Globalization: Social & Geographic Perspectives

a qwriting.qc.cuny.edu blog

Blog 5

May 12th, 2011 · 5 Comments
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As a Muslim women reading the article “Obedience versus Autonomy: Women in Fundamentalism in Iran and Pakistan” the first section of the article made me sad learning about the many misconceptions of women in Islam. It disappointed me rediscover that this view is held by many people. I feel that the authors view is negatively biased about women’s obedience and autonomy in Islam. When reading the first half of the article I found many points which are vague and misleading to readers. But because I am writing a blog and not a research paper about this topic, I will keep it short and only discuss a few.

First I’d like to discuss the term “obedience” in the authors view. The author adds a negative connotation to the word obedience, indirectly pointing out that if one is obedient he/she is similar to slave lacking any or all autonomy. The author states “Islam means, among other things, submission and obedience.” The author makes this point to validate her views on an Islamic wife. After people read that statement many people will assume women in Islam have no say, no rights, and are treated unfairly. The meaning of “Islam” is submission/obedience to one God in peace. Now is that negative? Are we in the western world, NOT obedient to laws of society? Does that take away from our autonomy?  One of the laws in NYC is: Don’t drink and drive. Driving with a blood alcohol concentration at or more than 0.08 is illegal. If we are “obedient to this law does that take away from our autonomy as an individual? I know this isn’t the best example but my point is as long as the laws are just and fair to women what wrong with being obedient? Autonomy which means personal independence can be achieved while still obeying laws. Second I would like to discuss the marriage contract. Haeri states “Islamic marriage is a contract of sale” and “exchange of goods and services” also “in exchange of bride price,…. which wife receives, husband gains exclusive ownership right, over wife’s sexuality and reproductive activities..” umm excuse me?? I’m not sure about anyone else but to me this sounds like prostitution which is a SIN in Islam! Yes money is given to the bride before the wedding takes place which is also known as dowry. But this exchange of money is not to buy the wife!! The purpose of giving money and and signing a contract is incase a divorce takes place or the women is widowed the women has money to support herself. The husband and wife both make up the contract of what they want from the marriage and what they expect. Both parties sign the contract. The wife or the family of the wife asks for a reasonable amount of money from the husband’s side. This money, property or assets belongs strictly to the wife. No one not even her family members are allowed to take this money, only she has the authority to spend it as she wishes. Divorce is permissible in Islam, and if the marriage ends in divorce the women is able to use the money to help her get back on her feet. Keep in mind this Islamic law was established over 14 hundred years ago, before the judicial system and before the existence of alimony. The difference of alimony and Islamic dowry is alimony is given after the divorce and the amount is based on what the Judge believes is fair. Islamic dowry is given before the marriage and the amount is based on how much the wife and her family thinks is fair or enough. So contrary to Haeri’s point, a Muslim woman is not for sale before marriage! In regard to sexual control over the women’s body parts I’ll just keep it short because this blog is already long enough and say men also have an obligation to satisfy their wife’s sexual desire and needs.

In “France Face Veil Ban Provokes Heated Debate,” Tariq Ramadan argues that although he is not on favor of the niqab, the niqab should not be banned because it is a threat to democracy and dictates what to do and what they should and should not wear. Mona Eltahawy on the other hand , support the banning on the veil in France. She believes that it causes women to “disappear in society.” She thinks that showing of the face is vital to communication and that it should be banned everywhere. I think that because many Muslim women have a difference of opinion in regards to niqab and hijab that it should not be banned in any country or strictly enforced in any country. This isn’t a direct quotation, but the Quran says to dress modest and to cover ones bosoms. Men also have to dress modest and cover the area just right above their navel to right below their knee. Dressing conduct has been interpreted in many different ways. I was never forced to wear a hijab and I have started wearing the hijab a year after I graduated high school. If somebody told me I couldn’t wear it, I would feel like a part of my freedom has just been taken away. So I agree with Tariq Ramadan, in order to maintain democracy and freedom of rights, the government should not ban the face veil.

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5 responses so far ↓

  • 1    andrewganga // May 14, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    I fully agree with Tariq Ramadan (and you). If we ban the veil because we think its taking freedom away from the women who wear it, thats just as bad as forcing a woman to wear a veil in the first place. Women should have the ability to decide whether they want to wear the veil or not on their own.

    I also agree with your view on the term obedience. American society has created a very false view of Islam and there are too many people out there who judge the religion without even bothering to try to learn what its about.

  • 2    astein102 // May 15, 2011 at 8:26 am

    As a Muslim woman, I’m sure you know a lot more than I about your religion. I’m also sure that living in the West is a different experience than in the Middle East or Africa. However, as long as there is forced female circumcision existing in a society, I will never believe that women have control of their body parts or sexuality. As long as a female gets killed by her own family member for disgracing the family by being raped, women have no real equality or rights.

  • 3    Kurman100 // May 15, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    It is very intresting to hear that Muslim women have a say in the divorce statement. As a Jewish woman, my religion does something similiar. We have what is called a “Ketuba” and before the wedding ceremony the bride and groom sign a marriage contract. The man promises to respect, honor and care for his wife while the bride signs that she will do the same.

  • 4    Prof. Hala // May 16, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Thanks for this lively, compelling critique, Ahsana. I too had misgivings about the conceptualization of “obedience” and presentation of the marriage contract in the article (which is why I chose to focus the discussion more on the comparison/contrast of women roles/activities in Iran and Pakistan and the ongoing dialectical relationship between fundamentalist and securalist movements). Overall, the issue women in Islam is presented as a case of “cultural exceptionalism,” while I think a cross-cultural comparative discussion — that relates beliefs and practices to other religions, along the lines of Robyn’s comment about “Ketubah,” the marriage contract in Judaism — would have been far more enlightening. And let’s not forget the long, now largely secular, Western custom practiced in more traditional communities, where women essentially trade their autonomy for obedience in marriages to wealthy and/or powerful men, dedicating their lives to support the ambitions and careers of men or becoming “trophy wives,” charged with elevating their husband’s social status, “looking good” on their husband’s arms in public.

    Alex, while your criticisms are certainly valid, I’d be careful not to assume “anti-women” practices (like FGM and honor killing) are “essential” or unique to Islam. Modern-day, global Islam is represented by a diversity of beliefs and practices. Powerful lawmakers and civil society leaders in the US, with strong followings in different parts of the country, continue to campaign for and pass laws restricting women’s control over their own bodies, namely in the ongoing battle over reproductive choice/abortion.

  • 5    ahsana // May 17, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    I totally agree with professor Hala that “anti women practices should not be assumed essential or unique to Islam. I actually didn’t know much about FGM until I did a research paper on that topic for my sociology of sex class last semester and I think I should share this knowledge. Many people associate FGM with Islam because FGM takes place in many Muslim countries. Many people believe that Islam enforced all women to be circumcised which is not true. Doing my research I found that FGM is a cultural practice rather than a religious practice. According to Mackie (1996) “FGC can be traced as far back as the second century B.C.”( Before Christianity or Islam). Boyle (2002) points out “in Tanzia, where 20 of 120 ethnic groups practice FGC, regions that are predominantly Christian actually have the highest percentage of circumcised women” also “the majority of Muslims do not practice any form of female circumcision and where it is common, it is generally performed by members of all religious groups; in Egypt for instance, both Muslims and Christians practice female genital cutting” (Ali, 2006). FGM is a cultural practice which has been passed down from gerneration to generation. Women in Sudan and other countries practice it for a variety of reasons. It is by no means religiously enforce. For more information on this topic these are a few of the articles and books I read for the research paper and I will list them in case anyone is interested.
    Boyle, E. (2002). Female Genitial Cutting: Cultural Conflict in the Global Community
    Ali, K. (2006). Sexual Ethics and Islam:Feminist Reflections on Quran, Hadith, and
    Jurisprudence. Oxford: Oneworld Publication.
    Makie, Gerry. 1996. “Ending Footbinding and Infibulation: A Convention Account” American
    Sociological Review 61; 999-1017.

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