By Jawad Maniani
Morocco World News
Casablanca, June 22, 2013
Since early times of mankind, women’s issues have been controversial in almost all civilizations and cultures. Laws, perceptions and judgments, institutionalized for women, differ from one area and culture to another. Here are some common attitudes: in Greek mythology, it was woman, named Pandora, who plagued mankind with all kinds of unhappiness and pains when she opened the forbidden box, and in early Roman law women were described as inferior to men and compared to children.
In the words of St, Jerome, a 4th century Latin father of the Christian church, “Woman is the gate of the devil, the path of wickedness, the sting of the serpent, in a word a perilous object”. In pre-Islamic time, when men were bestowed with a daughter, they would bury her alive fearing the stigma she would bring to their family and tribe. The pre-Islamic period was plagued with harsh times and many wars between tribes. It was believed that woman would sell her body or be caught by their enemies, a situation which the Arabs, at that time, would not tolerate.
With the arrival of Islam, this issue was no longer a social stigma; rather, it was approached by new conditions and laws. The cultural perceptions and stereotypes deeply entrenched in the peoples’ mind increasingly faded away and were replaced by new values, i.e., equality and complementarity.
In many Islamic and Arab countries, culture and religion are used interchangeably, but culture tends to be people’s first source when interpreting religious matters. Case in point is the strongly held belief that women are made at men’s disposal and that they are inferior to men and have no right to education. This leads women in most Arab and Islamic communities to excel at witchcraft and sorcery and be superstitious-driven in their interpreting of the natural phenomena they are faced with in their daily life.
In the words of Mustapaha Hijaz (Egyptian psychologist), when the Arab communities denied women their right to education and knowledge, the latter have resorted to superstitious ways to change their miserable social situation and find answers to their complex questions.
This situation should change as the future generations, given the intermingled and the globalized world we live in, refuse to accept their fundamental rights to education and key positions being denied or restricted. Another reason making this change more urgent is the West’s incessant claim for the promotion of women’s vulnerable situation in most Arab and Islamic countries, a claim that they always use to justify their intervention in the domestic affairs of these countries under the pretext of human rights.
The same claim is used by FEMEN, the “sextremist” feminist group known for staging topless protests, but this time in a very serious way. Let’s be blunt, is what Amina, the Tunisian girl, wrote on her body not ideologically motivated? Does FEMEN really defend Muslims women’s cause and push forward to free them from the patriarchal system and the oppression Islam is allegedly imposing on them? The answer of course would be no.
There is a Facebook page, “Muslim Women against FEMEN”, which many women joined to express their rejection of FEMEN. They posted “Nudity doesn’t liberate me and I don’t need saving” as their cover page. Go and ask women in these communities the same question, “Does Islam curtail your freedom?” and you will hear a very common answer, “I don’t feel oppressed by Islam”.
The Huffington Post ran a number of stories where Muslim women asserted in pictures, editorials and tweets galore that they do not need saving. A lot of women activists in both Arab and Islamic countries were against FEMEN protests and said we have our own way to voice our opinions and defend our cause.
Nudity is not accepted here and FEMEN’s claim that Islam makes women brainless and oppressed is groundless and shows these women’s utter ignorance of Islam. FEMEN’s protests in defense of Muslim women’s rights only feed the already raging flames of Islamophobia.
Certainly FEMEN succeeded in drawing worldwide media attention to Amina’s cause and caused many voices (especially from the West) to raise in defense for her, but this protest denied other women’s right and choice to cover their hair, a position that shows a real contradictory approach. They defend those who agree with them, but they elbow out those whose opinion does not converge with theirs. FEMEN stood up for one women’s right to bare her body, claiming that she needs saving from her community’s obsolete traditions and morals, but it dismisses the vast majority of Muslim women’s refutation to its protests to defend their rights and cause.
There are a host of social ills in our Muslim communities, at the top of which are women’s issues, and there is no better time to approach these issues than the present. But any remedy to these ills will not be efficient and effective unless it derives its foundations from our values, standards and environment.
Edited by Allison Kraemer
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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