Thursday, February 17, 2005

Institutionalized Misogyny

Recently Saudi Arabia held their first ever municipal elections--what some say was their first step toward democracy. Women were not allowed to participate. From MEMRI we have the reported justification for this position:

Some also claimed that women's participation in the elections goes against the principles of Shari'a. Sheikh Dr. 'Abdallah Faqih stated: "All the ulema have agreed that the imam must be a man, because the Prophet said 'A nation ruled by a woman will not succeed,' and this was related by Muhammad Ibn Isma'il Al-Bukhari [in his collections of reliable Hadiths]. [This ban] is because this post is a heavy burden that demands great capabilities – which the woman usually does not possess…

"No texts appear to contradict this Hadith in either the Koran or the Sunna. Furthermore, there are texts that support this ruling, such as the words [of Allah in the Koran], 'Men are superior to women' [34:4] and the words, 'Bring two witnesses from among your men, and if there are not two men, bring a man and two women' [82:2].

"A woman is prohibited from holding high office, because doing so requires mingling with men, and being alone with them. Also, she must bear a heavy burden, which is not suitable for the character of the woman. [However,] the woman can bear and direct small positions, such as directing a hospital or a school, since Omar ibn Al-Khattab appointed Al-Shifaa bint 'Abdallah Al-'Adawiyya superintendent of weights and measures in the Al-Madina marketplace, and this is mentioned by Al-Hafez ibn Hajar in the biography of Al-Shifaa. But this is on condition that there is no prohibited mingling or being alone [with men]." [8]

Misogyny is defined as an exaggerated pathological aversion towards women. The institutionalized misogyny of Islam is doctrinal and --as you can see from the example-- is strongly supported by a Islam's founding documents and articles of faith.

Try as they might, the women who defend Islam as a religion keep running into a brick wall of those documents: the Qur'an, the Hadith, and Sunna (which also form the basis of Shar'ia, or Islamic Law).

Islam is not historically alone in its misogyny. Here are several doctrinal passages from Judaism and Christianity that testify to their original anti-female attitudes (the source of these quotes is here).

On the one hand, the Hebrew Bible does not directly revile women, and has few such direct and blunt anti-feminine statements compared to its descendants and sister religions.[5] On the other hand, through its treatment of women as chattel, it legitimizes the subsequent development of blatant misogyny....

The road from here to the institutionalized, daily deprecation of women in the Jewish morning prayer is a short one: "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who hast not made me a woman"

The Church's anti-feminism has not been fed by ancient creation myths alone. The New Testament itself is a rich source for such an attitude, mostly coming from St. Paul:

"Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church" (I Cor 14: 34, 35).

"Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression" (I Tim. 2: 11-14; probably pseudo-Pauline).

"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife..." (Ephesians 5: 22-23).

These often quoted verses (see also I Cor. 11: 2-16) have all served, generation after generation, as documents authorizing the putting down of women.

Ursala King in her 1987 article in Comparative Education: "World Religions, Women and Education" states very clearly that women "were always excluded from formal education once sacred knowledge became transmitted in an institutional manner".

Her point is an important one, because it also contains the cure for "institutionalized" misogyny, and this is how Western Civilization managed to extricate itself from their religiously misogynistic origins. The solution: Separation of Church and State.

The Separation of Church and State principle is a part of the United State's historical, legal and political heritage. It simultaneously preserves and protects our religious liberty; while preventing the doctinal aspects of any particular religions from impinging on the individual freedom of both women and men. By separating the Church and State, men and women are free to participate in religion or not, according to their pleasure. If a religion, freely practiced, promotes the subjugation of women, for example, women and men are free to leave it since there is no "state-sponsored" religion they MUST belong to.

This "flip-side" to religious freedom (the freedom to NOT be religious) was a critical concept that advanced the legal, political and economic emancipation of women.

When it comes to misogyny, the trouble with Islam is the attempt to make Islamic Law (better known as Shar'ia) not only the law of the religion, but also the law of the land. It does not allow the possibility of dissent and choice within the larger context of the society or culture.

This is why Canada's recent decision to permit Islamic Law to exist and be applied within their country is so profoundly retrogressive and misogynistic. It was clearly a serious blow for women who hope, by means of exposing their religion to the modern world, that the religion would be able to adapt and change to reality.

This inability to tolerate dissent and debate new ideas(think Martin Luther nailing his ideas to a church door)combined with a fanatic resistance to any change or questioning of their religious tracts, have caused Islam to remain mired in the hopeless primitivism of the middle ages; while Christianity, Judaism have evolved and remained relevant to living in the world of reality.

Allah has become a third-rate deity, presiding over a barbarous and primitive theology that may have worked for a military leader in the 7th century, but it is not a ideology that will bring happiness and prosperity to very many in the 21st.

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