Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Another Fine Example of Women in Islamic Society

For some reason, Islamic men in the Salafi POV talk a lot about the restriction of women as a way to protect women, but in reality it often seems that it is a way for men to separate themselves from women in a strange attempt to create a world they can pretend is all masculine, except for the barest areas where they need women (sexual, caretaking, childrearing). Outside of that, women should not impinge upon male comfort zones.

A good case in point of that is the recent talk about restricting women from men during the haj, in a ritual that was always open to women's participation. It was rationalized as putting them in a location where they could have a better and safer view, but it really was a way to avoid contact.

Here is another example:

In the House of Artists in Jeddah, artists exhibit their paintings and hold exhibitions. There has now been a call to remove women artists and their works from the House of Artists to other premises. There is a reason for this and it is not difficult to find it — there were complaints that women artists were standing beside their work and explaining it to visitors. That, we are told as we are told, is against our traditions.

The matter was brought up by the head of the Fine Art Department in the Jeddah Culture and Art Society. The esteemed “head” told a local paper that the founding members of the society were requesting that only male members should be allowed to participate in activities in the House of Artists. He added: “We have to note that we are in a Muslim country where segregation of the sexes is the norm. Also 70 percent of the activities and functions of the house are dedicated to male artists and only 30 percent to women. The original purpose for opening the house was to serve male artists.”

Even in the world of art, men want women to step aside! What does this say about us and the so-called intellectuals in our country? I am simply lost for words. So male artists are not happy with having women around. What is to be done? The answer is to do it the Saudi way and kick the women out. They are uncomfortable that a woman artist stands before her work and explains it to people who came to see it and are happy to meet the artist. This, however, is considered offensive. By whom, we need not say. Some of the women artists interviewed were, needless to say, furious at the insinuations and innuendoes of indecency.

In the Kingdom, there are places which allow men and women to work together — and these have been successful. Some of the places are in hospitals and in television and radio. In the latest move by the government, women are to hold jobs in the Foreign Ministry and also as diplomats. Are these women who have been appointed to their respective jobs by the government, and who have official blessing, violating the traditions of our country?

One expects artists to be an example of collaboration, especially since their work should free their minds of prejudice, but I have forgotten that our society does not believe in cooperation; it usually wants women to be put into specified areas where they are not in direct contact with other people. Can’t we just for one minute treat each other with respect and good will?

Yes, we are a conservative society and yes, some of us like to maintain family privacy and in some circles, people opt for the women only/men only policy. But there are also other areas in our society that allow the mingling of sexes, so what do we do? Obviously some of us do not understand that and that is why some people constantly complain of the presence of women. Maybe the solution is to create cities for women only or, as one friend suggested, “Build underground cities for women.”

With such people as the head of the Fine Art Department, who asked for women to be excluded, I think we might find ourselves one day contemplating the idea of moving women outside the cities and maybe allowing families visiting times. (source)

Western feminists (who sometimes seem to be trying to create the opposite, a world where they don't have to have contact with men in meaningful ways) need to pay attention, and take off any cultural blinders the multicultural pov is giving them. In Europe, Sweden has a feminist party that is truly radically down on men, and also Islamic communities where honor killing in the name of purity (but which is also highly driven, I suspect, by a cultural misogyny that wants not to have to deal with the impact women have on men's lives). The Feminist party is not quoted in the press much about how awful honor killings are, as far as I have seen, but are quoted about how bestial Swedish men are, when they have the most egalitarian society on earth on the law books. As long as you don't live in an Islamic community where Sharia functions as the real law.

I don't understand this double standard. How can they ignore their sisters like that?


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