Friday Links — October 17, 2008

  • IslamOnline discusses how poverty in Egypt leads to temporary marriages between local women and Gulf men.
  • Algiers won the Islamic Women’s Soccer Competition held last week in Tehran.
  • Fauzia Tehseen, a female Muslim Member of Legislative Council of Maharashtra, has donated five acres of land to set up a university.
  • A blast in the Upper Dir district of Pakistan killed 12 people, four of them school girls. May Allah give the victims peace.
  • Hanan al-Wadee breaks down polygamy for The Yemen Times, part 1.

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  • The Globe and Mail profiles Wafa Dabbagh, a proud member of the Canadian Forces.
  • Abeer Mishkas tells Laila’s story in response to the idea that the male guardianship system is immune from criticism.
  • Menassat highlights Nashwa al Ruwaini, who heads her own company, runs a talk show that discusses tough topics, and is directing the Middle East International Film Festival

  • Pingback: Jumu’ah dispatch #3 - Friday news updates « Raquel Evita Saraswati

  • Sobia

    When I hear of ludicrous stories like that of Laila in Saudi who could not get her passport renewed without her father signing, I can’t help but sympathize with news reports and human rights reports that paint Saudi women’s situation like that of children. It is. I’m honestly grateful that I live in Canada where I am considered a human adult. How can we not critcize a country that mistreats its women?

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    @ Sobia: I get uncomfortable when I hear stuff like “I’m glad I live HERE and not *OVER THERE.*” because “over there” always has negative value connotations. It seems like I hear these kind of statements from secular western feminists who think that in order to free Muslim women, we have to get rid of Islam.

    And although we have comparative advantages in the West, I think it’s best to refrain from assuming that Western countries like ours are always superior when it comes to treatment of women: there are plenty of recent examples why Canada, the U.S., and European countries are not necessarily better.

    I know that’s not how you meant it, just saying. :)

  • http://theyaoireview.wordpress.com/ SakuraPassion

    I liked your open letter to Western feminists, it was spot on. I’m a woman of color who is also a feminist and I take issue white feminists at times try to speak for women in other cultures. Without knowing are understanding their culture. No one of course isn’t suggesting that Western feminists shouldn’t speak out against the injustices that happen to women in other cultures, but as you said it’s not their place to try to speak for those women.

    Sana Saeed’s article:
    I kind of get the feeling that it seems it was painting Western women as though we choose to shake “our” asses to show our sexuality. Seemed like a generalization, perhaps I’m wrong though.

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    @ Sakura: Thanks! Enough people have expressed their displeasure at my letter that it’s nice to hear someone who agrees with me :)

    I didn’t Saeed’s article as “western girls shake their asses to advertise”, though I have seen Muslim criticism about non-Muslim sexuality that looks like this, and is offensive in its generalization. I read Saeed’s article as pointing out that sexuality has become synonymous with skin. I think it was her aim to point out that the headscarf can be a sexual expression the same as shaking one’s booty, though I didn’t really understand the point of that last line.

  • Sahar

    Fatemeh: excellent point about making sure not to make Western countries look good, while we criticise those in the Muslim world. There are discriminations and oppressions in both worlds, but manifested in different ways.

    As for your letter to Western white feminists, it was perfect. The fact that you received a lot of criticism (which i’m assuming came from the target) should tell you there is reason to voice such criticism in the first place– when so many are in denial of the failure of Western feminist discourse to decolonise. A lot of these feminists will be insecure and feel they’re being attacked; and those who are genuine in their feminist beliefs will accept these criticisms and self-reflect.

  • Farah B

    “I think it was her aim to point out that the headscarf can be a sexual expression the same as shaking one’s booty, though I didn’t really understand the point of that last line.”

    I understood her point to be that as human beings are sexual beings and because sexuality is not linear, hiding skin or hair becomes a *different* type of sexual expression than the very explicit sexual expression of the West. Turkey and France are therefore repressing a type of sexual expression when they criminalising the wearing of hijabs; and thus (like she mentions in the last line) disassociating human beings and sexuality.

    I also read the article regarding cultural stereotypes via TroyMedia. They mentioned a case regarding a Jewish woman who sued her husband for resiling from his promise to provide her with a divorce under Jewish law. They article said the court was unable to compel the husband to provide the divorce because “Courts are constitutionally limited in matters of religion.”

    But the wife never claimed specific performance of the promise, she *only* claimed monetary compensation (see http://csc.lexum.umontreal.ca/en/2007/2007scc54/2007scc54.pdf at paragraph 12, also at paragraph 88). The majority judgment actually has some really strong comments regarding the relationship of religion and law.

  • Kawthar

    Many articles I’ve read on the intensifying campaign against Ebadi fail to mention a main reason behind it: her brave decision to defend 7 detained Baha’i leaders before court. Iran’s persecution of the Baha’i minority has been described as an “ideological genocide”, and her decision to speak out is indeed a courageous one.

    I loved the open letter – eloquent and to the point. It’s pretty annoying when individuals feel that reading a book or two, or veiling for a short period of time entitles them to speak with authority on the experiences of Muslim women (Danielle Crittenden’s niQabi Qlux Qlan series comes to mind).

  • Sobia

    @ Fatemeh:
    I agree and usually I’m very careful of not saying that. But once in a while I can’t help but feel this way.

    I’m not saying that things here are perfect – they’re not – but at the same time I feel more power to change things here as opposed to there and perhaps why I feel very comfortable being here.

  • Farah B

    “I’m not saying that things here are perfect – they’re not – but at the same time I feel more power to change things here as opposed to there and perhaps why I feel very comfortable being here.”

    Some women in those societies might think that *you’re* oppressed because you’re living in a Western liberal democratic society which constantly judges its women when we fall short of a superficial standard of beauty, and denies some women religious rights when those rights seemingly infringe on the (artificial) separation of church and state.

    And while Canada seems to have had a better experience with multiculturalism than other western countries (though from what I’ve read its still extremely superficial integration, but better than say the USA or the UK), like most post-settler societies it has long record of abuse of rights against the indigenous populations.

  • Sobia

    @Farah B:
    “Some women in those societies might think that *you’re* oppressed because you’re living in a Western liberal democratic society which constantly judges its women when we fall short of a superficial standard of beauty, and denies some women religious rights when those rights seemingly infringe on the (artificial) separation of church and state.”

    I know what you’re saying and I’ve made the same arguement before. However, this argument I realize now is weak because when we criticize Western culture we are doing just that – criticizing a culture that promotes a rigid image of the “perfect” woman. We are not criticizing laws and legislation because there are no laws or legislation that force women to be size 6′s, tall and skinny. There are no laws that force women to be a certain size or image. Whereas in many Muslim countries there exist laws that oppress women. At least not in Canada and I speak specifically about Canada. Additionally, those countries that legislate a ban on hijab, as intrusive and unethical as that is, I have yet to hear of severe retributions for donning a hijab in those areas.

    And please do not say that it is a matter of perspective. If it were then we would not see women (and some men) in those countries fighting the misogyny of their governments.

    Again, I said this already and I’ll say it again as it seems you may have missed it – things here are not perfect. I never said they were. Change is needed here too. Misogyny is rampant here as well. However, for the most part, misogyny is social here and not legislated (except when you get conservative governments who take away money from women’s organizations).

    And in my comment above I was speaking specifically of Saudi, not a generic “over there.” I personally have no problem calling out a horribly repressive and oppressive government and I think to deny it just so that we don’t look bad is unjust. I am also against the horrible racism that many countries in the region, mainly Arab ones, practice against South Asians, while I recognize the racism that exists here. I CAN do both. And as a South Asian Westerner I feel obligated to do both just as as a Western Muslim woman I feel obligated to call out misogyny wherever I see it, “here” or “there.”

  • laila

    “Some women in those societies might think that *you’re* oppressed because you’re living in a Western liberal democratic society which constantly judges its women when we fall short of a superficial standard of beauty, and denies some women religious rights when those rights seemingly infringe on the (artificial) separation of church and state.”

    O.K. and there’s no Superficial standard of beauty else where? Like say Skin Bleaching which is popular in the Middle-East and other practices which I don’t even want to mention. And what, there are no women’s religious rights that are abused in Non-Western societies, like say… women’s rights to vote? Come on, give me a break!

    Way the ignore women’s achievements here in Canada, such as the education levels of women and # of enrollment in graduate studies, higher levels of economic opportunity, political participation, health care for women (mother and child). The lack of this is true oppression, not this “superficial standard of beauty”

    Yes we have problems, and you know what there similar problems to what other women in the world are facing BUT at a different degree. I think what Sobia meant is that we have the OPPORTUNITY here for our voices to be heard; there are more institutions and resources available to help women fight oppression.

    So please, there’s more in the West for women than this “superficial standard of beauty”!

    Those who claim the “superficial standard of beauty” is a measure of oppression and are saying the same thing as those who claim the number of women wearing hijab is a measure of oppression. Neither one of these appearances of women (visible comparison) determines the status of women.

  • Farah B

    @Sobia – “Those countries that legislate a ban on hijab, as intrusive and unethical as that is, I have yet to hear of severe retributions for donning a hijab in those areas.”
    So social oppression doesn’t matter, only legal does, but it’s ok if the law is relatively less bad then elsewhere? The laws criminalise wearing a hijab. In the first six months of the law being passed nearly 50 students were expelled. Would you care more if they were jailed instead?
    “Again, I said this already and I’ll say it again as it seems you may have missed it – things here are not perfect. I never said they were. Change is needed here too. Misogyny is rampant here as well. However, for the most part, misogyny is social here and not legislated (except when you get conservative governments who take away money from women’s organizations).”
    Social change is often harder to achieve than legal change. Where legal rights are granted with no concern for the social and economic context then those rights rarely make any difference for anybody’s situation. It takes time to reverse generations of misogyny and racism. A piece of paper in itself rarely achieves that change.
    @Laila “Way the ignore women’s achievements here in Canada, such as the education levels of women and # of enrollment in graduate studies, higher levels of economic opportunity, political participation, health care for women (mother and child). The lack of this is true oppression, not this superficial standard of beauty. Yes we have problems, and you know what there similar problems to what other women in the world are facing BUT at a different degree. I think what Sobia meant is that we have the OPPORTUNITY here for our voices to be heard; there are more institutions and resources available to help women fight oppression.”
    Arguably access those opportunities is relative. Women have achieve quite a lot, but it’s a lot easier for us to participate politically, have access to better health care and enroll in higher education from our relatively secure middle class position. There’s a reason why nearly all universities in Australia have started special access programs to increase enrollments in higher education from indigenous Australians.

    “So please, there’s more in the West for women than this “superficial standard of beauty”!”

    My point is that having “more available” really depends what you mean by “women”.

  • Sobia

    @ Farah B:

    You just are not getting my point. There is no point in re-writing what I’ve written. Just re-read it for my response.

  • Farah B

    Sobia I understand your point. You said it quite clearly in your third post – “Change is needed here too. Misogyny is rampant here as well. However, for the most part, misogyny is social here and not legislated”

    My point was that social restrictions are just as bad as legal ones. Just because restrictions are cultural and not codified doesn’t mean they’re any less restrictive than discriminatory laws in Saudi Arabia. One can point to a number of examples of minority groups or people that have been granted legal equality, and yet are still extremely disadvantaged both socially and economically. Like I (tried to) explain, the legal system doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Consider if laws were to change in Saudi Arabia. Such strictly legal change may not necessarily have the desired social effect one would hope. Such inequality often takes longer to eradicate because people like to focus solely on legal rights, rather than the broader social and economic context. Government’s aren’t the only problem.

    I also initially questioned your stance on the hijab ban because I find your argument contradictory. If I take your point to be that legally entrenched misogyny is worse than a misogynistic culture, then your point that the hijab ban is simply “intrusive and unethical” is like I said, contradictory. The law is still legal discrimination, but you only describe it as “intrusive and unethical”, not a law that should be overturned like other discriminatory laws.

    And if you still don’t think I understand your point, then please clarify what you mean.

  • fibrowitch

    “A Muslim woman was brutally attacked in the women’s bathroom of an Illinois college. MuslimMatters, has more.”

    Not sure if you heard this, but the woman has since admitted she lied and no attack occurred. She has been charged with filing a false police report.

  • Pingback: No Headscarf, No Entry: Golshifteh Farahani’s Dilemma « Muslimah Media Watch

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    @ fibrowitch: I did hear about that. It’s going up this Friday.

  • Sobia

    @ Farah B:

    I thought that it would be intuitive that unethical laws should be overturned. I suppose it’s not. So I’ll say it clearly. Yes, it’s unethical so it should be overturned. (Not really sure how you would think that I would want unethical laws?? I’m also not sure why you would jump to such an odd conclusion.)

    However, your position that social restrictions are just as bad as legal ones is one with which I will disagree. Although social oppressions can have devastating consequences the fact that they cannot be justified by law, and the legislated ones can, to me makes a lot of difference. If someone in Canada experiences sexism they can legally contest that and get retribution upon the culprit. How that actually works out in the end may be different, but the law is there to protect them. They cannot be punished for acting against an injustice. However, if someone in say Saudi experiences sexism, and the law allows for it, what is their immediate retribution? How can they get the culprit punished? In fact, very often if one acts against the injustice they themselves can be punished by law. This cannot happen in a place of social restrictions.

    To me the issues are different.

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    Sobia’s comment brings up an idea: if there are laws against sexism, whether enforced or not, I think there is a different mindset than if it’s just social restrictions. Someone who has been wronged may feel that s/he has hope of getting justice, and thus might attempt to do something about it. Whereas someone who is unaware of her rights or is aware that she has none under social restrictions knows there is no recourse and is then much less likely to attempt a redress of grievances. Just saying.

    Either way, I don’t think we can play the “which is worse” game. Oppression Olympics never goes anywhere productive. It’s a question of figuring out what is most pressing and fixing whatever that is.

  • laila

    @ Fatemeh

    “Sobia’s comment brings up an idea: if there are laws against sexism, whether enforced or not, I think there is a different mindset than if it’s just social restrictions. Someone who has been wronged may feel that s/he has hope of getting justice, and thus might attempt to do something about it.”

    You were right. This played out in the recent post Haressment=Jail Time! Although many women face social taboos concerning sexual haressment in Egypt, Noha case gave many women Confidence in the legal system. Perhaps because of that, more women will hope to seek Justice regardless of public opinion.

  • http://aristotleslackey.wordpress.com/ Sana

    Whoa, this is so weird/awesome that I cam across this. I’m Sana Saeed – the one who wrote the article on sexuality.
    Just to clarify – I wasn’t talking about “western women” shaking their bum bums to assert their sexuality. I’m a western woman myself, and I do not see myself as anything dichotomous to it – I actually received letters from a few men who made that distinction which I found offensive – I’ve never known any other culture as well as North American culture and yet still I’m not “western” ? Que?

    My (brief) critique was towards like what Fatemah said – the linear understanding we have of sexual expression today. The hijab is my expression of my sexuality as much as apple bottom booty shorts.

    This is a wonderful site, however!

    bookmarked!
    Jazak’Allah’Khairun for it!