Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Yamin Zakaria: Freedom and Women's Liberation Over Rated

I'm not going to lie to you, this is long. I could have made it longer by responding to every point. It's serious and snarky at the same time.

Reading at LGF I noted a posted article from Yamin Zakaria, a graduate of London University, who attempts to explain how Islam is actually the protector of women’s rights, that it is western society that abuses women’s rights and that the attempts by many in his religion to relate secularist ideas of these rights to Qu’ranic teachings is abhorrent and destructive to Islam and Women.

I believe the title of his work speaks volumes: ”Women’s Rights” Has No Legitimacy In Islam

Man or woman, you should take the time to read his entire article, though I will be providing parts of it here with my response.

If you have time to read, go to the inner sanctum.

Upon reading the article myself, the first thing I noted was the authors own attempts at using the language of “rights” and “protection” to justify his own views, something he liberally accuses the west and many “feminists in Hijabs with their male counterparts on leashes” of doing.

Consequentially, this has helped to foster an apologetic mindset whereby the continuous apologizing for Islam manifests in reinterpreting its laws and values to satisfy the secular criticisms. So the Muslim response is always from a defensive posture.

In a very real sense, his type of language and near reasoning tempts alleged liberals and certain feminist groups on the left to lend direct and tacit support to the existence of the oppression of women in Islamic societies.

He first takes on the question of whether it is the Hijab or the bikini that liberates a woman:

Post 9/11, the firepower of the West was going to be a liberating force for the women in Afghanistan. However, the honourable women of Afghanistan did not strip their veils for the miniskirt. In frustration, the media attempted to kick-start the process of ‘liberation’ by parading a semi-nude US-based Afghani woman in a human cattle market, i.e. a beauty contest.

On first glance, if you are a “real” feminist, his rant against beauty pageants might stir a sympathetic chord in your breast. Of course, if you said “breast” in his ideal society, you’d be beaten with a cane for daring suggest that such an anatomical object exists, but I digress. In answer to this hilarious commentary, if one must compare anything, it would be the traditional selling of the female to prospective buyers..er..grooms via a male relative who most likely describes her feminine attributes, propounds on her fine feminine abilities, such as cooking, cleaning and taking care of the home. What he objects to isn’t really the selling of a woman’s body in such a manner, but the idea that it is “semi-nude” and not done by her closest male relative as this some somehow implies respectability. We’ll get to why that really bothers him in a second, but he does try to sell his own idea by subscribing them to women’s rights and protection against objectification as if this does not exist in a “real” Islamic society.

The one thing that we probably agree on is Hollywood’s lousy film making, but for wholly separate reasons. His:

Further inducement would follow in the form of a Hollywood blockbuster where the all American hero would seduce an ‘oppressed’ Muslim woman out of the veil into an adulterous relationship, symbolizing her ‘liberation’!

Yes, Hollywood is an anathema to responsible culture there as well. In which case, something tells me I will never rail against Hollywood again.

If stripping your clothes off to appeal to the male gender is a symbol of liberation, then surely the lap dancers, strippers, porn actresses and the likes must epitomize the concept of a liberated woman.

Ahhh…here he speaks to the true feminists who find both these professions and beauty pageants to be repugnant and equal in nature to objectifying women. Further, he lays all of these ills on Judeo-Christian-Western religions and culture, clearing Islam and noting that any practices by Islamic societies are not about Islam, but the backwardness of their tribal cultures. The classic cry of current Islamists: this is not Islam, Islam is…(fill in the blank)

Of course, belly dancers, concubines and selling your daughter, niece, sister, etc for a price does not equate. Remember that.

Evil unto him who evil thinks.

Such arguments tend to indicate that woman’s rights are always tied to her ability to appear in scanty revealing clothes as opposed to her education or other achievements in life.

Um..no…only to the writer of this piece who clearly believes that, if he sees a woman’s body, he will forget that she has a brain as well, which is no different than western males on many occasions, but at least they don’t try to fool themselves by insisting that it be hidden under a blanket, burqa, veil, or hijab.

It does seem ironic that ‘emancipated’ women spend most of their energies trying to titillate to the opposite sex in their clothes, makeup and diet; - thus emancipation it seems has only increased their dependency on the male gender!

So, if I am reading this right, using your physical attractions to attract a mate means that women are dependent on men anyway, completely forgetting that in secular societies where women have real rights, they have the right to remain single, as am I, and support themselves, the right to work and contribute to the household finances (and frequently do so above the contribution of their male counterparts) if married and the right to equally voice their opinion and direct the expenditures and daily life of their entire family unit. This last part may be true in many Islamic households, but it is not overt and, certainly, as this author goes on to explain later, women are still subject to the direction of their husbands as the final word.

There in lies the difference. While our Islamic friend focuses on the clothes as the definition of emancipation, no western woman would ever subscribe to that and he completely ignores the fact that permanent relationships, whether in an Islamic society or western Judeo-Christian society are not built on physical attributes, however they may serve as an initial conduit to introduction.

Our friend also studiously avoids the fact that women in Islamic cultures, having their marriage arranged and their hand sold, without engaging her emotions or her mind or developing affection before hand and subsequently engaging in sexual acts with her is similarly objectifying the woman as nothing more than a vessel to be used at the buyers whim. No amount of dressing it up with pretty words like marriage, respect and protection changes that.

So, how did one conclude that is where the border of decency and indecency lies? After all, we were all born naked and we will also leave this world naked. Thus, the most pertinent question is; - why the minimum dress code enforced by the secular societies any more correct than the limits imposed by the Islamic Sharia?

Well, since our erstwhile writer doesn’t know the difference between minimum dress codes and the limits imposed by Islamic Sharia, I’ll explain it to him. Nobody in recent history has been sentenced to death, caning or imprisonment in a western court nor had a family member perform an honor killing nor been beaten by their husband who is subsequently legally cleared because their or his honor was besmirched.

You’d think this guy would know that having went to London University.

Polygamous relationships pre-dates Islam, it existed in Judeo-Christian traditions and most other religions and cultures. Therefore, why target Islam specifically on this issue of polygamy.

Because it’s no longer legal in western society? Because polygamy in Islamic cultures is usually at the direction of a male guardian and would be spouse and not the choice of the woman? Because it is hardly ever based on affection or care for the woman so much as the prestige of the groom and the family giving her hand to such an arrangement?

. I do find it astonishingly hypocritical for the West to incessantly argue against polygamy when one would hard pressed to find a virtuous monogamous man amongst them! Do they seriously think that the upright ‘monogamous’ West is on some sort of moral crusade confronting the ‘depraved’ polygamous Islam? Only the arrogant hypocrite would refuse to see the contradiction of criticising legalised polygamy with its detailed rules setting out the rights and obligations while permitting all sorts of sexual activities using the license of: ‘sexual freedom’!

Because, it means, no matter how much the Qu’ran or Shariah law admonishes the husband to do otherwise, she will be treated as a second or third or fourth class citizen in the household instead of an equal partner (he hates this by the way) with her husband? Because many women in these situations find themselves abandoned later for a younger, prettier woman, who, with all legality in place, is still purchased as an object to serve the husband’s needs and hardly ever for an altruistic or romantic reasons and, just like in any monogamous relationship, if the spouse or mate leaves the older spouse or mate for another, younger prettier woman, it is a sign of disrespect to that woman regardless of legal ties.

The only difference is, in the liberated western society, if the spouse does disrespect his wife in such a manner she can divorce him post-haste and find someone that will respect and care for her or just go on and, finally liberated, take care of herself without requiring assistance from a man.

What’s funny is that he is trying to tell us about how western society is more immoral because we do the same thing, we just don’t dress it up in legal language or binding agreements attempting in real time to make you believe that women in Islamic polygamous legal relationships are never abandoned by their husbands, but cared for as a respected member of his family, always.

If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge I want to sell you in Brooklyn. Islamic society might frown on it, but there is certainly little censure applied to the man if he does so, yet the woman is left without resources and without respect since, in Islamic societies, marriage demands the spouse be responsible for her and, if he doesn’t, she is without a guardian which is somehow the woman’s fault.

A direct consequence of sexual-freedom has been constant expansion of the boundaries of sexual taboos, permitting and encouraging sexual activities that involve multiple partners in the form of open relationships to sordid orgies and the likes.

Oh, yes, that’s right, everyone in western society has participated in an orgy or two. He knows so little about western society except what he learned by going to a liberal university in London where hormones were raging. It must have scared him to no end to find that his ideal of manhood might not jive with the rest of the world, and, finding himself lacking, proceeds to attempt insulation by demanding that his way is much more manly and morally upright.

Of course, no one in an Islamic society would do such a thing. If they did they aren’t true Muslims because Islam is…(fill in the blank). Never mind the fact that history is full of Islamic notables who had vast harems and any number of wives, concubines and sex slaves, including the Prophet Mohammed. Our friend would have us believe that Islam somehow instantaneously bestows immutable virtues on its male adherents who would never consider participating in such an activity. That is, if they are true Muslims.

Yes, I am applying Mr. Zakarais’s own technique to his most favored subject Muslims. The entirety of the article is an attempt by Zakaria to use his teeny-weeny paint by numbers brush to slather on a wide smear of black paint on freedom and democracy while simultaneously using a very large house painting brush to white wash Islamic society so you won’t notice that base animal instincts and desires reside in Muslim humans as much as they do in Western, Christian, Judeo, secular free humans.

Never mind that we know currently that slavery and the use of slaves as sexual objects exists, that there are hookers and johns who are from Islamic societies and most likely proclaim themselves Muslim.

Yet again, I hear the echo, “This isn’t Islam, Islam is…(fill in the blank).”

Even more, a man can make an appearance on a national TV-show announcing that he has boyfriend to his wife or that he is literally in love with his dog or any other forms of perversion as long as it is not a second wife! Such sensitivity reminds me of how the Romans found no issue with the exhibition of the male genitals as long as it was not circumcised!

Okay, he’s got us there. Who would have thought that Jerry Springer would have been so damned popular? But, and it’s a big but, I personally do not know anyone on who ever watched Jerry Springer or similar shows and said, “Look, that guy is in love with his dog, I guess I can be in love with my dog, too.” Mr. Zakaria misses the whole point of these programs. It is hardly a place to gain acceptance so much as a place to be ridiculed publicly and shown to be a moron and a scumbag. And I wonder if Mr. Zakaria understands in his little diatribe, he just did equate having a second wife to being in love with your dog. If one is acceptable, why not the other?

A very foolish argument to use since neither is truly acceptable and Mr. Zakaria is being intellectually dishonest by trying to convince anyone that it is. Of course, you must first understand the audience he is writing for to understand how they would accept this dishonesty, hook line and sinker without a blink because it fits in with their pre-conceived notions.

Talk about your propaganda Mr. Zakaria, for shame.

Power of propaganda is so immense that many of the Muslim apologists have started to deny the existence of a restricted practice of polygamy in Sharia laws. A classic and an idiotic argument to deny Polygamy is that they say: Islam has obliged you to give equal treatment to all your wives and since this is not possible, a task beyond human capacity, hence, Polygamy is only a theoretical possibility. I do not understand why God would permit Polygamy if it is beyond the ability of the male gender! Why GOD would pronounce such meaningless statements? I guess you have to have the ‘wisdom’ of the apologists to understand such pronouncements or neo-Ijtehad!

Here in lies the difficulty. Mr. Zakaria believes that God spoke to Mohammed directly and instructed him that polygamy is acceptable. Now this is a man of true faith. A man who, having been educated in a modern university, chooses to ignore the reality the period, tribal affiliations and political struggle of Mohammed and how that may have influenced him to interpret said words to his benefit. Of course, in doing so, one would have to recognize that Mohammed was not solely driven by a divine entity and would some how reduce his faith in God because the word of God as written in the Qu’ran is immutable.

Never mind that, as Mr. Zakaria already notes it was a practice long held by tribes in that region and around the world (American Indian tribes, Chinese, Japanese, Celts, you name it) before and for centuries after and was already practiced by the tribes most influenced by Mohammed. Never mind that in Mohammed’s time, the protection of the tribe was the ultimate necessity and keeping and caring for women and their offspring within that structure and harsh reality was served by this practice. And, never mind that it allowed Mohammed to take many wives and concubines from his own tribes and those that were conquered in order to tie those tribes more closely to him (a practice that was used in western and Asian culture for centuries, still used in less advanced cultures and some western monarchies).

The difference is that it is no longer a necessity and that this practice only has two implications in today’s world: political/blood ties between tribes and the male gender’s tool to satisfy his own desires. Nothing so grand or so necessary except by the word of men. Further driving a wedge between Mr. Zakarias’s belief that the strictures placed on women are for their benefit and protection and do not objectify women like western culture.

Nothing else I say after this would ever affect Mr. Zakaria’s opinion because all of these things are the word of God. As if Islam was the first religion to proclaim the subjugation of women or the allowance of some other oppressive practice as handed down to them by a higher authority. Railing against Judaism and Christianity, he falls back on the very same arguments that they have used in the past.

Now we come to my favorite parts:

Muslim women are imprisoned, denied choices under the Islamic laws while the emancipated Western women are free, having endless choices. But what are those choices and what is the implication for the society if the individuals are given those choices. Choice is not intrinsically a virtue, it can bring chaos, and if incorrect choices are made than it causes more harm than good.

In other words, if you no comprende his implications, while he later tells us that women are given the ability to make decisions about some things, they are inherently too stupid to make those decisions because they will most likely make the wrong decisions. Of course, I would be intellectually dishonest if I did not inform you that men also have many restrictions from choice in Islamic society for the exact same reason, but still are considered the arbiters of wisdom above women. Mr. Zakaria denies this and claims that this equality can never exist as women are different than men, have different responsibilities and, therefore, have control over different choices.

Separate, but equal. Where have I heard this argument before? Could it be…segregation? Which is synonymous with discrimination. Of course, he isn’t writing this commentary for your average western citizen. He is really writing it for his fellow Muslims and for the so called “liberals” and “feminist” who are looking for any explanation that would excuse their abandonment of liberal or feminist ideas while supporting a completely opposite philosophy on the grounds of “cultural differences”.

There is no doubt woman’s flesh sells, it makes money like any another commodity in the free market economy. The business of porn and prostitution by its nature is exploitative and degrading regardless of how it is produced, by choice or compulsion. It is predominantly produced to satisfy the lust of the male gender, making the woman a sexual servant while wrapping her with ‘freedom’.

Again, intellectual dishonesty from Mr. Zakarais. First, he is telling everyone that it is “freedom” that makes people buy porn or men go to prostitutes. Secondly, he is telling you that it is overwhelmingly predominant in western society as if half the female populace and half of the male populace in western society indulge in such activities. He already told us, and the rest of the world, particularly, the Islamic world that it is so since we all run around having multiple sex partners and participate in orgies. Third, and of course, he is telling you that this does not happen in Islamic society. Never mind previously mentioned slave trading in women, girls and boys or the private stashes of porn in any Muslim’s home and the brothels and hotels that provide such activities to Muslim men.

They aren’t real Muslims if they do.

Implications are huge, and it contributes towards the growth in sexual crimes, single parent families, drug dependencies etc.

He certainly makes a giant leap with that one. Freedom of choice leads to porn and prostitution that leads to sex crimes, single parent families (how the hell he made that leap I don’t know), drug dependencies, etc. A nice linear line that completely negates the fact that an overwhelming percentage of the western world’s population do not indulge in these activities and, once again telling us and the Muslim world that by adhering to the strictures of Islam, these things wouldn’t happen. Maybe he’s right, even if men were perfect and never strayed, but I highly doubt that Islam produces such perfection. As a matter of fact, >I know it doesn’t.

The UN says maybe, maybe not in Saudi Arabia, but they really can’t tell since it is a closed society and punishment is severe for traffickers who are caught and would tend to lend to the credence that it is more wide spread than acknowledged considering that traffickers don’t do business where business does not exist. Addicts are sent to one of three hospitals for rehabilitation. That is, if they have the right connections. The poor and addicted are no better off there than in any western society. Obviously, a closed and restricted society can never be closed completely and certainly never precludes the vices of men.

The World Health Organization points out alcohol abuse does exist and appears to be on the rise in regards to beer.

And there appears to be a register of Addiction Specialists in Saudi Arabia. One wonders why that is necessary if it is none existent in a closed Islamic society and solely the by-product of freedom.

If I were to list every story that was allowed to come out of Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries regarding rape, assault and other dastardly crimes perpetuated by Muslim men against women and other weak people in their societies, I’d go on and on, but that isn’t the point. As surely as Mr. Zakaria can look on the internet and find stories of the same in western culture, so, too could we find stories and information that would preclude his claim that such things only happen in free societies.

His only counter claim would be that at least Islam protects future victims by quickly and economically dispatching the criminals with beheadings and other severe punishment. That’s fine as far as it goes, but it apparently does not stop others from doing so.

Further, I’d lay $50 on the fact that these crimes and addictions are under reported simply because it has as much implications for the victim under Sharia law as for the perpetrator.

d).Gender Equality or Gender Harmony
The Gender Equality is a one-dimensional view focusing primarily on the relationship between two adult peers engaged in a marital relationship.

Now, you see, Mr. Zakaria has no real idea what equality means or is in question. Gender equality is not solely about the relationship between a husband and a wife. He goes on:

Also, are there any limits of gender equality? Should the gender differences become totally immaterial in determining the laws and values? If so, eventually, the concept of moms and dads, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives etc. would become meaningless.

He may have some ground with males in western society concerning the “limits” of women. However, he tries to convince us that assigning laws and values based on gender are totally acceptable since lack of it would erase the general concepts we understand in society. Missing, still, the actual meaning of “gender equality”. Mr. Zakarais is skipping around it like a jackrabbit on hot coals because he knows very well that the equality that is being questioned is really equality before the law and that does not mean death for an adulterous woman and five lashes for a man. We are talking about equality in the ability to own property, solely and without co-ownership with a man; equality to conduct business with both genders without a male companion co-signing or chaperoning the event because some man “might” think she was propositioning him (evil unto him who evil thinks); equally able to decide where she lives, what she eats, whom she marries, what she wears and every other activity that men may do on a daily basis, including worshipping God.

Throughout human history, the two genders have generally functioned to complement each other particularly in a husband and wife relationship as opposed to acting as adversaries competing in every sphere. Islam in line with human nature espouses for harmony between two genders and not a full scale war.

Finally, the truth about about Muslim men: they fear competition from women. Nicely couched, of course, in language about nature and harmony.

My question to Mr. Zakaria, “Who is responsible for this possible war? Is it…women?” Because, of course we know that Muslim men only want to protect women and would never do anything to harm them. As long as they played by the rules of Muslim men.

Apart from the idea of woman’s rights it is important to get glimpse of those, in particular the male gender as to how the uphold such lofty values. Men in the West are caught in between by a culture that constantly agitates their sexual instincts and also demands ‘respect’ by complying with certain legal/political standards that is supposed to manifest a non-sexist world.

In other words, it is western culture that causes man’s quandary between sexual drive and “respect”. It couldn’t be because sex is a normal human drive, perpetuated by testosterone and other chemicals? Of course, men are also weak and incapable of controlling themselves. In this, many “real” feminists would agree with Mr. Zakaria.

Their macho minds are filled with a culture of porn with images of women as sexual object transmitted by the lewd pop-fashion-film industry: pieces of flesh to consume.

Macho minds? Pot calling kettle black. Of course, machismo is due to porn and women, men would never imagine acting that way without those.

Consequentially, nominal respect shown by the men is due to the fear of being subjected to the laws of sexual harassment and very little emanates from the hearts and minds.

Yes, in the west, men do not treat women with respect from their hearts and minds but simply because they could be sued or go to jail. Western men should be mightily pissed at this characterization.

And, without providing any statistics:

Rape in the Western society is constantly on the increase, it also prevalent within the army.

Rape has risen since 1960, but is showing a decrease since 1980, yet again, intellectual dishonesty. I’m going to keep saying it because it is the height of idiocy to proclaim the cause to be “freedom”. As pointed out, rape and assault exist in every society. Equally important to note is that closed societies are not any more honest than Mr. Zakaria in reporting crimes.

Had Islam and Muslim men been the real oppressors of women, the feminist movement would have arisen from within the Islamic societies. Indeed, the origin of such movements perhaps reflects where the real oppression of women existed and still exists!

That had to be the funniest and most dishonest comment he wrote. I mean, anybody with half a brain knows that the only reason the feminist movement began in the west is because they didn’t have to fear being murdered for someone’s damaged honor. Further, it came at a time when society applied very similar rules as conservative Islam to women in dress and behavior which means that they did not start out especially free, but struggled for it against the very same arguments that Mr. Zakaria applies except they were quoting the bible. That thought above all should be enough to scare Mr. Zakaria.

The fact that it comes late to Islamic society is no reflection of its alleged “respect” for women so much as now the death of a woman in Islam is no longer hidden and Muslim women can see international support for their movement, emboldening them to demand the rights that Muslim men insist already exist.

No one can explain why Islam supposedly anti-Woman continues to attract more women than men.

Really? I think the question is how many Muslim women leave Islam?

Both, logic and Islamic texts dictates that woman’s rights have no place in Islam, those who speak in its name has the worst track record in violating the rights of womankind.

Oh, there we go…we are not perfect therefore we cannot tell them what is wrong with their society. There is nothing logical about denying women’s rights and if Islamic text denies it, then Islamic text is a dinosaur that will not survive into the next century.

I’d also like to challenge Mr. Zakaria on the point of hijabs and veils allowing women to be judged solely on the fruits of their abilities. If this is so liberating, why don’t Islamic men wear them too? By Mr. Zakaria’s logic, it would free men to be judged “by the fruits of their ability” and further equalize men amongst each other much less between the genders.

All in all, Mr. Zakaria has not laid a convincing argument that Islam frees women so much as he’s convinced me that he and Muslim men are afraid of what will come if women are allowed to choose.


Kender said...

Yes...I think tonights show will be on islam and it's teachings and why they subjugate women.

And again you will be the lead off story.

I may have to put you on payroll when I get one.

Thanks for the calls and support. I hope you enjoyed the music and change of pace.

Donal said...

Excellent post Kat. It's intresting to note that in several places the author acknowledges that Islam is changing- for the worst in his opinion but for the better in mine. So when the democracy in Iraq (I'm assuming it acknowledges womens equality) gets going and becomes a powerhouse in the region (as it will a free society being superior) it will force change on islam because if the religion is shown to be obviously wrong every day it must change or die. So creating democracy in Iraq may lead to an Islam the rest of us can live with.

Kat said...

Kender..I did enjoy the show. it was quite funny. Very irreverent. The free for all was great.

We need to get you advertised, dude.

donal...that is the truth and just like Christianity I imagine the split in Islam will become even more multiplicitous and pronounced even though no one in Islam would want to admit it (no "true" Muslim anyway).

It is a point in fact that no religion survives contact with the rest of the world intact and it is also true that there are always people who fight against it.

Mr. Zakaria's version of Islam will most likely be like vatican catholicism vs. American catholicism. the only difference is that catholics haven't blown anything up (lately) in the name of their religion.

Jim said...

OK, I was bored, so I read his whole screed. Nothing but a bunch of silly false dichotomies and strawmen. It really should be harder to get into universities, I think. You have a lot more patience than I do, fisking him at such length, Kat.

I also took a look at some of his other works on that site; he's a general all-purpose anti-American loon, sort an Islamic John Kerry, Live from London.

Neffi said...

Nice filet job, Kat- but not much of a challenge for you. The guy's logic and reasoning is just pitiful... he seems frightened, to me. Ooops, gotta go- Springer's on! JERRY! JERRY!

Kat said...

Honestly, I almost just linked to the story and said: here, read this moron.

I mean, normal folks would understand the difference immediately, but then I thought, maybe some lefty crack pot would jump on here and read it so I should explain my objections as a liberated woman.