Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Cats, Dogs, and Arab Women


Writing in on March 7, 2005 Saudi author Wajiha Al-Huweidar explained: "All of the Arab regimes are U.N. members and have ratified the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights, which clearly establishes justice and equality in the rights and obligations of all citizens. Despite this, women in our chauvinist countries are still considered the property of their relatives. All Arab countries, without exception, harbor covert animosity and open discrimination against women. To this day, all official bodies reject any scientific discussion of a solution to women's problems – while on the other hand the men, who benefit from women's oppression, continue to regurgitate [the mant r a] that 'women are respected' [in Arab and Muslim societies]…
"Arab countries' legislation patently discriminates against women and clearly denies their rights, which affronts them as human beings. They are still treated as though they contaminate purity, and arouse temptation and immorality. What is astounding is that most Arabs, at all levels and in every area – whether governments, institutions, or individuals – still consider women's issues a religious issue, and thus believe that her concerns should be dealt with through outdated chauvinist [religious] interpretations…

"An improvement in women's status will not come through invalid solutions which have been proven ineffectual. The laws grant female citizens only half a voice, diminish women's rights, classify them as having only partial sense, denigrate their importance, doubt their capabilities, permit beating and banishing them, permit their caging within four walls, allow their husbands to treat them as they see fit, and allow them to be bought and sold according to legal agreements. When women fail [in matters forbidden by religious law], the laws welcome their barbarous execution.

"These laws are clearly no longer suited to an era in which cats and dogs in the developed world have more rights than Arab women, and more even than those of Arab men…
Read the entire article for the views of several women scholars. One of the women quoted makes this observation which I found particularly pointed (scroll down in the article):

"The question that must be asked is what the Arab and Islamic countries have given women on their world day of celebration. I look beyond the horizon and see nothing. I see nothing but the tightening of the noose around the woman, to the point where she is prevented from owning her own face. [Her face] is the property of the man, and she must not uncover it. Of what modernization in women's issues can these countries speak, when the men of this world pass a law permitting the stoning of the woman [for violating religious convention], because she [harmed] man's honor? Has he any honor in the world of today?" (emphasis mine)

This is an important observation and cuts to the heart of the issue of women's rights in Arab and Islamic countries. I realize that I write fairly frequently about this issue (see here, here, here for example--and that is only in the last month!). That is because I think that it is one of the most important issues of our times, and must be addressed aggressively if we want to get to the psychological roots of terrorism and and end its dominance in those cultures.

No comments: