ashkenazim, Sephardim and all that. Next question?

It's not clear whether the professor is a Saudi, but the Quraish are one of that nation's largest tribes. She should be ashamed.

So, Quraishi is writing and speaking out about the need for more gender equality in Islamic culture, and how such equality can be obtained within the value system of Islam itself (thus making the changes more palatable to the Islamic public), and she is the one that should be ashamed of herself, because she may or may not come from a clan whose roots are in Saudi Arabia? Ridiculous and unbelievable.

Gary Rosen said...

"Then how come the Jews do not still practice these antediluvian Middle Eastern Rites?

Israeli Jewish culture is primarily European in its roots, not Middle Eastern. Ashkenazim, Sephardim and all that. Next question?"

The majority of Israeli Jews are Sephardic, from the Middle East. The "next question" is does somefeller know wtf he is talking about?

Michael_H said...

Does anyone see some kind of weird irony here?

Thirty five years ago, feminists rejected bras as a male-created way to artificially accentuate women's breasts. Bras were burned in protest. Some feminists believe that women shouldn't be required by law to cover their breasts in places (beaches, work sites, doing yard work) where men can be shirtless.

Now feminist theory gives a free pass to Islam, a profoundly patriarchical theology, demanding that women wear scares, hajibs and burkas so as not to expose what men deem an unacceptable amount of skin in public.

Shouldn't feminists demand that Asifa Quaraishi burn her scarves? Liberate herself from the strictures imposed by her religion? Demand an end to stoning, flogging, and the other insults Islam imposes on women?

How on earth is Islam's relegating women to the status of cattle empowering? And how can non-Islamic women so blithely accept this notion?

Maybe I don't get it because I am male. If that is the case, will soemone please explain it to me.

George said...

somefeller--

She says "there could be an interpretation that veiling is empowering. "

We are not talking here about a wisp of tulle on a bridal tiara or a feathery confection surmounting a Rive Gauche chapeau.

We're talking about putting a black tablecloth on your head in 120 degree weather, clenching it in place with your teeth so that a khamseen (hot wind) doesn't blow it off, and, of course, putting on black gloves, too, so no one can see your hands. To be synechdochal about it, that's a veil in the Nejd. It's "death out for walk," as one British author put it.

How dare she accuse free human beings of "subordinating Muslim women when you [Americans] impose your interpretation that it symbolizes subordination" and that we have a "colonialist" attitude!

In other words, how dare Americans perceive oppression where there actually is none. It's like a Charleston law professor telling a London audience in 1860, "Aren't you subordinating colored folk by imposing your British interpretation that slavery symbolizes subordination. They're happy! They have no souls! They love their lives!"

She writes "while the American system still leaves much to be desired in terms of its treatment of women, it has made a significant start, and we can use the best of what the United States has to offer to aid us in our struggle to end the suffering of women and thus to implement the Quranic order to stand up against oppression in whatever form, and through whatever means we have available." Again, this is like saying that the American slave system would reform itself incrementally. Interestingly, the linked article above she says polygamy "cannot be Islamically practiced in the United States" but is silent on the larger question of whether polygamy is acceptable under "the Quranic order."

somefeller said...

The majority of Israeli Jews are Sephardic, from the Middle East. The "next question" is does somefeller know wtf he is talking about?

Sephardic Jews have their roots in Iberia, which is part of Europe, so their culture is at least as much European as it is Middle Eastern. Also, most of the original founders of Israel were Ashkenazim, and there's been a longtime concern on the part of non-Ashkenazim groups in Israel that the culture is overly defined and dominated by Ashkenazim. Last, the numbers I've seen show that Sephardim are not the majority in Israel, and Ashkenazim are still the biggest group of Israeli Jews.

In any case, my comment was to illustrate that Middle Class Guy's "Then how come the Jews do not still practice these antediluvian Middle Eastern Rites?" response to the very reasonable and historically supportable argument that a lot of the problems commonly tied to Islam can be just as easily tied to traditional Middle Eastern or South Asian cultures, of all religious types, was a ridiculous one. Israel may be located in the Middle East, but its culture is far more European than Middle Eastern. And that's a good thing for Israel.

somefeller said...

George, it sounds to me like your problem is with Islam in general, rather than anything Quraishi wrote, particularly given your comparison of Islamic life in general to the slave system in the Old South. There's a lot of gradations and issues here. For example, were the Muslim ladies I saw wearing hijabs whilst eating tacos at the Mexican food restaurant I walked by last night under slave-like oppression? Do tell. In any case, unless your goal is the mass conversion of the Muslim world to atheism or Christianity (or, rather, secularized Western post-Enlightenment Christianity), you need to work within the cultural system to create lasting change in the Muslim world. That's just common sense, and it's not unreasonable for Muslims to get their backs up if they see Westerners basically telling them to discard all their values and traditions to get right with the world.

Michael_H said...

somefeller said: "it's not unreasonable for Muslims to get their backs up if they see Westerners basically telling them to discard all their values and traditions to get right with the world."

And it is equally not unreasonable for Westerners to get their backs up when Muslims come to western countries and demand that they discard their values and traditions in favor of conversion or dhimmitude.

Middle Class Guy said...

somefeller,
We are talking about "law", not culture. Jewish religious law, as written in the scriptures, is very similar to Islamic law.

My point is the Jews evolved.

Example:
Under Jewish and Moslem law it is illegal to have images of God or the Prophet- graven images.

The laws aply to Jews and Moslems, not to anyone else.

Jews are not running around rioting and calling for the killing Christians because we have and use depictions of God.

Moslems are running around rioting and and advocating killing because of pictures of the Prophet- it is against THEIR law.

somefeller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
somefeller said...

Michael_H: No disagreement here on that point. But that wasn't what I was talking about.

MCG: Unless you are talking about actions done under the auspices of state action, you are talking about culture, not law. Religious "laws" are cultural values, which sometimes but not always overlap with real laws - the laws of the state. Also, laws are nothing more than the expression of culture through the powers of the state. So, in other words, it is about culture.

And while this issue is a complicated one, I suspect one of the reasons that Jews, particularly Israeli Jews, don't generally conduct themselves in the religiously fanatical manner that some Muslims do (though that may not always be the case when one is talking about some ultra-Orthodox Jews, particularly some settlers in the West Bank) is because they have internalized the tolerant and secularist values of the Enlightenment that have developed over the centuries in the West. In other words, they aren't carrying on that way because they are culturally Western, not culturally Middle Eastern, as I've been saying all along.

Kevin Lomax said...

"Freeman, the point you're missing — and it's Asifa's main point — is that the Islamic legal tradition is complex and there are many different ideas that can be extracted and used, and there is material that can be used for the advantage of women. These arguments are much more effective to Muslims, she argues, than criticizing the whole tradition with Western ideas. If you think she's wrong about that, you'll need to explain why. Take a country where men are currently forcing women to wear the veil. One strategy for changing that is to show how Islamic texts and interpretive traditions are in fact against this forcing and that choice is the proper answer. Isn't that a good strategy?"

Ann...

Having taken Asifa's Islamic Law class, my mind has been greatly expanded around the subject of Islam, the middle-eastern problem, and both of the above's dealings with women.

From all that I've learned and despite my concerns/doubts about the origins of Islam, the problem Islamic countries have with women are cultural, not religious. These issues/problems are not new. They predate the founding/revelation of Islam. Asifa can say whatever she wants about the veil, but pulling the positive out of the Quran won't change the culture.

John Burgess said...

There seems to be an awful lot of definitional confusion in this thread.

First, are we talking about veils or head coverings? Very few Islamic states require veils. Veils are not, as a rule, required in Saudi Arabia, though head coverings are. There are exceptions, clearly cultural, as with a few tribes whose women veil at puberty and never remove it until it is taken off their corpses. Not husbands, not children: no one sees her face until after she dies.

This is quite different, in both cause and effect, from the general 'requirement' that women have their heads covered. That is, indeed, the norm, but it is not universal. In Jeddah, you will see Saudi women with veils, but you'll also see them without hijab or head coverings.

The 2002 fire at the girls' school in Mecca, incidentally, was a tragedy not because of the lack of veils, but the lack of abayas, the cloaks worm by women to (more or less) disguise their shape. Small difference, but the argument doesn't belong in a discussion of veiling.

A second definitional problem is that some great stereotype of Muslims is being used (a straw woman, if you will) to score points. Which Muslim women are under discussion? Most Muslim women don't necessarily cover their heads--the majority certainly don't veil. Until this year, it was illegal for Turkish women to cover their heads, so I guess they're not the topic of discussion. Taking the worst cases to paint the majority is a category error, if not intellectual dishonesty.

That Muslim women might see benefits to referring back to the Quran or hadith to make their liberalization arguments, rather than adopt Western feminist arguments, is both smart and effective. Wholesale adoption of feminist cant would leave Muslim women open to the claim that they'd merely been corrupted or deceived.

About 15 years ago, the Saudi Grand Mufti, Bin Baz, issued a fatwa saying that it was forbidden that women drive.

Saudi women went back to the book, so to say, and point to instances where the Prophet's wives used common means of transportation--camels--with no religious objections. They extrapolate that there is nothing in Islam that categorically forbids women from driving.

And the government now agrees. From King to the current religious leadership, they all acknowledge that there is only a social/cultural ban, not a religious one.

Changing culture, though, is harder than changing laws. It happens one mind at a time. By quelling the religious critique of women's driving, they are putting the focus where it needs to be in order to create change.

Stephen said...

"Aren't you subordinating Muslim women when you impose your interpretation that it symbolizes subordination?'

So she's encouraging me to mount an aged nine Muslim female three years after I've married her at age six?

George said...

somefeller--

My problem is not with Islam, in general, it is with religious/political systems, such as Prof. Quraishi's "Qu'ranic order," that deny people their human rights.

(And, what, pray tell, is the "Qu'ranic order"? Where, precisely, do I, as a Christian, fit in?)

If it's okay for women to wear black tablecloths on covering their bodies while eating at a fast food restaurant, it's also okay for them to be fully shrouded jurors.

You wouldn't mind that if you were on trial, would you?

And they should be fully shrouded while driving, too? And they shouldn't be allowed to teach male children over the age of...and on and on...

The "veil" is no different from a yellow badge saying "Juden" or iron chains on the plantation.