10/25/13 Islamic Women’s Rights…an Oxyoron

I read today of the Saudi government’s promise to arrest those who are in support of the protest underway over the cause of women’s rights. It seems that women are protesting their legal prohibition from driving an automobile. The Saudi government has promised arrest and censure of those who show support for the protesters, even those who show that support through the use of social media. In other words, a “LIKE” click on a Facebook post can land you in a Saudi prison.

The Wahabi sect of Islam in Saudi Arabia is ultra-conservative. One can term that as “fundamentalist.” A conservative fundamentalism seems reasonable there if one recalls that the Arabian Peninsula was the home of the Prophet, and it contains the holy cities of Medina and Mecca, which “infidels” cannot even sully by their mere presence. The Sunni Wahabi clerics are as stodgy and inflexible as the Shiite Ayatollahs in Iran, or Taliban Mullahs in Afghanistan. They are all as staid and rigorous as each other.

The rights of women in many Muslim countries are nearly zero. Women are killed for family honor. Women are unable to even have conversations with any male who is not a  family member. Women are not allowed to go out of the home unchaperoned. Women are not generally allowed to choose their own husbands. Women must wear the burkha or veils or other coverings that keep them from the lustful eyes of men. I wonder why it is that Muslim men trust their women so little that they think their women would so easily dishonor themselves? Perhaps it is the men who don’t trust each other. Maybe it’s the “boys will be boys” excuse? It’s OK for boys, but anathema for women.

In some Muslim countries, women are forced to stop attending school beyond grade school level. They must be kept out of sight, sequestered away deep within the confines of their own homes, much like prisoners. They also get the honor of becoming one of four wives any man who may afford to can legally acquire under the tenets of Islam. And in Saudi Arabia, they cannot even legally drive a car. Whose honor is it that Muslim men are protecting?

These rules about women may be contained in the Koran, or they may be contained in the Hadiths, or in the traditions of Sharia law, but I wonder why liberated women the world over, who have shown themselves capable of making decisions about their own lives don’t, with a single unified voice, decry the human rights abuses that women endure at the hands of their male oppressors in Muslim countries. These religious rules and regulations are not designed to protect women….they are designed to oppress them.

Here we go. I will be accused of being an Islamaphobe, of not understanding the customs of Islamic countries, of being intolerant towards the culture of others, but I will maintain my position. If we can declare the ancient African, traditional custom of female circumcision a violation of human rights, then we are fooling ourselves by saying that the oppression that women undergo at the hands of men in Islamic countries is different: for what woman really feels that another woman must marry the man selected for her by her father? Are their any women in America that feel this is OK? If not, then where is your protest?

In this country, women get alarmed because some think it reasonable that the parents of minor females be notified when their daughter is seeking an abortion, and use every legal means to prevent this obstruction from the minor’s access to the abortion. This is not a problem that would ever be contemplated in many Muslim countries…the baby’s abortion would just naturally follow the abortion of the life of the mother at the hands of her honorable father and brothers. Where are women on this issue? Why are they silent? Who among them thinks this is a reasonable way to treat women?

Honor killings, they are called. One does not have to go all the way to a Muslim country to find them. One can go to mostly Muslim Dearborn, Michigan, and find the occasional honor killing. While this custom is not exclusive to Muslims, existing on the Indian subcontinent  as a matter local custom more than a Hindu religious practice, we sure do hear a lot about it from Muslims. For every honor killing we hear about, think of how many opressions, beatings, maimings, and other horrific things women endure that we cannot see, especially since everything about them is covered from public view.

I am not an Islamaphobe, but I am tired of seeing what I see, hearing what I hear, and being told that my own eyes and ears are misleading me…that Islam is a religion of peace – that the very name of Islam means peace. Nope, the Arabic word “Islam” means “submission.” Apparently, being Islamic, for women, means to not only submit to Allah, but to submit to inglorious and injurious treatment at the hands of their men, who, apparently, are much smarter than the women who are unable to govern themselves. These are the same men who think it is OK to rape non-Muslim women, or to grope and fondle any unchaperoned or improperly chaperoned woman so bold as to simply be in a public place. Perhaps in Islam only the men are allowed the right to be unmolested in public places, and this would depend on your particular Islamic creed, since Sunnis and Shiites molest each other regularly.

This nation fought an internal war over slavery. This nation, less than a hundred years ago, finally gave women the right to have a political voice by voting. The entire world condemned South Africa for it’s apartheid, and rightfully so. Why, then, does not the entire world condemn the apartheid inflicted on Muslim women? The victims of apartheid were oppressed because of the color of their skin. The victims of honor killings are murdered because of their gender.

At least they don’t have honor killings in China…they just abort, or give birth to and abandon females because they value male children far more highly. This seems much more humane than an Islamic honor killing, doesn’t it? Of course not. Where are the women on this? Even the men in China are becoming restless because they far outnumber women, thus can find no mates.

Well, women, where are you? Where are your protests at the UN, at the US Capitol, or in Riyahd? Aren’t there enough women attorneys to keep this atrocious male behavior in a constant state of condemnation all around the world? Where is your unified outcry?

Christians! Ahh! Christians in Muslim countries, you’re not only next, you are in great peril. Maybe the Muslim women would earn some more rights if they would stand up for the rights of Christians in their own countries. That’s easier in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Iran because there are actually Christians there. The only Christians you’ll find on the Arabian Penninsula are workers from foreign countries. In the Emirate of Qatar, they may even keep you as a literal slave, since Qatar requires the same person who sponsored you to get you into the country to grant permission for an exit visa, and trying to leave the country without one is a cause for arrest. Only a fool or a very desperate alien would take a job in Qatar. They can legally ask you if you’d like to be paid for your work, or would you rather have an exit visa? Of course, are free to choose, but you may not like the outcome.

Remember, it was the Wahabi sect of Islam that gave us Osama Bin-Laden. If we Westerners think that these people are our friends, we are more foolish than I thought. They are so full of their own self-righteousness and proximity to God that they will kill their own daughters and sisters rather than have their honor besmirched. It is their honor they are concerned about. It is their own mistrust of their daughters that prohibit them from driving a car. Imagine, American woman, that you could be arrested there for simply driving a car, and then explain to me how things are wrong with America? Remember, it was followers of the Taliban that shot Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai in the head simply for seeking an education.

Islamaphobe? No, I’m not an Islamaphobe, but I’m not blind and deaf, either. Egregious excesses are committed in the name of Islam, yet Islam, itself, does not speak out harshly against these excesses. Islam does little to stop them. Mainstream Islam makes a show of moderate civility, then stands idly by as atrocities are committed against their own women, much like Christians stood quietly by as entire portions of Warsaw were emptied of Jews in World War II, making lame excuses, or furnishing the occasional condemnatory editorial. Everyone just shook their heads and said to themselves, “Oh! My! This is bad.” It took an attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese to motivate this nation to do something about the mayhem in Europe.

I am not advocating a mobilization to fight the nations of Islam, but history has shown that when unified, the rest of the world is in danger from militaristic Islamic expansion. If Islam will oppress and murder their own daughters, and the fundamentalist sects in Egypt will burn Coptic Christian Churches and kill Christians, why would we not expect  Israel to be skeptical of Iran’s claim of nuclear development for peaceful purposes? In their twisted use of language, peaceful purposes may very well mean the elimination of the nation of Israel. They have promised this time and time again. Is the world deaf?

There are those who fight tooth and nail to eliminate every expression of Christianity from the public sphere in this country, and then turn around and defend Sharia law as a legitimate expression of Islamic culture. I am persuaded that we are confused. Think not? Then do your best try to persuade me otherwise. It’s not gonna be easy.

Of course, not all Muslims are the way I described above, just like all Christians are not like Fred Phelps and his nefarious tribe from the Westboro Baptist Church. Extremists give the very thing they hold dear a bad name…but how do we determine the extremists? What is our responsibility to ensure that extremism does not run roughshod over tolerance? And when does our tolerance lead to our own demise? For ultimately, it is the extremely intolerant who eliminate those who tolerantly stand by and witness their own execution.

It’s a dangerous world out there. My hope is Peace, Shalom, and Salaam. Writing that was easy. Achieving it is quite different. Sometimes, achieving it is only possible at the point of a gun. Think about that if you will, and just what that means, then go fishing to relieve your mind of that insolvable burden.

If the fish could talk, they’d cry foul, too.

I am not ignorant that there are secular nations that are predominantly Muslim, where women are not treated in the manner described above, but such nations as Turkey are finding themselves increasingly inclining towards theocratic rule. This cannot be good, for Turks, or for those around them. We already had the Umayyad Caliphate and the Ottomans. What historical evidence do we observe that makes us think that this cannot happen again? The historical evidence is that it will.

And for every one of my Christian friends who think our nation should be governed as a Christian nation, which denomination of Christianity do you think should be the one to govern? The Episcopals? The Lutherans? The Unitarian/Universalists (though I find no Christian connection with them, I named them anyway). Perhaps the Roman Catholics, whose own historical record of governance is not so good. Perhaps the Puritans, though their record is not so good either. Their tolerant religion would only govern long enough to realize that their tolerance had neutered them into a dangerously lukewarm insignificance, finding themselves deposed by a far less tolerant sect. When governments are run by theocracy, you ultimately wind up with the groups like the Taliban or the Westboro Baptist Church, who have no second thought about the godly elimination of those who don’t think like them. Who wants either? Not me.

I am a Christian. If you asked me to choose between a religious government and a government proposed by Thomas Paine (an atheist founding-father, and if you don’t know who Thomas Paine is, them shame on you), I’d likely choose a government instituted by Thomas Paine. Jesus said His kingdom was not of this world. He’d have chosen a moral government, without corruption, but He would have allowed us the ability to choose for ourselves whom we should serve, and how. He allows us this, today. We are free to choose Him. We are free to reject Him. We can do either without having our lives, our property, or the lives of our families at risk. I like this way of government. I like being able to choose. In our Christian tradition, God has always allowed us to choose. In our Christian tradition, there have always been consequences for our choice, but the judgment was left up to God, whose only earthly requirement was that we have some degree of morality to govern our behavior towards each other. When we faced earthy, governmental consequences for religious choices, it was because government had been infiltrated with someone’s specific idea of religion.

Women driving a car is not immoral any more than the car is immoral. Women wanting an education is not immoral any more than education is immoral. Women who fail to completely cover themselves are no more immoral than the men who would look at them lustfully because their smile is revealed. The government that dictates our religious practices is guilty of great immorality, for it tends towards injustice and even murder. We should all be thankful for the freedom to choose. We should be thankful for this freedom even when the choices others make are not the ones we would make for ourselves.

We must be tolerant. But we must not tolerate intolerance. To successfully do so, we must become intolerant. This is an oppressive dichotomy as old as mankind….or womankind.

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