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November 14, 2005


The Noisy American

I agree with several of the points you make, especially the fact that PCers are in the process of destroying any possibility of honest debate in many ways. But, at the same time I don't agree that all Islamic societies are backward or that women within all of these societies see themselves as 'suffering' or 'oppressed.' If, indeed, all Muslim women felt oppressed, then why has there been an upswing in the number of women who choose to wear the hajib in Western countries? Yes, some of them do see themselves that way and it breaks my heart when I hear of students not being allowed to participate in certain activities we take for granted because it is 'haram' (against Allah's will}.

Actually, In the Koran, women are potrayed in a more egalitarian manner than they are in the Bible. They are given full rights within society and equal participation within religious organizations. In addition, women are seen as the cornerstone of the family, which is the most significant force within Islam. Of course, in a country like Pakistan or Afghanistan, this is obviously not the case. But, in other countries, this is more apparent. In Iran, for instance, there are more women then men in parliment. In the UAE and Qatar, more women then men complete university studies, including graduate studies. It's a complex issue which is taking place within Islam as well as being influenced from without. In the Gulf region, change is happening, albeit slowly. Recently, women were given the right to vote and run for office in Kuwait and Qatar. In Saudi Arabia, women were granted the right to vote in the next election, though they still cannot drive.

In the university where I work, the essay question on the last exam concerned the equality of women in the Middle East, a majority of the students (over 1000, all women) reported that women in the Middle East had the same rights as men. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that all women are happy with their situation, and their response could be interpreted in several different ways. But it does imply that not all women feel subjegated and oppressed.

As far as the university's decision to pull the exhibit, I find it perfectly reasonable if the artist did misrepresent it's content. A nude Muslim woman on display would be considered more than extremely offensive to almost any Muslim (including women.) It would be the equivalent of seeing a picture of your mother naked hanging on the wall of a 7-11. According to Muslim tradition (and this tradition is propagated by many women), they are covered out of respect. They are not to be viewed as objects of lust. Many women say that wearing the veil makes them more powerful than if they were uncovered. Actually, the uncovering of women can be seen as oppresive to some Muslim women. In both Turkey and Egypt, opposition to secular governments was demonstrated by the women's wearing of the hijab.

I am not a Muslim, nor do I aspire to be Muslim. I'm also not a Christian. I find the dogma and the rituals of both beliefs to be stifling and overbearing, but I can understand why such an offensive exhibit can be pulled. For an interesting series of articles on Muslim women, you can look at www.mwlusa.org


Well said Noisy American

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